Kinsman Pond Shelter [mile 1396.3; SOBO 377.9]
“I have written Cheddar is here in signs that all can read from Rivendell to the mouths of Anduin.”
Well, look at that! When I pass Eliza Brook Shelter tomorrow, I’ll have 1400 miles! Alas, there are two gnarly mountains in there. But that’s tomorrow.
Today I got up early, did the fuel-slash-breakfast thing at the hotel, then trundled myself over to the gas station to sit on my pack and wait for the AMC shuttle—which was going to cost me either $10 or $22, I wasn’t sure which. The sky was clear blue and perfect. Perfect! But the wind was whipping the trees. Chilly. I took a farewell picture of… ducks.
So I got across the street and plopped on my pack. (Aside: I swore to gods that I’d never be one of those hikers who sits on their pack; it’s not good for the pack. But I’ve been over that since Katahdin. It’s often been the only place to take a rest, unless I wanted to wallow in the tick-filled bogs of Maine.) I was just getting my $10 and my $22 out (being prepared for all contingencies, yo!) when a car pulled up. “You on the trail?” the driver yelled. (Never ‘the Appalachian Trail’; always ‘the trail.’)
I said I was, and I was just waiting for the AMC shuttle. He asked if I wanted a ride. “If it’s no trouble,” I said, “I’d LOVE a ride!”
Trail magic! His name was Dusty, an older guy (older than me, I mean; retired). He hiked the trail with his wife in, I think, 1989 and 1998. He had some great stories. I asked him if he’d ever consider hiking it again, and he laughed and said, “Hell, no.” Dusty has a little A-liner now, and he and his wife cruise around and camp in that. Sounds fine to me! 🙂
Dusty took me to a slightly different trailhead, but it got me to the AT eventually. There were those pesky signs again—the ones that said there was a bridge out down the trail, and the river might be impassable in high water. How old were those signs? I was hoping old.
They were, alas, not old.
The trail was nice, though, right up to the brook. Cascade Brook, it was. Nooooo bridge. Actually, I was surprised to hear there’d been a bridge at all; I don’t know where they could have put it. The brook was a fast-moving stream with water tumbling from rocky basin to rocky basin, and there was no way I was getting across dry. I even walked as far as I could upstream and downstream, but no. No, I was going to have to take my shoes off and wade in.
Damn. A ford. A New Hampshire ford in the Whites.
It was actually a slightly scary one going SOBO because of the current and the angle of the boulders; it may have been manageable NOBO. But the water wasn’t as cold as I expected, and boom! it was done. That’s my kind of ford. The finished kind!
After that the trail started to climb. The last hour or so (after my last hut in the Whites—Lonesome Lake Hut) was steep and rocky. I’ve actually come to enjoy that sort of uphill; it’s like a mental game. But it bears out something I’ve thought for a while now: whether you see that sort of terrain in Maine or in New Hampshire, the first time you see it is the worst. At this point I’ve gotten a lot of practice with them. I can see, though, how somebody coming NOBO might be blindsided. And when they get to Maine, well, they’ve had practice! (Of course, that’s just one of the types of fun-filled Maine terrain.)
(Also, weird to pass through this bubble of NOBOs and have them ask How are the Whites? How’s Maine? I don’t feel like I should have the answer to those questions. But I’m almost done the Whites. I can’t quite fathom it!)
So here I am! Cheddar was here two nights ago and last week. Last week he circled the caretaker’s platform (the caretaker was here alone), and the caretaker scared him off with arm flapping. Two nights ago, a hiker in the shelter had some nuts in his pack. The pack was hanging inside the shelter on a nail, and Cheddar just walked right into the shelter and took the pack.
I don’t see this ending well for Cheddar.
I debated. There’s a group of young guys down at the shelter–a youth group, or Eagle Scouts, or something. There’s no food in my pack that isn’t still sealed in its original packaging (so no scent), and I’m not sure a bear would recognize anything currently in my bag as food anyway, since it’s mostly chemicals reconstructed into foodlike squares. But you know… blah. If Cheddar decides to randomly rip my tent up tonight, I don’t want to have the confession conversation afterward. And losing all my food and my pack in addition to the tent would just suck. But mostly, if Cheddar comes to a bad end, I don’t want it to be because of me.
So my food is down in the bear box to be crushed and mutilated and stenchified. So it goes. It’s the right thing to do.
Live long and prosper, Cheddar.
Tonight: COLD! I heard there’s a chance for some snow at elevation, either tonight or tomorrow night.
OH! Reunions! One big reunion, and two re-reunions. The first was Beerdra! We had dinner in Daleville. She lives a few hours from me up in New York, so we’re going to try to reconnect and process.
The re-reunions were Rainbow Bright and Davy Crockett! Rainbow Bright was the one who was run over by the car at Trail Days and airlifted out. She jumped ahead and is flip-flopping. Insaw her last at Harpers Ferry. Davy Crockett was the guy I met at Wayah Bald then met again near McAfee Knob. Great people, both of them. I’m glad I got to see them a third time!
And that, as they say, is that!