Thoreau is Full of Shit
By: DS Klausler
Nah, he’s cool, mostly, I just liked that title. We’ll get to him later.
“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”
Only relatively recently have I used this e-mail account for my private communication. Historically, I used the corporate account that I was linked with via employment. Because of that and being reduced-in-staff [because of my age] (I had no means to sue a billion-dollar company), I cannot locate my trip report from a family vacation over a dozen years ago. Strange, but I also cannot locate either my complete digital electronic images or photographs from the same trip. By memory alone, I think that the trip included Niagara Falls, Mount Marcy (NY highpoint), Mount Mansfield (VT) and Jerimoth Hill (RI) – which was a boulder on a trail (really). Missing is the highpoint of Maine – Mount Katahdin (5,269’).
My memory also says that #1 Son and I turned back high on Katahdin due to high winds and near zero visibility in the fog and rain. I recall being very concerned that he would have dangerous difficulty on the even more slippery exposed rock and sparse re-bar hand holds. I thought, back then, that he was a little kid. It was only after we had returned home that I dug a little deeper into maps, trails, images and trip reports that we had halted just a quarter-mile mile from the summit. In good visibility, we would have been able to see the summit. More on this later.
Wifey and I reviewed, and I found just seventeen images – NONE of the hike up. It turns out that #1 Son was almost FIFTEEN – but he was a very slight kid – very much like his father in his youth. Photos show his height just to my shoulder; so maybe five-one. Anyway, my thoughts remain clear about one thing: it would have been too dangerous for him on the worsening wet and very steep descent.
Given that recall, the year would make Swiss Miss a just-turned twelve. I guess that I had reasoned that the ending four miles of the Appalachian Trail (and re-bar pegs) too cumulatively difficult for her at that time, so she had not joined us on the hike (or she’d rather sleep in). However, she had summited VT earlier in the trip (not the sissy drive-up). The NY trail was twelve miles round trip and it had been raining at launch time – that may be why she declined that miserable no-visibility hike. Some dipshit hiker within earshot declined a free rain poncho from the ranger; “I’ve got fleece”, as if that would do anything against the deluge cranking up. We were well-soaked even with good rain gear.
Believe it or not, that missing highpoint, the incompleteness and the lack of a successful venture bugged me. Twice before I had intentions of driving there myself just to check that box. Last year I had reservations at Baxter State Park to camp and hike it, but my crystals let loose big-time and I cancelled. [Labyrinthitis.] The year before that the park had closed down entirely because of the scamdemic shenanigans. This year, now, I am in the car writing this as Wifey and I drive there. Usually, all campsites are reserved by January One… I just happened to have gotten lucky when I sporadically checked availability at Abol – the trailhead campground for the [shortest] trail to the top bearing the same name. It’s a crappy long drive; as to gain accompaniment, I had agreed to hotel it going there and TWICE on the return – rather than drive through the night. I will report back later. Oh yeah, this will be the first time that Wifey will be sleeping in a tent since the dreaded mothers-allowed “Dads & Kids” Stasvred Rcko weekend camping debacle. [They were never invited back].
Some odds and ends:
- We dined at a BYOB un-airconditioned pizza joint – good crust, shite otherwise. [Bring Your Own Booze]
- We witnessed not one, but two rollover semis; first cost us an hour delay; second was in oncoming lanes with shit all over the median. Rubber-neckers as bad as in Shitcago.
- I was “carded”; I laughed in his face, but provided the DL as I casually mentioned my WHITE hair and wrinkles. As he was having trouble reading my ID (probably due to his demonstrated high intelligence), I hit him with this: “If you need help, that’s SIXTY-ONE Skippy.” Idiotic card-all policy.
- We passed a helicopter… on a flatbed.
- We stopped at the NJ highpoint (“Highpoint”; yes, that’s its real name). Camp Entertainment and I had hiked four miles in the dark a few years back. Because of our itinerary (having already hit the Delaware highpoint – a city street; really), we had arrived to a closed gate at 4:00am or so. The NJ obelisk up-top is massive – old world Masons going to town with two-hundred twenty feet of New Hampshire granite and quartz. I pointed out to Wifey where I had dropped a deuce in the parkway as payment for the locked gate.
