Rules and Logic
At yesterday’s trail magic, a lady who said she’s there all day every day in thru hiker season, gave me the low down on her (Forest Service) parking lot. I asked if we could park overnight. She answered, “Absolutely. It’s very safe here.” But when I said we had a conversion van, she was adamant that we wouldn’t be allowed to camp and was just a little incensed that I’d even asked.
So, I asked if hikers can park overnight while they’re hiking. Yes.
And can thru hikers camp right next to the parking lot? Yes (I saw a tent in the woods).
So, since I’m a thru hiker, I camp next to the parking lot and leave my van overnight since I’m hiking, but I couldn’t sleep inside it? That’s correct.
Well, that made perfect sense to her, and she was probably right. We saw two Forest Service trucks pull in as we left and another two when we came back this morning and both drivers gave us the stink eye. So, we drove down the road to the Umbagog Lake State Park and camped there. We needed to refill our water tanks and plug in the batteries anyway.
It continued to rain off and on all night, despite a forecast of clearing weather and was still drizzling when I hiked out of Grafton Notch at 7:45 am. My new white trail runners were doomed, as intermittent rain dripped off the trees all day, refilling the many still-wet mud pits along the trail.
I only had 10.3 miles up and over Bald Plate Mountain today. This was one of the segments where the Warren Doyle group had cut back their mileage, so I followed suit. My only other choice was to do a 22-mile day to the next road crossing. I’d be okay with an easy day, or even two in a row.
My Hiking Partner Returns
Gus came along, back on the trail again after a two-week break, and could barely contain himself with glee. He jumped right in the first stream we crossed, pulled out a huge stick, and proudly carried it a quarter mile up the trail to the beginning of the first climb. I carry hiking sticks. Why shouldn’t he?
The climb up West Bald Plate Mountain was broken into two 1,000-foot segments with a level half-mile traverse in between. Neither segment was particularly punishing, though they were steep, and the mid-climb traverse was a delightful break. Kudos to the Maine ATC trail builders, though a pleasant trail so close to their border must really annoy the New Hampshire trail crews.
The trail still had its share of ladders, rotting plank walks, mud pits, and alpine bogs, and of course there were no switchbacks, but it was definitely more walkable than any trail segment since the beginning of the White Mountains.
A Hairy Bald and a Bald Bald
After cresting the tree-covered West Bald Plate summit, the slightly taller and much more spectacular East Bald Plate summit appeared in the distance. Also, it was truly bald, scraped clean and shaped by glaciers long ago. I could see a few hikers on top, and others carefully picking their way between the cairns up the steep bare rock slope to the summit.
East Bald Plate had glimpses of views between drifting mists, but a cold wet wind made it unpleasant enough that no one lingered on the peak. Bean and Bells had hunkered down between some scrubby pines below the summit, so we stopped to chat with them, as well as some section hikers who were trying to complete an aborted 2017 thru hike. This time, they had new hips which they said were working better than the originals.
Good Job Maine ATC
I climbed down from the peak, back into the long green tunnel, happy to be out of the wind and under rain-stopping trees. I’d walked about an hour before I realized I’d been really enjoying myself. The hiking had been more fun than death-defying. The trail was smooth, well-graded, level, maintained, and blazed. It was so nice I’d barely noticed. I think I’m going to like Maine.
I didn’t see the PBJ-JW-Just Try group today. They said they planned to slackpack this segment today out of a hostel in Andover but must have gotten a later start than me. I did see Thriller and Pub (not PUD, as I previously reported) again. I’d seen them yesterday, trying to air dry their gear on lines strung across the trail during a brief gap between rain showers. I’d last seen them crossing the Connecticut River at Hanover during our zero day there.
I also got a text saying that Shamrock had ended his hike near Lyme, New Hampshire, though he didn’t say why. Yet another strong hiker who won’t finish. He’d been weeks ahead of me at Harpers Ferry, but I’d unknowingly passed him somewhere in August.
As I hiked the last mile, I got another text warning me about Hurricane Lee, which was supposed to make landfall in Maine on Saturday. Every local weather forecast I’ve seen indicates it won’t reach the AT near me, but the media seems intent on hyping the hazard. Most of the hikers I’ve met are planning to get off the trail to wait it out. Hiking and camping in hurricane-level rain and wind would be dangerous, so I’ll be watching it carefully.
Odds & Ends
- My feet and knees have been hurting more lately, even with the new shoes. Sometimes, they throb at night, waking me up, especially if I forget to pop my Advil. I think I’m wearing down.
- Today, I opened up the last FarOut map – Grafton Notch to Katahdin. Another milestone.
- I laughed out loud when I pulled on my much lighter slackpack today. Slackpacking rules.
- I’m starting to think about what’s going on back home, but don’t really have the bandwidth to give anything but the hike and my immediate family any serious attention. I must be getting close to the end.
- Start: ME 26 (Mile 1931.0)
- End: East B Hill Road (Mile 1941.3)
- Weather: Light rain, cloudy, cool.
- Earworm: Here I Go Again (Stevie Nicks)
- Meditation: Jn 10
- Plant of the Day: Mushrooms
- Best Thing: Slackpacking
- Worst Thing: Foot pain.
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