Hiker Stream of Consciousness: SOBO Days 17 – 19
The Appalachian Trail from Caratunk to Stratton begins to become more mountainous. It’s like a little tease before getting further towards Southern Maine and New Hampshire.
This happens to include the Bigelow Mountains.
Some hikers are really great at reciting the history from a particular area, maybe telling you how the mountains got their name or their cultural or indigenous significance in the area. Other hikers are great at cardinal directions and can point to mountain ranges along the horizon, telling you what is what, for as far as the eye can see. Others still are very technical, competitive, and know the exact ascent, descent, approximate grade, and elevation of every mountain.
I am none of the above. Although, I can definitely be spotted checking FarOut to answer the burning question: Are we there yet?
Instead, I’m more of a “wow this is beautiful”, “this feels so good for the soul”, “Mother Nature really just DID this”, “I’m enjoying this so much” type of person. For someone with an engineering degree, I am anything but technical when it comes to hiking.
For this reason, I was surprised and interested to learn that from the summit of Little Bigelow Mountain, you can trace the Appalachian Trail down to Safford Notch and up to Bigelow Avery Peak, and down and up again to Bigelow West Peak.
The mountains looked serene until I realized I’d have to walk through all of that.
While walking this range of mountains, I tried to tune into my inner dialogue and mentally catalog the kinds of thoughts that roll through my brain. For your viewing pleasure, these thoughts are presented below.
Down the Mountain
Awesome view. It looks like it goes on forever. I can’t believe we have to hike that next. It looks so tall from here. Is that mountain taller than this one? It kinda looks like a little bit taller. Why do we have to go so far down before going back up there? I wish the mountains were closer together so we didn’t have to do that. Okay, down we go, I guess. I feel like an old lady hiking down hill. Hold the tips of the poles. Is that the right way to hold the poles on a downhill? I feel like it hurts the wrist less when you press on the top. Test the ground before you stick your pole there. Seems firm-ish. What if it slips? I hope this pole doesn’t jab me if I fall. How close behind me is the next hiker? Oh damn, right there. Don’t stick your trekking pole through my freaking achilles. Oh pay attention, Jana, the pole just slipped. No broken ankles today. I wonder how I’d feel if I had to leave trail early. I don’t even want to think about that right now. It happens to a lot of people, I guess. Isn’t it like 20% of hikers that actually complete this trail? Let’s just get through Maine first, Jana. Focus on this one descent. Did I pack teriyaki or alfredo noodles for supper tonight? I can’t believe the Knorr’s sides were $2.50 at that resupply. Is food cheaper is America than Canada? I wonder if it’s just more expensive in small towns. What’s the USD to CAD conversion again? Mental math is hard on trail.
An Unnecessary PUD
Is that a rock scramble ahead…okay here we go. This reminds me of bouldering. Except it’s like free solo. But less dangerous. I don’t think I’d fall that far. But I think my pack would throw my balance off. Up we go. Over that one. I think that feels like an okay crimp-hold. Can I put my foot there? It’s kind of damp, but it doesn’t feel slippery. Okay not as bad as I thought. Damn I miss the bouldering gym. I wonder how hot it is in Fredericton right now. It’d be so weird to be in the real world right now. It’s crazy how fast this hiking every day thing became habitual. It feels so natural right now. I like moving all day. I wish I could exercise this much in every day life. It’s a Tuesday right now. That’s a big rock. If I was working it’d probably be almost lunchtime right now. Back uphill now, I think, or is this just a PUD (pointless up and down)? Another PUD? When does the trail start to go uphill again? I forget how many kilometres we had until the next viewpoint. Should I wait for the viewpoint for a snack or have one now? I’m starting to get hungry. I don’t want to faint. That’s dramatic, I can wait for the summit. I should have taken this fleece off before the uphill. I know you’re supposed to be bold and start cold but I’m always cold. I am warm now though. Ugh I hate stopping on the uphill. But it’s seriously getting sweaty. This is kind of like hot yoga. I should do yoga tonight. Maybe elevate my feet for once. I need to do that more. The compression sleeves are great though.