- Finally, pulling in to Millinocket, ME… all-in-all, traffic as bad as I have EVER been in. From my view, drivers from Connecticut and New York [state] are by far the worst – they absolutely refuse to move to the right lane and can’t merge to save their lives (or won’t). As I write this, Wifey is going 85mph with twenty-four miles to Milli. Hartford was similar, but worse than Milwaukee.
At the park gate well before closing at 8:30pm – still light outside. Printed camp reservations have a QR-code so check-in was seamless. No reports of bears, or trail issues. We drove in on six miles of slow washboard gravel to Abol site #20. The sites were decently spaced and immaculately maintained. We set up the non-backpacking tent and started a fire… surrounded by a beautiful deciduous forest. Wifey cracked a Golden Shower no-taste diet brew. I had had enough from the 25oz Bud acquired from card-master gas station and a 12oz bottle with my passable burger for dinner in a piss-poor Millinocket bar and grill. [Yep, fine pre-hike food.] I scout the trailhead. Retiring just after dark, we chatted for a few minutes in the tent. Wifey stirs me in only ten minutes to talk about wind-bag Tucker across the roadway speaking loudly and spewing metro-sexual horseshit about funding his next “business” venture… probably another ridiculously porous cloud-based spam spewer. Truly, the dude never shut up – can’t imagine what his friends were like – as they were silent.
It’s warm enough to sleep outside the bags. I manage to doze for an hour. Later, I get three straight dream-filled hours [That’s very long for me.] I am awoken by the dream of late-departure (for the hike) and having both incomplete and incorrect gear. Strange, an additional element: Wifey had somehow burned a corner of the tent and poles. 3:15am I get out to pee, come back and can’t even fake sleep. I start to prep at 3:30am. I try my best for silence, without light, but Wifey stirs and snorts some unknown sleep-language. Her mattress is bright yellow and is clearly perpendicular to her bag and body.
I strip and re-dress into my trail outfit, boots too. A fine greenish ensemble – including the trim on my boots and belt. I pack my bag and the air mattress – which crinkles loud enough to wake up that fucker Tucker. I pull it all out to the car. Breakfast: green drink, then energy bar with scalding sweet tea with water boiled on the stove (headlamp on). Others in the campground are already waking, making more noise than Mr. Magoo’s Model T. Toilette. Re-check day-pack and gear within. I register at the Ranger Station listing start-time as 4:44am (when I die up on the hill, people would read that and go: “Ooooo, he should have waited a minute more”). I notice that some hikers have logged in at 12:40am – the only others for the day (so far).
Back to the tent; goodbyes to now sideways Wifey. 11:00am estimated return time; Wifey will be required to clear the site by then – the Official Checkout (and Ranger Rick mentioned it sternly). Very slight pre-dawn light at the trailhead. I ditch my light and head out and up at 4:30am in clear calm low 60s. As I hike, I realize that even though it should be, this is clearly not the same trail that #1 Son and I hiked upon. Online blabber reports suggested that the trail was re-worked after a significant rockslide five years ago or so. I move with purpose.
I had to ditch the Monkey Fur after thirty minutes (this is Mountain Hardwear’s trademarked name for their very porous but pluffy fleece). My ever-stinky micro-fiber T-shirt is nearly soaked with sweat. At 6:00am (and every hour, on the hour forward) I check in with Wifey on the decent Walkie-Talkies (no cell service). The trail is easy with hardened dirt and duff under the summer canopy of trees with occasional rocks for about a mile, then it steepens with mixed round rocks winding through conifers where foot placement and leg action requires constant attention. My pace dropped off markedly. At one stop I chewed up some of those rubber electrolyte cubes. I checked the label before packing them “includes toenails” or some such putrescence (just finish ‘em up). Shortly thereafter I hit the scramble zone, which is very steep. At next break time I put on unlined leather gloves. It turns breezy.
So, both hands with my single hiking stick (the other is strapped on my pack) dangling from the wrist strap as I climb up at maybe 75°. The section was a LOT of work. At break time, Monkey Fur back on as the terrain is now above tree-line and the wind from the north is brisk on my wet skin. I finally crested the rock and boulder wall to arrive upon an almost flat area. It’s HUGE; the summit is visible up and away. After crawling up the boulders I now thought it unlikely to be back down by the planned 11:00am; next comm to Wifey I adjust it to “possibly 1:00pm.” I finished the sleeve of purple chews. No sooner is that said then I start hauling ass across the practically level section trying reel back in the finish time. The all-rock trail became a little steeper up the summit hump.
