I stayed yesterday at the Stratton motel and finally organized and transcribed my journal. I mailed it home for safekeeping. I left the Stratton Motel today after saying goodbye to Don. I promised to send a postcard whether or not I make it to Springer Mountain. His business partner drove me the 20 miles to the AT trailhead on the far side of Rangeley. She recently moved from Virginia to Maine, having sold her farm and two businesses in Florida. She warned me of a major storm approaching from the west. When I began hiking, the storm was still over New Hampshire.
I had only planned ten miles today, and I completed them by 2:00pm, meaning that I averaged about 2.5 miles per hour. The trail weaved through the flat valleys. Tomorrow, back to reality, the trail will cross several peaks. The ten miles today I finished easily without taking off my pack.
Heavy Foot and Ketchup had just finished their lunches when I arrived at the shelter. As soon as they left for Bemis Mountain, the bottom fell out of the clouds. I hope they have no close encounters with lightning. They plan to take a zero day in Andover, ME. I should pass them in a couple days, and then they will catch up to me by the border. I still want to make it to New Hampshire without stopping at a town in Maine, but I need to make sure that I have enough food to make Gorham, NH.
I met BJ Bear one mile before arriving at the lean-to. He has section hiked 2/3 of the trail in his retirement. When I met him on the trail, he didn’t offer me an opportunity to pass. With only a mile to go, I stayed behind him and listened to his story. While we had lunch in the lean-to, he broke his spoon. I gave him my fork, so all I have now is my spoon. I used the fork very little and I will do anything now to shed weight from my pack. The pack really slowed me down today. I must find a way to make the pack lighter or I will not complete this trail. When I get to Gorham, I’ll investigate the costs of buying lighter equipment. Most of my gear is too high tech for this trip. My pack is getting heavier, not lighter.
When BJ and I reached the shelter, large tents had already been erected on the tent platforms. A group of French-Canadian campers from Quebec had made camp. Some spoke English very well, others sparsely, but they conversed with each other in French. The boys were very interested in the idea of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. They asked BJ and me many questions. When they speak French, I try to understand it. I think that I catch some words here and there, but I am probably just making up the vocabulary.
I took an hour nap this afternoon, despite the noise of the 12 Canadians playing cards in the lean-to. When I woke up, Tomato and David, who I had met at the Stratton Motel a few days ago, had arrived at the lean-to after a twenty mile day. Tomato limps pretty badly and says that he needs to see a podiatrist as soon as he gets to Gorham. I told Tomato that Ketchup wasn’t too far ahead and that they should meet. He said that he would make sure that they did.
Also at the shelter were the counselors for the youth group. They were cooking a rice dinner for the group. They gave us hikers the leftovers and I didn’t have to cook dinner tonight. For the rice, I’ll forgive the noise of the boys.
Tomorrow I will try to hike 17 miles. I’ll see if the wet trail will even allow me the opportunity. To cross all the peaks ahead in one day will be quite an accomplishment. I can always stealth camp though, which means camping outside of authorized campsites. I want to make Gorham without stopping. To do so, I’ll need to push myself harder than usual. The trail ahead has hidden difficulties not revealed in the guidebooks, such as a three mile stretch of boulder scrambling called the Mahoosuc Notch that will slow me down to less than one mile per hour. On a side note, I have hiked the last 100 miles without a map or guidebook. I’ll make sure to pick one up in Gorham to plan my trek across the White Mountains.
I forgot to mention, and I can’t remember from whom I heard the news, but Flying Turtle has fallen and injured his leg. He has been taken to the nearest hospital for X-rays. Turtle, forced off the trail with a bruised kneecap and Lyme disease after 1600 miles last year, faces possibly another failed thru-hike. I have heard many stories about trips ruined by injury. Most people weren’t even pushing too hard or too fast; they just got unlucky with the roots and rocks. Some were just beginning their trips, others nearly finishing theirs. I should remain cautious throughout my entire trip if I hope to finish it.