Back on the AT in September, day 1

Long Falls Dam Road to West Carry Pond lean-to
3.5 miles

It’s 5:11 PM and I’m alone in this lean-to, drying out after just spending a mere 1.25 hours back on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. Right now I’m seated in my sleeping bag, with  dry socks, Patagonia Puffball jacket zipped up tightly, wool hat on my head, and I’m  leaning against the back wall of stacked logs while the supposedly brief showers have fully morphed into a deafening roar of heavy rain.
Auntie Mame dropped me off on the AT here, some 20 miles north of North New Portland at about 2:30 this afternoon.

Long Falls Dam road
Long Falls Dam road

I was very surprised how long it took us to get here today, given that we left our house at 9:15 this morning.  My car is spotted at Shaw’s Boarding House in Monson where I’ll complete this 55 mile section .  Much of the time was spent driving the convoluted Route 16 that meandered south, west, then north again as there is no  East<–>West  route to speak of up here.  Too many mountains, ponds, lakes , and streams in the way.
Two weeks ago, Auntie Mame and I did a section of the AT together that took in the whole Bigelow range.  After coming home, I wasn’t really focused on getting out again, plus the usual demands of life began to snow me in. Then I was reminded of the quote I used to refer to a bit, “Don’t let the rat of doubt nibble away at your resolve.”  Unless I make it a priority, I don’t find it easy to string together 4-5 days at all.   Earning money ( mostly to pay bills while hiking), dealing with the vegetable garden, processing vegetables for harvest, riding my bicycles, reading, playing music, all of this stuff is fun to do and much easier than getting ready to walk out and hike.
I owe this return to the AT to Rangoon and Queso, who reminded me that Sept. 16 was the anniversary date of MEGATEX’s completion of the AT last year.  They wrote about commemorating our Long Walk by getting out and hiking.  Receiving those e-mails from the was like a big wake up call. I listened.
I had to force myself to cancel my presence at several meetings and at least one important music practice.  I usually put work first, but there are times when I have to face the big questions myself which should not be too conflicting, but often are.  “What takes priority, the ticke rtape  of routine, or one’s passion?”  Or as my friend Edward recently said, “ When you are dead in the ground for 10 years, what will it matter to people how many meetings you attended?”  Who is really keeping track?
It took me so long to get through the day yesterday.  I know I was going to leave for a few days, but forgot how many loose ends I still had to tie up.  Like processing 30 pounds of free tomatoes for the freezer, or dehydrating 15 pounds of peppers, or writing an article for a deadline, or calling 5 people to cancel out of meetings I originally agreed to make.  The day went on and on.  I also had to work a half day, I almost forgot to mention that, and packing.
But that all fell away after planing my foot on the AT at 2:30 this afternoon.  The sky here looked bad.  It was 56 degrees out, and a black rain cloud was moving in against a very portent sky.  I hadn’t walked for more than 5 minutes when it began to rain, and it is still coming down right now at 5:30 PM.  At first, I convinced myself I wasn’t getting wet.  The leaf cover was dense in this hardwood forest, but the insipid water began to reach my skin eventually, slowly soaking my back, my head and the top of my pack.

Wet Trail Today
Wet Trail Today

My socks became wet.  Even so, I decided not to stop and put on a pack cover, as I was playing that all to familiar game of ” try to make it to the shelter before I really get wet”.  Also I was headed uphill for 2 miles over Round Top Mountain  , so I reasoned that if i did put on my rain jacket I ‘d just get sweat soaked anyway.
So, I’ll soon boil up some water for supper, listen to music on my iPod, and write a bit in the shelter register.  Right now I’m dry and I’m lovin’ it.   Looks like my early exit today will find me walking 14 miles to the Kennebec River tomorrow.  Maybe I’ll just wind it up by hitching a ride and head up to spend the night at Northern Outdoors if we have another rain day?
I’m feeling right smug here, completely toasty in dry clothes, with a warm belly full of a meal I dehydrated for myself this week at home.  Yup, the rain is pouring down , and I had the sense to stop and err on the side of meager miles this afternoon, in favor of comfort.  This is big news for me.  I’m embarrassed to say that this feeling of capability/luck/thankfulness is not that frequent an outcome product of my usual outdoor escapades.  It has taken me a lot of years to be working this sort of thing out, but today I know I made some pretty good progress.

One thought on “Back on the AT in September, day 1

  1. Rangoon

    Ah, that is a really cool section of trail. I think it tends to get overlooked with all the other options you have, but it is really nice. I really enjoyed the lean-tos on the ponds, especially Pierce Pond I think. It seemed like you passed one or two ponds or lakes on a daily basis. Plus, I remember a really cool bog/swamp where I saw four moose all at once. Darn, I am really jealous. Good for you Tom.


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