AT 2017: Day 165, Safford Notch Campsite to West Carry Pond Lean-to

Ain't no luck, I learned to duck

A view of Flagstaff Lake

Starting out this morning, I had a little more than 200 miles to go to finish my hike. After a modest climb to the top of Little Bigelow Mountain, which is 3,025 feet in elevation, there will be only one more mountain above 3,000 feet to climb before I reach Mt. Katahdin.

Though I've walked through nearly all of the most challenging parts of Maine, I still know it's unwise to think a successful finish is assured.

Just the other day I learned that RedEye injured herself in Maine and had to get off the trail. Bluestem had to skip a large section of the trail after he hurt his knee.

These are just a couple of examples of people I thought for sure would complete their thru-hikes, yet couldn't. Overall, just 20 to 25 percent of thru-hikers finish each year.

DateFriday, September 22, 2017
WeatherMostly sunny, with a high temperature in the mid-70s
Trail ConditionsMany rocks and roots
Today's Miles12.6
Trip Miles2005.4

I don’t know why some people are able to finish when others aren’t.

All I know is I feel more confident than ever that I will finish. I’ve always had a lot of confidence, though. And I’ve also carried with that a small measure of practical insecurity.

Narrow gap in rocks on trail to Safford Notch Campsite

As I left Safford Notch Campsite, I passed through the same narrow opening between the giant boulders that I had difficulty finding last night. Because of the way the side trail to the campsie snaked around and through the boulders, I now saw more clearly why I had trouble in the dark.

Sign I missed seeing last night

After returning to the AT, I noticed a sign that pointed to the side trail for the campsite. I failed to see that last night.

Looking around, I was even more surprised that I correctly made that turn to the campsite in the dark.

Sunlight filtered through trees

Sunlight was shining through the trees this morning as I made the moderately easy climb up Little Bigelow Mountain.

Survey marker that says, “Drain this swamp.”

Along the way, I noticed some surveyor's tape left by a trail maintainer. A note was written on it about work that needed to be done to redirect water runoff. Whoever wrote it borrowed a phrase from the 2016 election campaign, and I laughed when I saw it.

“Drain this swamp,” it said.

View of Avery Peak from Little Bigelow Mountain

As I crossed the top of the mountain, there were several viewpoints. Most were only provided partial views because Little Bigelow didn’t rise above the treeline.

At one I could look back to Avery Peak, which is where I stood yesterday to enjoy wonderful views.

I also got a glimpse of Flagstaff Lake again. I knew the trail would soon lead me past its shore.

View from Little Bigelow Ledge

One of the best views from Little Bigelow was a little farther down the trail, where a rock ledge opened to a wide valley.

As I made my way down from the mountain, I saw Frodo and Gimli. Samwise passed me a short time later.

Nice trail heading toward Flagstaff Lake

After a pleasant lunch at a stream near Little Bigelow Lean-to, I continued on toward Flagstaff Lake. The trail was smooth and easy. I was walking by myself the whole time and enjoyed the solitude.

Flagstaff Lake

When I reached the lake, I stayed several minutes to enjoy the view. The water was a deep blue that nearly matched the color of the clear sky.

From Flagstaff Lake, six more miles remained to reach West Carry Pond Lean-to, the spot where Stick, Tengo, and I agreed to stop for the night.

If the trail had been as gentle as it had been on the way to the lake, I could have easily reached the shelter in under three hours. The trail, however, was more challenging than I expected, and I needed nearly four hours to get there.

The path included a deceivingly long climb up and over Roundtop Mountain. It was just under 2,000 feet in elevation, so I hadn’t paid any attention to it when I scanned my trail guide app.

The slope of the descent was covered in rocks and roots. I was worn out by the time I reached the shelter just before 6 p.m. Nevertheless, I was glad to get there before dark.

As of today, I have walked more than 2,000 miles. If I thought by now I should be able to predict what the trail will be like or how I will handle it, today was more proof that I can’t.

Is there such a thing as fate or destiny or luck? Is that why I made a turn to the campsite last night in the dark, without seeing the sign that pointed the way? Is that why I’m still hiking while many others have been forced to quit? Maybe you can answer yes, but I don’t think that way.

I don't believe life is controlled by fate, destiny, or luck. Random stuff happens. When it does, you can only respond the best way you know how.

Red and white, blue suede shoes
I'm Uncle Sam, how do you do
Gimme five, still alive
Ain't no luck, I learned to duck


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.