Allentown Hiking Club Shelter [mile 1968.7; SOBO 950.3]
Look! My mileage is the Summer of Love!
Overnight, strong storms scoured the Bake Oven Knob area. I heard today that there were downed trees, power outages, and all sorts of mayhem. Me? I slept through it—if it affected my corner of the wilderness at all. I talked to a guy today who hadn’t heard a thing even though his buddy’s house lost power. What I did know was that it was rainy and windy all night. But I was warm, Big Agnes didn’t leak, and when I woke up, the wind had all but dried the fly.
(Is it just me, or has the recent app upgrade increased the weight of the italic font so that it looks italic and bold? We hates it, my typography-loving preciouss.)
Unfortunately, lying there in the predawn turned out to be the highlight of my morning.
I got up at around 6:00 per my new Laziness Plan. I could still hear the occasional patter of rain and the ripping gusts of wind, so I put on the rain gear (always fun in a tent). Then I crawled out of the tent and realized the world was saturated. Walking on the leaves was like hiking on wet sponges; it even made the same sort of squelching noise.
After about a half-hour of walking, the rain gear was too hot. I dropped my pack (uncovered side up) to strip off, and don’t you know, at that instant the skies opened. Rain came down in sheets, then the wind gusted it sideways. I got the pack covered (after it got drenched) and was just thanking my lucky stars that my rain gear was still on when I realized my hip belt was sitting on the outside.
Phone, wallet, iPod… soaked. It was the first time on the trail that I actually laughed and sobbed at the same time. I didn’t think that was actually possible in reality. But it is. It so very, very is.
Luckily, thanks to the Maine Paranoia Plan, everything in my hip pack turned out to be in baggies. Win!
Everything out here is dependent on conditions. Some easy bit of nothing can be awful depending on conditions. Today? Conditions were in the toilet.
I slogged to the great pile of rock that leads up to Bake Oven Knob, and I already knew I’d have trouble. The rocks and leaves were so slippery it was as though they’d been oiled. It took me almost an hour to climb the quarter-mile up to the Knob… and the Knife Edge was coming.
Bake Oven Knob, I’ve heard, is like a jackass magnet for graffiti. As soon as the maintainers clean it off, more appears. And yeah, today it was thoroughly tagged up. Pretty views, though.
The rain had stopped by then so it was just the leaf-drizzle and the wetness of everything that were complicating things. Eventually I got to the Knife Edge, which I’ve been dreading for a year, and it was…
Some things out here aren’t as bad as you think they’re going to be. Some, alas, are worse. Conditions.
The rocks were too slippery to grip.
Did you ever see a YouTube video of a dog falling through ice? (By the way… YouTube people, put down the phone and help the poor dog!) The dogs scamper and claw themselves back onto solid ground.
I could NOT get up those rocks. Giant slabs of greased pig.
I finally managed to get up on the ridge, which was terrifyingly up, and I sat there and thought, “Ohmygod. I can’t do this. Physically, I can’t do it. Nineteen-hundred miles, and this stupid rockpile defeats me.”
Then I thought, “So what are you going to do, jackass? Sit here? You have to move.”
Then the thought came out of nowhere: The only way past it is through it. Right down the middle.
There had to be a way to take one step. Just one.
So I found a step. Then another step. Then another one. And slowly I inched across without slipping.
Another lesson from the trail.
I hiked a couple of miles to 309 and rewarded myself with a cheeseburger. The water spigot outside was covered with ladybugs—a whole swarm of them. What does that mean?
And after that I hiked here to the shelter. I would have stayed in the shelter, but guess what? Ladybugs! And a good thing, because it’s been taken over by a family full of happy screaming kids and a dog named Luna.
And right here? This is the norhernmost border of the part of the AT i’ve already walked. Tomorrow’s hike is my old stomping ground.