July 3 Mile 234.4
I camped by myself for the first time on this trail last night. I never met up with Lays when I went into Rangeley. I got a ride back to the trail with a self confessed Old Timer, Al Grafton, 85 years old. He was at the laundry mat and asked if he could give me a ride back to the trail after I had a burger at the pub across the street. Very nice guy, very talkative; I told him I was from Astoria and he began a narrative about John Jacob Astor and the fur trade, Québécois who live in the area and the handmade bar at the pub. “You know who made that bar, don’t cha? Kurt Russell’s brother, that’s who. He made that back when there were just two pool tables and a jukebox. Now there’s all those tables with those made to look rustic crappy chairs and I don’t know what else. But Goldie, you know, she was here with Kurt and they are just like regular folks.”
And so on. It was clear that he wanted someone to talk to and I was able to get a few words in here and there. I was grateful for his kindness and he wished me bon voyage as he dropped me off. I hiked a bit and found a flat spot next to water to call home. I was asleep within a half hour.
Today the rain had me up at 4:15am; I left my rain fly off and felt a few drops before I jumped up and threw my rain fly on quickly. It just sprinkled for about a half hour as I dozed. Once I got going it was a muddy, wet hike but it was a beautiful day and I am so grateful for the sunshine. It works wonders. All the hikers I came across were in good moods; I stopped and chatted with more than a few and then I ran into Chocolate Man, a Québécois I know from The Night of the Rain. We greeted each other like old friends, as hikers do. He was slackpacking northbound (slackpacking is when you just carry a day pack with snacks and water, someone meets you with all your stuff at the end of the day) and I told him to tell Lays that I would be at Bemis creek tonight. Sure enough, Lays rolled up about a half hour ago. It’s good to see him. Chocolate Man will be about a half mile behind us tomorrow so I’m sure we’ll see him in Andover.
July 4 Mile 246.5 Andover
Today was a beast. Beast! We started the day getting our shoes wet fording Bemis Creek, more like a river. As we climbed a series of mountains today I thought about how grateful I am to live in a country where I can hike by myself, meet people from all over the world and hike through some of the most amazing wilderness I have ever experienced. Although Lays and I really struggled today, it is a good struggle, a luxurious struggle, one that we allow ourselves, one that we have chosen, a struggle that we allow ourselves to embrace.
Exhausted with a full belly, I am relaxing in my tent as fellow hikers talk trail and listen to the Grateful Dead. We’re all camped out in the huge backyard of The Red Hen, a cafe who allows hikers to camp. For the third time today, I am humbled by the kindness of strangers.
This must be the place.