ECT Day 120 – A Dinner of Shortcut And Sammies
Burntland Brook to Forks of Tobacco
Hegge Noodle Camp to PB Sammies For Dinner Camp
ECT miles: 23
Total miles: 2413.2
Elevation change: 1480ft gain, 1161ft loss
For the second day in a row I was struck by the absurdity of this strange endeavor. Yesterday, buried under a pile of doubt, I questioned why SpiceRack and I were hiking in New Brunswick rather than in a more scenic and rewarding locale. After bouncing back from that emotional low-point over the course of a sunny day, I was still asking the same question, but now it wasn’t rhetorical with a negative bent. Today, the New Brunswick portion of the IAT still felt absurd, but it also felt like a gift. Sure, the logical place to build this trail might be in the hills, roller-coastering along the endless ridges of hardwood forest, away from the roads, away from the people, but this trail was still young. Conceived in 1994 and maintained by volunteers with zero funding from the New Brunswick government, that it merely exists is an achievement. Besides, following the current route along the rivers, sharing the pavement with cars was still plenty scenic. It’s a lot easier too. The NB IAT may piece by piece slink into the woods over the years, slowly achieving the wilderness experience that its creators envisioned, but I am grateful to see it as it is now, in all its flat, meandering glory. It is a silly adventure, objectively uncool relative to just about any other hike that I’ve done, no doubt. However, thru-hiking any trail is at least slightly silly. It’s all about perspective, and after some reevaluating today, I’m ready to say, “f**k it, it’s flat and beautiful.” Exactly what I asked for. But thank goodness I have Spice to keep me company!
The relentless sun was already high in the sky and blasting us with hot rays by the time we were packed and moving. Our evening in the empty churchyard had been peaceful, restorative and comfortable. Before stretching on my gritty socks, I popped and taped a blister on my big toe, but my first few steps were ache free, indicating that hiking in Spice’s small shoes might work out after all. Her feet were feeling similarly decent, even if they still wafted with the bitterness of infection, and we turned the first tentative hobbles into full strides before rejoining the empty road. I was already sweating in the heat, and geared up for another hot day on hot pavement.
Clouds slowly began to drown our shadows in their own as we churned out the easy miles. A gusty breeze also provided relief, yet before long, we were desperate for water. There were plenty of homes, and we could see the wide river across acres of private property, but it was out of reach. We eyed each hose thirstily, but weren’t to the point of water-theft quite yet. Fortunately, two fellows chopping wood in front of a house happily agreed to let us fill our bottles from the spigot. Saved. A short distance later, we spread our foam pads on a freshly-mowed lawn in the shade of a solitary pine. We kept an eye to the nearby home while we rested and snacked, fearful of a charging hound or fist-shaking curmudgeon yelling at us to get off their lawn. Neither was forthcoming, and during these moments of peace, we fell in love with black licorice and discovered the shocking truth about ketchup-flavored chips: they taste a lot like ketchup. Like, a lot. Too much, maybe.
We were hesitant to call that lunch, but the opportunities to top it were nonexistent as we followed the road through logging claims and long stretches of swaying tick-grass. We took another break on a mossy driveway, then failed to locate a campground toilet. However, some free cookies made up for that debacle. Still, by the time we stumped into Riley Brook, we were properly hungry and tired. The town wasn’t much more than a gas station / convenience store that also rented implements for river floating. Spice and I grabbed a bag of buffalo pretzels and some cold drinks, retreated to the bench across the street along the river, popped off our shoes, and put our feet up. Our bellies growled and our dogs barked.
My body begged for some decent nutrients, but it wouldn’t get them from this resupply. This was not the place to be vegan. Our haul was a pitiful collection of bread, peanut butter, jelly, cookies, cashews, oatmeal, and chips. They only needed to fuel us for one more full day, but damn, that was a lot of beige carbs. The real nugget of value was given in the form of advice from the friendly cashier who gave us the scoop on an impending 20 kilometer shortcut to our next town. It followed a dirt road through a logging preserve, cutting out a massive curve of the river. Concerned as we still were about our foot health and inflexible itinerary, it was an obvious choice for us.
An evening breeze and cool temperatures made the final seven miles a bearable march through more of the densest, greenest forest of all time. Shocks of bright lupine glowed electric in the intermittent clearings. We talked about forms of intimacy and dodged the occasional pair of headlights. After crossing a wide river, we hung a left, officially leaving the official IAT behind for the alternate. A quarter mile later, we pitched our tent in a scenic gravel pit and zipped in. This wasn’t a bad spot at all, not like it mattered anyway. Once we were in and prone, it didn’t matter where we were. This was the kingdom of pb&j, and we dined on our first of many sandwiches to come. This was a silly dinner, fit for this silly adventure.
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