Day 19: Wednesday, September 3

Tenting at the Nahmakanta Stream Campsite (AT mi 2137.2), walked 24.0 miles today

Slept rather miserably in the shelter last night due to rain, snoring from a mystery person to my left, general stress and a restless brain. I've become such an old man now and can't sleep in the shelters with the kids, even when it's not packed in like sardines (last night there were only five on an eight-man platform); the PCT gave me too much time with solitary tenting or cowboying on soft ground, and now that's the only thing that works for me. Woke up for good at 6:20 and decided the hell with it, got hiking by seven. Literally the only climb of the day happened in the first three miles, a tame 500-footer up Little Boardman Mountain, and afterwards the trail was the smoothest of sailing. With the exception of a few muddy rocky sections at various points, I essentially strolled the whole day and walked the 24 miles with a minimum of fuss--a very rare luxury on the AT. 

My main goal, my only goal for the day, the only thing I cared about in the world, was to get cleaned up, and more specifically get my clothes washed in some body of water and set out to dry in the sun. If I had walked only two miles today but accomplished that, I would've been happy, because putting on my soaking wet sweat-saturated and chafe-inducing clothes this morning for the third morning in a row was one of the worst feelings I've ever had while hiking, a perfect example of the mental game being tougher than the physical game. Ended up getting the chance to clean everything out twice, first in the morning at the Cooper Brook shelter, which had a fine but slightly river-funky-smelling swimming hole directly in front of it, the second at Jo-Mary Lake, where I found a paradisical beach in the afternoon sun. Both times I went in for a swim that felt utterly orgasmic, and was able to get enough sun on the clothes that they got _kind of_ dry after 45 minutes lying out; had to settle for that upon realizing that in Maine I'll never really get the cardboard, tortilla-chip kind of dryness that you get if you try to dry your gear out out West.

Walked alone the whole day while constantly leapfrogging the Swiss couple and Siesta; they ended up camping with me here along with Dortmund Joe, who lit out early and whom we never saw until the end of the day. They may end up as my Katahdin summit-mates, although the foreigners aren't sure if they want to summit Saturday or Sunday, while I'll almost certainly go up Saturday regardless. Today the trail was so benign and sun-dappled and cool and breezy that it was hard to see it as anything other than nature rolling out the red carpet as we move toward Katahdin. In the evening we got our first view of it, from across a minor lake, and it's quite an impressive massif. It didn't seem very far away. If I ever do the CDT and do it northbound, I'll be able to comment on Katahdin's merit as a trail terminus vis-a-vis Waterton Lake--those two seem to be in the running for the title of Most Awesome Way to End a Long-Distance Hike--but I have a suspicion that Katahdin wins. Something about ending on top of a mountain, one with such a good history--Thoreau losing his composure and all but yelling "What is this Titan that has possession of me? Who are we? WHAT are we?"--upon climbing it. I probably won't be doing the same on this blog, but who knows ... It could knock me for a loop just like it did for him. We'll see on Saturday.

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