Wetfoot and Arry Vol. 10 Days 19-20: Back to the Bigelows
Day 19: 7.3 miles
Today was a day full of emotions. And now my tent smells like wet dog.
After summiting Katahdin, my sister and I drove down to Connecticut. I was taking a week off for a dear friend’s wedding. Along the way we stopped at Shaw’s, to say hi and pick up my improved hiking stick! Poet put a nickel on the bottom to decrease the wear and tear, and he even signed a magnet for my mom! Then we visited a good friend and mentor from the Marine Corps, before I finally curled up in my very own bed.
That one week turned into almost two weeks off the trail. The original plan was to attend the wedding Friday, drive up to Maine Saturday, and begin the hike Sunday. The day before, we realized that was not the best plan, so we planned a few recovery days.
The wedding was beautiful and brought tears to everyone’s eyes! I’m so thankful I was able to take the time to be a part of their special day!
What did I do with all the rest of my spare time? I made pies!! Lots and lots of strawberry rhubarb pies!! I prepped food boxes and stuffed the freezer with casseroles. I know my boyfriend could survive without them, but at least for a few weeks it will make his life easier.
Today was difficult emotionally. I read some advice on thru-hiking that said limit your zeros, and instead take neros to keep up your momentum. They are so right. It seems like we are starting a completely different hike instead of continuing where we left off. Part of it is that the friends I made previously are ahead of us, and I’m not really sure what kind of bubble I am in.
What I do know is the trail is crowded. I’m sure part of that is because it is summer now so there are more day hikers and campers, the bugs are not as bad, the NOBOs are catching up, and more SOBOs have reached this point.
Last night, after getting to our Airbnb at 10 p.m., I checked the weather to find predicted thunderstorms after 1 p.m. through 8 p.m. My brain immediately wanted to take an extra day so as to not start the day it was supposed to storm.
Instead I decided to do seven miles, and hope I reached the Crocker Cirque Campsite before the rain started. The good news is that would put me at less than 2,000 miles to go, and only five miles short of completing 200!
The lovely boyfriend and sister dropped me and Arry off, and hiked a bit with us. Arry was rearing to go and we basically ran up the mountain. Sorry guys. Ever since last night she knew what was coming when I started putting Musher’s Secret on her paws again.
And then. Just like that, my boyfriend and sister turned around to head back to the car, and Arry and I were on our own. Immediately, I wanted to cry.
As we hiked the clouds started to turn gray and I feared I wouldn’t make it to the campsite in time. I berated myself for not trying to start earlier, for planning that we would be hiking faster than we were. Poor Arry, she just wanted to hike, and I grew more and more stressed. I snapped at her, and felt bad. It wasn’t her fault, and really the best thing I could do was make sure we got to our campsite as quickly and level-headedly as possible.
At a small clearing we ran into Flowers and Pyro! We met them briefly in the 100-Mile Wilderness. Crazy how the trail works. Knowing I wasn’t alone, and there were others planning to camp at the same location as us helped calm me down. They didn’t seem in a rush; instead, they were eating the heaviest part of their resupplies from Stratton.
Farther along we met Jukebox, Abbey, and PopIt, more SOBOs I ran across in the 100-Mile Wilderness. Seems like I’m on pace with those who summited June 15-16.
We continued up North Crockett Mountain as the clouds continued to darken. There was a nice sign at the summit, but trees blocked the view. I could feel the winds shifting so we hustled on down and up to South Crockett
There was a short side trail that led to a foggy view of Sugarloaf Mountain from South Crockett. We chatted for a while with Ferrous and Fireball, two NOBOs headed into a hostel in Stratton.
The clouds grew darker and we bid them adieu and hustled the last mile to our campsite. It was a steep and extremely rocky descent. As we reached the rockiest part, the sun came out, and the blue sky shone with beautiful, white fluffy clouds. I began to wonder if I was working myself up about this storm for nothing.
We reached our campsite and the sun was still shining brightly! We ate a snack while off in the distance gray clouds loomed. Overhead it was blue and clear! I set the tent up on a wooden platform, using 550 cord to tie it down instead of stakes in the dirt. But I figured it would at least keep my tent out of the mud during the predicted weather. As I was finishing it started to sprinkle. I hastened Arry inside, ran to the steam to fill my dirty bag with water (we were very nearly out) and rushed inside. It started raining heavier and heavier and about five minutes after I was safely in my tent the heaven opened, Zeus roared, and Arry and I snuggled.
The rain let up not long after it began. I heard voices enter the campsite, “Is this the campsite?” Thinking it was the hikers we passed earlier we popped out. Two counselors were trying to direct and quiet their nine middle school-aged boy campers. I guess they come out here to camp, and will climb Crockett and perhaps Sugarloaf on day hikes. If it was not raining while I write this, I’m sure they would have a campfire and provide much entertainment.
As the sun shone I grew brave. We crossed the stream and I let Arry run. That’s probably the hardest part for me on the trail. I have a dog who wants to run up and down smelling things, and I try to keep her under control and calm at all times, so it was nice to let her run on the far side of the campground. Then we headed back for a privy stop.
