Tim and Eric left Horseshoe Canyon lean-to before me today. I left after eating two bowls of Raisin Bran and a granola bar, a pretty typical breakfast for me out on the trail. The day started easily. The trail was flat and straight and I followed the Piscataquis toward the West Branch ford.
When I came to the crossing, I saw Eric and a man with a fly rod on the other side of the fork in the river. Eric smoked his Marlboro Reds. After no smoking for 12 days in the wilderness, he smoked 4 packs in three days in Monson. I was able to avoid cigarettes entirely, despite the heavy drinking. The other man, much smaller in size, smoked a small marijuana pipe.
I crossed the cold river through the shallow rapids and met the two on the other side. The old man introduced himself as Sourball and offered me a few hits from his pipe. I declined, but he still packed a bowl big enough for two. He carried a couple of fly boxes in his fanny pack and went through both to find a fly that would work. He said he was the trail maintainer for Pleasant Pond Mountain and told us what we could expect from the 4½ mile climb up the northern slope. The trout, he said, congregated in the area where the rivers joined because they preferred the more oxygenated water. He saw I had a rod and told me to cast behind a certain rock where he had been trying to hook a trout he had seen that morning. I hesitated to take his fishing spot, but I did so upon his insistence. I cast my spoon upstream and let it drift past the rock. On the first cast I landed the trout. I had attempted to release the fish, but Sourball netted the stunned fish from the water because he wanted to keep it for lunch. He had come into the woods to fish and live for the duration of his vacation. I left him on the riverbank, struggling with his flies.
I found a bridge a couple miles down the trail and stopped for lunch. I ate all of my peanut butter and flour tortillas. I stuffed myself, and I decided to curl up in the sun and nap just off the trail. An older man woke me up. He was a hiker, finishing last year’s failed thru-hike. He looked nearly on the verge of tears, tired of the bugs and swamp. ‘I’m not having fun anymore,’ he kept saying. He had already yellow-blazed, hitchhiked, to bypass 30 miles of swamp, and he was crushed when I told him that 40 miles of buggy swamp were waiting for him in the 100 mile wilderness.
Later down the trail, I came to the outlet of Moxie Bald Pond. The water spilled over a beaver dam swiftly, so I crossed in my boots, instead of barefoot. On the flat rocks on the other side, I dried my boots and fished once more, catching 3 brook trout, 1 speckled trout, and 2 perch before a man from Hickory, NC that I had met at Shaw’s came to the ford. He bled from his elbows and right forearm. He had fallen several times crossing Pleasant Pond Mountain. He told me that he could not swim, so I helped him cross the quickly moving water spilling from Moxie Pond. Once he was safely across, I noticed that gray clouds had arrived. I thought I still had a few miles left, but I arrived at the shelter after about a mile. There were many blow-downs on the way to the lean-to. The constant over, under and around wore out my knees and my ankles.
Wane No and Brooks (Chunky Monkey) were already at the lean-to. They must have passed me while I napped. Brooks graduated from Duke University a few years ago. He spoke with a strong Alabama accent, but he spoke even more strongly about himself and his accomplishments. I didn’t particularly like him. I sense he didn’t like me either.
Wane No took my rod to the pond and caught three bream. I remained at the shelter while brooks did his nightly routine of sit ups, pull ups, and pushups. Neither person can believe how little backpacking experience I have or the weight that I’m carrying.