Angels and Magic
Angels and Magic
Before staring the trail, many people were concerned about my safety. “Are you bringing a gun?” They’d ask me. To which I’d reply, “Are you buying me a gun?” Needless to say I did not bring a gun, nor do I think I’d ever need one on this trail. The majority of people that I meet are kind, generous, individuals. Some people take time out of their day to provide us trail magic. Trail magic can be anything from food, to letting us dump our trash to lighten our loads. We call the people who provide these acts of kindness trail angels.Fine Line’s dad is in town and they pick me up for dinner. We go to a really fancy restaurant and have a great time. It feels good to be a part of family time even if it’s someone else’s family. They pay for my meal *trail magic*. The next day they are set up at a road about 11 miles down the trail with trail magic for all the hikers. I hike to meet them and they give me 2 veggie burgers, Gatorade, and potato chips! It’s such a reward after a days hike. This will be the last time I see Fine Line for a while as she returns to Rangely to complete the section she skipped to meet her dad. I hike on to the next town, Andover. I get to the road just in time for some more trail magic. They have fruit! A true luxury on trail. A group of 4 NOBOs (northbound hikers) are all sitting and enjoying the food. A pickup slows to a stop and asks them if they need a ride. “Can you take us to Andover?” “Hop in!!” I pile in the back and the giy hands us a casr of beer and says, ” Have at it!” The tide is glorious, the wind cooling me down after a hot days hike. I stay at Pine Ellis hostel, a building that fits in with the rest of the neighborhood houses and try my hand at slackpacking. Slackpacking is when you leave your big pack at a hostel, fill a small bag with just food and water, and a headlamp, then hike a larger section. In theory you can cover more ground with a smaller pack. They drop me off at 11 and offer to pick me up at 7. I tell them 5 and am done by 4:30. I’m daunted by what’s called the hardest mile of the appalachian trail, the Mahousuc Notch. I don’t know what to expect other than a giant pit of boulders which is exactly what I see upon arriving.There is no actual trail. White arrows painted on boulders give suggestions as to which way you might go but it’s really more of a puzzle deciding which way will work best for you. If you choose the wrong path it might mean slamming both shins into a bounder and skinning them as you slide down. There are points where I have to take my pack off, push it through a small gap in boulders, climb through, and pull my pack back through. It takes me an hour and a half to get through it but by the end of it I feel so accomplished and agree that the whole experience was a lot of fun! I meet a couple of teenagers out for a 10 day trip before starting college. They ask if they can hike with me the next day and I agree. It’s the last day in Maine! It’s a cold, rainy, morning and we hike quickly. I tell them tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the trail and they listen eagerly. We cross into New Hampshire not even noticing the sign. They stop after 10 miles and I decide to do 7 more into town. Some days you just want a bed and 17 miles is worth that to you. I arrive at the hostel and they have no vacancy. I sit on their lawn looking through my guide book for a different place to stay as a car pulls up and offers me a ride. I throw my gear in the back and notice he has gear too. He is thru hiking northbound with his car. He parks it, hitches to a road a ways back and hikes back to his car. Luxurious I think! He says it’s helpful with resupply and the like. He takes me to the other hostel in town which is also booked however they allow me to tent in the yard and use their shower and laundry machines. They offer a slackpack through the wildcats in the white mountains. It’s 21 miles and I go for it. It takes me from 830 am until 930pm. It is one of the hardest days yet, and by far the longest but beautiful. As it gets dark I pull out my headlamp. I put it on and as I’m walking it completely falls apart and into a puddle. Luckily I am able to dry it and reassemble it and it somehow still works. I carry it in my hand as it will not stay on the headband. I’ve never night hiked until now and I’m a bit nervous but I make it out of the woods and back to the hostel in time for a pizza and a beer. The next day I get my new tent in the mail. It’s nothing fancy but much better suited for this trip than my old tent which I mail to my sister for my niece and nephew to play in. I hitch to the trailhead and am picked up by another hiker. This one doing a section hike before returning to work. (We would pass each other 3 days later on the trail.) I start the presidentials with Madison mountain. The wind is brutal hitting gusts up to 75 MPH. It knocks me down and I hold on to boulders for dear life. I make it down to the hut around 6pm. The huts are a tourist attraction. They have bunk rooms that families can stay in for a good chunk of money. If you’re a hiker and you’re lucky you can get a work for stay. I coyly ask if they have any work for stay available and the girl decides to give me a spot. I am one of four hikers given this opportunity and many are turned away. The feed the guests dinner and afterwards give us the leftovers to eat. Dinner is hot soup and homemeade bread, a heavenly meal after freezing on the mountain. After we eat they have us work, my job is washing dishes and I gladly oblige dipping my cold hands in the warm water. After choose we set up or sleeping mats on the dining room floor for bed. The wind howls through the night and I am glad to be inside. The next day I hike mount Washington. It’s a beautiful day starting out chilly and warming up as the day progresses. There are hundreds of people atop the mountain. They have a gift shop and a food bar and I get myself a bowl of soup and a banana. Tourists line up to get a snap of them next to the summit sign (most of them having driven up there or taken the train.) I meet a father and son that are doing a section hike for a vacation. We hike together to the next hut. They have no work for stay available but they have a tent site for $10. The father and son offer to pay for my spot and I graciously accept. It’s my first time in my tent and I sleep like a baby despite the bear that come through the site banging on the bear boxes full of food. I meet a group of southbounders that dub themselves Gypsy Camp. One gypsy, Shepherd, has her mom meet up on the trail. She brings food and drinks and camps with us. She meets us again at the next town and drives us to a trail angel’s house. Chet lets hikers sleep in his garage, use the shower, do their laundry, ect. for a donation. I meet miss Janet there, a trail legend, and she is truly a legendary woman. I am almost out of the whites and am excited to see the “easy” hiking everyone has told me about.
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