Wetfoot and Arry, Vol 12, Days 24 and 25: Little Red Hen
Day 24: 14.5 Miles
Just chilling by a brook while we wait for the shuttle to come pick us up. We hiked quite a way, and hoping to stay out of the rain tonight.
I’m getting less scared that doing days over ten miles is going to injure us. Arry was running down the trail still at the end. I still took her pack off as it neared the hot afternoon, although I’m sure she could have made it.
Last night a couple shared the stealth spot. Matador and the husband had some cheesy masculine trail name I can’t remember. I guess they had a chihuahua that hiked 450ish miles of the AT with them. They said they had to bring their little pup sweaters and rain jackets, but said he did fine until he refused to keep eating. I guess he never ate dog food, and started turning his nose up at human hiker food. What a diva!
It was a pretty quick and easy hike from our campsite up Old Blue Mountain, and then down to South Arm road. There we met two groups of Maine conservancy, AmeriCorps volunteers laying rock stairs and one group of Outward Bound campers. They were all very excited to greet Arry.
We climbed up Sawyer Notch, and I thought it was extremely steep. The downhill was even steeper and my knees started to hurt. I think part of it is I’m over 25 now, so these things are harder on my body than I’m used to remembering. When did I get so old?
Then we started the climb up Hall Mountain. The elevation guide made it look steep, but Oh. My. Goodness. It was just a never-ending climb up pure straight 80 percent grade slope. By the time we reached the lean-to I was completely covered in sweat.
We took a break at the shelter and I skimmed some of the entries in the log. Sunshine and Pinecone (I’m assuming a different Sunshine than the one I met earlier in our hike) wrote last night they were taking a nero into Andover for a strawberry festival! Immediately I berated myself for trying to push for a 14-mile day and hiking through to East Hill Road instead of heading straight in off South Arm road. I figured if we hiked the last six miles fast enough we might hit the tail end.
From Hall Lean-to it was a pretty quick, easier, mostly downhill six miles to East Hill Road. We caught a quick view at Wyman Mountain, and stopped for a moment to admire Surplus Pond, a pond created from beaver dams.
As we waited I started this journal entry. Eventually we shared a hitch with Wolverine into Andover, just in time to make the post office and get our resupply box! The next stop was the Little Red Hen for some superb strawberry rhubarb pie with homemade vanilla ice cream! It was delicious. Almost as delicious as my own.
At first I was hesitant to stay at the Little Red Hen, but after they offered me and Arry a private room for $25, and they were having an-all-you-can-eat Mexican buffet that night… I mean what could I say? So we stayed there with an excellent group of hikers. A mix of SOBOs and NOBOs. And there I met Pinecone and Sunshine, who wrote that fateful entry about the strawberry festival. Apparently it was in a town about an hour away, so they didn’t go; they just caused some emotional distress inside me.
While Arry lounged, I used the wonderful cell service to call my boyfriend and grandmother. I confirmed with my grandma that I would be coming off trail to go to a family vacation, but swore her to secrecy so I could surprise my mom and dad. I’m excited to see the family and spend some quality time with them. That’s really what I have been realizing is important out here.
Day 25: 4.5 Miles
Today was a struggle emotionally to get out the door. We took a nero; if we took a zero I think I would have gone home early.
It rained last night, not as much as I expected from the weather forecast, but it was still cozy in the Little Red Hen’s room. We slept in late, until 5:30ish, and had a delicious breakfast at the Little Red Hen. They are first a restaurant, but they also are super inviting to hikers and will let them tent in their yard for free!
I thought the post office opened at 8 a.m. The town is so small, there’s a general store and legit one restaurant, so I’m sure I should have expected it to be later. The owner of the Little Red Hen offered to shuttle us to the trailhead at 9:30 so we chilled for a while.
Just before heading to the post office I called my boyfriend. I was about to throw in the towel. If he had said he didn’t really want to come hike the Presidentials with us, I was at the point where I would have stayed in Andover and waited to be picked up, a moment of weakness. But he, as he always has, supported me and encouraged me to continue on to the link-up point as we planned.
I feel like I’m reaching out for external motivations for completing this trail now rather than internal motivations. A combination of the weather prediction of storms, and also the solidification of going to the lake for family vacation are making the realization that we really won’t be thru-hiking more and more a reality.
