The Trail: Day 3

Tuesday, September 27: Hurricane 

Yes, yes, I’m awake.  Pat is that you? I wake in a dream that coffee is ready and Pat has a hot cup made for me outside the tent. I’m unsure if anyone is out there. I unzip the tent and the tent fills with small birds, yellow and purple and blue, little birds flying everywhere.  

I wake to a sliver of sunrise through dark clouds. Wake yes, to an actual cup of hot coffee that Pat has made. Wake to the good news from the brothers that there is in fact plenty of water on our day ahead.  No need of extra heavy packs today.

After the news of water, I have that bowl of hot oatmeal I’ve been looking forward to for days and we start our long descent down Moose Mountain. Quiet again on the trail.  A beautiful morning and good news that it seems like the weather has shifted and a clear day ahead.  

After our descent, we climb and keep climbing.  An incredibly steep hill with no name on the map.  Agony Mountain, Pat calls it. Whatever it is I go on ahead ready to find the summit.  Keep going and going towards an ever elusive top. I circle back to find Pat and the ledges which the app on my phone says we’ve missed. 

We pass a day hiker who tells us that the ledges are indeed ahead of us. As promised, the first ledge a great place to sit and the second a better view. All the way down the trail we meet day hikers aplenty who are out to see the view. Fall feels late coming this year, a few spots of trees amidst all the green and yellow turning red and orange. 

At the bottom of Agony Hill another great Trail Magic spot – this time at the road crossing a big container of water and lots of milk jugs filled with water. What a gift!  So so glad we didn’t need to filter the stagnant brown water further down the trail. 

The woods are dry. How many years now has there been a drought here in the North Woods? I wonder when the woods here will begin to burn like in California, Oregon, Washington. This week I met a couple who moved here from Oregon. He had to evacuate his house in the last big fire, she almost lost her apartment. They too are climate refugees with the means to move. 

We met our first thru-hikers from Katahdin, a young couple, Wildcat and Gumby. After they left we wondered on the question we had never asked them, When did you start on your hike?  

We head on past the second road where were going to camp to get some more miles on what promises to be a long 14 mile day tomorrow. We’ll see how far we make it up Smarts Mountain. 

Pat has had it after a few miles down the trail. I have as well. That climb up Agony Hill took the spunk right out of me. That, and day two on the trail. My body is still getting used to what I am asking of it with a heavy pack and long days on the trail.

We’ve come to another “stealth site”, “a campsite that isn’t really a campsite” as one Boy Scout explained to me. A good cleared area next to the trail where other hikers before us have camped. We consider our options. We could continue up towards the shelter, a few more miles up the mountain. Its not clear how steep it is and it will be dark in an hour and a half. Or we could call it a day and camp here where there’s a good level spot and even a log to sit on for dinner. There’s also cell coverage so we both can check in on things at home. We choose to stop here. Its been enough of a day. 

Sometimes, like this time, stopping is easy to do. But other times we just keep going when wisdom might say its time to stop. We are lost in the rhythm of the trail or it feels like if only we could put in a few more hours or miles tomorrow would be that much easier. 

But tonight, weariness and wisdom find us. We drop our packs, set up our tents next to each other to ward off the bears.  

All day Pat’s been carrying anxiety about her husband and home which is projected to be in the eye of the hurricane. She has gone from not worried to worried. The gift of the trail can be the gift of getting off the phone and off the news. And then there are times like this when the news there at home can’t be separated from life here.  

The county has called for a mandatory evacuation. The bridges will go up in a few hours. Pat’s relieved her husband is evacuating, has a condo to stay at in the city. Her grandkids and daughter have found shelter, her family will be okay. 

I step up on the ledge to check in on what Dad learned from his doctor today – the anxiety I’ve been carrying all day. I call Pat up to see a gorgeous sunset through the trees.

I’m running low on snacks and I’m fine. I want to be fine. I will have what I need. But I worry about my energy on the trail and how I crash when I don’t have enough to eat. I’m not hungry tonight after a good dinner of beef stew and blackberry cobbler dessert – my splurge when I hear there will be water not too far up the trail before we go up and over Smarts Mountain. A splurge of dessert as well from anxiety about Dad and relief he is okay and hurricane news from Pat that looks nothing but bad.

Here we are at our little stealth site in the woods with just what we need to survive out here for a few days.  And there is a hurricane that this night could take away her house and all those particular items in it that make it a home.  

I walk after dinner up the ledge. The top of the world here two miles down from the top of Smart. A gorgeous empty terrain of trees. Just past sunset – blue sky and a warm night. I don’t think its going to rain as promised. I watch and wait for stars. 

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