Garfield Ridge Shelter [mile 1381.2; SOBO 362.8]
Rain rain rain! Rain! The difference between rain in Maine and rain in New Hampshire is that the rain in Maine sucks the soul out of you and turns the roots to glass. It makes the rivers rise unpleasantly and turns the trail to a black sucking bog of quickmud that’ll swallow you whole and spit out the bones.
The rain in New Hampshire just sharpens the rocks and lubricates the sliding boards.
That is, like everything else, the rain in Maine feels like a personal assault. The rain in New Hampshire just makes the environment that much more dangerous, then lets you do all the work.
I’m not sure I actually carried a wet tent for this many days in Maine. Above treeline I was usually able to spread out and dry it. Here, there’s just rain and fog up there. Wet, gray. No poetry. Just sodden air.
So anyway, how ’bout them… er… I have no idea! Is the world still out there? I haven’t been able to get a signal for some days now. That always makes me antsy.
On to the hiking! I woke up in the rain! Last night, in fact, the rain was prodigious. It poured all night. The tent leaked at all four corners. (I should start posting pictures of my various gear failures. Today, my shoes! Holes in the sides, which took on water all day.)
I was going to try for 13 miles today, but the tent site was almost a mile from the trail, steeply uphill. I’d set an alarm for 4 AM, thinking if I got out at 5:30, I could hike 5:30 to 6:30 PM in bad terrain and still get the 13. But the driving rain kept waking me up, and it was freezing and windy (the elevation up there was over 4500; Remember when that used to seem like such a huge deal?). Long story short, that alarm went off and I said the hell with it. I’d be competeing for Labor Day spots anyway, so I might as well time it so I could get coffee at Galehead Hut, then stop after a short day.
Oh, silly, silly me. I stopped at the next shelter, all right, but it took me all day to get here–for reasons both good and bad.
The sun came out while I climbed back up Mt. Guyot. The terrain was steep and bouldery; reminded me of home, a bit. But it was slow going. Nothing like yesterday’s headlong jaunt from Ethan Pond. I stopped to talk to a hiker whose buddy had gone missing. They both set out from Zealand Falls Hut yesterday, but the buddy never showed up at Guyot. I took all the information and said I’d be on the lookout southbound.
Then the terrain got rugged. First there was the climb up South Twin Mountain (crowned again in unpleasant fog, so no views), then a long treacherous descent down slippery sharp boulders to Galehead Hut. In the rain, that was a slow, laborious climb down—only a mile, but it felt like three. Not hard, but careful work; I don’t want a sprained ankle or a broken wrist.
But on the way… reunion! One of the ones I’ve been particularly waiting for: Hobo and Whirled Peas! Hobo is, hands down, one of my favorite people on the trail this year. I met him at the Hiker Hostel the night before I started. He was in the group that started a few days before and ran into horrific single-digit temps and had to flee off the mountain. Then we leapfrogged for quite a while. I missed seeing him! Great guy.
And Whirled Peas! I think I posted a pic of her at Big Meadow. It was great to see her again! Red Specs, alas, is off the trail owing to knee problems.
Later there was another reunion: Wander Woman and Clark Kent, who got ahead of me back before Damascus. They looked fabulous
The afternoon was fairly miserable. Tough rock climbs in a steady chill rain. Which brings me to here! I’m trying to warm up in my frigid tent in the rain. Yes, it’s raining! Fancy that!
The biggest issue, though, is that there are two aggressive bears in this area. This is no joke. At Guyot, where I stayed last night, one of them ripped open the caretaker’s tent (not last night, but recently). And at this tent site on Monday night, a bear ripped open the tent of a pair of thrus and stole their food bag while the hikers were in the tent. The bear also crushed two tents. Apparently there are two bears: one they’ve named Cheddar, who seems to go for the cheese, and a smaller one they’ve named Yogi. The caretaker said that if a bear shows up, better hope it’s Yogi, because Cheddar’s not intimidated by people in the slightest.
Needless to say, my food, my toiletries, and my trash are up in the bear box at the shelter. I tend to put food wrappers in my pocket, so my pants and shorts and hip pack are in odor-proof bags. Go away, bullying bears with overly cute names! There’s nothing for you here!
I’m trying to decide whether to wear ear plugs. The shelter crowd is noisy. But I guess I want to hear a bear if it’s coming, right?
Just please, please, please… no rain tonight! A bear attack would be horrible enough, but getting my only dry clothes wet would be catastrophic. And sad!
Tomorrow: More mountains named after dead guys. And Franconia Ridge, which is supposed to be beautiful if you can actually see it!