Throughout this last section, I was recalculating that aborted trip back in 2009. NO WAY did we only have a quarter-mile left – probably more like a mile – but really easy. BUT, that still doesn’t diminish or remove altogether the dangerous conditions present back then. [I eventually spoke to the ranger about the best available GPS data indicating maybe 3.1 miles – no way the 4.4 on their brand-new signage. He concurred and stated that their chief geographer (huh?) was reworking all park trail numbers.]
I summited at 7:33am. I subtracted three minutes mentally for my brief conversation with the “midnight hikers.” [They are from Maine, familiar with the trail, and had done it early to witness the sunrise from the summit. Accented-English Dad + 15yo courteous braces-wearing daughter.] That allowance gave me an even three hours up. I turned on my phone to snap a few images; as soon as it goes live, I get a text message from Eric (my DDS Hapkido buddy): “Fat ass” that’s all.
I choked down a heavy energy bar while still working on my first of two liters of water. Pictures, then a useless shitty video (viewed later). I packed up and headed down… as fast as I had run up that last furlong.
I chatted with a dozen or so hikers coming up along my route down. The scrambling in reverse turns out to be not as bad as I expected – but still very slow and demanding careful moves. One group is a dad with two sons, another is a mom and dad with two teenage daughters – ALL healthy… in the scrambling zone. I spoke to both about memories of hiking similarly with my own kids. Seriously, I almost cried.
I saw some guy really reaching up to the grab just below my stance. “Dude! You’ve got the same piece-of-shit watch that I do.” Without even pausing: “You know it; eleven bucks.” [Beats my $13.99 at Walmarty.] I offer up “Indestructible bitch!” [This is the infamous Casio F91-W.] He agrees, and I move down to his partner – his wife. I tell her that we were not yelling about the hike (in the steep scramble zone), but that we have wonderfully similar classic taste in watches. She rolls her eyes and says that she will never hear the end of his blabbing about it now. [Some history there.] My speed improved and I adjusted my ETA with Wifey at every check-in.
“Badger here; over.”
“What?” [Complete lack of comm protocol.]
“This is the Badger; over.”
“Chhhh… clk clak. What time will you be down?” [Like goddamned C.W. McCall.]
Ultimately, after a few changes, the corrected time came down to: “Maybe 11:00am; over.”
“OK… chhh ck ck.”
I hauled ass every chance that I was given – not many, in the rocks. I set into the usual “I’m done, get me outta here” mode. The last two hikers encountered I had spotted from fifty yards away or so – it was already 10:00am and they were only a little more than a mile in. He had earbuds plugged – in this beautiful wilderness, and she’s wearing open-toed Teva’s and fashionably sheer mosquito mesh sleeves over her cottage cheese arms (no bugs are present). [I had kicked, straight-on, two unmoving rocks and had scraped three sawcut roots at ankle height and was pinched or scraped ankle-high on the sharp rocks a half-dozen times.] Unless it’s truly a casual trail, I wear boots.
“Yo… how’s it going? You heading all the way up?”
“Alrighty then, have a good hike.”
They would be turning back as soon as they hit the rocks. Not worth warning them, or chatting beyond niceties. More clueless doophi. I hit the bottom marquee at 10:29am. Check that one off the list… I now have forty-three highpoints.
Wifey had packed up her sleep gear and tent nicely. I peeled off my sweat-soaked pack, emptied out the essentials, grabbed an ice-cold big Bud from the cooler and we hit the road homeward. We spotted a beautiful red fox on the gravel while rumbling out of the remote park. I insisted on avoiding the coast, so we toured US2. Nothing great to report on the too-long drive home.
The image below shows a sign that was posted about a quarter-mile onto the plateau area.
Key word there is “climbed”, note that that is NOT summited. Sure, the guy can spin a few words (that weren’t plagiarized) and take a shit in the woods, but no way could that 347 pound rum pot have made it up that far had it not been for one of his many native American concubines pulling him along on a sledge converted from a birch-bark canoe. Rumor has it that he actually pissed in that spring. “I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible.” Uh huh, so long as they have booze aplenty and are easy [slave] women. You never hear mention of his very profitable liquor trade. Why would I bash this guy? Who knows… the mind is a crazy thing.