Location: Trapper John Shelter
Today I hiked my longest distance in a day. I don’t hike with any sort of map, but by adding together the distances on the signs in the woods, I hiked nearly 19 miles over several mountains, two of which were over 3000ft. I didn’t start early, so I began my day in the morning heat. Although I climbed mountains, they were made much easier by switchbacks and side cuts, the first I’ve seen on the trail. On the trail in Maine and in the Whites of New Hampshire, if the trail developers wanted the trail to cross the peak of a mountain, they would blaze a trail straight to the peak, often up a rocky creek bed. Instead of climbing up a mountain, now I can just walk the trail to the top. Of course, one drawback is that switchbacks lengthen the distance between two points. If a trail straight from bottom to top were a mile, a switchback trail might be two miles. I don’t know which I prefer yet, but I’ve got plenty of time to decide.
The trail has taken on a new character, as far as I can tell. In Maine and in Northern New Hampshire, the trail was punishing and unforgiving. It required complete concentration to avoid injury and it required dedication for completion. Today I whistled while I hiked. Usually I don’t have the breath. Today I casually strolled at 2.5 to 3 miles per hour down the trail.
I stopped for lunch after seven miles at Hexacube Shelter. I missed the only rain shower of the day while I ate inside the shelter. This afternoon I hiked to an abandoned fire warden’s cabin on the summit of Smarts Mountain. There, I did something I had never done before. I pulled everything out of my back and cooked dinner, and then I loaded my bag and continued hiking after eating. Usually dinner comes at the end of the day, and I consider the meal a reward for a hard day’s work. Today, though, I hiked an additional six miles after dinner. I wasn’t completely thrilled about the idea, but I really wanted to move down the trail as I promised myself I would when I descended Mt. Moosilauke. I made it to Trapper John Shelter about a half hour before dark. I don’t have a headlamp, so I was cutting it pretty close. When I get to Hanover, I’ll buy a headlamp because I plan to do some night-hiking to beat the heat.
The Trapper John Shelter was built on the site of an old house. The fireplace is the only structure remaining, but artifacts have been placed on the mantle. If it hadn’t been so late, I may have roamed around to look for glass bottles and scraps of metal. I’m sure the area has been well scoured by hikers, but maybe there are some items still hidden under the leaves and logs. I can’t imagine living in these woods two hundred years ago. I wonder how they have changed and not changed. The life of a trapper and woodsman would undoubtedly have been a difficult life. Everyday would have been a struggle to survive and even more so to feed a family. While I am spending time in the woods now, I’d like to spend time in the woods without hiking. Hiking requires a lot of my energy and distracts me from my thoughts and ideas sometimes. As the trail gets easier, maybe I’ll be allowed more time with my thoughts. Even now I fall behind on my journals. I’d like to experience life living in the woods, perhaps even building a small cabin on a secluded piece of property. I wonder what life would be like in that setting.