Appalachian Trail journal. Day 5. Maine.
It’s 3:33 am, and it’s raining inside my tent. This 100-mile wilderness shakedown is shaking me down alright.
Before I left, I set up the tent on my friend’s lawn to seal the seams. I had the sealant, the time to seal, and everything, but in the sun the tent looked so nice and tight, I thought “it doesn’t look like it’d leak. It’ll be fine.” … Now it’s day 5, and I haven’t seen my shadow since Katahdin.
On day 2 most of the afternoon was composed of a downpour. I hiked the 11 miles to the next shelter as fast as I could and stayed there for the rest of the day. Before the hike I said, “I won’t be staying in shelters. All these people crammed side by side, no thank you. I need my privacy.” I take it back. Shelters are dark, smelly, rodent-infested, overcrowded wonderful little haven of dryness and friendships. Who knows how long I would have shivered without my new friends’ body heat around me. When I got there I was drenched, and the foot of my down sleeping bag was wet.
Before I left, my being so crafty and all, I decided to turn an old tarp I had found in a hiker box back in 2012 into a poncho to cover both me and the pack and double as a footprint under the tent. It’s actually pretty nice – The seams are neat. The hood is stylish and fits perfectly. The only problem is that whatever material that tarp is made of is not waterproof. I had tested it in my friend’s living room by pouring a glass of water on it, but Maine rain is apparently wetter than NH tap water. This wet poncho is the only rain garment I brought. At the last minute before heading up Katahdin, I took my hat and gloves out of the pack and gave them to Sally. You’d think I’ve never lived or hiked in the Pacific Northwest. At the time, it made sense. It was sunny, my pack was heavy and I had a massive mountain to climb ahead.
Not all is lost though. Under, the wet poncho, I also had a Cuben fiber pack cover Miles (Knight Shift) let me borrow. He’s hiked the AT before. He knew.
So everything in the pack was dry, except for the foot of my sleeping bag, because my platypus water bladder leaks. My previous platypus got me through the entire PCT, so I didn’t worry about that particular piece of gear. Now that I look at it, which I should have done before I left for the middle of nowhere, the plastic looks melted, like that Tupperware in my front seat in Sedona just a few weeks ago. I think Sedona melted my platypus, probably on that day when I was cooking eggs on the hood of the truck.
And it’s not just the water dripping from the seams that’s keeping me awake. There are mice crawling all over the tent – only two have made it in so far, by chewing themselves doorways into the mesh. I’ve escorted them out swiftly and tried to fix the holes with Silnylon tape, but the fabric is too wet, it won’t stick. I don’t know what they want in for anyway. I’ve got no food in here. It’s all hanging about 100 feet away, under the shelter. Now I wonder why I’m not in the shelter. It wasn’t raining yet when I got here and I thought this spot by the river looked lovely. Well, I suppose it still is lovely, just a bit wet and micey.
If I’m going to have mice in the tent anyway, I wish I had kept my food bag with me. My stomach’s been growling for a few hours. I don’t have my trail legs yet, but I sure have hiker hunger already. I see now that I made poor nutritional choices for this first carry – the longest of the whole AT. I tried to be both healthy and thrifty. I packed nuts I’ve had in the truck for too long, some crackers and organic rice quinoa mix. I’m over them. My body is saying “Dude! Where are the m&ms, the cookies, the chocolate, the corn nuts, the sesame sticks, the beef jerky, the sausages?” It’s day 5. I’m 4 days to the next town. Half way. My food bag is looking meager and sadly devoid of anything I actually want to eat. Before the hike, I said I was going to limit my town stops and eating out to safeguard my tiny budget. Now my brain won’t stop fantasizing about whatever burger joint awaits me in Monson. I don’t even like burgers. It’s alright. I’ll learn and adapt. I’ll find silver linings.
And there are many silver linings:
1. I’m small enough that I actually can curl up and fit entirely under Miles’s Cuben pack cover. It’s not particularly comfortable, but I slept like that for a bit earlier, until I got too hot. Then I remembered that I had packed a Hefty plastic trash bag. It’s now half a bivy bag. I’ve also hooked Chris’s bandana under the main leaking seam to catch the bulk of the water coming in, and have Deborah’s cap over my head to prevent the Chinese torture water drip on my head. It looks like everything’s holding. For now. With a little help from my friends.
2. I get to write a story in the middle of the night! That’s exciting! I had imagined I’d write every day, like Carrot Quinn does. I even bought a large smart phone and extra charger specifically for that purpose. But it turns out, when I’m in the woods, the last thing I want to do is turn on the electronics. For the past 3 days, I have not needed my glasses to read the data book at all. Guaranteed, I will after this post. There is an immediate and direct correlation between the quality of my vision and the time I spend on this phone. Also, I’ve been watching the battery percentage free fall with each sentence I write. Even with the extra charger. Writing every day would require me to go into town to recharge constantly. If I’m going to be in town that often, I’d rather go to the library and write with an actual keyboard. Besides, I promise you’ve not missed much. So far, it would read something like “I woke up. It rained. I walked for 12 hours. It was gorgeous. Same thing tomorrow.”
3. It actually is gorgeous. The amount of green is surreal. I walk through an ocean of leaves only interrupted by lakes. Everything is pristine and quiet. I’ve been waking through fields of ferns, on narrow log boardwalks over swamps, across fresh streams and clear bubbling brooks, like through rain forest postcards. I’ve been dancing the AT dance to navigate the complex network of slick roots and sharp rocks they call a path. I’ve gotten lost a few times, because all my attention must be on my feet, then found the white blazes again. I’ve been getting ample space and solitude and have met good people. I envy their rain gear. Firefly gave me some chocolate to comfort me. It’s all good. It sucks a little, but I’m still going.
4. I’m still going. In spite of Murphy’s grip on my gear, my body still feels strong. I did 21 miles today, 20 the day before. No blisters after walking in wet shoes for 4 days. No rashes, not even where the pack’s straps is cutting through my shoulders. Legs are sore, but they still go. I’m being shaken down, but still feel lucky to be here, on this trail, in the woods.
Sounds like the rain is getting even harder. I’m gonna try and catch some zzzs. I have a mountain to climb tomorrow according to the data book.
Bobcat out. Xox.