Tuesday, August 20: I’m sitting on the porch of Harrison’s Pierce Pond Camps. Rustic could be construed as an understatement for the primitive wooden structures just off the AT. Four hummingbird feeders hang from wooden beams. Tim, the proprietor, says that based on the amount of sugar water consumed, there are probably as many as sixty birds feeding daily. Molar Man sits to my right. Next to him Sweet Tooth relaxes. At the end of the line of an eclectic assortment of chairs, Susquehanna Slim sits. We are all fascinated by the hummingbirds. As they fly in to enjoy the sweetness of the sugar water, Slim and I try to take pics. I successfully record four birds in one photo. We aimlessly wile away the afternoon, each subconsciously focused on finishing the hike.
Our day began eight hours earlier at Bog Brook Rd. Unlike recent hikes, today’s trail consisted of the easiest terrain we have encountered since, well since a long time ago. I almost miss the treacherous mountains that we have painstakingly climbed over the past few weeks. What I did truly miss were the views from the high elevations. None were to be found today. We did, however, experience a number of lakes and ponds. The trail almost completely circumvents Flagstaff Lake. I could see my brother standing on the rocky shore casting into the lapping waters. On this clear warm morning Flagstaff epitomized serenity and peace. I would have liked to just sit for a spell but miles needed to be hiked.
The trail also skirted West Carry Pond and East Carry Pond. Even though there were almost no noticeable elevation changes throughout the day, rocks, roots, dirt, and of course, mud still existed. Occasional dried leaves and pine needles made for comfortable walking. For the most part today’s hike came as close to any the trail has offered up to being simply ” a walk in the woods.” It felt nice to be able to daydream while hiking once again.
So as I walked along at a two miles an hour pace, I did a lot of thinking. I reflected on many aspects of the hike as well as on those who have hiked along with me. And I thought a lot about Don. He would have loved all these ponds. I think East Carry was my favorite. Molar Man, Slim, and I had our lunch overlooking the peaceful waters of East Carry. The water appeared too shallow for any fish to be swimming near the bank. I imagined big ones under the surface farther out.
A little farther up at the north end of East Carry the trail crosses a small beach. I imagine a number of hikers over the years have paused for a swim in the warm August water. Not today. We moved on, picking up the pace slightly in anticipation of getting to the Camps by 3:00. With the agreeable trail and no distractions, we reached the sign indicating the turn at our designated time. The short side trail travelled over Pierce Pond by way of a rickety bridge that appeared to need some serious repair.
For the remainder of the afternoon we visited with other hikers who had stopped by to make breakfast reservations. Tim’s pancakes are said to be some of the best on the entire AT. Hikers who don’t stay in the cabins can still come in for a reasonably priced meal. Pumpkin Head, Spacey, Steady State, Tobey, and Hangman were hanging around. After eating a supper that we had packed in, Slim and I played some pool before working on our journals in the dining room.
Tim asked if we minded if he put on some music. We didn’t. After a few minutes he joined us at the table with a glass of wine. As soon as he sat down Tim looked me in the eye and said, “Tell me about your brother.” And so I did. Tim listened intently as I talked about Don’s life, his faith, his illness, and his death. He showed genuine concern. Then Tim spoke of losing his brother in his early 50’s. And I listened. I think talking about our brothers was therapeutic for both of us. Tim also discussed Parkside, the young hiker who had drowned in Pierce Pond while thru hiking last year. It was obvious that Tim was still shaken by Parkside’s death. Slim and I sat past our bedtime to listen and share. Tim’s candor and sincerity made a definite impression on me.
So shortly before ten we retired for the evening. The pond runs right in front of our cabin, so the watery sounds will be within earshot all night. I hope they lull me to sleep so that I’ll be able to hike strong tomorrow up to Caratunk. Tomorrow will also be bittersweet because it will be my last day hiking with Susquehanna Slim. Slim has decided to move on a little faster since he needs to go back and pick up a section he left out in Vermont. It has been a pleasure and an honor hiking through New Hampshire and part of Maine with Slim. So once again after tomorrow things will be back to where they were in Tennessee and Pennsylvania as Molar Man and I make our way toward Katahdin on the Appalachian Trail.