My lucky timing

August 9

15.3 miles, 2011.3 overall (Little Bigelow Lean-to)
In the morning I have a hard time leaving. I know I have two extra days in my schedule before I need to be at Baxter State Park and it is tempting to zero here. However it would be expensive and I already have plans for at least one of those zeros. I get up just before 7 and head to the kitchen, regretting the fact that I didn’t pick up any food at the store yesterday for today’s breakfast.

My luck begins when I walk into the kitchen and Rigatoni directs me toward the leftover eggs and Bisquick, suggesting I use them for breakfast. In just a little while I’ve whipped myself up some pancakes and scrambled eggs. When I begin to clean up though I notice there isn’t any dish soap left. Luckily by now it is 8:00, the time when the grocery store across the street opens. I run over and pick up some soap. It turns out I have exact change with the help of some pennies from the penny dish. Pretty soon the kitchen is all cleaned up. I return to my room where I take one last shower and then pack everything up. I take my stuff outside and return the room key.

I’m not ready to head back to the trail yet though. I go by the grocery store and pick up a pear and a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich. I eat both while watching tv in the motel lounge.

Around 9 I decide it is time to hike and I go outside to catch a hitch. 20 minutes later I’ve had no luck but the motel owner Sue says she’ll take me back to the trail if I don’t mind a quick detour to her other property. No problem with me. On the way I learn she is from Virginia, has a daughter going to VCU, and plans to move back soon. She has some interesting stories and before I know it we’re at the trailhead.

The hiking begins all uphill. It was supposed to rain today, part of the reason I was reluctant to start hiking, but as I start it is beautiful out. I’m going up and over the Bigelows today, the last big mountains before Katahdin. On the way up to the first shelter I pass Santa’s Helper. He has started his last section of the AT. I joke that this is the first time I’ve seen him without his van and I wish him happy hiking.

At the shelter I am nearly assaulted by the caretaker. He seems incredibly eager to talk to anyone who passes by. He tells me about the water up ahead, trail conditions, and even tells me a bit about the 100 mile wilderness and Katahdin. Eventually I’m able to get away and while most of the information wasn’t really necessary I do find some of it useful and am glad he got me to stop for a few minutes.

From the shelter it is up and over South Horn. From the top I get a perfect view of the rain to the south that seems to be working up the courage to come over the range I’m on. I am pretty sure I’m going to get rained on soon but decide to push on until it starts. I drop down into the saddle on the way to west Bigelow. About halfway across it starts to sprinkle and I use this as my signal to don the rain gear. It is a false alarm but I know the real thing is coming so I keep it on. A few minutes later the Mules pass me slackpacking southbound and as I’m talking to them the skies start to open up.

I’m happy to have gotten my rain gear on before the downpour. I’m not always this fortunate and the poncho is very effective if put on before the rain. My clothes stay mostly dry as I hike up to the next peak.

Just as I start to emerge above treeline at west Bigelow the rain stops. It is still very windy but the wind has the effect of drying off my poncho. I can see the rain to the north now over Flagstaff Pond but the skies above me are sunny. I take off the poncho and pack it away, then head down into the saddle and up to the next peak, Avery Peak, named for Myron Avery who played a major role in creating and popularizing the AT.

Coming down the other side it is getting late and I start to hear thunder in the distance signaling the potential for another rain storm moving through. Rather than stop a the campsite though I decide to push on to catch up to everyone at the next shelter. I try to move quickly but the downhill is rather steep and rocky. Several areas have exposed bedrock that is slick from the rain and my shoes are starting to lose their treads so a few times I slip a bit. I’m careful enough not to fall though and I get down to the shelter just before 7.

As I arrive the thunder is close. It is going to rain and it’s going to rain hard. I quickly grab some water from the stream, set up my tent, and get into the shelter to cook. Not long after I’m in the dry shelter it starts to pour. I tell the others about my great timing today, culminating in the display they just observed. Philly Steve is not impressed and I find out they hiked in the rain for about 2 hours.

As if to accentuate my point and rub it in for the others, as I finish cooking and prepare to return to my tent the rain stops, allowing me to walk back relatively dry. Still my luck isn’t perfect today. As I prepare for bed I notice that my tent floor is wet. I can’t tell if it is due to a hole in the bottom, something inside leaking, or rain simply splattering in under the rain fly. Still it isn’t too bad and things could have been much worse today on the Appalachian Trail.

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