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

Ain't no luck, I learned to duck

View of Flagstaff Lake from Little Bigelow Mountain

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 until I reach Mt. Katahdin.

Nearly all of the most challenging parts of Maine are completed, but I still know it's unwise of me 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 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 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 saw more clearly why I had trouble.

Sign I missed seeing last night

Later, when I made my way back to the AT, I saw a sign that pointed to the side trail for the campsite. I failed to see that last night.

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

Sunny trail

The sun was shining again 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 tape left by a trail maintainer. A note was written on it about work that needed to be done to redirect water runoff. 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

Across the top of the mountain there were several viewpoints, but most only provided partial views because Little Bigelow didn’t rise above the treeline.

At one viewpoint I was able to look back to Avery Peak, where I stood yesterday to enjoy wonderful views.

I also got a glimpse again of Flagstaff Lake. 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 later on.

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.

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 here, I had just six miles to go 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 nice 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.

It included a deceivingly long climb up and over Roundtop Mountain. It was just under 2,000 feet in elevation, so I didn’t pay much attention to it when I had scanned my trail guide app.

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

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

Is there is such a thing as fate or destiny or luck? I don’t know. 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 had to quit?

I’m not inclined to believe life is controlled by fate or destiny or luck. All I know for sure is the trail is unpredictable and it can’t be taken for granted.

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.