Despite having to climb down from my bunk a few times during the night, I got some decent sleep. The hostel was at full capacity, yet I didn’t hear any snoring.
Breakfast was blueberry pancakes (notice a theme here?), scrambled eggs, sausage, melon, a banana, potatoes, and oj. They would not accept any leftovers, so the hikers were encouraged to pack out all the remains. What a place!
Then we all piled into the vehicles for a ride back to the trail. Gormet, Fat Chill, and I started south from the South Arm road. Others were shuttled to B Hill Road, 10 miles south from there. The easy road access meant lots of folks will slack pack this section…meaning they will hike between the two roads with only a day pack, and will stay at the hostel another night on the other side. We were going farther than 10 miles, so had our full loads with four days of food…Gorham and New Hampshire were up next!!
The climb out of the road was a doozy, and then another…it was misty then rainy. Regardless the sweat poured out.
Up top I breaked at a shelter and met the other group from the hostel that was hiking north between roads. Lots more north bounders today overall. I’m happy with my choice to hike sobo; I’ve had some peaceful trail and camps…there really haven’t been too many people, which is great for such a popular trail. I just can’t imagine starting a nobo hike with hundreds of people all around going a similar mileage each day.
After a long stretch of trail (too long, I was bonking and should have stopped sooner) I came to a lovely waterfall. As I was relaxing the sky opened up and it poured. I popped open my umbrella…pleased I could use it at last. I really can’t hike and use the umbrella at the same time…I need both hands on the trekking poles, and it’s so warm out that I want the rain to wash the sweat away. I’ll still keep the umbrella though. Not sure why.
The next stretch of trail went up, but there was some pleasent tread where I could really stride out. The rain had stopped and the sunlight filtered through a glistening forest. It was quite lovely.
At some point you have to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? Choosing such a demanding and strenuous trip on my time off?” That was this afternoon. When I take a step back and look objectively at the monumental task I had taken in this southbound hike, walking the hardest of the hard terrain, alone, for fun, I have to laugh. I know the reasons, but sometimes it just seems so absurd! I am weird, but then so are a lot of the others out here. I have company in my strange desires to struggle and sweat up these mountains. That’s nice.
Speaking of struggle, I meet John near the next shelter. John has been coming out for a week at a time for years to pick away at the trail. He started at Katahdin many trips ago. I can’t imagine hiking out here for a week, getting beaten up by the terrain, and then going home to do it all over again the next year. At least I have weeks of hiking and stamina built up to where I can do 15+ miles a day. He said he’ll retire next year and can start doing longer sections. Go John! The retirees out here are super inspirational. I will still be hiking when I’m in my 60s too. I have some good role models out here.
So to the shelter for the night: I pitch my tent (I sleep so much better on my own in a tent…the shelters can be busy)…where I set up, and make mac and cheese with tuna and extra Vermont sharp cheddar cheese chunks thrown in for good measure.
I look at the terrain ahead…oh wow! I’m already to the Mahoosuc Notch! The hardest mile on the entire AT. I could even hike it tomorrow if I wanted! I chat with Gormet, I think we will stop short of the notch tomorrow and leave the struggle for first thing in the morning the next day…and then the Maine miles will be done; the New Hampshire state line is just after that. Wow!