I woke up about 6:30 hitting snooze after snooze. I had to get moving early to make the 22 miles into Monson. It would be raining tomorrow. It was a cold night and I hadn’t slept very well. Condensation lined the inside of my tent and it had seeped onto my sleeping bag. Wallie and Grocer were on their way out as I packed up my stuff.
As soon as I stepped into my boots I could feel that my right foot was off. It had a kind of deep tired aching pain on the bottom right side. These boots were getting a bit worn out with nearly 800 miles on them. The tread was starting to peel off. I decided to ignore it thinking it would probably go away by the afternoon. Foot pain was all in a day’s work by this point and it was just something I had to suck up if I wanted to keep going.
Surprisingly, I was on the trail by 7:30. Morning in the woods is my favorite time of day. Golden rays of sun breaking perpendicular through the morning fog in the trees. The day began with climbing 1300 feet to the peak of Moxie Bald Mountain. Neon green moss lined the edges of the trail which was bare rock where hikers had carved the path to the top. I hopped from boulder to boulder above tree line to the summit.
After I crossed Moxie Bald my foot was still bothering me and was starting to effect on my mood. After this peak it would be all downhill and then flat into Monson. The weight of the 20+ mile day ahead began to set in. It was warm but not unpleasant. The sun was out, blue skies bright with white puffy clouds. A perfect day for a hike, most would agree. At around 9 am I started sliding down the slippery slope of depression and anxiety, time traveling back to places where I had made a lot of mistakes. I started over analyzing and essentially bringing the past back to life and living in my shame and blame as I hiked alone. I have come to know that this is called an emotional flashback, a symptom of CPTSD.
I kept checking my map on my phone to see how far I had gone. 3 miles, 5 miles, 7 miles. The trail was dragging today. I passed Moxie Bald Lean To that was situated facing Bald Mountain Pond, a place where I wanted to camp to see the sunset. I kept walking, I had seen my share of ponds. At around 10 I reached Bald Mountain Lean To listed in my guide as a creek I had to ford. I lucked out again and rock hopped across with a few surface splashes. The beauty of the trail surrounded me but I was too deep in my flashback to notice. I began to cry as I walked, partly because of my foot pain and also because of my sadness. I quickly cleaned up my face as hikers passed walking south. At one point, the trail turned into a bunch of large rocks to step on to keep out of the mud.
I approched the West Branch of the of the Piscataquis River, an Abenaki word meaning “branch of the river” or “at the river branch. This time I would need to get in to cross. There was no one around. I read the comments in my phone map and it said not to use the cable to cross. It’s not for hikers. Some said there were leeches in the river. AHHHHH. I looked closely to see if I could see any. I didn’t. I looked for the shallow parts best to walk over and decided on a route closed to the small rapid. I took off my pack, put my camera in a water proof bag inside my pack. I took off my boots and socks and tied them to my pack. I put on my crocks and slowly stepped in with the help of my trekking poles. The rocks were slippery and so I took it very slow. The deepest part was about half way up my calf. I checked for leeches as I went, none yet. I reached the other side relieved I hadn’t slipped. I walked up the river bank and just decided to keep walking in my crocks to dry out which was rather uncomfortable.
I started to feel like I should check my legs just to be sure there were no hitchhikers. I had a feeling there might be some. When I managed to muster the courage to look I saw some tiny black flecks that I thought was just creek debris and then I looked closer. Sure enough, tiny itty bitty leeches. I commenced to scream and did the leech dance which flung my left croc 4 feet into the woods. They were also IN my crocs. I threw down my pack to dig out a rag to wipe them off with. My attempt to scrape them off with leaves WAS NOT WORKING. I kicked off my other croc and started rubbing as hard as I could with my rag. After I was clean, I brushed off my feet, put on my socks, and boots, and dug my croc out of the woods. I was having a B-A-D day.
I continued wallowing in my sads crying on and off, wishing this day was over, this hike was over, everything was over. I passed the Horseshoe Canyon Lean To and ran into a ridge runner named Jukebox. They were out for a weekend maintenance trip for the shelters. I asked them if the stream ahead had any leeches in it and they said I don’t think so?
2 miles later I arrive at the East Branch of Piscataquis River. It looked pretty shallow and calm. A great place of leeches to hang out?! I took off my pack, untied my boots but kept my socks on! That’ll do it. I put on my crocs and started to cross. It was much wider than the last creek but it didn’t rise above my sock line. I successfully reached the other side and inspected my socks. No leeches this time. By now, it was getting on to be 3 o’clock with 7 more miles to go. My foot was still hurting. No change from the morning. I popped 2 packs of Gatorade power chews and kept walking the flat trail through maples and birches moping all the while teary eyed.
The sky was starting to dim when I hobbled out of the woods onto ME 15, the road to Monson. I crossed the road to the parking lot for the 100 Mile Wilderness. I found a big concrete block to sit on and call Shaw’s Hostel that advertised a free shuttle to their place in town. I felt terrible physically, mentally, emotionally. One of my worst days on the trail. This hike was supposed to help me feel okay, happy, hopeful. It felt like it was making my depression and anxiety worse. I have had more bad days than good out here. I had tried so many wholistic approaches to stabilize my mood. I decided then it was time for medication.
About 20 minutes later, a familiar truck pulled up. It was Chuck. I let myself smile a little as we greeted me warmly and lifted my pack into the bed. I realized my glasses were smudged from the crying I had done most of the day and I didn’t feel like cleaning them. I just wanted to sit down. I tried to cheer up so to not alarm Chuck on our ride to town which wasn’t but 5 minutes. I arrived at the hostel at about 7pm and claimed my bed up stairs with 7 other hikers in the same room. I showered, put my laundry in, picked out some loaner clothes (a nice plaid shirt and jeans), signed up for breakfast, and headed out to find dinner which was at a BBQ restaurant called Spring Creek BBQ. I sat alone at the bar. There were some bearded hikers behind me talking loudly about how much food they were going to eat.
I ran into a hiker named Tree Trunk I met at the Lakes of the Clouds Hut back in the White Mountains. He showed me his right thumb bandaged and in a splint. Bear, he said. I was skeptical and then he told me the story. Tree Trunk was sleeping in his tent at Moxie Pond. In the middle of the night he heard a noise and and a scuffle outside. A snout pushed against the nylon tent wall. Tree Trunk waved his hand toward the mystery animal and then once more and the animal bit the top of his thumb off. All the way to the knuckle through the tent wall. There was blood everywhere he said. He got off the trail and spent that last few days slackpacking and going to the hospital (which was an hour away) to get stitches. Tree Trunk conceded that it might have been a fisher cat or an opossum. We had a nice chat and I was glad to see him. Tree Trunk was determined to make it to Katahdin by the end of the week. He had a plan ticket back to Australia leaving from New York he couldn’t miss. I returned to the hostel to dry my clothes and get ready for bed. Tomorrow I would take the day off and get ready for the 100 Mile Wilderness and Katahdin.
Miles: 2055.5 – 2077.5 (22)