8/4-12 118.3 miles
Shaw’s Hostel in Monson is a great place. I picked up my box but didn’t really need to have sent one. The gear shop had everything—dehydrated dinners, Stinger energy gels, even Starbucks Via instant coffee which I haven’t seen in hundreds of miles. Plus I brought my Black Diamond hiking sticks in and before I could get the words out of my mouth, Poet grabbed a hex head screw driver and tightened up the flick locks for me! I got some more Picardin bug dope out of the hiker box. Best of all—you know what’s coming—a cat in the shop, purring in the sunshine while I got to pet her.
I took a zero and mostly sat around talking with all kinds of hikers—SOBOs just starting out, NOBOs I hadn’t met yet, section hikers and even some of my buddies who were ahead, like Tyvek, and behind who caught up the second day, like Crossword. There’s an honesty and trust amongst hikers (or travelers) that makes for deeply emotional and raw conversations sometimes, confessions. Connection. Like I’ve said before, I like people, and their stories. I tell some of my own.
Crappy pictures of Thing 1 and 2, brothers who hiked the PCT with parents resupplying and supporting them because of the pandemic. I put them here because while talking with these guys it turns out they know exactly where I camped with my high school friends on the North Fork of the North Fork of the American River in the Sierra east of Sacramento, CA. Minds blown.
This was quite an interesting stretch! Poet from Shaw’s dropped a bunch of us off. It continued to be quite hot and humid for 4 more nights. I camped the first night solo on an abandoned logging road, I love these old roads, the next night I had a campsite near Chairback Mountain shelter all to myself followed by a marginal solo spot off trail about 11 miles before my arranged Shaw’s food drop 51 miles from where Poet dropped us off.
I got my food, and the bonus PBR, and continued on, kinda drunk walking, but on perfect tread to the Falls shelter. Wonderful swimming hole! I camped away from the shelter after cleaning up with a bunch of others swimming in the pool and continuing my talk with NOBO Trotter and his dog Blaze. It rained that night and continued all the next day. At every shelter were people who hadn’t moved since the day before. I slipped off a “bog board,” kind of like what we call a boardwalk laid through muskeg, right on my back so my pack went under. But for the second day in a row, all I said when I fell was “Whoa.” Am I losing my mind? Where’s the automatic 4 letter word?
I camped at a lake after 19 miles, that’s how good the tread is, even in the rain. But it never stopped raining and it was kind of cold. So I stayed in my tent, myself contemplating an on-trail zero, till 9:30 am when it finally let up.
Just a couple miles in, I ran into a youth group I’d seen the day before. They all spoke French although most spoke unaccented English too. Maine is just below the Canadian border after all. The guy in the photo was at the front of the group. His co-leader was bringing up the rear somewhere. Leader says to me,”The stream ahead is uncrossable, we’re going down where it feeds into the lake and cross there. But check out the stream for yourself.” Which I did, and it was horrendous. I followed them down about a hundred yards to the same lake I’d camped by and saw how shallow and sandy the bottom was. We all crossed, then bushwhacked back to the AT, a short distance. Later in the day I was taking a break and they passed me. I said thank you again and made sure the boys heard me tell the leader that that was a brilliant plan. Seriously, I’ve got a lot of experience with sketchy crossings but don’t know how long I would have taken to come up with the same idea. To repay him a bit, I quietly mentioned about undoing your waist and chest straps when walking through hazardous fords. So if you fall, you can slip out of your pack easily and get your head above water without the pack holding you down. I camped near a shelter, listening to the boys laugh and joke and play. Joy in the outdoors.
Sometimes my weird brainstorms work. I noticed on the FarOut app that one of the two campgrounds listed for Abol Bridge, just outside Baxter State Park, had indoor space. So I called from the top of something and reserved a dry cabin, no electricity or plumbing, but who cares? A shower (after 7 days, 6 nights), breakfast, and most of all, a place to dry out my tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, rain jacket, and shoes. And I charged my battery charger in the shower house while the generator was on during the day.
I woke up in my little cabin, stress about the Katahdin logistics gone. I had the guest breakfast that started at 7:35, then walked to the park entrance to sign up for the Birches thru hiker campsite just below the hike up Katahdin. Park Ranger trail name Bear, a recent AT thru hiker, gave me spot #3 of the 12 allowed at 8:45 am. It wasn’t a far hike to Katahdin Stream Ranger Station where you check in and get some instructions and paperwork from the Ranger. I waited awhile, congratulating hikers on their descent as they rolled in to catch shuttles out of the park and off trail, and greeting others who would head up the next day like me.
It rained that night on the 12 of us in Birches campsite, but we had a good day to climb up Katahdin, and back down. There was scrambling. And it was amazing. Not the mountain, especially, but the accomplishment.
1168 miles hiked. Part 1 done. Now back to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, where the journey began. 1026 miles to Springer Mountain, Georgia. Part 2. To Be Continued.