Monday, February 8, 2016

Day 140: Decisions, decisions....

July 25: Rain was once again expected in the afternoon, so I got an early start to the day's hiking and had my boots on the ground by 6:30. The first half of the day was relatively easy and I made good time, hitting the Hall Mountain Lean-to--a little over 10 miles away--by 1:00 in the afternoon. Normally I could knock off 10 miles in about 4 hours, but given this terrain, I was pleased as punch that it took a mere 6 1/2 hours.

And even better, the weather was still looking great! No threat of rain in the immediate future, but the weather can change fast. I still expected rain later in the afternoon. The next shelter was 12.8 miles away--too far for me to hit before nightfall. I could stay here and dry, but stopping at 1:00 in the afternoon didn't appeal to me. I wanted to get in as many miles as I could while the weather was nice, but if I continued on, I'd have to tarp it overnight.

I hate messing with my tarp or being confined to it during rain, but it was the lessor of two evils so onward I continued.

After leaving the Hall Mountain Shelter, the trail became much more difficult. Much steeper, rockier and rough. The climb out of Sawyer Notch included a 1,000-foot elevation gain in a mere 0.4 miles! My pace slowed to a crawl.

My goal was Black Brook, where my guidebook said there were campsites available as well as water--which makes sense if it's located next to a place called Black Brook. I arrived at about 4:00 in the afternoon--a good time to stop with a solid day of hiking. Dark clouds had started rolling in, but no rain had started. Yet....

But the water looked a bit mucky, and the campsites were much closer to the road than I preferred. Every car that drove by I could hear in stereoscopic sound. I decided to continue on. My guidebook showed no campsites between here and the next shelter, nearly 9 miles away, but I knew I could find something along that stretch. There might be areas where you can't find something suitable for a couple of miles, but nine miles? I could find something. I knew I could. *nodding* But it would be a surprise--one of those places that you walked up to and thought, "Ah-ha! This is it!"

About four miles ahead was "Unnamed Gap" with a "mileage sign" and water nearby. The "Unnamed Gap" had a capital U and capital G making me think that it's actually named Unnamed Gap. The water got my attention, though. First, I needed some. And second, I've often noticed that there tend to be small, unmarked campsites near water sources and overlooks. I'd bet that there was somewhere by that Unnamed Gap where I could camp, and that become my new goal. If I found something good before then, that was great. At the very least, I still needed water so I had to find that before I could stop. Just because no water was listed between here and Unnamed Gap didn't mean there wasn't any.

The trail climbed steeply from Black Brook, to the top of Old Blue Mountain. Views from the top were disappointing since by then I had entered a thick layer of fog. Rained seemed imminent and I was anxious to get up camp. It was nearing 7:00 in the evening now--getting late and growing increasingly dark. There hadn't seen anywhere good to camp since leaving Black Brook and certainly no water on the trail, and I started having doubts that pushing on like I did was a mistake. Maybe I should have stopped at Black Brook. Too late now, though...

I reached a small creek running across the trail and filled up my water bottles. I didn't see a mileage sign, however, so I wasn't sure if this was Unnamed Gap. Looking around, I didn't see anywhere I could camp. Just thick vegetation in all directions.

I walked a bit further and another small creek crossed the trail, and once again I took a hard look around me for a place to camp and saw a small clearing towards the east. I almost overlooked it--the path through the brush was largely overgrown and not at all obvious. If I hadn't explicitly stopped to look around, I'd have completely missed it.

I whacked my way through the brush and found a tent already set up in the clearing. Nooooo! Who the hell was out here?! Now where was I going to go? How the heck did this person even find this campsite! I almost missed it and I was looking for it!

It looked like I might be able to squeeze a tent among some trees off from the tent. It would be a little tight, but I might be able to manage. I should find out who was in this tent before I committed myself, though.

"Hey, there!" I called to the tent. "Anyone in there!"

There was a sound of rustling and a voice called back. "Uh, yes! Who is that?"

"Green Tortuga!"

"Green Tortuga! It's Bearfish!" There was some more rustling and the tent unzipped and Bearfish poked his head out. "How the heck did you find me?!"

I laughed. I wasn't looking for him--just a place to camp, and I told him as such. He was amazed that I had found his campsite because it was so well hidden. He said he found it completely by accident. Very lucky. I told him that I was actually looking for it. Not that I knew it was here, but I was working under the assumption that there would be a campsite near water and took the time to actually look for one.

I hadn't seen Bearfish for several days and it was nice catching up with him. He didn't mind at all if I squeezed my tarp among some trees off from his site and I worked on setting up the tarp while we chatted. It hadn't started to rain, but it looked like it could start at any moment. I wanted that tarp up!

I was quite pleased with my progress today, though. I did a super 19.0 miles--my best day in 10 days. It took me 12 1/2 hours to do it--this trail is tough!!! But I did it! Despite the forecast for rain, it held off long enough that I didn't have to walk in any of it.

Bearfish and I mostly just complained about how difficult New Hampshire and Maine has been. Bearfish seemed to act like he thought it was a practical joke and someone would pop out of the trees and say, "Surprise! You're on Candid Camera!" Also telling me that if he realized how difficult the trail here would be, he's not sure he'd have done it at all.

"It's never too late to quit!" I teased him. I'd been joking about that with a lot of southbounders in particular, such as those in Gorham. They had just finished Maine. "You've done the hardest and most beautiful section of trail. Quit! Quit now and save yourself! It's too late for us--we've come too far and have too much invested, but it's not too late for you!" Bearfish had planned to flip-flop the trail and only started in Waynesboro. "It's not too late for you," I told him. "You can quit too!"

He knew I was joking, though, and had absolutely no intention of quitting. At least not until after he reached Katahdin. He did seem to harbor some thoughts about not returning to Waynsboro and finishing the trail to the south. "Well, if you do go back, just remember--it'll be a cakewalk compared to this crap!" I said, waving vaguely around us.

Once my tarp was up, Bearfish ducked back into his tent and I settled in under the tarp. I was done for the day!

Surplus Pond

The trail descends to the bottom of this valley, then up that rocky cliff face on the far side. Steep!

I have no idea who left this message on the trail!

My home for the night was a tight squeeze among these trees!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Blueberries or blue berries? Either way, they are pretty.