“Oh my god dude, this is rancid. What the hell am I even doing?”
“Keep adding those spuds. You add those spuds, and you like it!” Sage encouraged.
“So nasty. This is so nasty.” Then I took a bite.
“Dude! Wow. Wow. I love this.”
That my friends, was my first “Ramen Bomb.” This is the quintessential thru-hiker meal, and one I have avoided like the plague for years. It consists of ramen noodles, and enough instant mashed potatoes to soak up the remaining water. It sounds nasty, it looks nasty, but it’s the kind of meal you can truly appreciate after several hundreds of miles on trail. I loved it. I gobbled the entire monstrosity down in under two minutes.
The past few days on trail have been interesting. Southern Maine is every bit as difficult as the White Mountains, with climbs and ascents easily hitting three thousand feet at a time. Instead of smooth flat trail, or graded switchbacks, it consists instead of rocky and root bound steps. “Steps” would be a loose term. Quite often the rocks are sheer slabs some fifteen feet high, set at a seventy degree angle. When you loose traction the next part to gain traction is usually your knee, or the palm of a hand. Its like a slip and slide mated with a cheese grater. As a result, my Vibram sole hiking shoes have been worn bare. Going down one of these sections is even more perilous.
I wear Altra trail runners, which are revered among both long distance hikers and off-road ultra runners. I have a love hate relationship with these shoes. They have unmatched traction, breath-ability, and for me, perfect fit. What they lack is durability. I used to hike in their Superior line, which are the lightest shoe Altra makes. They’re minimal and inexpensive. After my injury, I went to the opposite end of the spectrum, and began to use the Altra Olympus. These shoes are $130-150 a pair, and I’ve completely destroyed two pairs in less than a thousand miles. The Superiors by contrast last 600-700 miles at a cost of $68.
My current pair of shoes began to fail about twenty seven miles from Rangeley. The only outfitter in town carries Oboz and Merrill, both of which are too narrow for my feet. Thankfully, I was able to get a call into Altra directly. For $180 they shipped me a pair of their newest generation Olympus next day air to Rangeley. Thanks to Anna and Sophia at Altra for making that happen. I’ll be sending them a post-hike postcard for sure!
On the southern leg of the trail I’ll be going back to my Superiors, of which I have three pairs in reserve back in Georgia. The trail on the Southern AT is softer (less rocky) and I feel as though my left leg has sufficiently healed enough to use more minimal shoes again.
Rangeley is pretty touristy, but there is a small hostel on the edge of town run by Steve Lynch. The Hiker Hut is very rustic, very remote, and pretty primitive. Steve spends half the year in India, and originally purchased the property as a place to meditate and get away from people.
“The gods had other ideas!” He told me with a smile. Hikers began to trickle in, and what was just an original 100sqft cabin multiplied into several small “huts” on the property. There’s no electricity, no running water, but it’s a very clean place. Steve has a porta-potty on site, and a homemade shower, which uses water from a nearby stream. You simply add three buckets of water to the system, and turn a knob. This activates a solenoid valve, which is run from a car battery. This turns on an on-demand propane heater, and within a few seconds you’ve got a hot water shower. So hot it scalded the shit out of my arm until I learned how much flow was needed to cool the system off. One must not be bashful about using up the full fifteen gallon tank!
I was initially sketched out by Steve and the place, as it gave me immediate flashbacks of Standing Bear, which is probably the worst hostel on the AT. Over time though, Steve and his property have grown on me. Truth be told, given a small parcel of land and a few thousand dollars, this is exactly the home I would create for myself.
It’s a peaceful place, and when you stop to look at the flowerbeds for a good length of time, you begin to realize just how much thought and biodiversity exists in them. There are at least fifty species of flowers, and as many edible plants on the tiny property. Steve tends them well. At $100 in taxes per year, he uses a large portion of his income from the site to feed and educate children in India. His second residence is near Dharamshala, where he has lived seasonally for over twenty-two years. After meditating in a cave for two months, explained to me that he just couldn’t go back to the nine to five life.
The photos in the previous post came from Human Nature Hostel. I’ll be writing about Yukon and his place soon. Human Nature is one of the few “Must Stay” places on the AT. More to come!
At this time I am 220 miles from Mount Katahdin. I hope to be there by the 29th of August. I have hiked 967 miles so far, averaging just over fourteen miles per day (including zero days).