Day 204: Invisible blazes

Ten Mile River Shelter [mile 1750.1; SOBO 731.7]

Interesting day!

Well… maybe interesting’s not the word for it.

After yesterday’s efforts (miles plus the resupply), I decided to treat myself to not setting the alarm. Well, it turned out I was up most of the night anyway. And it rained a bit. Normally I get up at 5:00 for a 6:15 start, but I decided to sleep in until 5:30 and get a daylight start.

I can’t wait for the day when I can roll over and spend another hour in bed, and wake up to a warm house instead of a 40-degree wet tent. That morning stuff is a shock to the system!

I hit the trail at about 7:15. It was light! But that gray half-light never fulminated to full sunshine. Instead today was raw—cold and breezy and gray. I never could get warm. I think I’m going to have to retire my beloved sunsleeves, which won’t stay up anymore. Time to hike in my long-sleeved shirt.

The trail was its usual difficult self. Once again, the leaves made the actual trail hard to find. I did have a bit of an epiphany about what I call ‘sense of trail’—that acute sense that develops that lets you know amost immediately when you’re off the trail. Now that I can’t see the trail and the undergrowth is getting barren, I still seem to have my sense of trail.

It’s because the trail is packed down. When I feel softness underfoot, I know immediately that I’m off the trail. Decades of pounding have turned the AT into something solid as rock. Ironically, rock is where the trouble comes in, because that sense of softness isn’t there anymore.

So today I lost the trail.

I was trekking along ip a gnarly bit of mountain. I came to a blaze on the rock pointing down. I went down, down, down… rock slabs and a weird climb over a fallen tree, all the way to a creek—and there were no more blazes. So I climbed all the way back up that stretch, nearly vertically, to that blaze on the rock. I couldn’t believe it. The trail just vanished.

Now, I knew it was there somewhere; there was some turn or fork that I just wasn’t seeing. I climbed down that bit of steepness three times and found nothing. And at the bottom, just softness.

The last time that happened to me was the Mahoosuc Notch. Back then, though, I knew I could wait and a NOBO would come along. No such luck anymore. I almost called somebody with a map, then I realized I didn’t know where I was. The map wouldn’t help. I was getting a little panicked, to tell you the truth. Not that it was a dire situation; I could hear trains. I knew there were roads if I just headed ‘down.’ But i needed the trail.

Then I had the idea to go back two blazes instead of just one. While I was climbing that rockface again, a SOBO section hiker showed up. I was glad to see him! I told him I needed his fresh eyes because I was stymied.

Well… he did everything I’d done and he got stymied too. So we climbed up the two blazes, and don’t you know, there on a tree was the double blaze to indicate a turn? The trail went up hard, not down. But if you were looking down (as hikers do when scrambling down a rockface), that blaze on the ground was past the others. It was very confusing.

It was also fairly exhausting and it cost me an hour. Which means I’m here at Ten Mile River rather than farther along, as I’d hoped to be.

Ten Mile River. The last part of my day found the trail flanking a very serious river. It was wide and deep and full of ponderous rapids. That was a lot of water moving; some of the cascades looked like Niagara Falls—not in height, but at the top, where you can see that enormity of water tumbling over the edge.

Beautiful, but a little scary even from a height looking down. I wonder if rapids like that inspire people to get into boats and try to run them?

So that’s it. I’m cowering under my quilt trying to pretend that 5:00 AM isn’t on its way like a freight train.

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Categories: Appalachian Trail | Tags: | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Day 204: Invisible blazes

  1. Sharon

    Your phone is a gps. I can track you if there’s a signal. I haven ‘t done it, but I can.

  2. I haven’t posted much but I just want you to know I am reading every entry and looking at every picture! You are a fucking amazon.

    • Nef! I missed you in August!

    • Hey, Nef! If the 2014 crew app comes out and you happen to think of it, can you drop a comment here on the blog or shoot me an email? Only if you think of it! Filling that out on the phone is going to be SO joyful. 😉

  3. Shari wb

    You are amazing. Lost in the mountains and you just keep looking. I dont know if i could have kept my head that steady!!! (((Hugs)))

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