Frye Notch Lean-to [mile 1279.8; SOBO 261.4]
Miles to the border: 20.4
Last night the wind had teeth. It was like a sharp taste of late fall, and there were no warm spots under my quilt. I wasn’t wearing my puffy and I couldn’t rouse myself to sufficient consciousness to get out in the chill long enough to pull it on. Tonight? Puffy time! Also gloves, fleece hat, and sleeping bag liner.
But we’re chipping away at Maine!
It was a cool clear day. I’m sure your average hardy Mainer would be out taking a swim and calling this a heat wave. Wimpy me, though… I never did break out of the pants and long sleeves. Although I came close during this afternoon’s long climb.
It was a chatty kind of day. Everybody wanted to talk (me included). I probably spent 45 minutes today just yacking with people—and that’s an unheard of amount of time. Usually, even with all the NOBOs going through, my total human interaction for a day might be five minutes. I’m told that after the NOBO bubble passes, in September and October I’ll be lucky to even see one person a week. I like solitude, but that much of it’s going to take some getting used to. The trail’s already a little spooky, to tell you the truth.
So. I got up this morning and for the first time since April I had to wear my puffy while I packed up. Cold!
I was out and walking shortly before 7:00. Today’s plan was a more normal mileage day. The book showed a long down then a long up, neither seeming particularly steep. Lies! Well… truth with some of the edges filed down. The trail was all Maine today, and actually very nice hiking in spots. But there were the obligatory EKG waves of climbs: mountains without names, just up and down. Generally, though, a good day. For Maine.
I had a couple of reunions. Both guys recognized me before I recognized them. The first was Steady State. I’m not sure I mentioned him. I think we met back in the Smokies or shortly after. It’s hard to tell sometimes because all the guys have big grizzly beards at this point, so they look a bit different than they used to.
The second guy was the German, Iced Tea! I know I mentioned him a couple of times. I met him at Wapiti (woppity, lol!) Shelter the day before Trail Days, then again a week or so later.
Iced Tea has an injury. He crossed the Maine border with a lot of overconfidence (his description, not mine). He’d done the Whites! He was invincible! Three miles into Maine he slipped on a root, so fast he wasn’t even sure what happened (sound familiar?), and managed to get a six-inch gash on his leg. He got into town and got patched up, then came back to the trail with antibiotics. Infection’s a big risk out here. Oddly (or maybe not), I’m told there’s a lot of MRSA in New England on the trail. Iced Tea has to change his dressing once a day.
Anyway, he was standing on a bog bridge while we were talking. We said our goodbyes and he walked to the end of the log and stepped off… splurch! Calf deep into black mud, which turned his foot and his bandage into what my shoe looked like last week. Welcome to Maine! Enjoy the next 250 miles!
Of all the states so far, Maine seems to have this weird malign consciousness. It really feels sometimes like Maine doesn’t like this trail running through it—that we’re an abscess under its skin, a kernel of corn at its gumline. Maine doesn’t like hikers at all. And it wants their shoes!
Anyway, the day went on. The trail was deeply overgrown in spots, but generally well blazed. I had conversations with several section hikers who’ve been staying at Pine Ellis. That place is fantastic for sectioners. They drive up and get shuttled for three chunks of trail. It works out perfectly. I get to hike the last of those sections tomorrow. Today, though, I came down to the road crossing and there was David waiting to pick up one of his sectioners. It was nice to see him again. Trail angel!
The afternoon was a long climb up an unnamed mountain. The bugs got fierce! But after a steep descent, I made it to the lean-to. Right now some hikers are just arriving at the shelter. I don’t recognize the voices but I might sneak down later to see if I know them.
Tonight: Cold! I can already tell!
And tomorrow: a big mountain. Baldpate. Mahoosuc’s coming like a freight train!
PS: It never ceases to amaze me how much things on top of mountains look just like things that live under the sea. We’re blips in the vast life of this planet.