Ukelady and Possum Love America
Despite a lot of rain and low-mile days, Possum and I are having more fun than ever. Here’s our latest adventure update!
June 28 – 8 miles
Getting back on the trail never felt so nice! After three consecutive zero days, I was worried that hiking would be harder than ever. Usually after the first mile we are sweaty and gross-feeling again, but today we retained most of our sweetness and cleanliness! The weather was perfect; we hiked through some pretty open meadows and set up camp at a shelter just shy of McAfee’s Knob. With the extra time from our short hike, Possum built a fire to cook our curry over, which was delicious with some garlic naan. It feels nice to be back out here doing our own thing. I like it.
Also picked a ton of ticks off ourselves today. None that had attached themselves, but we are extra wary just in case.
June 29 – 5.3 miles
We reached the mighty McAfee Knob! We had talked about getting up to see the sun rise, but we didn’t actually leave camp until 1 p.m., so no surprises there.
I felt a little like the Knob was overhyped. Sure, it’s a beautiful and very expansive view, but in 700 miles I’ve seen a lot of those. We’ve played on cool cliff rocks before, we’ve dangled over rock ledges – I dunno, I was expecting a little more. Once we checked our expectations, though, we had a lovely time.
We spent two hours clambering around, taking pictures, drinking in the sun and chatting with fellow hikers Mushroom and Three Bears. We met a guy called Pringles who is thru-hiking with a two-car system: he hikes south from one car to the other, stays in a nearby town for the night, then drives north to hike south again. It’s ingenious.
Since we had gotten such a late start, it was going to be a real push to get to our planned shelter before sunset. After a brief tussle of opinions, we decided we would night hike if we had to and set out again. There was a blue blaze trail mentioned in the book that we thought might let us skip Tinker Cliffs and the mountain it rests on, which I didn’t fancy hiking in the dark, so we set off down a path of overgrown jeep ruts. There were almost no blazes and the trail kept running out, leaving us to hunt for other ruts to follow. It’s the closest to being lost we’ve been on the trail. Possum yelling “hello!” into the woods like a desperate madman was proof enough for me to know this wasn’t going to work out. After an hour we gave up and called it a loss, setting up our tent very against the rules in some jeep ruts near the trail. Sometimes adventurous risks pay off… and then sometimes they don’t.
June 30 – 12 miles
As we hiked up to Tinker Cliffs, I regretted not going up the night before. The terrain was easy, the views were killer and it was a much nicer overall feeling than McAfee Knob. It would have been awesome to have taken in a sunset/sunrise combo there, but ah well. We had a lovely time.
Possum loves climbing on rocks and at this point I just presume he can climb anything. So it was a surprise for both of us when Possum climbed to the top of a huge rock and announced that he was stuck.
He had helped me when I got stuck at Dragon’s Tooth, but I felt a bit more useless shouting out guessed advice and making nervous noises under my breath. It took some brave lifts and leans, but Possum eventually made it back in one piece. Scary.
We were hiking to Daleville, where we had hung out with Possum’s dad a few days prior. Since we had enjoyed all the town comforts then, we figured this time we would camp in the park like the bums we are. We called for a shuttle since it was late and we still had to cook dinner, but much to our surprise our shuttle driver offered to let us stay at his house for the night instead! Incredible magic! We were extra glad for a roof over our heads when a violent thunderstorm ripped through after midnight. We continue to be overwhelmed with people’s generosity.
July 1 – 10.? Miles
Today started in a way every day should: with an all-you-can-eat breakfast. Possum had never been to a Shoney’s before, so I felt it was my duty to introduce him.
We hitched back to the trail and committed our first act of “yellow blazing,” where you skip miles by car instead of hiking them. We felt like we weren’t missing much in the 1.5 miles between the highways, so we got back to the good stuff with no guilt.
It was a lovely day and the trail was fairly tame. We passed time listening to movie scores and playing games, just enjoying life. At lunch we met some fellow hikers who started their expedition a day before we did, a rare and joyous thing. It’s nice to know we’re not the only ones taking our time out here.
I was feeling a bit antisocial when we got to camp, so I hung out in the tent with a book and my ukulele while Possum chatted with friends by the fire. Life here is simple and good.
July 2 – 0 miles
Leaving the tent is always our eventual plan, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Possum and I got caught up in a morning of good conversation on different ways to approach life, and then decided to stay in for the rest of the day watching movies, reading, and playing games. It’s what we would have done no matter where we lived, and it felt nicely normal.
