I first met Pilgrim at a hostel near Front Royal, VA. He had twice been sick and was losing weight. I saw Pilgrim again at Bears Den and discussed my method of hiking with him. We again crossed paths in Pennsylvania. Then I ran into him in Salisbury, CT at Maria McCabe’s. A couple of days later I received a text from Pilgrim telling me that he wanted to hike with me using what came to be called the DBM (light pack, big miles, and beds). So Pilgrim and I became hiking partners and friends over the next month. Through part of MA, all of VT and NH and into ME, we shared stories about our lives and the trail. It saddened me when Pilgrim left the trail earlier this week; however, I understood why. I hope many folks will read his journal and sign his guest book wishing him well. It was a tough decision to go home, but Pilgrim knew it was time.
Today Molar Man, Susquehanna Slim, and I hit the trail at 6:05, anticipating a challenging day with three substantial climbs. The day began rather innocently with a brief gradual uphill before the serious ascent of Saddleback Mountain. With several segments of sheer rock face, I was able to walk right up most in my new shoes. When that method wasn’t advisable, I meticulously worked my way up the edge. All in all, however, the ascent didn’t create that much of a problem.
On the approach to the summit we noticed what looked like children playing. At the summit we met former thru hiker Wendy (Philosophy), 7 year old Noah and 5 year old Juliet. All three were wearing sandals. Here we are, three men in boots or trail runners, working hard to keep from falling, while a couple of elementary kids are playing on the rocks in sandals. Philosophy shared some cookies she had prepared just for thru hikers.
From 4120 foot Saddleback we descended another minimally dangerous stretch until a second climb occurred. This one, the Horn, was over a shorter distance. At the summit we met a young man from New York, Ryan, who was working on bagging all 114 peaks of over 4000 feet in the northeast. The Horn climb and descent mirrored the previous mountain in terms of difficulty. The downhills again require me to hike deliberately. After panoramic scenic views at the crests, it’s always troublesome to have to descend so slowly.
After the Horn one more mountain remained to be climbed, Saddleback Junior. Like the other two, some sheer rock face necessitated diligent maneuvering. And also like the other two, the descent was worse than the climb. Views prevailed again in all directions. With abundant sunshine and mild temps, the hike went really well despite the tough terrain.
Even though it was only 2:00 when we reached the Poplar Ridge Lean-to, we kept our plans for calling it a day. This shelter, which was constructed in 1961, is known for its baseball bat like floor. Several other hikers stopped by before moving on. Section hiker Sore Toe appears to be the only one staying the night, at least for now. Pumpkin Head, Torch, Spacey, and section hikers Gary and Dave from New Hampshire, visited awhile before moving on. Rain has just begun, so it’s good to be inside for the night, even if this is a rustic abode. Tomorrow we’re looking for more sunny skies as we make our way through Maine on the Appalachian Trail.