Friday July 30th, 2021, 0600-1200
Vaughn Stream to Rt 15, then ride to Monson, SOBO AT mm 114.5
3576 gain, loss 2982
Steady would be the name given to the rain, all night long. The sound of it put me to sleep early but I woke around 1 am, wondering if my fortress was holding. It was not. Nothing more fun than finding puddles in the middle of the night. Because I was slightly on an incline, my pad had slipped down, pressing on my bathtub floor and allowing water from my canopy to drain into the floor. I just needed to mop up the water and make some adjustments but it took awhile. My rain jacket was the only thing that got wet. Thankfully my quilt stayed dry.
I slept fitfully until it was time to get up again. I was too hot and worried about the puddles. It was still rainy at dawn but I was resigned to pack and walk in the wet. It was to be my first town day and I wanted some time to get chores done. Now I had even more chores to do drying things. Thankfully it stopped raining just as I folded my soaked tent. I set out not even using my umbrella or wearing extra layers. It was actually very pleasant temperature-wise.
The trail was a bit treacherous, with all the slick slab rock and roots. I couldn’t trust my traction on any surface, taking very gingerly and calculated steps. But at least the trail was all mine until 09:30 am. Everyone hid from the rain while I enjoyed a quiet morning just moving along slowly. After this time, I saw more than 30 folks in just a few hours. Funny how they come in waves…it has to do with the shuttle schedules sometimes but more often with the proximity to a shelter. I stopped to talk to one guy named Physics who was from Utah…really nice guy. It’s interesting how I randomly end up talking to some folks…what triggers the conversation in the first place, I’m not sure. Some people just have a look about them, like they need to talk. Unfortunately I can’t stop for everyone.
I got to the road mid day and called for a free shuttle to Shaws hostel. It’s been a fixture and legend of the trail for decades, often described as the best hostel on the trail. A staff member by the name Nuggets arrived in minutes to pick me up and gave me a quick tour of the place. It was nice to arrive the hostel and hear someone immediately call out my name. It was Fearless and Giddiup, the couple I had met over again as they were day hiking. I was so happy to see familiar faces in the sea of NOBOs that made up the vast majority at the hostel.
I went about trying to find lunch and dry my tent. The hostel was inundated with a large group seemingly from the same college, all very young. It felt a bit like spring break. I opted to tent in the yard but didn’t really have a choice since the bunks were completely booked. No problem, I always prefer my tent over a bunk, even if it’s a bit wet.
The sun came out mid afternoon and all was right with the world. I got lunch at the Lakeshore House inn and pub then visited the ATC office to receive a little plastic thru-hiker hang tag, like a dog tag for hikertrash. People like to display them on their packs but my clothes and pack are enough to give me away… I’ll probably mail mine home. Wendy, the ATC volunteer information specialist, was the nicest lady and such a pleasure to talk to. I also got to meet one of the few SOBOs in town, Rebecca. She was also new to thru-hiking but has been crushing it. Her boyfriend is hiking the PCT and they sound like they both did their research beforehand, having lightweight gear.
Back at the hostel, I showered and talked to some of the Shaw’s staff. Hippy-chick and Poet are the 4th owners of the place and Old Man of the AT Lodge in Millinocket is Hippy-chick’s dad. All have thru-hiked the AT and now are in the business of helping hikers. Pretty cool…it all runs in the family. But poor Hippy-chick, she was besieged by work…she was managing 2 small kids, the hostel and staff, the gear store and all the shuttles, food drops, etc. Sadly Poet was dealing with a death in the family and had to be away. This is the peak of their season so I’m sure his absence is really tough. They had some great staff though, who I also talked with briefly. I’m fascinating with how these places run and their history.
I would have liked to stay longer to get a better feel for the town and businesses but it was just too crowded with other hikers. It just seems like a constant battle for resources and I don’t like to be a part of the strain. I resigned to get back on the trail early the next morning. The rest of the night, I caught up on my blog, got a sandwich at the general store/ deli, and talked a little with a few more SOBOs/flip-floppers. I retreated to my tent as soon as the spring-breakers got back from the pub…it was going to be a wild-night for them, this their last town stop. I didn’t begrudge their partying… it’s what I would have done at their age. I was just smart enough to pitch my tent on the opposite side of the lodge, next to the street. I had to put up with a bit of vehicle noise and a street lamp but the way the wind was blowing all night, that’s all I heard. The temperature had dropped a lot so I had a great night’s sleep!