Friday, September 22, 2017 (Day 143)
I rose to an amazing view, an amazing breeze, an amazing world.
I stretched. I sang. I meditated. I gazed in utter appreciation.
I set off.
I was not moving quickly, nor did I care to. For me, the trail was not a place to feel rushed. So when I noticed a group of three men waiting behind me as I was adjusting my trekking poles…I decided to hide off trail to let them pass. I chose a campsite just south of Mahoosuc Notch. There, I tucked myself behind some trees atop a bed of dry leaves. This hiding somehow turned in to nap time. I rose just after 5pm.
It was time to face Mahoosuc Notch. For .8 miles the AT winds through a jumble of boulders in a cleft between Fulling Mill Mountain and Mahoosuc Mountain. It is well known as the most challenging stretch of the entire trail.
I could now see why.
It was most certainly challenging.
Without any clear cut trail, it is up to ones own judgement to chose the most suitable path to the next white blaze. At one point, I worked my way up and over a moss covered boulder only to realize that the drop on the other side was far too steep for me to lower myself safely. I tried to crawl backwards, back to where I had begun the climb. The moss was slippery, however. I could not gain traction. Every time I tried to move backward, I slid forward. The weight of my pack kept me nearly immobile, yet I did not have the space or the balance to remove it. Additionally, I did not have my chest strap buckled, causing my pack to shift and its weight to fall to one side of my back, creating an even more unstable situation. I tried to back up again. I nearly fell forward. I panicked. I am stuck. Oh my goodness, I am stuck. Then, I grasped for a distant root and successfully –and most awkwardly–scooched back down the boulder and lowered myself to safety. Thank goodness.
As I continued at a crawl (often quite literally), the sky grew dark.
At one point, after a slight divergence from the trail, I felt lost. I seemed to have gone over, rather than under a cluster of boulders. I became disoriented. Was I moving in the right direction? I followed my instinct and continued, and fortunately, over 3 hours after starting, found my way out of the notch.
My entire body ached.
A hiker I knew had set up camp just north of the boulder clusters. I stopped for a break and chatted with them for a bit. They suggested I stay, but I had to keep going.
Next was Mahoosuc Arm, a 1500 ft climb over the span of one mile. I had intentions of completing the climb that evening.
As I began the ascent I could hear animals running, shuffling, weaving quickly alongside the trail. I could not see them, but their presence seemed different, the woods seemed more wild, full of kinetic energy, alive in the night.
I soon came to a nice stream.
I sat beside it. Then reclined beside it. Then, far below the top of the Arm, fell asleep.