Location: Unknown Shelter
I got more than I bargained for by wishing for a person to visit the shelter. Almost immediately as I zipped into my sleeping bag for a late evening nap, a kid of 10 or 11 years raced around the corner, shouting into a two way radio. I thought, ‘Oh Lord, here come the boy scouts.’ Three more boys bounced around the corner and into the lean-to. I learned their ages and names quickly. One they called Liquid Lips because he wouldn’t stop talking. They proceeded to tell me who had the most bug bites and who had the least, who was loudest and who the slowest. I also learned that they took up a lot of room in the shelter, for they told me that not one of them had woken up on the sleeping mat on which they had originally fallen asleep. Many minutes later, a fat, mustached man huffed and puffed around the corner, carrying what looked to be 90 pounds of gear. He had led his two sons and two of their friends on a four day hike on 25 miles of the AT. He was the pastor at One Word Assembly of God in Dover-Foxcroft, ME. We talked while the boys spread their gear about the lean-to. He said the East Branch of the Pleasant River was difficult to ford and that he had to cross it nine times. He had carried every kid’s bag and then his own across the river. When carrying his own across, he slipped and fell, snapping his hiking pole and busting his pack. When I crossed the river today, I saw the three rocks that made a hole where he said he fell.
Not long after that group arrived, Eric, a graduate of the University of Pittsburg, plodded around the lean-to. He awkwardly introduced himself. He knew that I am Mark Kelley because he had been reading my entries in the registers and knew I’d be here today. His friend, Tim, a former Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune and recently returned from Iraq, arrived shortly after in extreme pain. He carried military gear, about 65 pounds of it. He wore what he called ‘desert waffle stompers,’ and they were disintegrating quickly in the swamp. They were not waterproofed at all, and once they got wet, they stayed wet. His feet are already mush. Blisters and hotspots bled through his socks and stained them red.
Four more hikers arrived at the shelter that evening. They had covered 22 miles, and all of them were hurting because of it. Joe, from Lee, Massachusetts, was the most experienced hiker. He had hiked from Mass. to Georgia last year and had 400 miles completed on the Pacific Crest Trail. He had just been released from the hospital, having been treated for dehydration. He wants to spend the next two years of his life hiking.
The second to arrive, Max, was a proud nutritionist. He was forced off the trail four years ago with an injury. Throughout college, he constantly thought about getting back onto the trail. He and Joe began the trail alone and met atop Katahdin. They hike together now, but Max seems that he will be unable to keep Joe’s pace.
Greg and Eric arrived after them. These two are college buddies from Maryland. Both were limping when they came to the shelter. The 22 miles had exhausted them, and they wore the fatigue on their red faces.