Zero Day in Abol Bridge and Millinocket
Cookie Caramel Camp to Big Tent Camp
AT miles: 0
Total miles: still 2184
Elevation change: 0
With only 15 miles left to the summit of Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the AT, it felt a little bit crazy to take a zero day today. It also felt wonderful. Although my body didn’t need the rest, my legs can always make good use of the recovery period, yet it was the mental deep breath that I appreciated the most. Or rather, it wasn’t so much an opportunity for my brain to relax and enjoy the moment as it was a chance for all the accumulating stress and logistics of the complicated finish to swirl unproductively in a way that needed to happen. If I had planned on finishing my hike on Katahdin, there wouldn’t be much to think about, and all that thinking could have waited until after the summit. However, with the hairbrained scheme to keep hiking north to, and deep into Canada on the ECT, there was much to worry about fruitlessly. This zero day provided a restful space to open that can of worms, feel it, and largely ignore it. SpiceRack and I got some good practical resupply work done, but it was the unproductive stuff that helped me the most. All of the scary, intimidating thoughts were going to bubble up at some point, and a zero day in the shadow of the Great Mountain was the perfect time and place to feel those feels. And not to forget it, my brother is also here now, and that’s awesome. With Arthur, Spice, and Tango on my team, not even a mental hurricane can take me down.
With just a few defined tasks on the agenda for the day, there was no rush to get up and moving this morning. My internal hiker clock woke me up at the usual time, but I was quick to ignore that one in favor of my internal snoozer clock. It wasn’t until 8am that I finally was not-tired enough to be tired of hearing, but not seeing the wind in the leaves. I slithered from bed, and got the kettle boiling for coffee. Spice wasn’t far behind me, and we ate a few of last night’s cookies as we sipped. Then we finished off the rest of the stir fry to balance out the sugar and caffeine assault on our nervous systems. A long walk with Tango across Abol Bridge and along the dirt road helped my stomach settle and my brain rev up for the day ahead. Katahdin sat hidden in the cloudy sky, and it felt freeing to have it out of sight and out of mind, even though I gazed up at where it lay, longing for a break in the clouds for just one little peek.
Back at the van, Spice and I swatted mosquitoes while we put together our resupply boxes for the long wilderness section of the ECT in Quebec. We also packed our food bags for the 5-day section immediately north of Baxter State Park. It looked flat and pretty easy relative to the AT, but the trail conditions were unknown, and Spice still needed to shake the rust from her hiker legs, so we decided to carry more, hoping to need less.
By the time we finished that surprisingly involved and mind-bending task, it was time to make moves to the town of Millinocket. Final laundry and internet chores needed doing, and it was also a relatively mosquito-free place for me to hang out while Spice picked up my brother from the airport. Blackbird baked in the hot sun, parked along the quiet main street, while I waited 20 minutes for the washing machine to click from “final spin” to “finished”, and Spice whipped up some wicked BBQ tempeh samiches. Then, all too soon, despite many flight delays, it was time for her to go pick up my bro, and for me to get some internet work done. She pulled away, leaving me waving from outside the Appalachian Trail Lodge.
The vibe there was something to contend with. What seemed like dozens of sobos milled around, packing blue buckets with food for delivery within the 100 Mile Wilderness, and stuffing gear into their packs. Some were shiny new custom ultralight setups, some faded behemoths with years of love stained in sweat on the shoulder straps. With work to do, I tried to steer clear of the hubbub, yet it drew me in. Seeing these courageous souls at the start of their journey, thinking of just how far they had to go, reminded me of how far I had come. It seemed like an impossible distance for them to walk to Georgia, yet I had done it, and so would they. Perhaps I could afford to feel proud about accomplishing something that I would feel proud of others for pulling off. Still, I wasn’t done yet, and felt a little strange whenever I explained that fact to a gaping sobo. They didn’t love me any less though, and still pumped me for answers to a myriad of questions.
Before I could get wrangled in to hiking sobo with them myself, I found a quiet porch to do some work on my phone. When it started to rain, I moved to the laundry room and sat on the washer with my bag of dry clothes on my lap. It poured down outside, and I ignored my stiff legs, grateful for the chance to sit, dry and not too bothered by bugs.
Finally, after many a tingly foot and numb butt cheek, Blackbird returned to rescue me from the sobo commune. After a few hugs, the whole crew, Spice, Arthur, Tango, and I, braved the long washboarded road back to Abol Pines Campground. After a salubrious meal of Western-style pasta with red sauce, it was past 1am and time for bed. No more strange feelings of stress and anticipation tonight. Spice and I gave Arthur the run of Blackbird for the night, pitching our tent on the soft pine needles near the river. Sleep was easier to find than profound realizations, so I fell asleep blank of mind and full of belly. A good way to be.