Maine… it’s the real deal – Part 2
I meandered away from the group ducking around the back of Shaw’s Lodging to where my tent stood. I quietly called to No Shame letting her know I was back. No response. I crouched down unzipping the tent fly, I kept waiting to hear her excited whimpers acknowledging my return, nothing but silence greeted me. As I opened the screen my heart beat spiked, unbidden images and fears flooding my mind. I reached in to where her bed was set up, empty… I floundered around calling her name quietly hoping beyond all hopes I was mistaken. I scrambled to get a light up and working so I could see for sure that the tent was empty. The door opposite me told the story, the zipper was open just enough for her lanky little body to sneak through it. I closed up my tent and stood there scrolling through my options. No Shame was a tracker when it came to me, it was likely she would follow my scent into town. Before I wandered down the road calling her name I would step inside the hostel and see if there had been a problem and someone had decided to retrieve her from the tent. As I walked through the door into the hostel a little furry ball of cuteness wiggled with excitement, she slowly wormed her way off the footstool she was snuggled onto. My heart slowed and relief flooded my body, I crouched down wrapping her in my arms and taking in all of her loving energy and kisses. The other hikers explained they’d found her standing outside the door patiently waiting to come in. They were more than happy to oblige her and welcomed her in to the hiker lounge. I learned it is not a requirement to have opposable thumbs to unzip a tent door, if you desire something you’ll find a way.
The 100 mile wilderness stood before us, the final push before we reached Baxter State Park and climbed Katahdin. I had stretched out my time in town enjoying the amenities of the “real” world and trying to find time for myself. I had been hiking with a new group of folks for about three weeks and they were all coming to the end of their journey but I was only getting ready to start the next chapter. Two of them had already headed back to trail and planned to meet us somewhere along the way in the 100 Mile Wilderness. After some persuasive conversations I was able to convince the other two guys to move along and I’d meet them at the shelter, this would give me some time on trail to spend with No Shame and just let us be us.
I was ready to head into the wilderness, I threw my pack into the back of the truck, “CRACK” a noise which seemed much too loud to have come from my little plastic measuring cup, now a confetti of magenta plastic scattered around my pack. A quick search of the store left me short a coffee cup for the days to come, it is what it is. As we hiked into the wilderness my body was flooded with energy, we were entering one of the most talked about portions of the trail, 100 miles of trail without a town or house in sight. With only a couple hours of day light left we pushed hard to catch up with crew, the terrain a new challenge for my legs. Walking on moss is a fascinating experience, when it is interspersed with rocks, roots, and minor little ups and downs it’s a bit of an annoyance. No Shame and I wandered into the shelter with a little over an hour of day light left, with it being our first day I wasn’t sure I wanted to call it a day quite yet. Mato was settled in by the fire working on mending his boot, Encyclo was getting dinner ready, I was going to push on but after some discussion the two of them convinced me to stay, Mato said he’d give me some sealant to repair a couple small holes in the bottom my tent. Done deal!
In less then two weeks we’d all be summiting Katahdin, then I would be heading back to PA to hike the 465 miles I’d jumped over, it was time to get used to the fact I’d be the only one on trail in PA. Mato and Encyclo had found a camping area well away from the shelter, because I’d worked on my tent I was committed to the shelter. No time like the present to figure out being “alone” in the woods AND what a night it was. After dinner I called No Shame into the shelter to settle in and get ready for the night, I had my gear out and her bedding was tucked into the corner, due to a slight tilt to the shelter my head was along the back wall. Poor, poor No Shame! We had been settled in for less than ten minutes when the first acorn hit the roof, “BANG!!!” The noise echoed between the walls. I finally lowered myself back to my sleeping pad and tried to call No Shame back into the shelter, she wanted nothing to do with the situation but I was persuasive. We snuggled back in, her body shaking in fear, I placed my hand on her hoping to ease the sense of impending doom. “BANG!!! BANG!!!” We both levitated. If you haven’t figured it, I’m stubborn. I was determined to make it work in the shelter. “BANG!” “BANG!” “BANG!” It was 11:30pm when I finally dragged all of my gear down the trail to a small clearing, I set up my tent in the dark and convinced my terror stricken dog she’d be much happier in my tent than somewhere outside the shelter. Despite being down the trail away from the shelter I could hear the ricocheting of acorns throughout the night.
Maine had already proven itself to be challenging and beautiful at the same time. There was a quality to the trail here that I’d only glimpsed in NH, it was as though nature was undiluted. The further into the 100 Mile Wilderness I got the more accurate this seemed. The first 30 or so miles into the wilderness were rugged, harsh climbs and uneven terrain. What came after, well it was like Bop It! for your feet “jump it, twist it, walk it,” your mind was fatigued at the end of the day by the endless array of rocks and roots which you’d been dodging. And then there was that day… we’d arrived at our resupply, ooh the childish nature of it all. We found our buckets amid the pile of them and dove into them with joy of a kid at Christmas. We shouted out in excitement as we pulled out a dinner or found a forgotten snack, we had all packed our OWN resupply buckets. The sodas were an added bonus, I’d packed two, one for when I got there and one to hike out for dinner. Our packs once again weighing us down we headed into the next part of our day. Today was the day we would be rejoining Croc Rocket and Slow, Antler campsite was our destination. If no one has told you there’s this one section of trail in Maine where you can easily do 4 mph!!! We rolled into the campsite with daylight to spare. A beautiful space, one I’d have been happy to spend a day at.
After a wonderful evening meeting folks and catching up with friends we all watched a beautiful sunset and moon rise over the lake and settled in around a campfire. I had set up camp off on my own and when hiker midnight had come and gone I was happy to be settling in away from the crowd. I lay in the darkness listening to the loons call, their eerie voices carrying across the open water. Gun fire filled my tent!!! I was jostled in the dark unsure of what was going on, my dogs body pressed against my legs as she scrambled on top of me, suddenly more explosions near my head! I fumbled around for my headlamp, struggling to sit up against the 40 pounds of quaking dog I finally was able to grasp the situation. My NeoAir mattress was having trouble, to put it kindly. The baffles were delaminating. Now they go through a fascinating process: first it’s the quiet sound of paper tearing, you can watch as the baffle slowly separates, than the gun shot, the final release of the adhesive is like a bag being burst. Now sleeping on this is an art form, one I never mastered. Any pressure placed on the non delaminated portion forces air into the damaged section which provides you with a pillow and a flat mattress. If you try to add air you only increase the pressure and you have more sections delaminate. I tried flipping it around putting my legs on the damaged portion but the pressure is to great and you’ve created a semiautomatic.
Now place yourself in this situation, just 5 nights before you’d been bombarded in a shelter by acorns and your dog is having PTSD regarding loud noises. Your mattress starts to fire off rounds. Dog climbs onto you seeking comfort. Her added weight causes more “gun fire”. You push her off of you to try and stop the loud noises, she’s so overtaken with fear she’s shaking uncontrollably and no matter what you say she can’t hear you. Another gun shot, she climbs back on top of you setting off another one… Morning couldn’t come soon enough.
I was happy to climb out of my tent to this…
The legacy of Maine is not over yet… to be continued
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