AT 2022 – Day 9: 13.8 miles (98.1 miles total)

It was a 2 cup of coffee morning, and I had enough to make Mary a cup. Sharing is caring.

The woods made a perfect nest, the temps were warm, but not too warm, and the breeze ruffled the leaves in a most delightful melody. We both woke up refreshed.

Mary would be heading home this morning…it was a short visit, but we covered many bases for a friendship that had been on pause for a while, and we made big plans…Hayduke 2026!

We jaunt on down the trail, and before long meet an AT ridgerunner coming our way. The rudgerunners are a resource for hikers, and help keep an eye on trail conditions for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and trail maintenance volunteers. This one stopped and said: “Wait, I know you.” It was Deja-Thru (formerly Critter) who is another badass female hiker. We hadn’t met before, but she recognized me from all the public hiking stuff I’ve done over the years (strange to call myself a public figure…in very small circles at least) and she had met Mary on the AT in 2016 when Mary was doing her winter AT hike. Small world!! Deja-Thru (love the trail name!) was lovely and we talked trail and took some photos. Another hiker pulled up, it was Digger who remembered meeting me on the PCT 16 years ago…wow, it’s trip down memory lane!

After a few more minutes we carry on and ford the Pleasent River…I put on my trusty Chacos for the walk…and wore them the next half mile to the road crossing and my next resupply. I haven’t worn the Chacos yet for any trail miles…usually I wear them for about a third of my miles each day, but with my foot issues I am not rushing into them out of extreme caution. I don’t want to upset the delicate balance of foot and shoe; things seem to be going really well there.

Mary and I are at the road only a few minutes when Ron pulls up again. My trail angel to the rescue! I give him my trash, he gives me food. What a great thing we have going! Rambling Rose passes through too. I met Rambling Rose when I was waiting for Ron at my previous food drop and here he is again. He gave me some hostel tips for the towns ahead. Many thanks RR! It wasn’t long before I was packed up and ready to face the next big climb: Chairback Mountain. Oofta.

We say our goodbyes and I start up. Today is in the 80s and a storm is coming, so it is humid and hot. The sweat is pouring and I keep going, only pausing once or twice in the whole climb to let some hikers pass and to drink some water. The legs are getting much stronger, but they are nowhere near the power I know will be coming after a few more weeks.

Up, up, rocks and roots, up, up, mud and rocks. I run into three guys near what seems the top, but it’s not; I have the boulder wall to climb. After that I top out on some granite slabs and a view of trees and lakes….such a green landscape!

It takes a while for the sweat to stop, and my shirt stays wet for all the humity and lack of breeze. I’m plagued by flies…at least they aren’t biting. I’m still not using bug spray, and am getting a few large welts from the tenacious ones, but overall am doing OK. I have sharp cheddar and summer sausage on a bagel for lunch, and more cherries. Thanks Ron! I’ll be taking a day off and staying with Ron when I reach Monson. He lives a short distance away, and I think it will be fun to relax and talk trail while my body enjoys not hiking for a day. Did I tell you Ron has two sisters who live along the Oregon Desert Trail? One in Christmas Valley and one in Lakeview…two of my trail towns. Now it’s REALLY a small world. 

After lunch I go down the mountain. It’s either up or down out here, and steeeeeep. I take another short break at the next shelter and meet two more sobos and their dog; Smoky is the first dog I’ve seen out here. Then onward. I go slow and listen to some music to help the pace. 

Then there is Third Mountain and Fourth Mountain. Lots of little summits today. On the way down I run into a trail crew. Yes! It is the steepest section of trail yet, and they are in the midst of building some rock stairs. The group is on a break, tools are spread out, and they sit among a grip hoist and comealong….getting those rocks into position is a feat and an art. I am so in awe. I chat with the group for a few minutes….my appreciation flowing out in many thank yous. Working on a trail crew is one of the hardest and most rewarding jobs ever…. especially in Maine. If you haven’t volunteered yet for a crew near your favorite home trail, please consider giving them a day or two a year. Our trails need all the love they can get!

Then up, again.

This trail demands 120% of your available effort, and then often you still have to dig deep and find another 10 percent.

I am feeling the long day. The start of a blister and heavy legs give it away. I walk to a small creek before stopping to find camp and there is Bilbo! He passed me and Mary and when we were enjoying coffee time on White Cap a few days ago, I thought he was behind me. We both had our eyes on a small campsite nearby and set up our tents in a cloud of fatigue. 

Now to get horizontal…

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