The Trail: Day 2

Monday, September 26: Moose

7pm wrapped in my sleeping bag. Dripping rain off the trees after the torrential downpour just after we arrived here at the Moose Mountain Shelter. A long slow day. A hot Pad Tahi dinner and yoga stretch in the lean-to as the rain pours down has revived me. A cup of hot lemon tea. I am so glad I stopped to get the tea. 

The hills across the valley glow in a catch of light. As I’m cleaning up, we hear voices up the trail. Two very cheery very wet old men appear out of the dark woods. They are delighted to have made it to the lean-to. I wonder how they are so very happy while being so very wet. Tomorrow I will learn they are brothers from Michigan, section hikers like Pat.  

Last night, after sharing slices of cheese and stories with Drew, I nestled into my tent about 7 as well. I have no trouble with these early nights. The trail asks a lot and I treasure the rest. As if I needed more to think on before I went to bed, I thought again about my water supply. Water is scarce and it will be 5 miles to get more. I wish I’d known. Wish I’d carried extra up from town.

Perhaps it is prudent and it is. I know I have to be prepared out here, have enough of what I need.  There is no faucet on the nearby tree to turn on when I’ve run dry. On the other hand, I still want too much, try to carry too much. Worry on things like this too much. It’s all what slowly needs to be emptied out of me and I know in time it will. I have been here before. The woods need time to do its work in me. 

Sunday morning at church, I handed out bright little paper boats and invited the congregation to write on them what they hoped for our journey together.  

I hope it’s a long journey, young Curran wrote.  

I hope this trail too is long. Long enough to relax into presence, into the gift of this time.  

After a morning breakfast bar and apple (and not my favorite oatmeal in order to save water), we said goodbye to Drew and headed off down the trail. Took a wrong turn and were headed back down to Hanover when we turned around to see the white arrow directing us north. The signs are right there, they so often are. But in the exuberance of morning, in the joy of a good nights sleep, we miss them all the time as we are paying attention to something else.  

It’s a beautiful trail, just like yesterday – smooth dirt and rolling. No rocks or roots. 

It’s so unusual, as Dad told me, so very different than most of our New England trails. Not the steep and boulder strewn trails in the Whites!

Pat and I have had this week on our calendars for months and decided on this route thanks to a suggestion from my Dad and the planning Pat has done. My father hiked the AT across New Hampshire, all forty-eight of the 4000 footers. Just a few years ago at 85 he hiked up Washington one last time. I wear his pack now to take him with me out on a trail he can no longer navigate. If only it was ten years ago we’d both be out here. He remembers all the details. All the names and twists of the trail. The shelters where we’ll sleep at night. These particulars of the trail stick for him, last and stay. 

We rest into the swing of a gentle trail. Meet a sweet young man with two little dogs doing a 10 mile circuit. 

I’m not surprised someone is living at Velvet Rocks. My parents used to be the caretakers there when I was growing up. There were always people living up there for the summer.

After we leave him we think of all the questions we didn’t ask.  What does he do in Hanover? Perhaps he works in the admissions office? Maybe in med school? A doctor?  

No other hikers on the trail all day until tonight when we meet the two wet brothers from Michigan. 

At a small stream we stop to fill our water. Fill extra bags of water for tomorrow as well. We have five miles up to Moose Mountain Shelter and no water for miles on our way down.  I look around for the straps to tie on my extra water bags. Where are they?  They were just here!  I look everywhere, figure out some other way to hold them on, lift up my pack and of course – there are the straps!   

Here by the trail, a red cooler marked “Trail Magic” with fresh tomatoes! So delicious. We add our names to the list of hikers with lots of exclamation marks of thanks.  

Further down the trail, more Trail Magic! Two cushioned chairs. Even after just a day on the trail, the opportunity to sit on a blue cushioned chair in the woods is the height of luxury. A half mile down the trail I drop my pack by a stream we didn’t expect to find and realize my bags of water I’d tied on have fallen off. But when and where? 

I leave my pack and head back down the trail thinking that maybe they fell off when I sat on the chair. Sure enough, there they are. And this discovery as well – from the time I noticed my bags of water were gone I knew that if I never did find them it was going to be okay. Pat and I could share a water bag to filter our water. It would be slower but okay. And I must say I was overjoyed to see my two blue bags of water sitting right there on the chair like their own Trail Magic.  

Thank you St. Anthony, patron saint of lost items!

It’s a slow heavy slog up Moose Mountain. Not that far and the trail smooth and sure, but with the extra water weight our packs are heavy!  

At last, Moose Shelter, and yes, we beat the storm brewing in the dark clouds to the south just behind us. A little bench looking over the valley. Notes in the shelter book from those who stopped for lunch here and wondered why they always stayed at the lousy shelters and missed staying overnight at ones like these.

Tonight, we are the fortunate ones. I’m tired but feel so much better after a hot dinner and stretching in the shelter while the rain pelts down. We already have our tents up and they stay up in the wind and rain. I will sleep well again tonight. 

We turned around this early morning and found the trail sign we could have walked right by again. I found the straps I couldn’t find and the water bags I dropped. As for the moose? He was there all the time, standing so still, watching us pass by.

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