AT Update #34 – Grafton Notch, ME to Rangeley, ME
In the afternoon of September 24th, I caught a ride…
I was absolutely thrilled to be out of the White Mountains. Giddy, even. I had conquered what was rumored to be one of the most rigorous stretches of trail. Unfortunately, not all of my new hiker friends made it through. The last time I saw a handful of them was during the first few miles into the towering mountain range. The White Mountains tend to claim the end of a thru-hike for many. I never understood how someone could quit 1800 miles in. That’s over 80% complete. The idea completely puzzled me until I actually stood in the middle of it and literally experienced the blood, sweat and tears myself. But, somehow I held myself together and managed to pull through–the Maine state line was less than 20 miles away!I made it through the White’s with no serious injuries, but I could feel my plantar fasciitis begin to flare again. It was time for new shoes. I couldn’t continue to ignore my need for foot care. Negligence had almost cost me my trip once. I decided to take a zero day at the White Mountain Lodge and Hostel, so I could rest and hopefully get new shoes. Sadly though, the further north I travelled, shoe selections became slim pickings. The small outdoors store in Gorham only carried Merrels and none of them fit my swollen ogre feet. So, what do you do when the next nearest outdoors store (well, sort of) is 30 miles away and you have no way to drive there? You hitch hike.
I suppose I walked about 3 miles or so until I finally got my first ride. He was a 50-something year old well-traveled business man. His expensive car smelled of fancy cologne. Luckily, he was passing through the area on a business trip and had hiked part of the AT himself. He told me he was going about 15 miles in my direction and could take me as far as that cross roads before he would have to turn off. I happily accepted and jumped in. We talked about traveling, politics and finding a purpose in life. It was an interesting 15 miles! Unfortunately, I can’t remember his name, but I’ll never forget the hospitality.I attempted to thumb a ride at the cross roads for a bit before giving up and walking on. There wasn’t much traffic in this middle of nowhere location on a weekday. I started to wonder if I would walk all day and be forced to find a place to stay in town that night. After a few miles, I finally caught a break! A nice younger german couple pulled over and invited me to hop in. The man spoke no english, but the woman’s was fluent enough for us to communicate. She made it clear that if I had been a man they would’ve never tapped the brakes. They were heading to catch a flight to the next destination of their extended vacation and just happened to be passing through in a rental car. It’s all about timing, I suppose! The woman was horrified that I was hiking alone, and even more anxious about me hitch hiking solo. But, I assured her everyone had been kind so far. Luckily, they were turning off in Lancaster, which is exactly where I needed to go. Thrilled to finally arrive at the shoe store I thanked them, bid them farewell and ran inside. There was ONE pair of salomon shoes left in the store to fit me. One. I even received a thru-hiker discount!
I found Rebel Yell and mile or two before the state line. Daylight was running low so we picked up the pace, placing bets along the way as to which side of the trail the sign would be on. He guessed right, I said left. As we caught up on happenings from the day or two before, we finally saw it in the distance. On the left, I might add. We had finally reached MAINE!
I stood there staring at the sign, I thinking back to my first day on the trail. How unseasoned and nervous I was. I remember actually asking someone how to use my trekking poles properly. Now here I stood at the beginning of the end very confident in my ability to thrive on the trail. I was finally, really in Maine. If some horrible accident or injury was to occur, at least I had hiked from Georgia to Maine.
Well, I can’t wait to tell you all about the rest of my trip. After all there is almost another month and 300 miles of the hike to share!
But before I go, here are a few additional pictures from this stretch of trail: