Roberts Road to Lunksoos Lean-to
Stuck In The Mud Camp to Fireflies Or Going Crazy Camp
ECT miles: 11.9
Total miles: 2219.4
Elevation change: 2562ft gain, 2365ft loss
All four of us managed to sleep deep into the warm and bright morning. While that might have been typical for Tango, I knew that I needed as much mental respite as I could get and so was glad to see my clock read 8am when I finally decided to wake up. Yesterday seemed like a dream as I rubbed the crud from my eyes and wiggled my toes. Did all of that really happen?
We all gathered the pieces and formed a plan for the day over breakfast. Chuckled disbelief bounced around, and it felt good to laugh about it now. Last night had been absurd, unimaginable. All we had left was laughter. Now that we were on the main dirt road, we would drive Blackbird as far as it felt safe to do so toward our original meeting spot. Resupplied and ready to hike, Spice and I could start walking from anywhere that looked impassible. It seemed like a reasonable plan, as solid as the rock that tried to steal our differential last night.
It took us a while to organize our gear and tidy up the van, but soon enough we were all cruising up the smooth dirt, deeper into the forest. A piece of dangling plastic went the same way as the driveshaft “U”, but both could be reattached with minimal effort, and nothing else looked awry. Thank goodness. I also took off our rattling hubcap for good measure.
The road was in excellent condition and we reached our destination with hilarious ease. No mud or huge rocks at all. We had been so close yesterday, but despite the massive hole in our wallet, and any potential damage that had still yet to appear (within reason), I would not have changed a thing. Getting stuck in the mud was life at its unpredictable best. The money would be forgotten, but the story would last a lifetime. Already I could imagine sharing a laugh with Spice and Arthur long into the future, as we reminisced about that time when Arthur got our van stuck in the mud. He would never hear the end of it, but I would always make sure that he knew that it was a gift he’d given us. The gift of experience, camaraderie, and life.
After some veggie wraps and ice cream, Spice and I strolled back down the road to connect with our steps from last night. How different the world felt today, just 17 short hours later. The sun was bright and hot, the steps were light and easy. Back at the van, we pulled on our packs and said a final farewell to our friends and home. Arthur would deliver Blackbird and Tango to their temporary home in Quebec City, where we would collect them in 37-ish days, then fly to his home to Colorado. If he had been seeking relaxing respite from his home stresses, then he would leave disappointed. There was none of that on this trip, but his help was essential to allowing our hiking plans to take off, and I hoped that he felt appreciated. It was hard walking away, and Tango looked confused, but it also felt right to be hiking again, without support, into the unknown with SpiceRack at my side.
The IAT began as easy as could be, on dirt road where even my brother couldn’t have stranded a van. Spice and I hiked side by side, me thrilled to be off of the well-worn track of the AT, her excited to be starting her own thru-hike after being my pillar of support for so many days. The miles went by fast even though the wide roads made them feel slow. The soft gravel tread pillowed our steps while crunching softly.
We took a short break at a big lean-to to filter water, then forded the wide Wassataquoick Stream across the knee-deep water. On the far side, the trail became more of a track, but frequent “SIA-IAT” crests kept us on track through all the twists and turns of the dense forest. We stepped across a sturdy beaver dam and slopped through some mud, all the while slapping mosquitoes and wondering at the variety of plants around us. It was nice to have Spice’s fresh eyes to point out what my tired pair missed. Beech trees were old news for me, but I was reminded of their majestic beauty time and time again.
Our pace slowed as the trail pointed us up Deasy Mountain. This was an old path that had been born before the human spirit had wavered and switchbacks were invented. It took the shortest route possible to the top. The dense trees blocked the breeze, so our sweat did little to cool our engines as we chugged to the top. However, on top, the memory of the effort was quickly carried away on the wind. The semi-bald summit afforded us views of the Katahdin massif, in all its brooding glory, under a wild gray sky of intimidating clouds. The small fire lookout shack gave us a quiet place to contemplate the majestic scene, but the evening was getting late so we scooted on before giving the view its due.
A down, then another steep up put us on top of some other small peak, this one covered in thick white lichen that reminded me of miniature cauliflower. It glowed bright in the fading light, as if under a blacklight, so our worn path across the exposed ledges was easy to follow cairn to cairn. Back in the trees, however, the night had already settled in. We pulled out our headlamps and bounced crest to crest on a nonexistent trail.
Eventually, we found ourselves on an overgrown logging road and pushed through shimmering spiderwebs into the night. Night hiking is not my favorite thing to do, but the shifted perspective was undeniably new and different. The world shrank to just a narrow beam of light, so that was all that I focused on. Leaves, branches, spiderwebs.
Lunksoos Lean-to was right where we needed it to be and vacant. It was clean and large enough for us to pitch our tent inside, providing a doubly cozy home for the evening. I was brain tired after so many late nights, but at least my legs and feet felt alright. Spice was getting worked from top to toes, and taking it like a champion. I was so proud of her and glad for her company. Especially when the night started blinking and flashing. Am I seeing things or were those fireflies? She saw them too. If I was going crazy, then at least we were both losing it. And after the past few days, I wouldn’t have doubted it.