Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Day 21: Gentian Pond Shelter to Rattle River Shelter

Miles today: 13.7
Miles total: 300.2

Currently sitting in the lean-to...

Moose ARE real! Today I slogged the twelve easy miles over Cascade Mountain and Mount Hayes into Gorham, NH. At the end of my morning hike, the AT began to follow a road near town. Think white blazes on the backsides of traffic signs and on telephone poles. Keep in mind that I have walked 300 miles through the most moose-ridden territory known to mankind, encountering their perfect pellet poop the whole way. Never did I see one of the creatures. Wouldn't it make sense that I would see one standing in the middle of a residential street? You betcha. There, in the middle of North Road, a juvenile moose skittered across the street. He was big and awkward, like a 16-year-old after a growth spurt. I was sure he would run out into the middle of busy Highway 2 and die, but he disappeared into the brush, with a cloud of flies in hot pursuit. I had almost enough time to grab my phone and take a picture, but I was transfixed, mouth agape. I hollered in joy, startling the neighbors and probably sending the moose through someone's living room window.

I walked onward and saw a car leaving the hostel where I planned to stay if I were to stay in Gorham. The driver was the owner, shuttling a guest into town. "You staying here?" she asked. "This may sound weird, but only if you can get me to a movie theater." She shook her head sadly, "Welcome to the great white north." She gave me a lift into town anyway, and before I knew it I was happily standing inside Burger King. See, relative to the other towns through which the AT has passed thus far, Gorham is a veritable metropolis. I could have just as easily chosen the McDonald's across the street or the Pizza Hut next door, but I was on the prowl for a veggie burger. I got what I so desired, and as I ate, Cosmonaut strolled in. I met him about a week ago, on the day I passed through Caratunk. Turns out he had run out of food and had walked since yesterday morning on nothing other than caffeine powder to get to town. I have never heard of such a feat. After he finished eating and I got us some milkshakes, we shared plans and both wanted to go to Wal-Mart down the road. We hitched over and went crazy, pushing my pack in the shopping cart and savoring the variety and low prices. He stocked up with all the necessities to stay in town (mostly beer and wine), and I got my resupply items since I would be heading back into the forest at the end of the day. I enjoyed using a flushing toilet with a liberal amount of toilet paper, and we were on our way.

I said goodbye to Cosmonaut at his hostel, and I walked down the sunny street to find the post office. I picked up my drop box and added about 90 pounds to my pack (well almost), and stopped by the library to upload this blog and check on the state of others' hikes. I had to pay a dollar for the half hour of time I used, but I considered this fee to be justifiable in my case because I had just stunk up the computer nook with my hiker stank. On to Subway for a last meal, then back out to the trail, where I saw Puck and Kramers at the hostel. "Rooster! The plan now is to go to Lincoln in six to seven days," Kramers grinned, thoughts of seeing a movie bubbling in his head. I told him I hoped to see him there, and slunk off into the woods again.
I hiked the smooooooth 1.6 to this here shelter and found it empty.  This will be the curse of being a sobo: there aren't so many of us. I found myself in a sobo's dilemma. Do I sacrifice miles, take extra zero days, and hang out with a group. Or do I hike my hike exactly as I plan it, letting the chips fall where they may? Time will tell, but it could get lonely going this way. I think for now I have to focus on getting over the White Mountains, then reassess. Truth be told, this next ten days of hiking is most of what scares me about the trail. Will I manage? There's no way for that not to sound like a cliffhanger, so good night!

-Rooster

Picture: I see sky! I see mountains!

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