Appalachian Trail journal. Day 7. Maine.
Whenever I am sad or out of sorts, my friend Weathercarrot always reminds me: “24 hours in the life of the Bobcat is like an eternity in someone else’s life.” By that he means that my life changes so fast that usually by the next day a whole new story is underway, canceling out any qualms I had the day prior. So far, it has always proven true.
And this might apply on the trail even more. On day 5, after I wrote the “amateur hour” post and slept a little more, I transformed the Hefty trash bag I had used as bivy bag into a rain jacket, tucked my down sleeping bag as far into the pack as I could it and left for the day’s miles in a torrential rain. By the time I reached the next shelter, only 8 miles later, there was not an once of my gear or self still dry.
“You should stay here. Stay. Stay.” Firefly insisted. “But I’ve only walked 8 miles.” 8 miles is nothing when you have hundreds to thousands to go.
“But tomorrow the sun will shine, and you’ll be able to dry all your gear and make up all the miles.” She sounded so sure and cheerful about it – she is Firefly for a reason, bringing light in dark places. I didn’t believe her one bit – it seemed then that the sun would never return – but I loved how intent she was on keeping me there. It’s nice to feel wanted. So I stayed, and I was glad I did. By 1 pm, 7 of us were wrapped in our sleeping bags, tucked in for the rest of the day. There were, in order in the shelter, John and Firefly, me, the well-named and only nobo thru-hiker Giggles, Walking Bare from Germany, Thorny, and Purple Crayon. It was a fun crew, and we laughed all afternoon. Purple Crayon had a space blanket I could wrap around my soggy lumpy down bag and myself. I was wet, but at least I was warm. Actually, he was still Ian at the time. He didn’t get the name Purple Crayon until later that evening when he told us of his childhood habit to taste everything.
“What was your favorite strange thing you ate?” John asked. “The purple crayon. It wasn’t chalky like the other ones.” That’s how he got his name.
I didn’t believe Firefly, but 24 hrs later in the life of the Bobcat, the sky was impossibly blue and the sun was shining through the canopy, illuminating each drop of rain from the previous days like myriad little diamonds in the forest. I started very slowly that day. The forest was so beautiful in the sunlight. I needed to look at everything everywhere. Luckily for my daily miles, I soon fell in step with Thorny. We talked for hours. He told me tales of his adventures in South America, crossing rivers in hand-pulled baskets of death and finding ancient ruins off the beaten path, of waking the Camino in Spain, of building log cabins by hand, and dozens other fascinating stories. The miles flew by, even though they were hard miles of sharp rocks and roots straight up White Cap mountain.
Around lunch (according to my stomach, I don’t have a watch), just like Firefly said, I yardsaled all my gear in a clearing. A nap later, all my gear was dry for the first time since Katahdin.
After lunch, Thorny and I caught up to Purple Crayon. PC and I fell into step while Thorny (Thorn Knee) slowed down to walk his own hike. For the next few hours I got a full seminar on how the jedis and sith lords came to be, how light sabers are powered by crystals , how dissension in the sith lords ranks created the party of two rule, and the full lineage of Anakin Skywalker. Seriously. Who need podcasts? PC was in a lot of pain though. Maine is hard on the body. He caught a ride out at a road intersection. That’s it. One day, he’s rescuing me from hyperthermia. 24 hrs later, I’ll never see him again. Such are friendships on the trail.
Today was yet a completely different kind of day. After so much social time yesterday, I got a full solo day today. I only shared lunch with a group of 3 vivacious flip-floppers who taught me how to set a trap with 3 sticks and a rock to catch prey. They caught and roasted a squirrel for breakfast just this morning. I had so many questions. I don’t kill bugs or anything senselessly, but I would kill a squirrel and eat it, with respect and gratitude. They promised they’d show me how, if we ever camp together. But they are already to the next shelter. I think Thorny knows how to as well. He can also track, and start fires with sticks. So much to learn in the woods. Teachers everywhere.
I really enjoyed hiking solo today. The trail was almost vertical in places, just a jumble of large sharp boulders to the summit of a mountain, then back down to a bog, then back up another mountain, and so forth. The air was hot, thick and sticky, like in the south, but the sun was shining and most mountains had a view. It was a 17 mile day that felt like a hard 35 but I loved every step of it.
Everybody is asleep now, knocked out by the miles of the day. Each in their little repair chamber, side by side in the shelter. It’s 8 pm. I’m the only one still up, writing this.
Tomorrow will be our last day in the 100-mile wilderness. It is too soon to expect any sort of cohesion, but our little budding trail family decided we’d sick together at least to Monson. So tomorrow Thorny, John, Firefly, Walking Bare and I are stopping 3 miles short of town. Some of us will be out of food (I already am), some have packed too much. It’ll all equilibrate and everyone will be fed.
Eventuality, I speculate that Thorny will need more town zeros than I can afford. John and Firefly will be much faster than I am once they get their trail legs (they already are). Waking Bare will fall back or lose me when I get off trail in North Conway. We’ll dismantle, or not, or flow back together down the trail. What a treat it has been to share some hard and wet miles with these amazing people. And who knows who I’ll meet tomorrow. 24 hrs from now. A whole universe away.
I need repair too now. Good night. Xox.