After completing the 100 Mile Wilderness hike, we needed some rest and to resupply. The nearest grocery store was an IGA a couple towns over. On the way we first stopped by the Abbot Village Bakery to pick up some bread. If you are around the area, go to this bakery. But not if you are on a diet, because the pastries and donuts are as amazing as they are tempting, delicious without being overly sweet. Next, as per usual, we swung by a farm stand. Unfortunately the pickings were slim, just pumpkins and some root vegetables, so I had to pick up more produce at the IGA. While in the produce aisle, a man came up to me and said, “I saw your bumper sticker ‘We brake for fresh produce’. That is not this!” meaning that the produce I was shopping for did not qualify. Agreed! If only the farm stand had more to offer. I was speechless at being called out for buying produce at a chain supermarket. The same man later complimented the van and asked how I liked it. I said it was great, because it’s small and we can pull into places bigger RVs can’t. He responded that it is not small. Again, I was speechless. Whenever someone compliments the van (which is often), I wish John was with me. He loves to talk about and show off the van.
The next stop after stocking up on groceries was barbecue. Even though I don’t eat meat, I agreed to go with John. He had been excited about eating barbecue since one of the thru-hikers we talked to recommended eating at Spring Creek Bar-B-Q in Monson. This is another eatery I highly recommend if you are nearby. I ordered coleslaw and had to wait while they made it, it was so fresh. The cook stuck her head around the corner and asked if I wanted apple in it! John says the pulled pork is pretty great, too; I wouldn’t know about that. I would go back just for the coleslaw! This is honestly the best possible complement I could give a restaurant. I love coleslaw done well, but I am often afraid to order it because it is frequently old and limp. Good coleslaw is an indicator that the restaurant uses fresh, quality ingredients.
Once we were stocked up on groceries, and bellies stuffed with delicious food, we returned to Balsam Woods Camground, home the Haunted Trail. We spent the weekend at the campground, doing laundry and catching up on the happenings in the world. For instance, that the national government had shutdown.
Next we decided to return to Nahmakanta Lake, to stay at the state campsite we had walked through on the third day of the 100 Mile Wilderness hike. Camping on the state land is free, but the access is via privately owned logging roads. We knew there was a fee for using the logging roads, but were surprised at the magnitude of the fees – $12 per day per person. We planned to stay two nights, so they were going to charge us $72 ($12 * 2 people * 3 days)! The gatekeeper realized at the last minute that since that bulk of our visit was on state-owned land, not the logging company land, we only needed to pay to drive in and to drive out, $48. So much for cheap camping on free public lands – this cost as much as most of the campgrounds we’d been to! We ended up staying three nights, so the per night cost wasn’t too bad.
We had a wonderful time back in this remote land. We saw only a couple other vehicles the whole time. One was a truck with a camper top we had seen several times in Monson – I spoke to the owners and learned that they were supporting their daughter, who was thru-hiking the AT – and the others belonged to photographers at a retreat on the other end of Nahmakanta Lake.
Having this beautiful, remote lake to ourselves, we lamented our lack of a boat. We have discussed getting an inflatable kayak, but storing it and the paddles would be difficult, since we already have every available space crammed full.
On both full days we were there, I went for short hikes and left John to work on his own projects in the van. This was much-needed alone time for both of us. I wanted to go on these short hikes to practice tree and plant identification. Over the last seven years, I have collected several books on trees and plants in the places I hike, with the intention of learning about the ecosystems, but I have not had the time to delve into them. I have a terrible memory for the names of things, so I do not expect to actually learn the species of each plant in my surroundings; practicing identification is really more an exercise in mindfulness for me. Going through the process of identifying a tree, learning what characteristics differentiate one species from the next, teaches me to notice my surroundings when I am hiking. Without this knowledge, it is easy to hike a trail, seeing one tree after another without distinguishing them, and therefore without really noticing them. I then have a tendency to let my mind wander and to not be present in the moment. But when I learn to really see the plants around me, to notice the shape of a leaf, the texture of bark or the distribution of needles around a twig, I am acutely aware of my environment and my attention is on the present.
That evening, John and I finally had a movie night that we had been talking about for some time. John set up our “theatre” by hanging our portable speaker with a gear tie above his laptop, which he set on our kitchen counter at the foot of our bed. I made popcorn and we watched “Into the Wild”, a film about a man who abandons his possessions and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. I am now inspired to read the book, mostly to know which parts of the film were based on real events and which parts were invented.
The second day I rode my bike on the dirt road to the other side of the lake in order to reach a different set of trails, in the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area. There I encountered the troop of photographers.
I returned to the van early in the afternoon from my Debsconeag hike, because the trip back to the van was quicker than I thought. With a few hours of daylight left, I suggested that we set up the slack line near the lake. We have been carrying the slack line for the whole trip, but hadn’t used it yet.