I wanted to rise early and make the 22 miles to Abol Bridge before dark. I opened my eyes and checked the time. Not quite 7 am. If I left straight away, I could make it before the store closed. I turned in my sleeping bag so my face lay flat against the down-filled hood. It’s too cold, I thought, quickly rejecting the idea of rising. I hate to rush, anyhow.
When the woods grew warmer, and I no longer cringed at exposure of fingers and toes, I rose. I immediately noticed that in the dark of the night I had inadvertently chosen a spot that was very near the beach of a large lake. No wonder it was so cold.
I considered my situation. Yes, I was very low on food, but even more of a concern was ‘The Sign-in Sheet’. After Abol Bridge, the trail enters Baxter State Park. Within the park, there is no camping allowed outside of the designated campgrounds, of which there are two: Katahdin Stream Campground and The Birches. Katahdin Stream Campground is available to the general public and costs $30/night. The Birches is a campground for long-distance hikers only, and is $10/night. Only 12 hikers are allowed to camp at The Birches each night. To reserve your spot, you list your name on the sign-in sheet posted at the entrance of the park.
I wanted to summit on Friday. I only had $11 in my wallet. I had to get my name on that list!
I set forth on the trail.
I viewed Katahdin from a distance for the first time. How marvelous! How majestic!
I felt great, I felt motivated, everything was as it should be…then I stopped for a break.
I followed a side trail for a short distance, removed my pack, and fetched the painfully small portion of rice and noodles I had rationed for the day. I added them to a pot of water. Then I pulled out my stove. Since the terrible fiery incident, I have managed to use my stove. It was apparent that the cannister fire was caused by a fuel leak. While exercising extreme caution, ensuring a complete seal, and not taking my eyes off of the cannister for a moment, I have successfully prepared hot meals since the mishap. However, now I could not get the stove to screw in to the cannister at all. I spent a good 30 minutes screwing and pressing and twisting, trying to force my stove on to the cannister. Each time, it popped off and sprayed fuel. I whimpered and pouted to myself. It was cold. I desired something hot. I had been looking forward to an afternoon cup of coffee. Finally, I gave up, and ate my rice and noodles cold and crunchy. Then, I was officially out of food.
I continued on. It seemed I became hungrier than I had been before eating. My thumb began to throb in pain. My mentality grumbled: brooding, grey, and glum.
I stopped for another break at the Rainbow Stream Lean-to. I removed my pack and laid flat on the bench that stood in front of the shelter. I stared at the sky. “You can do this.” I said to myself aloud. “Everything is temporary. The pain will subside. You are almost done. You have to get your name on that list.”
I stood up and continued walking.
Soon, night fell. As I continued in the darkness, I heard voices from behind me. I stopped and turned. A collection of bouncing headlamps approached. It was what remained of the “Dirty Thirty”. We had been keeping a similar pace through the 100 Mile Wilderness. At first this was a bother, as they were a very large group. As time passed, however, they began to grow on me.
“Is that Giggles!?” One asked with enthusiasm. “We were worried about you!”
Yesterday I had briefly mentioned to a member of their group that I was trying to make it to Abol Bridge. That I was nearly out of food and was going to try to hike through the night.
Obviously, I had not made it.
“Do you need any food?” One asked.
“I mean, If you guys are offering…” I responded.
All at once, the five of them removed their packs and shuffled through in search of spare food. I was given tortillas and ramen. I was given kindness and energy and support and hope. I was so very grateful.
“Thank you so much!” I exclaimed.
They continued on and so did I. I stopped and sat upon a large boulder and ate some tortillas and put the noodles in an empty peanut butter container with water to soak. I could feel my body convert the calories to energy, I could feel my spirits lift.
I climbed up to the Rainbow Ledges. It was a gorgeous clear night. The stars were magnificent to behold as I traversed the exposed slabs of stone.
The trail descended once more. I stopped at a campsite just before the Hurd Brook Lean-to. Abol Bridge was a little over 3 miles away. Close enough, I thought, and fell asleep.