Up the Mountain
Are the trees getting thinner? It looks like they’re getting shorter. I can see blue skies. If there was still more mountain to climb I don’t think I’d be able to see the sky. This could be a false summit though. Don’t check FarOut, let’s assume it’s a false summit. Don’t get excited yet. Look down, just hike. Should I put music on for this uphill? It’s so motivating. I feel like I’m supposed to appreciate the sounds of nature though. All I hear is my heartbeat and breathing right now though. It couldn’t hurt to listen to a little music. I’m hiking alone right now anyway. I wonder how far behind the group is from me. I think I hear their poles. Yes, that’s definitely a pole. And movement. Good stuff, they’re still behind me. Okay, tunes it is. I’ll listen to my cup of coffee playlist because it’s upbeat. I feel like I only listen to upbeat music these days. That’s a switch from the chill tunes when I’m doing homework. I need some new artist recommendations. I should download the Arkells Radio playlist when I get to town. It had good stuff on it. The trees are definitely getting thinner. When does the alpine zone technically start? Would I still have to dig a cathole here? I’ll wait for the others at the summit. But if it’s windy I might go down a little bit so I don’t freeze. I wonder if the cheese in my bag is still good. It’s only been, what, two days? Probably good to go. I think I’ve done three days before. Is that bad? Meh, it’s never made me sick before. Is that a side trail? The eternal struggle — is it worth it? Oh, it says it’s an excellent view. That seems dramatic, I feel like I need to check this one out. I shouldn’t skip these but damn they add extra miles fast. I’ll just leave my pack and go quickly. Scurry, scurry. Oup, there’s a downhill, that’s an uphill on the way back. Oh well, the view is probably worth it. OH WOW. Yeah, that’s worth it. I can’t believe this is my real life. So lucky to be doing this right now. I’m so grateful. Do I take my phone out for a picture…nah. Wow look at those lakes. I love Maine. Okay, back to my pack. I hope a squirrel didn’t get into my food. If it did I’ll just live off of peanut butter until town.
At the Peak
Okay, there’s no way this is a false summit, I can see a sign. What does it say? I literally just had my eyes checked, these are new glasses. What would it be like to have 20/20 vision? Waking up and being able to see would be so… Are you kidding me? “Alpine zone, please stay on trail.” Okay, okay, it was a false summit, that’s not the sign I’m looking for. There’s another sign. That looks like the summit. Oh you could hang out in this rock structure if it was really windy. It’s a nice day today. I’m glad for that. Not too hot either. Why do Maritimers always think about the weather so much. Yes, that’s the summit sign! How many feet? Oh jeez, what’s that in metres? That looks like Sugarloaf. I wonder if Dad ever skiied there? Maybe I have service here. Oh look at that, Mint Mobile finally has service. I’ll text Mom and Dad to let them know I’m alive. Maybe I can get a picture to my sister. What time is it for them? What day of the week is it? I wonder if they’re at work already. I’ll try a text anyway. Damn, that wind is cold. Time to pull the fleece out again. Ou, I forgot about a snack. Clif or Nature Valley? I’m pretty hungry, let’s go Clif. I freaking love the peanut butter Builder bars. These are worth their weight in gold. Mmm. Oh, there are the others! Yay, friends! This is so much fun. I’m so happy right now. Did I put electrolytes in my water already? I should drink more of that. Hydrate! This water bottle needs to be cleaned in the next town.
It seems that my stream of consciousness on trail is in a constant orbit of wandering to the “real world”, what I’m going to do post-trail, and then being jerked back into the present moment. I’m never bored on trail. There are always things to look at, terrain to pay attention to, thoughts to process, music to listen to, people to talk to. Every day is so different and varied, it’s more dynamic that I expected. Sometimes I find myself hiking an entire day without pulling out headphones because I’m so concentrated on hiking or my thoughts wander so deeply that I don’t even long for something to distract me.
There is something so exciting about hiking; even parts that might seem monotonous, like tuna wraps and endless miles of trees still bring me excitement and interest. And, of course, as the miles start to bring me closer to town, the lure of creature comforts like a shower and refrigerated food are enough to prevent any kind of boredom on trail. As I approach Stratton, I’m thinking about the soft feeling of sleeping in a real bed, resupplying my Builder bar collection, the suds of soap, and fresh vegetables. But, I can also already anticipate the antsy feeling from town when I long to be back on trail, looking ahead at the next rocky scramble, steep ascent, and search for the best spot to pitch a tent for the night.
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