Giving back leads to happy hiking

Good Time Gramps, Starfish, and River
     Last week I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get my weekly hike in, making my last post more about reflection and less about a hike. With the weekend closing in and my work schedule I was giving up hopes of hitting a trail. Thanks to my awesome coworker Denver for taking my shift and my incredible husband I not only was able to hike but had the opportunity to help my friend Andrew (Good Times Gramp) who is finishing up his Appalachian Trail thru hike.

     Sunday we met up with Andrew and his two hiking buddies, Starfish and River in Orono where they just finished a day of rest at his home. Days off are called zero days. And they are much needed by thru hikers. Bruce and I offered to drive them back to the trailhead so his wife Dana wouldn’t have to.
     It was a relaxing morning. We picked them up at 10:00am and drove straight out route 15 to Monson and stopped at the ATC visitor center to register their anticipated summit date and arrived at the trailhead about noon.
     They were entering the 100 mile wilderness. That was my favorite section of the whole trail last year. Bruce and I hiked in a short distance with them before we said see you later. We would reunit with Andrew and our new friends 15 A.T. miles up the trail. Before departing Andrew trusted us with his wallet so we could deliver pizza to him. The 100 mile wilderness isn’t so wild if you know where to go.

     Bruce and I drove around to the rally point and parked. We decide to hike south to meet up with the hikers. We hiked over an hour, about 2 miles according to my GPS, but we were not successful in running into our friends. We did not want to continue south too long in fear we wouldn’t be able to keep up with them on the return. After all, two of them had done over 2000 miles and Starfish logged over 500. So we retreated back to the designated camping area then back through the side trail to the truck. We gathered our dinner and gear and back to the campsite we went. I think we did that at least 4 times. It was an easy 7 minute walk from the parking lot to the A.T.

     This spot is where Bruce met me last year. He was waiting on the north side with two large pepperoni pizzas. The stream was raging. A blue rope to aid hikers fording this spot was strung across the water anchored on each bank by large trees. I would have been swept down stream if I had lost my grip. 

This year hikers could walk across the mostly dry river bed without even removing their shoes.      As Bruce and I waiting for our friends I cooked dinner. It was hiker gourmet! I boiled fresh string beans from our neighbor Mrs. McPhail, jasmine rice and fried hot dogs. I mixed it all together with Veleveta cheese sauce. High tech stoves and gear have made roughing it almost obsolete.

     It was getting late. Finally a little past 8:00pm we saw Andrew crossing the brook. We were sitting up top with a bird’s eye view. We were relieved he finally made it. We had all his sleeping and tenting gear. We were getting worried for his safety as the sun was going down. Soon after his two hiking buddies arrived guided by their headlamps. We left them alone to enjoy their pizza and rest. Before departing by our own headlamps we made arrangements to meet them the next day at Gulf Hagas.

     We made it home by midnight making it a short sleep for us. Bruce had to work early so he could get out early and I had mom duties to attend to. By 2pm were were headed back to the trail arriving at the Gulf Hagas gate to sign in by 3:00ish. The lady taking our road use fee reminded us the gate closes at 9pm. That didn’t give us much time if our hikers were running late like the day before.

     The parking area was filled to capacity but we were able to snag a spot as another party was leaving shortly after our arrival. At Gulf Hagas the A.T. Crosses the Pleasant River. There are several beautiful primitive campsites on the south side. It was another 5-7minute walk from the parking area to the rendezvous spot. This time the trail was well maintained not like the night before. Last night’s side trail is a little on the secretive side. We made several back and forth trips hauling our things. We had camp chairs, a Portsble Coleman stove, cooler and a few other miscellaneous items.
     By 5:30pm we decided to cook our dinner. We had an encore of the previous night’s meal. After we ate there was still no sign of the hikers. With the 9pm gate closure time looming over us we decided to cook the hamburgers we brought in for our friends. We needed to leave the campsite by 8pm to allow time to get out. It’s only 6.3 miles back to the gate but the road is dirt and rough on the car if we drive to fast. Also, we didn’t want to cut it too close.
     Starfish was the first to arrive. With only about 15 minutes to spare Andrew and River made it. We served them their burgers wrapped in tinfoil, cold lemonade, and watermelon. Collected items they decided they didn’t need, packed up and made tentative plans to meet up with them on their exit of the 100 mile wilderness. Good-byes were guick. We had 25 minutes to spare by the time we turned in our day use pass. Better to be early than locked in.

     It was a fabulous 2 days of providing trailmagic to our friends. As a long distance hiker I know the value of unsolicited generosity. I loved my thru hike and if you could see all my pictures you would see how happy I was. But I think providing services to others who are running after their dreams and goals is even more rewarding then actually doing the hike. Giving back leads to happy hiking. 

Happy Hiking   

Emily M. Leonard

About Emily M. Leonard

I am a 50 year old Maine native and lover of the outdoors. Former Physical Education teacher and soccer coach. I am Married to the best husband ever and gave up teaching and coaching to raise our two wonderful sons. I have always enjoyed being outside and on the go.