I tethered Arry to a tree, and ran inside the privy. In the less than two minutes it took to do my business, the sky darkened and rain began to fall. Arry and I sprinted into our tent, and before I could towel her off, she rolled around in my sleeping bag!
Crazy how fast the weather moves in around here.
It’s going to be an adjustment back to the trail lifestyle. We passed so many hikers, I feel like I’m running from point a to b, and then enjoying the confines of my tent. Truth be told, there was a reason for that today. But hopefully I can find the ability to sit down and just enjoy some views in the near future.
Day 20: 14.2 miles
I just want to start today by saying thank you to Jackrabbit for the jelly beans. They were pure trail magic.
I found some graffiti in the privy at the campsite last night. It read, “Remember why you started.” Which was immensely helpful to me as I pondered these words the entire trek today.
It has taken me many days to get the courage to go through and edit this next post, because of the raw thoughts and feelings I contemplated today.
The morning was cool, and Arry had once again jumped inside my sleeping bag. But I didn’t mind her snuggles, even despite the cool air creeping in the bag because I couldn’t zip the bag.
We left the campsite, early as per usual. It was a nice slow downhill… until we started climbing Sugarloaf. The uneven rocks made my going slow. Many times I’d call to Arry to wait for me, trying to keep her close. We passed a few NOBOs, and one mentioned that the AT has gotten more and more terrain. He said he had a friend who hiked in his 20s and then again in his 70s. I guess the second time he said it was now an obstacle course!
We neared a nice overlook, where I stopped, sobbing. It’s been an emotional rough couple days. I want to finish the entire AT, but I feel like my heart isn’t in it. Who am I hiking this for? What am I trying to prove? When I started planning this trip in the Marine Corps, I needed to prove myself. I needed to prove myself in college, as an engineer. I’ve been proving myself to other people for eight years.
I’ll be honest. I came on this journey to find myself, to pick up the leftover pieces I felt had been shattered in the Marine Corps, and find what is important to me. And 20 days later, this trail is starting to feel like one giant timeline. I am starting to realize that what is most important to me cannot be found on this trail.
I spent four years missing family life events, including my sister’s wedding. I’ve missed three since starting the trail. Sure, the trail is wonderful but I’m starting to think it’s going to have to find its way around these events. My sister is stationed close to me for a few months, and who knows when that will happen again. And my grandma, well you always have to cherish time with your grandparents.
It’s funny, but as my boyfriend, sister, and I headed up to our Airbnb the day before I started, for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t obsessed with deadlines. We left late due to traffic, but I knew we’d get there eventually. We stopped and ate lunch as sit down instead of a quick grab and go. I cherished the time with two people I love.
Back on the trail, after calming down, we made our way to an overlook where we met Jackrabbit, Church Mouse, Right Turn, and Puff. The first three were section hiking and Puff was section hiking as well, but hoping to finish the AT! He said it took him a long time to get this far. When I told him I came off for a bit for a wedding, he said, “That’s the thing. You thru-hike and you miss out because life still happens.”
His words comforted me. Either life happens around the trail, or I make the trail fit around my life. The trail provides in strange ways sometimes. But the trail provides.
As they were leaving Jackrabbit gave me a bag of jelly beans. Said he was finishing today and thought I could use them.
We headed down, then up Spaulding Mountain. We took the tenth of a mile trail up to the peak thinking there would be a good view. It wasn’t particularly. But we hiked it!
At 11 a.m. we had made it just over six miles to the Spaulding Mountain Lean-to. Feeling good we decided to push eight more miles to Poplar Lean-to.
From there the terrain flattened out for a few miles, we flew over Lone Mountain and down to Oberton Stream. At this point Arry started to want to take lots of breaks, figuring she was getting tired I donned her pack just in time for a three-mile climb up Poplar Ridge.
It was brutal. I’m not sure if I was simply emotionally drained, or tired from the previous 11 miles of hiking or but the rocks and steep up hills were something special. We stopped about a mile out for a breather and some water. Arry was doing great waiting for me, as I was struggling to call for her to wait. My legs were burning, my breathing ragged, even my stomach felt queasy.
We finally reached Poplar Ridge and I collapsed on the peak. I laid for a few moments and then grabbed the water and jelly beans. Arry and I drank the remainder of my water and I shoveled the jelly beans into my face like an animal.
This is the first time I’ve run out of water on the AT. Usually I have a few emergency ounces. But I knew we were .2 miles from the campsite and we could make it.
After refueling ourselves, we sat on the ridge enjoying the view for a few moments before heading to the campsite. We made it!!
This is where Inchworm was last seen in 2013. Her remains weren’t found until 2015, she was about a half mile away. It is a sad story. Inchworm wandered off the trail, where the trees and brush were close together, you could barely see the trail if you were more than a few feet away. Just a half mile off the trail, she had no idea just how close she was to the trail and survival.
And now Arry lies on comfy things in the tent as I do camp chores.
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