Location: Andover Roadhouse
I met Tomato and David downstairs this morning for cereal. They already had their daypacks prepared. I found a note on the kitchen table from the lady managing the hostel. Our shuttle to the trailhead had been cancelled. It was now our responsibility to hitch a ride and still hike the 10 miles to meet the 12:30pm shuttle at the end of the section. I packed a bag quickly and we all went to the corner and stood on the road leading out of town. Only a few cars passed and they all continued without picking us up. Finally an elderly woman in a station wagon, who turned out to be the owner-operator of another hostel in town, drove us to the trailhead.
When we began hiking, I tried to keep up with Tomato and David. They are both well over 6 feet; their strides let them climb quickly and without as much effort as I exerted. I managed to keep up with them for a quarter mile or so as we ascended Mt. Moody. As I fell behind, I realized that I began trying too hard to keep up with them. I decided to stop completely, letting them get ahead and out of reach before I injured myself by trying to keep their 3.5 to 4mph pace up and down hill.
For some reason, my body wasn’t firing on all cylinders. My stomach hurt and my muscles weren’t working at full potential. The climb up Moody and then Hall Mountain exhausted me. I had to take several sit-down breaks just to climb 1000ft. When I got to a high ridgeline, I thought that I might still be able to meet the shuttle. I jogged, sometimes sprinted, on the flat ridge. The packed dirt allowed me to really move. Soon I realized though that I’d never make the shuttle, so I slowed my pace to an enjoyable walk.
I caught up to Mad Maxine, a 68 year old female section hiker in ridiculously good shape, and a family of weekend hikers. Mad Maxine realized that she wasn’t going to make the shuttle either, so she had slowed her pace. She began at 6:00am though. She averages just over one mile an hour, but at least she advances down the trail.
I arrived at East B Hill Road at about 1:30pm, one hour after the shuttle left. The dirt road had very little traffic. Five or six cars passed within 45 minutes. None of them stopped to give me a ride to Andover. Soon Mad Maxine emerged out of the woods. We waited another 45 minutes for the next car to pass. The next car, a blue pickup towing an aluminum boat, stopped and offered us both a ride in the bed of the truck. I think that hitching with a 68 year old grandmother helped me get a ride. What person can leave a senior citizen standing on the side of the road in the afternoon heat?
When I got back to the Roadhouse, a new group of people were sitting on the porch. I went inside and took a shower and then bought a six pack of beer. The men invited me to drink on the porch with them. I accepted. They had been put up for the night by their employer. They were working on a camp (vacation home) for a man from New Hampshire. Sean Boyle owned the vinyl siding and carpentry business. He had brought his sons to finish the job with him. One of the sons was working off the damage he had done to his father’s car in an accident and the other was working off a plane ticket to Lake Tahoe.
Sean, the father, was particularly interested in my hiking. He had recently begun hiking in Vermont and New Hampshire, and he had just returned from a 14,000 foot climb in Washington. I answered all of his questions as we drank beers together on the porch. He kept running across the street for more beer. Before I knew it, I was drunk and my conversation with David, Sean, and the two sons had become a rowdy one. Sean, drunk and smiling, decided that we should all go to a brew-pub barbeque rib house an hour down the road. David and I declined at first, but then Sean insisted and offered to cover the tab.
We all piled into the white work van with the underage, sober son at the wheel. Sitting on the work equipment, five gallon bucks, and ladders, we rode to the brew-pub. Sean bought David and me full racks of ribs and all of the microbrew beer that we could handle. He charged it all to the man employing him. Sean is a loud, flamboyant, jovial man that has spent most of his life as a construction worker and stockcar driver. We had a rowdy time at the pub, but we avoided angering and thus fighting any locals, which I thought Sean wanted to do. Most people didn’t seem to mind our noise, but then again none of us were in any condition to notice our surroundings.
On the ride home, we had to drive extra slowly to avoid hitting moose on the road. Occasionally we’d see a shadow whip by the car, but the son drove well and avoided all animals. Sean brought a six pack into the back of the van. We drank on the ride home and Sean told me all of the clever ways to cheat at a stockcar race. He touched me every time he told me a secret. He’d slap me on the leg or shoulder. I may have been drunk, but the pops form the palms of his hands began to sting. We made it back to the hostel, where we continued to drink and exchange stories. I told Sean that I was interested in building a small house one day in the mountains and he insisted that I come with him in the morning and spend a couple hours at the jobsite where he would show me the ins and outs of building a small house. He said that he would show me how to build a sink that drains into a gravel gray water pit, and show me how to make sure a roof won’t collapse with 1000 pounds of snow and ice piled on top of it. I accepted his invitation as long as he would take me to the trailhead early enough that I could get to the shelter before dark.
Sean passed out on the porch and his sons and I helped him up the stairs. The next morning, he didn’t remember his extended invitation fortunately because I felt terrible and wanted to get back to the trail as soon as possible. I shook his hand and told him that I hoped he fulfilled his dreams of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail and completing a transcontinental bike tour. He said, ‘Good luck, Wayward Angler!’