Sunday, July 20, 2008
Baxter, this year
One of the best things about getting away is not knowing exactly what you will come away with in the end.
Early last week, Molly asked me if we could have one more person at our campsite in Baxter State Park as her friend, Rory, from New Jersey would like to come to Maine and join us. Well, that sounded super fun--with Archie just back from Pennsylvania and with Molly and Rory joining us, this was starting to sound like something that a mom would cherish.
We loaded up the car with climbing gear, sleeping bags and two tents. Charlie was going to drive up separately and join us the next day so the young folks and I headed north on Thursday morning under sunny clear skies. When we got to our campsite, we discovered that we were missing the poles to the bigger tent. The kids assured me that it was no big deal and that they would be fine. There were some leanto's in the campground and the first night, Archie and Rory put their sleeping bags in an empty one while Molly shared the tent with me.
The next morning, Charlie arrived about the time the kids were waking up and after breakfast, he and I drove to the trailhead for North Brother Mountain. The kids planned to head up the Abol slide from the campground and do some climbing on the boulders.
About a mile into our hike, we started getting wet and then wetter but we kept going. I decided to turn back just below the summit deciding that I wasn't really able to safely climb on the wet rocks (oops, left my hiking shoes at the campsite--wet sneakers just don't cut it). Charlie kept going and did make the summit of North Brother.
Back at the campsite, the kids had summited Katahdin in the rain and clouds and got back right about the time that we did--it didn't take long to have a roaring fire as the sky seemed to be finished with its precipitation. We all were starving and ate for about two solid hours--I think we started with bagels and worked our way through s'mores to Dinty Moore Beef Stew with maybe a few snickers bars at some point. After our feeding frenzy, Rory read a book to Molly and Archie by the fire and Charlie slipped into his car to listen to a baseball game on the radio. I floated between the two spots, enjoying the presence of so many people that I love.
This was Friday night and despite the bad weather, all of the campsites and leanto's in the campground were full--I asked the kids what they wanted to do about sleeping accommodations. Molly and Rory decided to put their sleeping bags by the fire and keep the fire going all night and Archie decided to make friends with 3 women in a leanto and stay with them.
I asked him the next day, "Archie, how exactly do you ask three perfect strangers if you can spend the night with them?" He shrugged his shoulders and said, "well, I said 'I know this sounds kind of creepy but we forgot our tent poles and it might rain tonight, can I stay with you?'" He said that the women had a group meeting and decided that he could stay if he would build them a fire. Seems simple enough.
So, Charlie and I went to sleep in the tent listening to the fire crackle and pop and the murmur of voices until finally all was quiet and then in the deep dark night, I awoke to hear Molly shout, "Rory, Rory, Rory" and then I heard the torrential rain start to fall--I listened helplessly in the tent as they scrambled into the car for shelter. The deluge seemed to last for hours. As the sky lightened with dawn, the rain was down to a drizzle and I got out of the tent to survey the damage. It wasn't too bad, all things considered. Charlie got up and made coffee and we walked with our coffee down to the ranger station to check the forecast.
The forecast predicted more of the same but in spite of that, hikers were coming in to sign up for hiking up Katahdin. We sat on the porch with the ranger and sipped our coffee and chatted with the hikers. One was an Irishman from Donegal and he and some friends were heading up the Abol Trail. He inquired about our coffee and we invited them back to our site for a cup.
We decided that he brought us Irish luck because soon after he departed our campsite with a cup of coffee, the sun began to shine. Charlie decided to head back home and the kids and I decided to have one more adventure before heading back ourselves.
We drove to the north side of Katahdin and hiked the three miles to Katahdin Lake. Along the way we saw a mother moose and her baby walking along. We saw millions of mushrooms and Common Wood Sorrel. We waded into the lake and sunned ourselves on the sand. Reluctantly, we left the lake and started hiking the three miles back to the car. Archie walked faster than the rest of us and as he waited, perched in a tree in a glade near the end of the trail, he saw a deer walk into the glade followed by a fawn and undetected, he watched the fawn nurse.
So, I planned this trip expecting to check two more 4000 footers off my list--that didn't happen, but what did happen was that I am full of happiness and contentment at some priceless days and nights and memories to hold me for a lifetime.