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Suagarloaf and Spaulding... Ledges and Missing Elevation?

                I woke up feeling heavy. The wind had whipped around at night and the rain thankfully had stopped by the time I woke up. Everything was quiet in terms of the search and rescue operation and the only problem with that is it makes you think that it’s over (for better or worse). I went about the morning and got my breakfast of eggs cooked and a nice cup of coffee. I sat on my sleeping bag and enjoyed it all. There was something about a cool morning and my hands around a warm mug of coffee that I loved. Today it was going to be Sugarloaf, Spaulding, and hopefully Abraham. It was going to be a long hot day as the sun would be out. I packed up most of my camp as I was planning on heading on the Saddleback and The Horn for tomorrow. I also didn’t need rescue looking in my tent anymore so; the less I left for them the better. Only the tent and my sleeping bag and pad remained. They could not call me bear bait now. I get my pack together at the car in terms of food and water. I had also decided that I would fill up at the water crossing so I would have water for tomorrow. I set out down the road again.

                This time, I would head left on the AT and it immediately dropped down to a small water source. A section hiker from Alabama was there filling up. We talked as I too filled up my bottles and I learned that he was on his way to Katahdin to finish. When asked what he would do next he was sure that he would not hike for a while. Or that he would eventually like to do the John Muir trail after a long rest. I wished him luck and without as much as mentioning what I was doing (it seemed small at this point), I was on my way.  The first thing I come to is a large water crossing. I instinctually grab for poles and thank goodness Scott let me borrow his spare pair. While it was totally rock hopable, I wanted them for reassurance. I got across the board someone had set across the difficult high water and felt accomplished. I packed the poles away and felt my boots pinch at my feet. New boots are not always good for first long hikes and today, the tops of my feet were in pain. I loosened them and that seemed to help.

                The trail wasted no time in starting up and then throwing the larger rocks at me to climb over. There were no rescue crews to be seen and I didn’t hear the helicopter or the plane. I saw one thru hiker off in the woods eating under a tarp and I just let them be. I was winded but having a great time. This trip had been one I only thought of doing until I finally took the jump to actually take off on my own for a few days. My confidence was high again and I also noticed that my thoughts were songs. Instead of negative thoughts or replaying negative interactions, I was singing in my head. My soundtrack has returned and I smiled. My thoughts then turned back to the trail as I looked up at a rock section that was straight up vertical. I was going to climb this with my pack and I was going to love it. Hand over hand I hoisted myself over the rocks and up the ledges. I stood there on a firm spot and imagined this as a combination of the Caps Ridge trail and the Wildcat Ridge trail, with just a little bit of Hi-Cannon tossed in. There were open flat dirt sections and I could look out and see the clouds retreating over the peaks. The sky was just a blue as can be and I continued up the mountain.

                A sharp left brought me back into the trees and a more gradual climb. I was happy for the cooler shade and I continued to go through water and opting for Gatorade when I stopped for breaks. Every now and then the trail would lead out to open spaces and it reminded me of going up the Presidentials in spots. Some were more open and at one point I was standing at the top of a slide. Everything about today was great. I was still feeling strong and confident in what I was doing. The trail was still rugged and my boots would pinch every once and a while but I kept picking them up and putting them down. One foot in front of the other. I came to the spur junction for the Sugarloaf summit and ran into the same guys from yesterday. They were still crabbing about aches and pains and I tried to be sympathetic. They were moving on the Spaulding and then to the Lean to. I began my half mile to the summit and soon ran into two other guys who were peak bagging like I was. As it turned out, they read a few of my trip reports too. These guys were more talkative than any of the section hikers I had run into all trip. We wished each other luck and they passed a few tips of Katahdin and I was on my way again. The spur was another straight up gain and I came out to a gravel road and was presented with towers and the hum of equipment. I was not impressed with what I saw. I found the tall summit cairn and got my summit picture. The clouds were surrounding me in the high winds and I felt uneasy for the first time. I wanted to move on.

                Back down the spur trail and I headed over the ridge. There was no chance of me making it to Abraham as it was another 5 miles away. I just didn’t have that in me if I was still going to make Saddleback and The Horn tomorrow. So, I settled for Spaulding and then I would head back to camp and pack up. The ridge trail to Spaulding was nice with some open spaces and some shade in the woods. I was moving at a good pace still and continued to feel great about today’s hike. The trail made a few gains in elevation and I seemed to tackle them well. I came across and older gentleman with a huge pack. He too was a section hiker from Alabama hoping to make it Harper’s Ferry VA by November. We talked for a while which gave me a good rest and he asked what my trail name was. I hesitated and explained my journey and that I wrote a blog under the name “Pint Size Hiker”. He acknowledged that I was not exactly Pint Size in stature however; he could see it by my weight (thin).  I wished him well and safe travels and was on my way again. I always liked to talk to the older hikers. They had such stories to tell.

                One final push and I was at the spur to Spaulding. My two original hiker friends were sitting there having a snack. They scoffed at the summit because it was actually 3988Ft. I was still going for it because on my list, it counted. I went up the 150 yards which was vertical gain and popped out to the summit. It was peaceful and I took in one of the view points on a short spur trail. I looked back at Sugarloaf and that peak still didn’t appeal to me. I came back to the summit marker and got my picture. I then sat and had my sandwich and for the first time, some ice cream. It seemed strange to have it without my usual group and at the same time, it tasted really good. I was proud of what I had done. Four total four thousand footers in two days were more than I had done in a long time. The familiar sounds of the rescue plane could be heard in the distance. I sat and contemplated what had been going on around me this whole trip and wished she would just appear for the rescuers.

                I began my journey back and ran back into my friend from Alabama. We didn’t this time and just wished each other well. I did run into one search party too who was doing an out and back on the trail. They now knew who I was and I of course new them. It nearly broke my heart to see the disappointment on their faces when I said I had not seen anyone matching Inchworms description all day. I told them that I would be leaving for Saddleback once I was down and back at camp. They wished me safe and well. I made it back to the water crossing with little issue or thought. It was hot and I was tired as I sat by the side of the river. I dunked my bandanna in the water and washed the mud off my legs as well as my arms and face. It felt nice and cool against my hot skin. I was almost home, I thought to myself.  Once I crossed, it would not be long until I was back at camp. Once there, I began packing up. I brought everything down to the car and loaded it. As I took down the tent, it occurred to me that I should go home. I had done enough and I should go home to my own bed and my puppy as well as to those that cared for me. I was done. It was time to head back to Southern New Hampshire. The count would rest at 58 and I would return another day. As I drove away, there was no doubt I had made the right choice… Motley Crue’s Home Sweet Home got me on the road to home and I smiled for all I had done and all that had returned to me. 

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