July 3 – 7.3 miles
The sky was a hazy gray all day, holding over us the threat of rain. It managed to hold off until we arrived at a shelter, where trail magic and good company would find us. I haven’t seen this many people at a shelter in ages: six thru hikers, a camp full of kids and three section hikers. We quickly befriended a dad and his adorable little girl who gave herself the trail name Lizard. We played some card games and she serenaded us with many improvised songs, all of which were hilarious (“Don’t dream about spiders,” she advised sagely in her goodnight anthem, “Have happy dreams about giraffes.”).
Possum and I talked for a bit about happiness, and I must say, I feel pretty happy.
July 4 – 9.7 miles
This may go down in the books as my favorite Fourth of July ever. The weather for our easy hike was nice other than some brief rain, and we reached our destination before 4 pm. After patting ourselves on the back for a job well done, we had a choice to make: stay at a nearby campground with our friends and the promise of a bluegrass band, or try to hitch to the tiny town of Buchanon for late night fireworks. Possum wanted the campground; I was deadset on fireworks. So we did the only logical thing and called Possum’s brother in NYC so he could google what our options were. It turned out that Buchanon was also having a carnival, so we hitched in with a berry-picking gentleman and had our minds utterly blown.
This was no small town carnival; this was a full-on festival. There were rides galore, live bands, and food vendors aplenty. Within ten minutes of arriving, four different people told us to try the handmade French fries. We ate them while watching a parade of vehicles (there were a surprising number of tow trucks, but the kid on the unicycle got the biggest cheers). We rode three violently spinning rides in a row and Possum nearly puked up his chili burgers. I watched a mediocre classic rock cover band while eating blueberry cheesecake ice cream out of a solo cup. People clogged. Everything was sights and sounds, a delightful barrage on the senses. And then, the main attraction: fireworks.
They were huge, and exceptionally close. They filled the entire sky, and I lay below them laughing in awe. A sky full of stars is stunning, but a sky full of fireworks is actual magic.
We met an older gentleman who offered to let us set up camp in his yard, an offer which we gratefully accepted. The world was determined to show us how amazing it can be today. Nature is great, but people are too.
July 5 – 9.? miles
We’ve been on the trail for 100 days! Woo! We started the day with a luxurious breakfast and good conversation with our hosts, John and Marilyn. Their house is incredible – a whole wall of windows – and it was lovely to spend the morning swapping stories. I’m used to these kind house-sharing experiences from touring as a musician, and it’s awesome to be reminded that good people will find you, wherever you go.
Hiking was a sweaty affair as we set out on a day that was nearly all climbs. The first shelter we ran into – Bryant Ridge – was the coolest shelter we’ve seen yet on the trail, with a huge enclosed porch and multiple floors, but we hiked on to the far less exciting Cornelius Creek Shelter as the day was still young. Big thunderstorms rolled in as we cooked dinner, though, so we were grateful for any shelter at all.
July 6 – 5.3 miles
Rainy mornings mean shelter parties! People keep saying things like, “No rain, no Maine,” but since we’re no longer fighting for Katahdin we do not have to take on as much gross weather. We stayed at the shelter until 1:00, got ready to head out, saw the rain start up again, and then stayed at the shelter until 4:00. That’s when a troop of soaked high school boys paraded in and we immediately got to hiking. We all find motivation somewhere!
Another nice easy hike which took us past the guillotine, a neat and idly threatening-looking rock formation. Possum was the unlucky recipient of a mysterious bee sting, but was cheered by these awesome huge snails he spotted.
We stayed the night at Thunder Hill Shelter, which lived up to its name by greeting us with another tremendous storm. Hope tomorrow is sunny!
July 7 – 14.6 miles
It was kind of fun to prove we could still hike a big day! That is, until my feet started aching from all the rocks. But we had great motivation that pulled us along our lovely hike: some of my relatives were waiting for us at the finish! Lesley and her daughter Kallena took us home for showers, an enormous marathon of cheesey foods, the most comfortable bed ever, and shark week. It was a wonderful night of luxury, and we’re starting to think we’re the most spoiled hikers ever. Not gonna lie: it’s awesome.
We had tentative plans to go back to the trail in the afternoon, but we’re easily swayed by good company and bad weather. Another night in paradise was just what the doctor ordered! It was Kallena’s birthday, so celebrations were in order. She wanted only two things for her birthday: a pull-up bar and a worm farm. Clearly she’s the coolest person alive.
We rounded out the night reveling in the glory of TV. Nickelodeon is crushing the nostalgia vibe by showing classic 90s show with revived host Stick Stickly, so we got to fa ll asleep to Legends of the Hidden Temple a show which might have helped inspire my thirst for adventure (and my fear of temple guards).
Seeing family was great, and we’re recharged to get back on that ol’ dusty trail.
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