The truth is not about feelings
I finally ventured out on the trail with my dear hiking buddy, Stacey. I've hiked a ton, but mostly on the Appalachian Trail. Stacey has hiked all over Maine. She is usually taking me to new places, so, I was stoked to show her a place she had never been.
Stacey and I trekked together only once this year and it was a short jaunt with several other of her co-workers earlier in the summer. The planning began as usual, one of us reached out to the other for something, then the conversation turned to hiking, not surprising. By the time we "hung up", we had plans for a trip to the North Maine Woods.
We met at our pre-determined stop and Stacey climbed into my truck. With a few high pitched greetings from Ziggy - yes, that bark is still annoying - we were off to the North Maine Woods. The Jo-Mary Road off Route 11 would take us to our destination 25 miles from the pavement. Dirt roads, no power, and solitude were just what we were looking for.
All the back roads in Maine look the same. They are fine gravel, lined with young trees growing until the next harvest. Streams and brooks are abundant and pass under the road with old wooden bridges to carry vehicles safely to the other side. Some of these structures are pitted with crumbling lumber and I continue over them with the faith that if the previous logging truck made it across, then I can too. There are seldom views in the heart of the wilderness, but on occasion you may get a glimpse of a peak like the one of Turtle Ridge or of Katahdin. But lakes, ponds, and marshes are plentiful and the hope of seeing the infamous moose always has you on guard.
The road was quiet. We only encountered a few logging trucks who we yielded to as expected. After all, it's their road and they are generous enough to let guests use it to access the backcountry. Besides, they were much bigger. One passenger van from a college was parked at a trailhead where the AT crosses the road again. We continued to our parking area. Our plans would take us to a trail Bruce and I found earlier this summer. It is part of the Debsconeag Wilderness trail system.
I had warmed Stacey in our planning, the route would require a ford of Rainbow Stream a few yards from the trailhead. It was shallow when I was there the first time so we hoped we could cross without taking our shoes off. Nope, no such luck. The wet summer and fall had the stream deeper than we preferred. Normally a cross in the cool water was welcomed for tired feet, but not that day. We wimped out. Neither one of us wanted to get wet. Ziggy on the other hand had no problem testing the waters and gulping a drink or two. We scouted out the banks up and down the stream for several yards searching of an alternate route before resorted to plan b.
A red-marked trail was near by, so off we went in the other direction.
Wet feet was not on our agenda and neither was swimming, but the trail didn't just lead to a swimming hole, it also hooked up with the Appalachian Trail. I knew this from a previous adventure. Some how, my heart always finds its way back to the AT.
The three of us, Stacey, Ziggy, and I headed north on the AT. I had hiked that section two other times but did not remember it at all. I guess it's hard to recall every 2200 hundred miles of a hike. But WOW! This section was so stunning. It followed Rainbow stream that was flowing with a determination like no other. At times, the roar of her cascading over the drops and flumes was deafening. The swimming hole that was so calm and inviting on my last visit was churning and far from inviting.
We hiked along the edge of the stream, sometimes right next to it and at other times far up its bank as the stream carved it's way down the mini-gorge. What is it about water? We were captivated by its energy and power it displayed as it gushed over the rocky channel carved out by cycles of snow-melt and rain.
At one point the trail veered away from the stream across a dry rocky stream bed. We wondered if this spot was where the stream originally flowed and did Mother Nature redirect the water to its current location. Or, was this spot just for seasonal run-off from snow-melt? Either way, whatever force created it, is mind-numbing.
We proceeded as the trail led us away from the brook, passed a marsh (no moose siting), and into a grove with baby trees dwarfed by their towering pine-tree-parents whose dropped needles carpeted the forest floor, quieting our steps as we lingered on.
And just like always, that white blaze in the distance beckoned us forward.
We stopped at Rainbow Lean-to for a snack and break. This shelter looks like every other shelter from the outside, but the floor is made up of "baseball bats" - small trees placed side by side like corduroy. It is not the most comfortable base unless you have a nice pad to sleep on. But the builders used what was on hand, and when you are backcountry living, comfort is not high on one's priority list. The beauty and solitude is one's comfort. And with the brook a mere 20 feet or so from the shelter, the water is sure to lure any hiker swiftly off to sleep.
Before heading out, we had to capture our selfie, proof we were there. Ziggy was less than impressed with being picked up. It took several attempts to get the picture above. But the cutest was of him reaching over to grab some sugar from Stacey. That takes talent, getting doggie kisses and taking a selfie. There are no limits to Stacey's abilities.
My fav picture though, was the one she took of my pup and myself. Several days ago I was complaining that I didn't think Ziggy was bonding with me. I wasn't really complaining, just sad. But I think this photo of us tells the truth. He climbed up to me on his own.
Our day together was just what the doctor ordered. Stacey was in much need of some R&R and I had been overwhelmed again with my precious Ziggy and even had wondered if I had made a mistake getting him. But I learned something today, as I often do when hiking. Our truth isn't about what or how we feel. It is about, well, the truth. And truth comes from knowledge, feelings have nothing to do with truth.
Emily and Ziggy
PS - A huge shout out to Stacey who took all the pictures so I could focus on training Ziggy.