I woke up to the sound of loons crying.
It was already another warm, very humid day. I had one of the worst sleeps I can remember, waking up at least every hour throughout the night. Why, I don’t know.
After gathering up some dry pieces of wood from the campsite, I boiled up water for a strong cup of coffee, ate my granola , powdered milk, and Medjool dates. I had just 8 miles to walk this morning, back to my car, which was at the Abol Bridge store.
I was just starting back up the AT, when I saw another hiker. He was camped not more than three hundred feet away from me yet I had not seen nor heard him. He was out for a 12 day traverse south to Monson, and proudly showed me his 30 pound food bag. With his pack and gear he must have been humping 50-55 pounds at least. Good for him. I had enough to do with my light pack as I headed up the 600 vertical feet with the immediate goal of topping out at Rainbow Ledges in two miles.
I came to the top of the ridge at the Ledges and spotted an obvious thru-hiker sitting at the Katahdin viewpoint. Here is photo of me on the Ledges taken previously by Bad Influence.
There was barely an outline of the mountain visible in the thick heavy atmosphere. I stopped , sat, and talked a bit to Kuru, from Big Sky, Montana, who was hiking with his cousin who was up ahead. He sometimes rode the steep snow slopes with my friend Eric Morrison, who also lives there. Kuru told me that of the 30 plus people that started around March 24, he and his cousin were the only ones left walking the Trail. The wet conditions this year just wore people out. He said that the mud in Pennsylvania was the last straw for the stronger ones that even made it that far. I gave Kuru the 4 ounces of denatured alcohol I had in my emergency bottle, and we hiked and talked the whole two and a half miles to the Hurd Brook Lean-to. I met his cousin there, and learned that she had spent summers at Alford Lake Camp in Union, the site of my first job in Maine. I decided to let them have their time together at the end of the Hundred and pushed on. Here are some additional photos of the area by Mark Shaw, who is my favorite AT photographer.
In no time I finished the final 3.5 miles, exiting the woodland section of the Trail, taking the right turn and walking a bit of the Golden Road before I hit the store for some snacks. There were a couple of young women working there. They told me the thermometer at the store registered 95 degrees yesterday. I had one of them make me up one of those day glo- red hot dog, with relish, mustard , and even onions for just $1.26. A pint of chocolate milk washed it down. I love the place, and hung around talking with them until Kuru and his cousin showed up.
Kuru and I exchanged info about our blogs and I thanked them for the time they spent with me. I appreciate Kuru letting me know he has been able to use his iPod Touch, with a free WordPress App, to successfully compose for his blog, which then automatically connects and then posts when he reaches a Wi-Fi hub. I wished the duo the best on walking the last 10 more miles into Katahdin Stream Campground and then up to the summit when they end their long walk tomorrow.
As soon as I reached Millinocket, I hightailed it to the air conditioned Appalachian Trail Cafe, where I ran into Paul (“Ole Man”), owner of both the Cafe and the Appalachian Trail Lodge . I met him several times on my 2007 AT Thru-hike, both at day 1 , in Georgia, and five and one-half months later in Millinocket. Paul is from Fall River, MA, where I grew up. We shared grief at the fact that our favorite chinese noodle supply station, The Oriental Chow Mein Co. had burned down recently. We both have a big bag of those noodles stashed away in our respective freezers.
Paul told me the Lodge was empty last night, but that last year on that date he had been full. He reported that this year’s hikers were running about 2-3 weeks behind the normal schedule, due to the rainy weather delays.
All in all , I ended up hiking 31 miles on the Appalachian Trail in 48 hours. I was especially encouraged that the mileage was attained on the two hottest, most humid days of the summer, so something has dramatically improved with my stamina in the heat and humidity.
I head home for two days to work, but in three days I’ll be right back on the AT in New Hampshire, with the hope of walking the Franconia Ridge Trail in that infrequent 5,000 foot range, between Mt. Lafayette and Mt. Lincoln in the White Mountains.