Old Blue conjures up the image of a docile, sleepy hound dog waiting for a pat on the head, kind of like Old Duke in The Beverly Hillbillies. Old Blue, the Appalachian Trail mountain in Maine, in no way resembled a lethargic canine. It greeted Molar Man, Susquehanna Slim, and me at 7:07 with an immediate steep rock step incline. Despite the neatly arranged steps that had obviously required many hours of trail maintenance, Old Blue brought out the sweat early. When the steps diminished, the sheer rock face commenced. Some nice person had fortunately placed rebar ladders with railings in strategic places. When no rebar was available, I inched my way up the slabs, hugging the small trees for balance if I could find one.
Reaching the summit after climbing 2200 feet over 2.8 miles, I was already tired with 10.4 remaining to be hiked. Then a painstakingly slow descent followed. Every time a downhill occurs my pace decreases. With massive amounts of mud to contend with, in addition to the steep slick rocks, deliberate hiking was a must. And when I slowed, my hiking buddies got ahead. It’s just my method to try my best to ensure that I stay on my feet. On a few occasions I still needed to sit and slide down a slippery, mossy rock. I don’t mind sitting when that’s the best way.
After the slow descent I had to climb what seemed like a never ending Bemis Mountain. We thought we had reached the summit about four times before we finally did. Even though there was no view due to cloud cover, we took our lunch break at the top. Pumpkin Head, Sinner, and Torch passed us as we ate. We also were passed by Stretch and Barking Spider later in the day.
The remainder of the day consisted of several ups and downs over the same tedious terrain. Like yesterday, both my shoes were caked in thick black mud. Wet roots contributed to the less than agreeable trail. Feeling tired early in the afternoon made the final four miles difficult in more ways than one. Molar Man hiked ahead while Slim and I lagged behind, talking our time on the final steep downhill. When it ended the trail had one more special offering for our final mile of the day, another steep climb. This one, fortunately, ended at the road.
Slim and I walked up the highway to where the Volvo was parked. We quickly realized that Molar Man had fallen into the last stream crossing of the day. A haggard looking man, who identified himself as a homeless trout fisherman, even offered Molar Man some dry pants. He declined. The fisherman kept insisting, saying that they were recently laundered. Sweet Tooth told the man they weren’t the right size. If Molar Man had accepted the man’s generosity, that would have been a different type of trail magic.
Today indeed was a tiring one. The trail threw some challenges our way, but we were up for them. As I hiked today I thought a lot about my brother. A year ago today Don had exactly two weeks left to live. A man of strong faith, he was ready to move on. I thought about the inner strength he continued to reveal up until the end. Daily as I walk I feel his strength with me. I’m getting close brother. Just a little while longer on the Appalachian Trail.