July 25, 2019
I had a somewhat short, but fine night of sleep once someone stopped puking in the bathroom adjacent to our heads. I don’t remember what time it happened, but the walls were so thin that I could hear distinct retching and sloshing noises for a few minutes. Oakland and I both agreed that it was worth the feeling of being “those people” to request a new room as soon as we could.
We joined the rest of the hostel goers in the sunny dining area for an outstanding breakfast of 2 eggs made to order, 3 pieces of bacon (that I gave away), fried potatoes, and a constantly refilled supply of blueberry pancakes for each table. Obviously, I ate too many pancakes. After breakfast, we pulled one of the owners aside and asked about switching rooms. She was super understanding and switched us to a corner room on the opposite side of the building. We were instructed to tidy our gear and move it after the cleaning crew had made it through our new room. Then came loaner clothes selection, laundry, and figuring out our resupply options for the middle of the hundred mile wilderness. We walked over to the gear store to pick up our boxes from HQ and gather a a few luxury items from the grocery items available upstairs. I stopped to ogle the 4-legged residents:
The building felt like an old barn with exposed woodwork and a rickety stairwell to a lofted space with the usual hiker staples. We got distracted by the giant shelf of t-shirts and decided to mail 2 shirts to ourselves in CA. Shaw’s resupply system has a few different drop options. We chose the Jo Mary Rd drop point because it seemed like the best balance of mileage and food weight. We took our packages back to our new room to separate our food into two halves. I always get overwhelmed at this point in the process, but we plugged along and made educated guesses as best we could. (Oakland’s food is pictured – I don’t really eat the tuna packets)
For lunch, we walked to the general store down the street and braved the crowded deli counter for sandwiches. I picked up pop tarts for a couple of lunches and we bought chips and soda to round out our lunch feast, which we ate on the lawn at Shaw’s while the dogs chased each other like lunatics.
The father/daughter-with-the-bum-knees duo happened to be sitting next to us, so we talked to them while we made our way through the tasty sandwiches. We found out that the daughter is in the sciences, and she’s considering teaching, so she and Oakland nerded out for a bit. I also found a point of connection with her because she mentioned her general disinterest in whether the elevation profile was flat because the more important factor for her was footing and whether there would be a plague of roots. Finally! shared perspective. I’ll take it, even in the fleeting form of a SOBO.
After lunch, we took our resupply food back to the gear store and packed our respective buckets to be delivered at the logging road. We asked questions about how to navigate camping options and Katahdin delays. There’s no way to really guarantee your overnight options because Baxter state park is a ridiculously popular place to be in August which makes reservations at Katahdin Springs Campground a joke. Guthook users mentioned wandering around asking people to share their sizable campsites, which isn’t really my style and directly conflicts with my need for a modicum of certainty. The Birches is the campground that is designated for long distance hikers (anyone who has hiked the previous 100+ miles), but it’s limited to 12 hikers per night and requires signing up on a piece of paper the same day you intend to stay there. Not exactly a sure fire option given the fact that we had no way of knowing how many hikers would line up with our timing. My head spun with the logistical nightmare and the shame of knowing that these kinds of things don’t bother a lot of other hikers. For better or worse, Oakland shares my general outlook on resource scarcity, so she also struggled with the black box of Katahdin planning.
We left the gear store with overwhelmed brains and an established food drop. The hostel was a hive of activity nearly everywhere we went (even though the pictures don’t show it). I felt relieved that we hadn’t hit the place at high season because the overall vibe was already a lot for me to handle. We went back to our room and wrote postcards.
Then we took a walk through town to deliver our them to the post office and ship our newly purchased t-shirts. The post office door had a very specific closing time that made us both laugh. We also saw a flyer for string band music, which gave us another chuckle and a pang of regret that we missed our annual music camp this year.
I asked the clerk about the front door as she went through our transaction. Apparently the sign was a misprint, but it would have been expensive to fix, so they didn’t bother changing it.
We spent the middle of the afternoon in our room, refining our daily mileage and camping options to hit the highlights and spinning out about Katahdin. I had my customary late afternoon planning meltdown (it’s like clockwork, no matter how many snacks or breaks I give myself). I took a field trip back to the gear store because I wanted to thank Poet for returning a letter that Oakland mailed to me back in 2017. I can’t remember if I’ve told this story on the blog yet, but I’ll re-tell it because why not. In 2017, Oakland and I parted ways from our music camp in NC, and she mailed me letters at my intended stops for the next couple of weeks. I never actually made it to Shaw’s because I broke my elbow several days shy of that destination. Fast forward to sometime in the first half of 2018, and I had moved in with Oakland in CA. I checked our mail one day and found an envelope with my name on it and Shaw’s address underneath my name. I was so confused until I realized that there was a return to sender stamp on the envelope. Shaw’s had returned Oakland’s letter, which had the unintended effect of mailing it to me. It’s a circuitous story, but the overall outcome is that I got my letter after all, and I wanted to thank Poet for it. Unfortunately, someone was in the middle of shoe selection when I got to the store, but I managed to find a moment in her tedious process where I could borrow Poet’s attention. He was amused and touched by the story and thanked me for sharing it.
After my somewhat sheepish errand, we asked around about pizza options and walked about 10 minutes back through town to a gas station that supposedly had decent pizza. We put in our order and sat on a squared off piece of wood at the edge of a parking spot to watch the locals while we waited. Thankfully, we didn’t get much in the way of stares because this town is used to hikers. We did however, get a lot of stares from the dogs when we returned to the Shaw’s dining room with our box of pizza.
We barely made it through half of the mediocre pie before giving up and putting it in the fridge with “eat me” written on the box in sharpie. Then we retired to our room and reveled in the lack of bathroom sounds as we made our way through our evening routine. Tomorrow, the Hundred Mile Wilderness!
Mile 2077.5 to mile 2077.5 (0) – Shaw’s night 2
Checklist total miles (946.1)
Oakland total miles (468.7)
Creature feature: dogs! and a handful of birds