After getting some post card stamps, and extra stamps to carry (finally), we got into the shuttle with Sauce and Cranberry. I’m not sure why I didn’t think about buying postcard stamps sooner. Now I can buy postcards wherever and just pop them into the mailbox whenever I feel like it!
As we were driven to the trailhead, the owner of Little Red Hen seemed saddened that the little town was growing more and more dependent on tourism and hikers. They used to have a lot of wood and paper mills, but the mills have shut down and a lot of the younger population has moved away. It isn’t the first town along the trail and I’m sure it won’t be the last affected this way.
When we were about 30 seconds from the trailhead Sauce remembered he forgot their rainfly at the restaurant. So Arry and I set off on the trail, while the owner shuttled them back and forth again, so nice.
We had four and a half miles to go. The weather forecast predicted thunderstorms from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. My goal was to hit the campsite and wait out the rain. It looked like a smooth, kind of gradual climb. For some reason I was sweating profusely on this climb. I’m not sure if I was just really hydrated or it was the humidity or a combination.
My glasses fogged up as I struggled to keep up with Arry. I’m starting to wonder if these nero days are for her..or for me.
About a mile out from the campsite it started to drizzle. Nothing threatening, just enough that all my clothes got a bit more uncomfortably damp than my sweat had originally made them. We reached the lean-to, and saw Pinecone and Skipper, a SOBO section hiker. They were taking a respite from the rain as well.
As we chatted for a bit I offered them some gummy bears. Pinecone asked if they were normal gummy bears, and me thinking she meant the brand gold (because obviously that’s the brand all gummy bears should be compared to), I said no they’re the black forest ones made with natural fruit juices not just sugar. She laughed, “Like no weed? I’ve grown careful accepting food from hikers.”
It didn’t even occur to me that that would be what she was asking about. Many times on the trail I’ve seen hikers start smoking some, or I’ll smell it. I’m sure there are so many subtle hints that I miss out on.
Nope, no weed in my gummy bears.
Skipper said he looked up the weather and the storm was supposed to not hit this area anymore. He and Pinecone both pressed onward to the next shelter as the sun started poking its head out.
Ragdoll and Molasses, the SOBO couple I met at the Hiker Hut, showed up as well. They too pressed onward.
Cranberry and Sauce made it to the shelter, and decided to stay. They hike as a couple so they share some weight on things like tent and cooking supplies, so they splurged on other things. For example, they packed out a three-pound bag of dried apricots and a two-pound bag of chocolate-covered espresso beans! They zeroed in Andover waiting for their Amazon package to arrive, threw it in their packs, and hiked away this morning!
We spent a long time chatting in the lean-to. I set the tent up for Arry once it began looking like Skipper was right about the weather, but for a long time she wanted to stay in the hut and be near the social gathering. She curled up on Cranberry and Sauce’s sleeping pads; luckily they thought she was cute and didn’t mind.
I asked Sauce to watch her while I went to the privy and then to gather some water. He cuddled Arry and said, “Uncle Sauce going to take good care of you” and he became Uncle Sauce from then on.
It’s kind of crazy how having a dog can boost the morale of people on the trail. It is so much work, emotionally and physically, to have her out here, but some days it is just worth it. For example: there is a group of campers at this site. The camp is based in Maine, but a Canadian-run camp. Most of the campers are Canadian, or trying to improve their French. Their first year they do an eight-day trip on the AT, second year, ten days, and the third year, 17 days culminating with Katahdin. At the end of that they have hiked all of the Maine AT. How cool! I want my kids to go to a camp like that someday. Anyway, they brought us their extra couscous from dinner, which we happily helped eat. (Fun fact they call the dish schnut. I accidentally called it schnot, and I hope they call it that for the rest of the summer.) The squeal and look on the faces of the camper and counselors when they got to pet her was priceless!
The thing that really made today special was just talking to Cranberry and Uncle Sauce. We ended our hike early in the day and with no cell service to distract us, we had very deep conversations. We talked about where we were from, why we were on the trail, I showed them pictures of my boyfriend, and we talked about how the more we hike the more OK we are if it becomes a section. It made me realize I’m not alone and that my feelings are valid. They are planning to take time off to visit family in New Hampshire and attend a wedding later this summer as well. I stayed up talking to them much later than I intended to. But it’s OK. We are both planning to camp at the same site tomorrow, so hopefully I will see them again.
After this morning I really needed to have those conversations with them. The trail really does provide.
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