Sunday, July 17, 2011

about luck

At a lookout, we stopped for lunch, where I discovered a penny, face-up. Leaving it in its place, I gave Dawn hints to locate her luck. A few nudges later, she found it, and into her pocket it went.

After many mosquito bites, tick bites, bee stings, and bruises, Dawn is still here with me. What's more, she's still smiling. With a disposition like this, I hope her luck is stock-piled and on it's way.

Rested and watered, we continued on trail. Soon though, the blazes turned from their distinct bright baby blue to a slopped-on black and blue, and there were fewer. The trail had also become more faint, moving through a poison-ivy-infested mountainside of scree and downed trees. Still the new, or rather older, looking blazes kept coming, egging us on.

Scratch after scrape, low branch after log, we made our way down the hill. We marco-poloed to each other. "Didja find it?" "Not sure!" We reminded each other that to retreat back, uphill was a less desireable option. Beckoned onward by just enough brighter blazes, we were assured of our investment in this trail and pushed onward.

How did this happen?

Was it a recent storm that made this section nearly impassible? Did the property owner's vendetta against hikers leave the trail to fall into disrepair? Did Dawn's penny fall out of her pocket?

Or was it the old Mettabasset, now rerouted and...

We came to a clearing.

Side by side, we ran into a well-blazed, bright, cleared and beautiful trail, undoutably our beloved New England Scenic Trail. We had spent well over an hour lost on its former-self.   We were mad at it, but mostly happy to see it again. Looking back at the way we came we saw that no one else heading the other direction could make the same mistake. The old trail slipped back into the woods quietly and seemingly beign.

I could feel the sting of all the scrapes as my adrenaline level fell. Then the disappointment set in as Dawn and I realized we were the ones at fault.

Though now proven false, Dawn and I both agreed that the story of the disgruntled owner neglecting the trail was our favorite. Yeah, we nodded to each other, that sounds a whole lot better.

As we approached the next road crossing, I saw a sign for "Cattails Shelter." Though the guide book didn't reference it, we followed the sign's arrow to two lean-to style shelters, sitting adjacent to one-another. They were like a doll's house, hinged apart, setting open so you could play with what was inside. After reading the log book/register we found that the shelter was not affiliated with CFPA or the New England Trail, but built and maintained by the owner of the private property on which it sat, David Peters. Clearly he was not the bad guy we were looking for. He was a man of the best kind.

We spent the night, indulging.  Dawn's shiny penny still safely housed in her pocket, and ready to go again the next day. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

town day

On Wednesday we went to town.  This was the first time Dawn had hitched a ride within the US, and I found myself praying humanity wouldn't let me down.

Our first stop was the Durham Market.  It was more expensive than your larger big box store grocery, but not unreasonable, and very hiker friendly.  We helped ourselves to the hiker foods and resupplied for six days, cleaning them out.  I hoped no hikers were behind us banking on a well-stocked market. 

Our next stop was the town library to internet and charge.  It was easy, no card or id required to use their computers.

While we were there, we met a woman named Carol who wishing to do "a random act of kindness," gave us a ride to a nearby coffee shop closer to the trail.  Score two for humanity.

That night, we built a small fire to cook on to save fuel.  Pasta halfway tender, we felt the first drop of rain.  In a flurry of polyester, we gathered our strewn belongings, doused the fire, threw on the fly, grabbed our food, and climbed in just in time.  Downpour.  Our dinners finished cooking inside the tent with nothing sacrificed.  Well-fed and feeling happy, our conversations that night still always came back to food.

Quote of the day: "It's more the pussy in me then the purest." – Dawn

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

former honeymooners

By day three the honeymoon had worn off.

Dawn woke an itchy mess.  Thankfully, her tick bite from the day before looked normal, no redness or swelling, just a slight bump.  However, her mosquito bites, which numbered around 75, looked the same, raised white skin in a sea of red.

My legs looked wrapped in the early stages of poison ivy.

To join her bites, came four bee stings later that morning hiking along a road.  Dawn had stopped to find a secluded spot to do her business, and was gone for less than a minute before emerging wide-eyed and desperate.   Running toward me she yelled, "Bees! What should I do?" "Just keep running!" I said, as I joined matching pace. We ran down the road for a while after the buzzing stopped, and found a soft spot to rest.

We treated the stings with jewel weed, checked for cell phone service, and waited for excess inflammation. We were on the road, and it was the best time. 

Later in the day, Dawn really started to struggle with the weight of her pack, we began to quibble about pace, and there was so much indecision on where to camp, my head ached.  Tired, hungry, thirsty, and a meal for mosquitoes, we snapped at each other for the first time in our twenty year friendship.

Left to hash it out in the privacy of the woods, we did well.  There was no where to go, and no outside opinions, we just had to talk through it until both of us felt better.  By the end of the day, a weight had been lifted and had comical discovered that with an 0 blood type, Dawn truly was a universal donor for all living things.

If that wasn't enough to bring us back together, the alien sounds of a snorting and pawing dear outside our tent that night was.  Sweet Bambi is a territorial freak.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

first day

Though the directions to the trailhead were exactly right, my entourage and I had a difficult time finding it.

We unloaded, and took a group photo. Danielle and Ken looked at the indistinct trail reluctantly.  Deep down their maternal and paternal instincts must have been issuing a loud warning, you can't just leave these two young girls by the side of the road. "Call us tonight," they said. 

The trail was well marked past the trailhead, but soon began to cross paths with a dirt bike path.  Together, apart, together, apart.  We diligently hunted for the trail as it snaked, trying to lose us in the crowd of cut tread.  It was like a treasure hunt.  It was fun, mysterious, and we didn't expect to get anywhere fast.

By 5 PM, we found a flat spot by a stream and small road and set up camp. Day one had turned out to be a meagre five mile day.  On our second day, I hoped for ten miles to set us into a rhythm that would keep us on schedule. 

Unlike longer trails, where you have months to make up for unforseen days off or low mileage days, on a two-weeker, every day has more weight.  It was time to put my foot on the gas.  If I didn't, we were likely to run out of time.

Exhausted, Dawn and I did the only thing we could to prepare for the marrow.  We ate a sound dinner, and tucked ourselves in before sunset.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

to wallingford

A few days prior to our departure, Dawn had driven to Pittsburgh to see her boyfriend Jon one last time, and somewhere in the rapture of their budding relationship, she had also lost her wallet.

Waiting for new cards was counterproductive.  If we delayed our trail start date by a week, it would make the trail impossible to complete.  And so, as a compromise, we agreed to set off only one day later than planned.  This would give Dawn time to get a new, much needed drivers license.  For money, I would spot her cash the whole trip.

On Saturday, we set off for Connecticut in my tiny perwinkle Kia with almost everything.  It was late when we arrived to Danielle and Ken's and they were delighted to see us.  We ate, chatted and scampered to bed. 

Sunday morning, Dawn printed out the guide for the Massachusetts section of the NET and found a bookstore where we could purchase much of the rest.  For the newest portion of the trail in southern Connecticut, we found no map was available.

Danielle and Ken were both polite and encouraging as they watched us complete our last tasks, and kept any feelings of worry and doubt well hidden.  But if they had felt we were ill-prepared, they would have been right.  We weren't sure exactly where our first resupply would be, or if we had enough food to get there. Dawn, was a green horn to backpacking, and we were crunched for time.  Our guides were so new we hadn't even skimmed them.

Amateurs.  Daredevils.