1861 miles on the Appalachian Trail
Tenacious, Nighthawk, and I hike over Old Blue and Bemis Mountain on our first day after leaving The Cabin. Maine serves up more of the typical Maine terrain: slippery slabs, muddy trail, and tangly roots. Old Blue isn't so bad. Wild blueberries still grow at these higher elevations, and every so often, I stoop to pick a few berries to keep myself motivated after a climb. Once, I pass another hiker holding a small plastic bag full of fresh-picked wild blueberries. The berries are small, less than half the size of store bought blueberries, with a certain tartness accompanying their sweet flavor.
Halfway through the day, I run into Wandering Star, whom I'd met in the 100 Mile Wilderness.
"How funny!" she exclaims.
We catch up for a few minutes; she tells me that a couple other flip-floppers, Atlas and Jeni, are somewhere behind. Wandering Star asks me to pass on a message for them: "Tell them they should be ashamed of themselves that they couldn't keep up with Wandering Star!"
Bemis Second Peak is beautiful, though the descent is steeper than anticipated. I get into camp at 6:45 pm. Nighthawk has amassed a considerable pile of sticks. As Tenacious and I set up our tents, she starts a fire. By the time we finish setting up, the sun has set.
Daylight seems so short now, compared to the long hours of sunlight we enjoyed in Virginia.
I hike past Atlas and Jeni the following day.
"Wandering Star says hi!" I tell them. Then, I awkwardly add, "She also said you should be ashamed of yourselves for not keeping up with her."
From our campsite to Rangeley, the terrain evens out. Is this even Maine?! I find myself wondering.
When I reach the parking lot to Rangeley, I find a wooden post pointing in the direction of The Hiker Hut, where we will stay the night. I start down the road in that direction.
"Do you want a ride?" a couple calls from a car as they drive by.
"It's not very far, but sure!"
The Hiker Hut is an off-the-grid series of cabins on the outskirts of Rangeley. There is a privy, bunk house, kitchen, and outdoor shower by the side of a stream. Several private cabins are also available, each with a different theme. Tenacious arrives a few minutes after me.
"They have a chipmunk that comes out and eats from your hand!" Nighthawk shouts from the bunk house porch. She has a handful of nuts in her outstretched hand. As I watch, a small chipmunk scampers over, pauses, and snatches a nut from her.
The owners laugh, introducing themselves as Steve and Catherine.
Steve brings me fresh towels for the shower. "It's an outdoor shower."
"Woah, that's so cool!" I say as Nighthawk explains how the shower works.
"I love your attitude - all three of you," Catherine says, smiling. "So many of our guests -- outdoor shower: What?! No cell service: What?! No electricity: What?!"
The outdoor shower heats water from a large barrel of stream water. A chair and umbrella are situated nearby. As I shower, rain begins to fall, the cold droplets mixing in with the hot water. How interesting! Afterwards, I switch off the heater, clothe myself, and refill the barrel with water.
After the three of us finish cleaning up, Steve takes us to town. First stop: the outfitter. Tenacious' old shoes have delaminated, and she spends an hour picking out a new pair of Oboz from the limited selection of shoes at the outfitter. Maine has not been kind to our gear. Nighthawk's pack has more holes than I can count in the mesh pockets. I had to get new hiking poles after Maine took an inch off my old ones.
We eat a hasty dinner at the local pub. Then, it's time to resupply. As Nighthawk and I wait for Tenacious, she spots a temporary tatto vending machine.
"Do you have any quarters?"
I hand over a few.
"Thanks!" She plunks the quarters in and pushes. A flaming skull tattoo pops out.
"That'll scare your mom!" I say, laughing.