Monday, February 29, 2016

Day 150: OMG! Another Blueberry!

August 4: During the evening and night, a terrible thunderstorm rolled through. A torrential downpour of rain hit the roof of the shelter and rolled off in gushing streams as lightning lit up the forest and thunder echoed through the woods. It was quite the storm!

And by morning, all traces of it had completely vanished. The morning was bright and (mostly) sunny!

It's hard to believe the thunderstorm that blew through during the night with such a beautiful morning!

I woke up and hit the trail by 6:00, immediately climbing Pleasant Pond Mountain which popped me out to absolutely breathtaking views of the surrounding area, traces of mist swirling through the valleys as the sun slowly climbed above the horizon. I was a little taken aback the view. Maine is an absolutely beautiful state, but this moment was special even by Maine standards which is saying a lot. I hadn't planned on taking a break so early in the morning, but I stopped for about 15 minutes anyhow just to enjoy the views.

But I had work to do! And soon descended back down the other side of the mountain. The trail was extraordinarily muddy and rugged today, and the going wasn't fast. The storm from the previous night may have been gone, but water was still trying to drain from the trail and failing badly.

Once again, I was surprised at the number of southbounders I'd pass during the day, and they far outnumbered the northbounders at this point. In fact, the only northbound thru-hiker I'd seen all day was Sparrow, and I preferred talking to the southbounders and usually stopped for five or ten minutes to chat with them.

One young man I met was named Natgeo, who spoke with a southern accent but I didn't think too much of it one way or another. I told him what the trail ahead was like (difficult and muddy), and he said I could expect more of the same ahead and off we went in our separate directions. I'd have had a few more questions for him if I knew then what I know now, but I'm getting a little ahead of the story....

The trail climbed up the second big climb for the day: Moxie Bald Mountain. It was a brutal trail--no change there--although one of the bog bridges tricked me into stepping on it then immediately sank several inches deep into mud and water. Doah! #@$#!!!!

As I descended the mountain, I saw some nice, puffy cumulus clouds. They didn't look particularly threatening, but I stopped suddenly when I thought I heard thunder. Thunder? I held my breath and listened some more. Yes! There it was again! @#$!!! How can there be thunder coming from these clouds?

The views from Pleasant Pond Mountain were absolutely stunning!

Just another reason to hurry on ahead, and I did just that hoping to reach the Moxie Bald Mountain Lean-to before any rains started. Maybe it was just an afternoon thunderstorm and would quickly blow through--but if it did, I wanted to be in a shelter when the storm was at work. And definitely not high on an exposed peak!

I soon reached the shelter where a few other southbound hikers had already stopped for the day--which surprised me since it was only 2:00 in the afternoon.

The thunder continued growing in volume and about a half hour, it started to rain. Then it started to hail, crashing loudly against the roof. Yes! I was certainly glad to be in the shelter now! The hail was the final straw, though. I had no intention of hiking in hail and began to set up camp in the shelter. I was done for the day. It was an early end to the day, but I did get in 13.1 miles which is actually a fairly respectable amount given the difficulty of the trail. I was pretty impressed with myself, though, missing out on two hailstorms in the last few days by being in a shelter when they struck. =)

Through the rain and hail, another southbound hiker arrived and asked about Natgeo. Did he go on?

Yes... I said I saw him heading over Moxie Bald. I'd bet he'd stop at the next shelter up. "Why do you ask?" I asked.

"Because I don't want to camp with him another night. I'm stopping here!"

The strong reaction surprised me. Granted, I only spent all of about two or three minutes talking with the guy, but he seemed normal and nice enough, and I said as much. "So what's wrong with him?"

The other hikers in the shelter, all of them, looked at me with knowing looks. I was, apparently, the only person not in on this joke.

"Did he tell you what he ate for breakfast this morning?" one of the other hikers asked me.

"Umm.... No.... That didn't come up. Why? What did he eat for breakfast?"

"A shelter mouse!"

"A shelter mouse?" I raised my eyebrows a bit. I hadn't heard of that before.

"Yes, he caught himself a mouse during the night and skinned it, cooked it and ate it this morning."


Another one of the hikers pulled out their camera and started showing me photos of Natgeo, first cooking the mouse on a stick over a stove, then more photos of the grizzly scene of him eating it.

O.M.G. They aren't pulling leg! This really happened!

Then the filled in additional details of the story. He had set up a mousetrap and seemed surprised when he caught a mouse. He had been eating MREs that his mom had been sending him, but apparently his mom had taken out the toilet paper from his packages so he had nothing to wipe with except leaves. I wasn't clear--did toilet paper come in MREs? I didn't know that. Anyhow, whatever the case, his mother was supposed to be sending him toilet paper and he never got it.

And a northbound thru-hiker--I don't know who--had said he'd give Natgeo toilet paper if he ate the mouse.

So he did.

He didn't carry a stove, though, and went around asking other hikers if he could borrow their stoves, eventually waking up Octo who agreed to lend the stove to Natgeo.

"He caught me when I wasn't thinking clearly," Octo told me. "He'd just woken me up, after all."

Strangely, I was a little disappointed that I missed the big event and only heard about it later. It was an interesting story, but stories are better told in the first person. =) And darn it, I don't even have any photos of the incident to share. Sorry!

Of course, then I shared my Blueberry story about him killing the groundhog, washing it at an ice cream shop and cooking it for dinner at the shelter that night. "Don't worry, though--he's ahead of me and you'd have already passed him. In fact, he's probably finished the trail already!"

About an hour after the rain started, it stopped and not long after, the clouds started clearing again. I thought about packing up my camp and continuing on--it wasn't too late in the day to get more miles in, but I wasn't sure if I could get to the next shelter before dark. And with all of the rain going on, I really wanted to be in a shelter. Not to mention that I had already set up my camp in the shelter. No, I was calling it a day.

Still admiring the views from Pleasant Pond Mountain! =)

But the trails were bad.... very bad! Slick, wet, muddy, steep--it had it all today!
Water was still draining off the trail from the previous night's storm.
That can't be good....

Heading up Moxie Bald also provided some pretty nice views!

Do these clouds look like they would produce thunder? I didn't think so either, but I started hearing near the summit! Very faint, but it was there!

My refuge from the storm!
Bald Mountain Pond

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