Bowling Pond Road to Hale Brook
Yep, Fireflies Camp to Dat Rain Cray Camp
ECT miles: 22.5
Total miles: 2264.5
Elevation change: 2218ft gain, 1900ft loss
Today was as uneventful as a zero day, and in this instance, that was perfectly fine with me. Just replace all the zero day lounging with productive road walking and the events match up pretty well. The day picked up right where we left off yesterday, on a long pavement walk heading east. Then SpiceRack and I ate hot town food until we felt a little queasy. Finally, we kept walking on dirt ATV roads until evening. Speaking for myself, none of today came as a challenge. The smooth and relatively flat hills of northern Maine barely registered to my AT-honed legs, and Spice’s company kept the monotony from driving me crazy. So far the IAT has felt like an adventure despite the all the roads and people. It is wild in a different way than a hike through true wilderness, yet that does not diminish the satisfaction I gain from looking at a map at the end of the day. In essence, I walked, I saw new things, and had a great time with my favorite person. That’s what it’s all about.
The morning was outrageously bright well before the clock showed a reasonable time to be awake and cognizant. It was still just 5am, but the sun was up and blasting our tent so I started tapping on my phone, trying to get a head-start on the day. When Spice woke up, there was no holding her back, and she quickly packed up and got moving. An hour later at 7:40am, I finally followed her lead after getting sweated out of the tent.
Similar to yesterday, the morning was warm and humid under an overcast sky. Fortunately, the mosquitoes did not transfer over, so I sped along Grand Lake Road in contented peace. I gave everything I had, pushing my legs at their maximum turn-over, trying to reel in Spice. I chugged along at 4mph, occasionally stepping out of the middle of the road to let a roaring vehicle embarrass my hard work. The miles ticked by quickly and I looked for a distant Spice from the top of each undulation, but she was nowhere to be seen. That made me glad. She must have been feeling strong.
I finally did find her, but only because she had stopped for a tea break at the Sebeois River picnic area. She sat with her feet in the water, sipping a warm mocha, looking content and at home. When I approached, she gifted me the final few gulps, which I gladly accepted. I couldn’t let her have all the rocket fuel.
Once we got hiking again, it was clear from her awkward gait that Spice was dealing with some debilitating foot pain. Road walking, for all its speedy benefits, is unkind to feet, especially those that have not already walked 2200 miles. The blister pain was superficial, but impossible to ignore, so she hobbled up the pavement, shuffling strangely without complaint. I did my best to offer words of encouragement and distraction, but there wasn’t much I could do for her. Grit and time were her strongest allies now.
While Spice may have been disappointed in her pace, we still made great time to Shin Pond Village, home of bug-free benches and flush toilets. It was noon by the time we dropped our packs on the lawn, so it was perfect timing for a longer lunch break. I needed it. Spice needed it. And we got it. While she sat, totally blissed out after taking the weight off of her feet, I wandered inside and ordered a double large portion of fried food from the friendly hostess. I had a feeling that while we hikers weren’t a common sight out here, Spice and I were nothing new to these folks. They all smiled and treated me normally despite my ragged look.
The portions of curly fries and onion rings were enormous, and the flavor of our first Moxie reminded us each of generic, soda-flavored candy from our childhood. I was happy to eat more than my fair share after Spice tapped out at a responsible level of gluttony, and could soon feel the grease pooling in my belly even as I licked it from my fingertips. There was nothing better in the whole world than this saucy pile of fat and starch. ATVs buzzed around us like bees, more common than cars, always with somewhere to be.
When the dense gray sky finally started to spit rain on us, we moved 50 feet to the swinging bench on the covered porch. Spice napped while I did some internet chores and watched the rain sweep across the wide vista of green fields and rolling hills. Occasionally, someone would joke with us that it was a good thing that we had made it here before the rain. I played along, knowing full well that we were just about to start hiking again, rain or no rain. We didn’t pick our weather, we just lived with it.
At 2pm, after two hours of salubrious relaxation, we did the unthinkable and started walking in the rain. Our route soon turned us off of the pavement and onto dirt ATV trails that sped us through the forest as quickly as the asphalt, but with a friendlier spring in each step. The rising ache in my feet abated as I tried to make sense of the jungly forest by relating it to other places. Mexico, Costa Rica? It was like a colder version of those rainforests. Impenetrable green walls lined our route. Mist transformed into rain and back again, in turn keeping the mosquitoes away or letting them buzz along in our wake. The miles came fast, and navigation was never a challenge on the well-marked roads. We crossed some pavement, then returned to the solitude of the rain and mud.
We made it to camp at a wide junction of two roads just a few minutes too late to beat the torrential downpour from the clouds above. I scampered around the tent, pounding a few stakes into the hard ground while my clothes collected an alarming amount of water. Finally finished, I dove in, shoes and all, as the roaring drum roll rose to drown out my thoughts. Still, I was warm and happy. It had been a great day, and a little dampness was a small price to pay for the experience and Spice’s company. We awkwardly stripped and changed into dry clothes, trying not to elbow each other in the tight quarters. Spice was kind enough to cook me a hot pot of ramen noodles, which, combined with the fries and onion rings, completed my day of culinary excellence. Beige food contains all of the essential nutrients, right? Well, my soul was happy, even if my gut ended the day a little disappointed with my brain’s choices. However, the choice to stop when we did could not be disputed, and I soon fell asleep, drying out and warming up in our cozy home. Nowhere, except for between here and there.