Saturday, June 5, 2010
The sound of raindrops splattered the tent. It’s 4:30 a.m. A warning of the day ahead and what’s to come? A passing thought of going back to sleep had crossed my mind but scrambling to rescue my drying clothing had me wide awake.
I packed in the narrow confines of my tent. There wasn’t much room in there to maneuver. It’s inevitable I’ll wake to a full on rain storm in it, so it was good to get the drill down and be practiced.
Everything was in place and I was on the trail by 5:30 a.m. I had a long day ahead of me if I planned to make it to the East Branch Pleasant River Lean-to. Another big push. I wanted to bust a move and get a good pace going. Was I feeling motivated due to Just Bob and Trout’s presence?
My hunch was correct, it poured all morning. The trash bag rain skirt kept the water out but the sweat had me drenched anyways. I arrived at the Cooper Brook Lean-to around 11:30 a.m. and dried my socks over a small fire. About 200 feet before the lean-to I had lost my balance and footing on a rock mid-stream. To save myself from disaster I stepped into the water, up to my knees. My feet had been dry all morning, in spite of the rain, and were soaked and boots sloshing.
I trudged to the lean-to, following two hikers that passed me after my stream ‘incident’, Eli and Crawford. Not long after Just Bob and Trout came around the corner and joined us. And then, a short while later, while lunching, another fellow appeared whose name I’ve forgotten.
The lean-to was crowded. It was too crowded. I spoke little and tended my drying socks and boots. Dry feet are happy feet. And I had not yet gotten a single blister. The group finished eating. Someone, maybe Just Bob, made a comment about ‘taking care to not let my wool socks get burnt’ before they left. I shrugged and smiled.
I thought about staying at the Cooper Brook but there was a pause in the falling rain. My boots and socks were dry and it was only 2:00 p.m. I decided to mush on. The next lean-to, the East Branch River Lean-to was about 8 miles away. I knew I’d get in late and the shelter would be crowded.
I decided to go for it.
The hike was grueling. The trail up Little Boardman Mountain was littered with blowdowns, many of them too high to climb over. The brush and trees were thick making going off-trail and around difficult. I had to rest at one point and sit down for half an hour. I was light-headed and all the energy suddenly drained out of me.
I was shaky. I felt ravenous and ate a mix of chocolate, nuts and beef jerky. As I continued on, I found myself reaching down and pulling up handfuls of wild clover to eat as well. I couldn’t stop myself from doing so.
Suddenly, Eli and Crawford were there walking at me on the trail. I was momentarily disconcerted. Was I going the right direction? They said they had missed a food drop they’d arranged and were back-tracking. After they passed I momentarily thought about my food supplies. I found myself eating more clover. More blowdowns. About 4 more miles to the East Branch Lean-to before White Cap Mountain, a 3500 footer.
My thoughts churned. I had figured I’d need to average 11 miles a day to keep myself on schedule. With yesterday and today I was up on miles. I wanted a ‘day off’. My feet hurt. The wind was blowing hard. I caught a whiff of smoke. The others? Campfire smoke? I lose myself in placing one foot in front of the other.
It’s dark. Close to 8:00 p.m. I think. I walked into camp. Everyone was settled and preparing dinner. A radio is blaring country music. Just Bob had caught a couple under-sized rainbow trout and was just taking them off the fire.
I dropped my gear, hooked Maxwell’s leash on to a tree, and set up my spot in the shelter. “I know it seems cruel but it will be a huge help if you could just please ignore him.” I say. Maxwell whined.
He’d been difficult after Cooper Brook trying to pull ahead on the leash. Everyone had been giving him love and attention. At lunch, Just Bob asked if he could give him a treat. I said, “Yes, just one.” and had then caught him feeding him more when he thought I wasn’t looking. I was adamant that Maxwell walk beside or behind me on this hike. He’d had other ideas. My hike and energy expenditure had doubled as a result. I was tired.
Just Bob and Trout lasted an hour before they went over, ignoring my request, petting him. I was too tired to say anything. I silently went about preparing my meal and eating it. I fed Maxwell. I went behind the lean-to, camp clothes in my hand to change. Just Bob walked around just as I was de-panting. I continued changing staring him down as he quickly scuttled back around to the front of the lean-to giving me privacy.
I rejoined the ‘crowd’. Maxwell and I settled in to the sleeping bag. A final thought before unconsciousness…packed too much dog food.
Distance: about 15.2-miles
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