Location: Hiker’s Paradise, Gorham, NH
I took a zero day today. I had plenty of chores that needed to be completed. I developed my pictures, purchased a new water treatment system, mailed home several pounds of gear, and satisfied every hunger need that arose.
Stick spotted me on the street and rushed out of a gas station to ask me what happened yesterday. I told him that I psyched myself out and got too scared to cross the mountain because of the thunder and lightning. He couldn’t believe I backtracked almost three miles to hike out of the woods and then to a town. He also thought it was hilarious that I put myself through so much trouble to get to town when the bald was only a fifth of a mile long.
Stick decided to stay the night in Gorham. He has decided to return home also. He isn’t enjoying his time on the trail anymore because of the bugs and the heat. He doesn’t know yet whether he will take the bus home and risk losing his pack, take the plane home and pay 400 dollars, or rent a car and drive the fifteen hours to Detroit, MI. He plans to get a job at an outfitter and save money to hike the PCT in 4 years. Stick was laid off from GM a few years ago. He’s 31 years old and without aspirations for a family.
After seeing Stick, I continued walking through Gorham to the post office and the public library to use the internet. From across the street, I heard someone yell, ‘You dirty yellow-blazer!’ I looked and saw Stampede and his partner, standing in their kilts with their packs on their backs. We held a conversation across two lanes of traffic. The two had hiked to Harper’s Ferry this year and are on the second half of their flip-flop. They said something to me about how southbounders tend to skip small parts of the trail, but I saw three northbounders on my roundabout route and they were skipping twice as much of the trail as I did.
Tonight Stick and I ate dinner together at Mr. Pizza. I finally got a quality order of boneless buffalo chicken tenders. I had been craving that food for the entire trip. Now all I need to do is find a Mexican food restaurant.
After a few beers and the conclusion of the Tigers-White Sox baseball game. Stick and I returned to Hiker’s Paradise to watch television and relax. In the kitchen, a tall, brown, gray haired man with bifocals was sitting at the table, clicking away on his apple laptop and listening to Flogging Molly. We said hello and the man began talking in a kind of jive that I’ve never heard before today. With his long curly hair, leathery tanned skin and flowered shirt, he looked like an old man trying to hold on to a former younger self. He has lived the last 14 years in Hawaii. He shipped his diesel Mercedes to the mainland and took a job with the government, clearing recently closed military bases of artillery including grenades, mortar shells, and land mines. Once his job is completed, then the public is allowed back onto the land.
The man (I never got his name) certainly lived by a unique philosophy on life. He roams around the US now with a surfboard strapped to the roof of his car. He only works when the government has a job for him, so the rest of the time he drives around the country, staying in hostels and surfing when he can. Tomorrow, by my suggestion, he plans to drive to coastal Maine so that he can surf the tidal surge from the tropical storm skirting the east coast. He says that he just completed a ten day fast, living only on lemon juice, hot sauce, and other strange ingredients that he mixes into a shake. He thinks that by fasting every few months, he can clean his system and stay healthier, thus allowing him to live longer. In his fifties, he still surfs 25ft waves in Hawaii. He says he won’t paddle into a wave if they are any larger than 30ft tall. He is very spiritual, placing faith in the power of the natural world and the use of natural medicines and therapeutic practices.
This morning, I tried to shake his hand and bid him farewell. He said he didn’t ever say goodbye, and that we would simply pick our relationship back up where it left off the next time that we met. I still wished him luck and told him to take care on the Maine waves.