A couple days of “half-slacking,” (my coined term for combining over-nights on the trail with slack packing – I think it might catch on!), south of Rangely brought some rain, but also some welcome, cool weather perfect for hiking. I’ve been crossing paths with Harold and Flicker, two young SOBO women that plan on finishing in November or December. Flicker, Molasses and I sheltered south of Rangely (rare for me but smart with the pending downpours), when four NOBOs showed up and decided to stay, one of whom was from Cheyenne, Wyoming – finally! I was certain at this point that I was the only Wyomingite out here, but here was Beefcake, bunked right next to me! We were packed in like sardines – not my cup of tea …
After resupplying in Andover it was up Baldpate Mountain, one of the most exposed and slabby climbs and descents thus far. Even though there was still runoff from the rain two days prior, the rock was dry enough to avoid perilous disaster. Some rungs and even a fixed rope helped the ascent on the steepest rock. On the way down a young men recognized me from Roan Mountain at a place we stayed at with Cupcake, Burrito and John the Baptist – it was Squirtle! His memory was better than mine – he even remembered my trail name!
I met three more NOBOs at the next campsite, one of whom had fallen on Mahoosuc Arm and warned of its steepness and idiocy of hiking in the rain. I heeded this advice and waited out a storm in Bethel, and took an extra day to hang at a great B&B in town (reportedly haunted too), where I met my cousin Richard. This makes two cousins met in Maine, one on each side of the family!
The climb out of Grafton Notch was up Old Speck Mountain, where I saw Riddles climbing up the north side. Too bad we couldn’t reminisce, due to the fierce winds that were blowing across the summit, the worst I’ve seen since Georgia. The front brought a cold morning, not unlike those I remember from Tennessee and North Carolina, a brief reminder that fall is coming!
Several days of rugged trail with slabby climbs and descents, taking precaution to avoid sliding down rock faces (with obvious ill effects), yielded short-mileage days by design, as I anticipated the ruggedness of southern Maine. I ran again into more NOBOs from days past – Morrell, Loudmouth, M&M, Scott (of Yours Truly days, who is now off the trail), and finally Rumble Junk, one of the last NOBOs I saw in Delaware Water Gap. And guess what – Dulci showed up at the hostel in Gorham! She had gotten off for serious kidney-stone issues, and is now flopping NOBO from New Hampshire, then will finish SOBO from Vermont. I also crossed paths again with Dori, Free Bird, Weebles and Cold Turkey, all SOBO in various flop scenarios. We’re hitting the NOBO bubble for sure!
Maine was rugged and difficult, but rewarding. Now comes a crowning highlight, the White Mountains, notorious for crazy weather and winds. Let’s hope a stretch of kindness from these mountains!