August 3, 2013
Today’s mileage: 14.9
Total mileage: 2020.7
As I was about to get back in the tent after using the privy this morning, it began to rain. We haven’t had to do it often, but packing up our gear and putting away the tent in the rain, sucks. I mean, way worse things have happened to us out here, we just don’t enjoy packing up in the cool rain of the morning.
We hiked the short, but steep trail up to Avery Peak, the wind putting us off balance and the rain driving into our faces. It wasn’t nearly as pristine and clear as it was last year when we hiked up to the peak, but it was still so beautiful. We looked out over the valley, a 360 degree view of the beauty of Maine. If you want to know why we love living here so much, climb up to Avery Peak and see for yourself. Thunderheads loomed in the distance, the sun lighting up the clouds from behind. Clouds loomed over the top of Sugarloaf and wisps of fog danced over Flagstaff Lake below us. We took our photos with the 2,000 mile and summit sign, raindrops in my eyes making it hard to smile. We took cover not far below from the wind so that Miles could put his phone away.
We descended from Avery and met several SOBOs along the way. We met them all at separate times, but the consensus seemed to be that this was their toughest climb since Katahdin. We were excited to hear that, but we know that the flatter sections can hold other challenges. The climb up to Little Bigelow (or Biggie Smalls as I fondly call it) seemed to take forever. When we took a break at the summit, I felt like we had gone so much further than just 5.5 miles. Nonetheless, we were hungry and enjoyed sitting on the granite ledges overlooking the Carrabassett Valley, watching the rain fall a few miles away. Somehow, it rained even when there was nothing but blue sky and wispy clouds above us. I scolded the clouds wondering how they managed to rain on us even when they weren’t overhead. I guess it’s just going to rain this year no matter what.
As we were heading down the mountain, we encountered a few slippery spots. As I was concentrating on my footing as I stepped down from a rock, I suddenly slipped, lost grip of my poles, and fell about three feet off the rock and into the bushes. Miles saw the whole thing happen and he said that it looked really bad when I fell. Thankfully, I think my pack saved me from serious injury. My pack with my sleeping pad attached to the back cushioned my fall, allowing me to emerge from the bushes unscathed. I wish I could have seen myself fall. I would have laughed so much.
As we went down the mountain past families going up for a day hike, we stopped periodically to pick blueberries along the side of the trail. Another reason why we love Maine so much. We stopped to filter water at the Little Bigelow Lean-To where “The Tubs” are located. They’re natural tubs in the stream that you can bathe in. Unfortunately, it was too chilly for us to get in the water. After the lean-to, the trail leveled out and we cruised the rest of the day on to West Carry Pond. The trail was muddy and full of roots and rocks, but we didn’t mind. It was nice to have a break from the steep ascents and descents of the first part of Maine.
When we arrived at the shelter around 6:00, we met four older guys from Georgia who are completing their last section of the AT this year. They have been section-hiking the entire trail, hiking a week or two every year, since 1997. I know that people admire thru-hikers for their dedication to hike for 4 to 6 months in one go, but I think that section hikers are just as admirable, if not more, for their dedication to the trail. They have to come back year after year and plan logistics for their hike, like how they’ll get back to where they left off, how they’ll get home, taking time off work, and what I’m sure amounts to spending way more money than thru-hikers on finishing their hike. We’ve come across a lot of section hikers, so it’s cool to see a group that is almost done with their 16 year journey.
It is such a beautiful night here. The night air is cool, I smell like camp fire, and I’m about to fall asleep to the sound of the loons on the pond.
There’s one little detail that I forgot to mention about today. On top of Avery Peak this morning, a grungy, sweaty thru-hiker with a huge beard knelt down on one knee with a ring in his hand and asked me to marry him. I mean, he climbed all the way to the top of a mountain to ask me that. How could I say no?
I asked Miles what he would have done if we hadn’t made it to the spot where he had planned all of this. He answered, “I knew we would.”