Getting Close

Since my last post at the end of August, we’ve walked 200 miles. Following the precise plan of enjoying every minute out here, and worrying about the end when we get there.

We now includes another guy, Wildcat, aptly named for his Kentucky hailing and alma mater. Wildcat is generally a soft spoken 35 year old carpenter. We met back in New Hampshire and has fit in to our group dynamic very well. He wields a hilariously well timed sense of humor ,and the basic principles of living that Yaeger and I have come to bond over. The past two weeks have been littered with more hurdles and yet more magic. Mostly the hurdles include torrential rain, and well, mountains. That being said, I have had the worst two consecutive trail days in a row. 

The first day, we showed up to a shelter later than usual; and with impending rain. Unfortunately, we’d stumbled upon “the bubble.” We have been behind the bubble for most of the trip, and it was great. Now we were dealing with 15+ other hikers, and no room in the shelter. So, we set up our tents and spent a long night in pouring rain. Only to wake up to wet tents. 

The next day, the weather was just as bad. The mountains we’d climb that day were some of the last “major Maine miles” that we’ll encounter. The Bigelows. As I climbed the first peak of the Bigelows, rain descending, I took one step up and then CRACK. The sound of carbon fiber exploding. I took a tumble about 8 feet onto my back, scraping my hand on the way down. My first “turtle” of the trip.

I sat for a minute, found myself wildly unscathed, picked my self and broken trekking pole up, and then summited the peak. Coming down the other side, I stopped in tree cover, lit a cigarette and thought “at least I have one pole left to set my tent up with.” No more than 30 minutes after I started moving again did my other pole snap. Completely different place, same loud pop of carbon snapping. I didn’t fall this time, which was much less disheartening that it seemed to happen just to spite me.

With nothing else to do, I packed my poles up and kept walking. I arrive at the Little Bigelow Lean To, yet again to find a full shelter with rain on the schedule. Yay. The thing that chapped my ass about this particular full shelter was the yellow blazers occupying it. They decided to skip the Bigelow range (16 miles), get dropped off at a road north of the shelter, and then walk south back to the shelter. 

Being the non confrontation person I am. I said nothing and proceeded to set up my tent…which I had to set up with Wildcats hiking poles. Thanks Wildcat. It started raining about the time I fell asleep, and didn’t stop until about 8 am. Definitely the hardest rain we’d encountered thus far. EVERYTHING I owned was wet. Inside and out. All because of the dirty yellow blazers (cheaters). 

I work my ass off everyday to hike miles and hit goals. Sometimes they go by quickly, sometimes painstakingly slow. Either way. I hike, and I fucking love it. Now we’ve got to deal with these assholes that, in the end, will claim all the glory of winning the fight, without ever throwing a punch or getting hit with a few haymakers. Fucking cheaters. 

This is life. There will always be people who make a mockery of other people’s hard work. But why? I’ll never understand how these people sleep at night. 

With soaking gear and drooping eyes, we awoke, and we hiked. The day cleared by 9 am and turned into a beautiful sunny day. We got to the next empty shelter around 11 am, and, although we planned to hike on, decided that we’d had enough for the day. We hung all of our gear to dry and made a fire that would last nearly 9 hours. Thanks Boy Scouts. 

Just as we were starting to pull out cook sets out for our nightly ramen and dehydrated choke down meals, we heard a boat. A damn motor boat. Ten minutes later, it was parked on the shore of the pond in front of the lean to. The couple in the boat yelled for us to give them a hand and we kindly obliged. What we didn’t know is that we were carrying a little bit of magic back to camp.  

We all sat down and waited while the couple unfurled BBQ Chicken, then ribs, then homemade bread, then beans and pasta and coleslaw AND ice cold beer! Holy shit! These people just prepared dinner for 10, drove it across a wind beaten pond, and fed all of us…for no other reason than kindness and compassion. We all ate and drank well, then swapped stories of trail and home. Simple.

“The trail provides” is an adage used unsparingly on the AT, and for good reason. It always seems that at your lowest of depths, some kind of beautiful, unsolicited kindness is laid in the palm of your hands. Amazing is also a word used unsparingly by most, without actually ever living up to its definition. Except for in this instance. Amazing is the exact word.

This trail has restored my faith in humanity. In myself and in others.

Yaeger, Wildcat, Hollywood and I now only have 150 miles left to reach the Greatest Mountain. I’m excited by the prospect of completing my goal, as well as saddened that it will be coming to an end soon. Hopefully my altruism in believing that magic exists in the real world, as it does out here, will continue to come true. 

Over and out for now, 

The Law