Flip-Flops and Bedrocks – AT, New England

Where to begin… Well, I’m sitting on one of those plastic shelving setups erected in front of grocery stores nation wide to display fruit with plenty of cleverly hidden bruises; flowering plants not long for this world and occasionally those lovely shining pinwheel kids’ toys on plastic sticks, though typically only around the 4th of July, which it is not. First off, I’m in Massachusetts, not Maine. Surprise! The plan evolved into a double-flip (we’re coining the term, “dyno-flip”) wherein we go from here to Maine and then come back to go south from here to where we left off in Virginia. It works out to be roughly thirds. Overall, this decision made the most sense transportation-wise and allows for the greatest leniency in our time table. Also, with any luck we’ll have the most enviable weather conditions of any thru-hike ever completed.

I like to pretend I have a real reason to be here but why kid myself? True, I needed something substantial for lunch over the next couple days so as not to burn through my snacks like a raccoon set loose in a field of garbage cans, but the real reason I’m here is for the gloriously gargantuan sub sandwich I just devoured. And, of course, the Red Bull. Mmm. It’s been two days (not even) on trail and I’m already ravenously hungry. So it goes.

Anyways, this rather mundane giant of a grocery store isn’t enough for me to pull out this notebook and start scribbling. I’d really rather discuss the whole ‘getting back on the trail’ bit. How’s everyone doing back on trail? Long miles? Tough terrain? Is it strange/hard being in a new place? Away from everyone you’ve met? In a whole new situation with a whole new adventure to come? Hold on! Too many questions! Jeepers. Everybody is fine. Okay, mostly fine. Captain was nearly a nervous wreck on the drive up here from Virginia with Newman (who graciously brought us all the way to Boston instead of dropping us somewhere in New Jersey as planned — the man’s clearly crazy and undoubtedly a saint. Miss you bud, thanks). He seems to have leveled out thoroughly after a couple nights in the woods, save discovering a hole in his sleep pad this morning. Life goes on, he’ll survive.

That makes two of us.

Rainbow I’m a tad more concerned for. If I didn’t know her so well I’d say the mini-tirade she went on this morning over how long this section should take (she’s for taking our time) might have seemed like a melodramatic anxiety attack. In her case, I think she’s just readjusting and ought to snap to in a couple days when she realizes Captain and I aren’t making her do anything and the world will be alright once again. This isn’t my first Rainbow Rodeo. I suppose those two might be rather curious where I am once they don’t catch up to me in a few hours but it doesn’t particularly matter. It’s oddly difficult to lose someone in the woods for any significant period of time.

We’re shooting to get the 689.9 miles from our drop off point in Salisbury, CT to Mt Katahdin, ME done in about eight weeks seeing as the terrain is supposed to be utterly unruly and prone to disheartening even the most dedicated of thru-hikers. On the bright side, we have a solid destination, an end point, and that does wonders for the motivation.

The little bits of trail lore you hear generally say a few rather interesting things such as: Virginia is flat. Nope. Pennsylvania is rocky. According to residents, no more than anywhere else so, nope. There’s no water in New York. Okay, probably mostly true but there are supposedly also lots of delis right off trail (presumably with faucets) so I’ll excuse the oversimplification in this case. Maine and New Hampshire are steep and scary. We’ll see about this one…I suspect an awful lot of exaggerations along the line of, “The North doesn’t believe in switchbacks (they do),” going on here. I’m personally looking forward to some good old hand-over-fist rock climbing. My point is, besides generally untrue generalities concerning, “The North,” I’ve never really heard anything about Massachusetts in particular. So far I’m pleasantly surprised by the weather and the terrain out here.  It’s rocky but not the softball-sized-chunks-loosely-strewn-everywhere kind of rocky, more the wow!-we’re-actually-walking-on-the-bedrock kind. It’s true, The North certainly takes a no-nonsense approach to going over mountains but, “no switchbacks,” is a mild overstatement. I say mild because the few switchbacks I’ve encountered seem like more of an afterthought than by design. I feel the trail planners simply got done too quickly and added a few in the mix to increase the length of trail in their state and, more likely, to continue the impression they were doing something productive. Oh, and the weather is delightful, mostly at night, and if you manage to ignore the mosquitos.

I love it up here. No offense to The South, but everything takes sooo gooodammmn looong and it was starting to wear on my patience. Don’t get me wrong, people in The North ask how your day is too but they don’t take up half your afternoon with the subsequent rigamarole. Even though I’ve never been to New England before, I feel at home here. The cars zip by like anxious rats lost in a maze with somewhere urgent to be, the food doesn’t always have the word, “fried,” included in the description and the cigarettes cost a small fortune, which may very well coerce me to kick the nasty habit. I love it. Maybe I’ll be sick of it again by the time I’m heading south in a few weeks. Maybe.

It’s about time to find a ride back to the trail, I have another 3-5 hours of hiking ahead of me, depending on how far I feel like going on this heat wave. So long y’all. Cheers.

Be Happy.


PS. I was kidding earlier about the questions, please send them! I’d love to write up a Q & A about the trail! Just lodge them securely in the inbox of either my Facebook or e-mail and I’ll get to them when the coast is clear.

E-mail: [email protected]

Facebook: Tim Sundquist (Library)

PSS. Best trail magic ever: free sushi from a kindhearted (and overstuffed) shopper! See, The North is better. I knew it.

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