Day 144: What? Another Easy One?
Back to the Lake
Boondocking has been tough in Maine, partly because we prefer spots with cell coverage, but mostly because of camping restrictions at trailhead parking areas and along most roads. So, we headed back to Umbagog Lake State Park for the night.
And because I knew you’d be wondering, Umbagog is an Abenaki word meaning “shallow water,” and is pronounced “uhm-BAY-gog.” You’re welcome.
Another “Easy” Day
I planned another “short” hike again, in deference to Warren Doyle’s itinerary and my not wanting to hike a 23-mile day in southern Maine. Today, Gus and I only had 10.1 miles and 3,300 feet of climbing ahead of us. On paper, it looked like an easy day, but I was still wary.
The AT has been getting progressively easier since passing Old Speck Mountain. Not easy, but easier than it had been since before Mount Moosilauke. Today’s “big” 2,000-foot climb was so steady and gradual, I hardly knew I was climbing. The second 800-foot climb was steep, but short. And in between, the walking was pleasant, if you don’t mind the roots. And I don’t.
The trees are finally starting to turn. I don’t notice it as much when I’m inside the long green tunnel, except when wind and rainstorms decorate the trail with colored leaves. But we really see the first signs of fall in the long views on the drives between the trailheads and our campsites. I don’t know if we’ll still be in Maine during the peak of Fall color, but I hope so.
Near the summit of Old Blue Mountain, I passed a beardy Gandalf poking at his phone in a window of cell coverage. He looked up as I walked by and said, “It’s a Category 5 hurricane and it’s coming right at us!” Uh…no. It’s a Category 2, about to be downgraded to a Tropical Storm, and it’s turning east away from us, at least according to NOAA. Unless you plan to go sailing to New Brunswick this weekend, you should be fine.
I’ll continue to watch the storm track, as it can change, but I really hope to hike on Saturday, if only to defy the fear mongering. The local weather forecasts still only call for less than 0.1 inch of rain and 20 mph winds. On the AT this summer, that counts as excellent weather.
Get Out the Radar Gun
I checked my pace at the one-hour mark, and I’d been hiking at 2.3 mph. Uphill. After rarely hiking faster than 1.7 mph for the last two weeks, it felt like I was running. And with my knees, it was very much like my best running speed. Until I hit New Hampshire, I’d gotten used to logging 13-15 miles by lunch. Lately, those kinds of miles have been a very long day.
The thrill of hiking in the woods is back. As I sped along a soft, well-graded trail at over two miles per hour, past moss-blanketed terrain, bear-scratched trees, and fragrant pines, with Gus at my side, surrounded by faint wisps of storybook mist, my soul was at peace. What a privilege to be thru hiking. A good trail covers a multitude of mud, rain, and cloudy sky sins.
When we reached the Bemis Mountain Lean-To, Gus let me know he needed to lighten my pack by having a bite of my lunch. I sat down opposite a hiker who was just packing up to leave. He looked over and said, “I just finished reading your blog today…You’re The Incident! We met in Georgia.”
He said his name was Accountant, but I couldn’t recall meeting him. Georgia was a long time ago. Then something about his eyes reminded me of one of the first people I’d met on the trail, but he was using his real name back then. When he said his real name was Will, I remembered. He’d lost a lot of weight since Georgia, had grown an impressive beard, and looked great. It’s amazing who disappears and reappears along the AT.
I left the shelter and saw PBJ, JW, and Just Try slackpacking southbound. They’re zeroing on Saturday because of the Hurricane, and then plan to continue their slackpack streak for five days out of Stratton. A little later I passed Firefly and Bracket hiking north.
Bracket seemed like he didn’t want to get passed, kicking it into high gear to stay ahead of me for a few minutes until he hit a muddy patch, lost his footing in a classic AT fall, landing on his trekking pole and snapping it in half. I’m amazed my poles have lasted as long as they have, because I’ve done the same fall more than once and because of the abuse they endured in New Hampshire.
I caught Beans at the Sawyer Brook crossing, carrying Bells (her dog) on her shoulders across the submerged steppingstones. Gus looked disgusted and said there’d be no way he wouldn’t be swimming this one. Good thing. He was filthy, so I sent him back in a few more times until he stopped leaving a mud trail swirling behind him.
I’m starting to feel like I have a group. Not quite a tramily, but a bubble of people I’ve met and get along with. I still hike alone all day, but it’s been nice to see familiar faces throughout the day.
I hiked up to our meetup spot before 2:00 pm, my earliest finish in a long time. Northstar had found a nice campground on the South Arm of Lake Richardson with Wi-Fi (for a dollar per day 😊), right on the lake, so we headed over for a lazy afternoon of staring at the water.
Life is good.
- Start: East B Hill Road (Mile 1941.3)
- End: South Arm Road (Mile 1951.4)
- Weather: Cloudy, chilly.
- Earworm: Dreams (Fleetwood Mac)
- Meditation: Ps. 103:5, 11-12 (Thanks, Jim)
- Plant of the Day: Moss
- Best Thing: Hiking
- Worst Thing: Overcast skies
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