Day mileage: 30.3
AT total mileage: 2,137.1
AT mileage remaining: 48.2
Time: 10.5 hours
I woke up to the sounds of another hiker preparing to get back on the trail early. As I started packing up my gear from another night of cowboy camping the occupants of the shelter also woke up and started getting ready for the day. Having hiked in late I never met anyone the night before, and a southbounder was quick to incessantly make conversation, oftentimes talking even just to occupy the silence. I ate my Pop-Tarts quickly in order to avoid spending too much time at the shelter, and was on the trail by 6:45. The first bit of my day would be a series of mountain peaks with a combined climb of 2,500 feet with four separate summits. Despite starting early I was faced with stifling humidity until I climbed to enough of an elevation for the wind to cool things down a bit. Getting to the summit of Gulf Hagas Mountain the trail leveled out a bit before beginning the second climb up to West Peak where the blue skies of the morning were a welcome sight.
By this point I was hiking along with three other northbound hikers who had been at the shelter the night before, a record as far as NOBOs in Maine goes. Since leaving the big group I was with, this is the most people I had seen traveling in my direction at the same time. Tuesday, Mumbles, and Wiffle are all hikers who began in early March from Georgia, and are nearing in on their finale. Wiffle and Tuesday are cousins from Michigan and Minnesota, and I never did catch where Mumbles was from. We spent most of the day hiking along together, summiting White Cap Mountain in a stiff wind and overcast skies as rain was slated to be due in the early afternoon. The amazing part of this vista was the knowledge that none of the mountains in sight were ones I'd have to hike over. After White Cap the elevation profile of the trail dropped down into the sub-1,500' range, meaning that no climb would be over a few hundred feet. Having come such a long way and over so many mountains, this was an exceptionally reassuring feeling. Hiking down from the top of White Cap after stopping to have a second Pop-Tart and some caffeinated strawberry drink mix, we stopped at the Logan Brook lean-to to relax for a few minutes. While stopped there we ran into some southbound section hikers, a group of middle aged pot-belly guys who were eager to talk about gear and trail experiences. I was somewhat bothered by their abrasive judgement of our practices, as one guy went so far as to mock my filtering of my water. I didn't linger there long, hiking on and noticing that the group of 3 NOBOs followed suit shortly after. It wasn't more than 5 minutes after leaving Logan Brook that I began feeling exceptionally sick out of the blue. Stopping a few times feeling the need to vomit, Tuesday offered up some of her Tums that she carried and though I appreciated the thought, it seemed to do nothing. I hiked on leapfrogging with the group until we came across another shelter some 7 miles later. They stopped for lunch, and though I should have eaten I ended up flattening myself on the floor of the shelter and sleeping for an hour, waking up to the lean-to being empty and sweating profusely in the heat of the day. Ironically it was the hottest day on the trail in quite a while, with temperatures soaring up into the high 80s and the same suppressive humidity that has been present in recent days. I remained flat on the shelter floor for a bit longer, mentally debating the need to hike on vs. the desire to curl up and die where I was. I eventually got myself up and hiked on at an unbelievably slow rate, sick to my stomach and sweating incessantly. What was most frustrating was that even at the slightest uphill I felt exhausted, and stopped often to catch my breath and try and settle myself. Despite trying repeatedly trying to force myself to throw up, hoping that would alleviate some of the sickening feeling in my body, I was unable to do so and simply had to trudge on in a state of loneliness and pure misery.
As the afternoon went on the sunny and humid skies gave way for stormy clouds and raindrops, a miserable little addition to my already depressed state of existence. With an 800' climb in my future and moving at no more than a mile and a half an hour, I stopped to breathe and battened down the hatches for what promised to be some significant rainfall. Moving my dSLR into my back itself (lesson learned after the first one died in the Vermont hurricane) I cinched up the straps of my rain cover and hiked on, not a moment too soon as the rain began trickling down from the sky. Thunder and lightning were present around me as the precipitation fell more heavily, eventually soaking through all of my clothing and leaving me simply to walk along the muddy trail, stepping carefully onto slippery log bridges over bogs and onto mossy wet rocks. Luckily at some point the trail changed it's attitude and became a lovely carriage road some 10 feet wide and made solely of a bed of pine needles. Though the rain kept falling this certainly boosted my spirits as I was able to carry on at a better clip, not having to worry about stepping over incessant roots and boulders. I pulled up at the Cooper Brook Falls lean-to around 1600hrs, finding the three aforementioned NOBO hikers and a few others piled into the shelter built for 6. The rain subsided for a short while as I tried to eat a bagel, unsure if I was actually hungry or able to keep it down, but knowing that I needed to at least try and consume something. At this point I still had 12 miles of trail to hike before I'd be at the shelter I was aiming for, and with the stormy skies it would be getting dark much earlier than normal sunset hours. I said goodbye to the group and headed off onto the trail at the same time that Mother Nature decided to start raining again, just my luck on a day like today. Luckily the trail continued to be a carriage path, and a few miles north I passed over the famed Jo-Mary Road, a place where many SOBO hikers get a resupply. A dirt road located some 19 miles from the nearest town it's still quite a ways out from civilization, but there were two cars parked there, one of which was being packed up by a woman who looked to have just finished a day hike. Upon noticing me she introduced herself as Ty, a 2013 NOBO thru-hiker who lives in locally and works at a small hiker hostel/cafe. She gave me a large bag of chocolate candy and a small zip-loc of baby carrots, refilled my water with Poland Springs from a gallon jug, and sent me on my way, reassuring me that the "Pine Needle Highway", as locals call this section of trail, would continue all the way to the shelter I was aiming for. Snacking on cold carrots as I went along, I pressed forwards. The time to the next shelter would pass quite slowly as I battled thousands of mosquitoes all who seemed out to either drive me up a wall or kill me by drawing all my blood out of me. I struggled to swat them all away (deet would be quickly irrelevant due to the rainfall) and my shoes presented yet another challenge for me. By 1930hrs I was wearing my headlamp, and just 45 minutes later was pulling into the Potaywadjo Spring lean-to, a large a new shelter with space for 8. Occupied by two gentlemen on opposite sides of the shelter I made my home in the middle, being sure to keep my possessions organized so that in the unlikely event of another hiker arriving, there would be plenty of space for them to set up as well.
Dinner was chocolate. I know that's terrible, especially after not having eaten much all day, but a few Twix and Hersey's bars were all I felt like eating. Settling into my sleeping bag around 2030hrs, I'll try and get a good night's rest before heading on tomorrow with another 30+ mile day. I have less than 50 miles until the end of this venture, so I figure if nothing else I may actually make it to Katahdin before my stuff dries out. The thought of not having to carry soaked gear for days on end is an exciting one. The thought of soon being able to not be in the rain is also exciting. Tomorrow I'll get to a vista where Katahdin will be visible for the first time, a thought that both petrifies me and excites me to no end.
Onwards & upwards.