0 miles, 1927.3 overall (Pine Ellis Hostel, Andover, ME)
After feeling my knees aching during the shuttle ride yesterday and continuing to feel bad all night I have decided to take a zero today. I had the option of slackpacking with Hawk, Gumpy, and Peeper but I haven slacked yet on this hike and I don’t want to start now. Instead they will get 10 miles done while I enjoy a day off. This has the added benefit of giving me time to catch up on writing, emailing, and other things I’ve been putting off.
I start the day in search of breakfast. I have heard that the diner in town has some excellent food and that everything, including the ketchup, is made from scratch. This seems like a great place to try. I enter, find a table by the window where I can watch what little goes on in a town this small, and order the “Hungry Hiker.” It seems every diner in every trail town has one of these specials and it always seems to be just about the right amount of food. This one comes with eggs, toast, home fries, French toast, and bacon. It is all very tasty. I order a raspberry muffin to take with me that turns out to be wonderfully fluffy and delicious.
Next stop is the general store for some postcards and a couple items I didn’t grab last night. I also pick up a couple things for today like a Starbucks drink to have later and an ice cream. I head to the post office to mail the postcards and then head back to the hostel. The afternoon is spent alternating between writing journal updates and watching the Olympics. Despite my somewhat minimal efforts we don’t get much news on the trail so it is nice to hear about some of the big stories like the US women’s gymnastics team gold medal and the Blade Runner. Since I’m not hiking today I don’t get as hungry and the large breakfast tides me over until late afternoon.
Early in the afternoon Hawk, Gumpy and Peeper all return from their slackpacks. In the evening Wiffle and Smiles return from theirs which was 20 miles instead of 10. I go to dinner at the diner around 5 and get a mushroom and swiss burger. I’m a little disappointed in it because it doesn’t come with the typical lettuce and tomato accoutrements, however the homemade bun is quite nice and the waffle fries that I order with it are excellent. This isn’t quite enough food though and I end up ordering some of their raspberry pie which turns out to be absolutely heavenly. This place apparently shines more as a bakery than as a diner.
When I return to the hostel some of the group is getting ready to head to dinner. I’ve already eaten but I wouldn’t mind getting another piece of raspberry pie so I follow. The town is busy because their festival is this weekend and the activities begin tonight. While in town we see WWII vintage tanks drive down the street preparing to be in the parade tomorrow morning. I opt to skip walking around to look at the merchants, instead heading straight back to the hostel to drink a beer and to rest.
I sign up for a 6:00 shuttle to get me back to the trail but when the owner starts arranging the shuttles a 6:00 shuttle doesn’t seem to work well. Eventually I decide to go with Sunroof and Yellowtail in their 11:00 shuttle. This will give me plenty of time to tie up some loose ends and get breakfast at the diner again before leaving town.
As an aside, one of the things everyone is worried about lately is a stomach bug that has been making its way around the hiker community. It seems to be another strain of norovirus, the same thing that was making hikers sick around Damascus earlier this year. It is called the cruise ship virus because it is often found on cruise ships where people live in close quarters and don’t wash their hands often enough. This unfortunately also describes the hiking community. Although most of us carry hand sanitizer, this happens to be one of those bugs that isn’t killed by it. Only soap and water works on this bugger. Just in the last week Progress, Possum, Angel Hair (of the Noodleheads), Peeper, Yellowtail, Gorp, and Blues Clues have all gotten it. It seems to last for about 12 hours after which the side effects of dehydration, lost appetite, and fatigue last for a couple days. I’m crossing my fingers I don’t catch it. Now that my plane ticket home is bought and paid for I have a deadline to keep!
So, tomorrow I head back out on the trail. I have just over 250 miles remaining. It feels like we’re almost done but we still have over 10% of the trail left to hike. As I get ready to tackle it I remind myself to enjoy the last couple weeks rather than rushing through them. Hopefully tomorrow I can start by camping on one of the last mountain summits I’ll reach on my journey up the Appalachian Trail.