What’s to say? This is the Maine event!
I left Gentian Pond Shelter after a quick look at the beaver-dam pond, and immediately started climbing up Mt. Carlo. Not a tough climb, comparatively speaking, and I was feeling pretty pumped up, because the Maine border was only a few miles off. There were about four of us who left the shelter about the same time, and we travelled as a loosely clustered group most of the day.
After Mt. Carlo was Carlo Col shelter – since there was no water on the 5 mile stretch between the two shelters, there was no choice but to get water there. One of us went down with a huge waterproof bag, and brought back up enough water for all, while I watched his pack. Water and snack break there… The border was only 2 miles or so off.
Successful crossing of border. Much rejoicing! Then… Oh, boy. The madness began.
Goose Eye Mt. I really and truly hated this one. The rain began shortly before the climb, and it never let up. It only intensified. There are three separate peaks you had to climb, with little peaks in between, so it was never clear exactly where you were. And parts were above treeline, so you were getting lashed from all directions by wind and rain. Sometimes, steep rock scrambles up, sometimes steep rock scrambles down. Wooden ladders at points, and at other times, huge metal rungs. Sometimes it was just grip and pray. I am an expert buttscooter down steep declines by now, but I met my match; once or twice I did some involuntary sliding down ten feet or more. How I escaped without injury, I can only attribute to a guardian angel, because it was truly scary. Maine was tough from the start and I did not at all enjoy it.
Come about 6:00, one of the other hikers and I were hiking together, the other two were up ahead. It was dark under the trees (when it wasn’t above treeline), the rain was sheeting down, mist was swirling, we were on a steep descent, it was truly scary. I fell several times, and my knees were really killing. But what can you do? You suck it up and keep moving, because you can’t do anything else. Finally, after one last ladder, we reached the shelter.
It was huge, about four times as wide as a normal shelter. And it was full. They managed to sardine me in though, and Scott put up his tent. I was soaked, miserable, hungry. First step was to change into dry clothes, and that is when I realized I was missing a sock. No dry clean socks for Ziptie until Andover in three days! Dry clothes on, I squeezed my sleeping gear into the allotted space, and the started boiling water for my pasta dish.
While it was boiling, I rolled and ate a tortilla packed with tuna and a tortilla packed with cheese and pepperoni bits. I was starving. And the pasta sauce, after it cooked, was extremely cheesy, hot, and tasty. It warmed me up inside.
Then it was time for sleep, and that brought another moment of recognition. I had shipped my winter sleeping bag home, and though the sardining provided warmth, it was still wet and cold out there, and my legs in particular were cold, since I had been wearing my longer pants that day, which were now soaked; all I had on were shorts.
I improvised. My fleece jacket became leg warmers, with a leg in each sleeve, and the chest area pulled up to the hemline of the shorts. Hey, it worked, and I was able to sleep.
It is still cold and windy today as I type this, though it is supposed to clear up this afternoon, and I am still lying in my sleeping bag to stay warm.
You see, I decided to zero here at this very big shelter. Firstly, to give my knees a rest, they were hurting bad. Second, because tomorrow is Mahoosuc Notch, a famous challenge on the AT, described as ” the most difficult or fun mile” on the whole trail. A solid mile of jumbled boulders, rock scrambling to the nth! But not something to be attempted in the rain, or extremely wet, at least by me. I fall too much in wet conditions. Besides, I want to enjoy it, I have looked forward to doing it for a long time!
So I lie alone in a shelter, typing. Alone, save for the bird that keeps hopping in, looking for leftover crumbs. Now and then another hiker walks by, and I wave, or chat if they stop. My clothes are hung up all over to dry, and though part of me still feels like I am wimping out, I am content this was the right decision. The safest, at least. Those falls yesterday shook me. Maine is rough.
Side note: it was like a trading post at The shelter this morning. I have away toilet paper, peanut butter, and an extra Knorr dinner, I got a moon pie, ibuprofen, and a refill of my water bottles.
Yesterday also marked my 4th month on the trail, and I am closing in on 900 miles. Slow progress, but you know, I wouldn’t change a thing. Maybe I will be able to finish it all, maybe I won’t, but I wouldn’t have it otherwise. The southern section is a lot easier, I should be able to make up some miles there, after I finish Maine. Less than 280 trail miles to Katahdin now!
I hike on.