Robinson Brook to Upsalquitch River
Frigid Flood Camp to Lake River Camp
ECT miles: 26.10
Total miles: 2485.6
Elevation change: 535ft gain, 1867ft loss
Today started off like the last one ended, cold and rainy. My alarm brought me back from a peaceful slumber, but when I heard the rain tapping on our tent, I snoozed it, again and again. SpiceRack was still sleeping hard too, and I wasn’t stoked to start hiking in the rain again. May as well try to wait it out.
Our ‘strategy’ worked. By 10am, the rain had moved on and we were packed up, kind of ready to keep hiking. Unfortunately, my light dehydration had carried over and intensified a touch during the night. While I had searched for any water after we stopped last night, the attempt was fruitless, and we went to bed dry. Now I was paying the familiar price. I forced down some dry granola into my queasy belly and accepted the fact that I would feel like garbage for most of the day. When we crossed a rushing stream not 100 yards beyond our camp, I was both relieved and frustrated. D’oh!
With a fresh load of agua, we pushed forward on the gravel ATV track through a hallway of electric green second growth, under a ceiling of uniform gray. The sunshine in the forecast was absent so far, but even just that flicker of hope made me optimistic for the day ahead. As a result, I hiked in only my rain jacket for warmth, but soon wished that I had followed Spice’s lead in layering my puffy as well. This level of cold had become as foreign to me as “Bonne Chance Olivier!” and I was so far too stubborn to adapt, so I shivered along, blindly confident that the sun was just a moment away.
In the meantime, all four of our legs were still in good shape. It was still too early to say that our zero day had provided sufficient recovery for sustainable pain-free hiking, but I was optimistic about that too. We cruised ahead, working hard to stay warm, grateful for the ease of each step.
We joined Route 17 for a few miles through a small community that was lacking in anything that could benefit cold and hungry hikers. We would have paid dearly for hot soup and coffee, but instead settled for a reduced ability to urinate freely. After months of calling the world my toilet, I found this restriction particularly difficult to navigate as I dealt with the aftermath of a concerted effort to rehydrate. With all of our road walking over the past weeks, I’d had more than my fair share of close calls up to this point, but in this arena, practice did not necessarily make perfect. I made it through this time, but just barely.
On the other side of town, we called a halt at a paved turnout to eat some things and change socks. I managed to choke down some of the food that Spice kept pushing my way, but my heart wasn’t in it. Even though I was feeling better overall, I was mentally exhausted and my tummy still had a little catching up to do. As a solar-powered kid from California, it was tempting to hate on the gloomy weather, but I couldn’t deny I was my own biggest enemy. How do I let myself get dehydrated time and time again? Sun, sunshine will make everything better. I begrudgingly kept my puffy on as we packed up to leave. It was time to make my own sunshine. I followed Spice back onto the highway shoulder, feeling luxuriously warm and insulated from the harsh indifference of nature.
A steep climb down from an overpass put us back on our good friend, ye olde ATV road. This one followed Grog Brook, which was so small at first that I only noted its name because I thought it was funny. Sure enough, the narrow torrent flowed dark brown, almost sticky-looking, just like I had always imagined the bootleg sailor juice appeared in the olden days. It grew in size as we trended slightly downhill, and soon we were carving through a rocky gorge, totally out of character relative to the rest of IAT so far. The vibe was different, more wild and remote, and it was a welcome change from the remarkable uniformity of days past. The fresh geology gave my mind something new to chew on unconsciously. The strengthening flow of the Grog was the most exciting thing we’d seen in a while. The rushing waterfall rapids contradicted themselves. Slow and fast, gentle and deadly.
We were making good time, but I was getting stumpy, and not even a Kygo mix could shake my lethargy. Spice took action and sat me down to cook us up a strong brew. And it wasn’t just me that perked up. The weather did too. That depressing blanket of clouds that had dampened my spirit for so long finally broke open, allowing the hot sunshine to beat down and bake the blues out. Hooray! Life was instantly better. We stripped our puffy jackets and soaked up the sweet sweet heat.
A little bit later Spice had the wise idea to dry out our damp gear. However, the dipping sun meant that our yard sale was only successful in earning us a fresh batch of mosquito bites. Determined, Spice hiked on with her yellow quilt hanging on the outside of her pack. She may have looked like a yellow-backed turtle, but she moved faster than one.
We lost Grog Brook when the gorge widened and disappeared altogether into that familiar New Brunswick flatland. And considering all that flat, you would have thought that finding a home for the evening would be easy. It was not. Again, we encountered a soggy sponge of flooded forest. Even the trail was a flowing creek for about a quarter mile. Though we were successful in keeping our feet dry most of the way, an inevitable splash in the final 10ft was a crushing disappointment.
My energy flagged yet again as the sun set behind us, and it was dark by the time Spice found a semi-suitable place to camp and called it good enough. Sure, it may have been a narrow turnout on a dirt road, but it had a scenic view of some big river. This was prime real estate, and it was all ours for the evening. We were quick to bed and quick to eat our hot ramen wherein we discovered that I don’t actually chew noodles at all. I just gulp them down like a snake, doubly fast if they’re too hot. As fun as that was, it was all about the sleep for me. I was sure that I’d feel better tomorrow and was eager to get there. I’d wanted to fall asleep since I woke up, and finally that was all I had left to do. Easiest part of the day.