I walk, or rather swim, through a soupy mist, unable to see more than ten feet in front of me. And it is quiet. A carpet of needles lines the trail, muffling my footsteps. If someone were to approach me, from either direction, I probably won't see or hear them until they're nearly on top of me.
All of which is just an ale borate way of saying, the summit of Spaulding Mountain was an extraordinarily poor place to have to dig a cathode.
If you're from New England, and you thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, there's a fairly good chance your trail name will be Boston. If you're remotely from the Boston area, even more so. If you happen to speak with a Boston accent, your trail name will definitely be Boston. If you wear, or even just carry, any piece of Red Sox paraphernalia, your trail name invariably will be Boston. On the other hand, a Celtics cap or jersey will probably earn you a different, more colorful nickname. Like Celtic.1
Needless to say, you can expect there to be at least four or five thru-hikers named Boston on any given year. You can also expect all of them to be nearly indistinguishable. But that will be pure coincidence, as none will claim to know the others—or even acknowledge their existence—let alone admit to coordinating outfits.
I have met several Bostons on this trip. On our way towards the Carabassett River, Buckeye, Fredo and I catch up with one in particular. Which one? I don't know. The fourth one? I'd last seen him in New Jersey or Pennsylvania or Virginia or wherever. Or maybe Massachusetts? Anyway, our reunion goes something like this:
"Oh, hey. It's you."
Fording the Carabassett is a harrowing adventure in and of itself, requiring deft leaps of literally several inches, as we... Okay, so it's not so hard. The water is cool, but we barely get our feet wet, as there are enough rocks and boulders strewn about the riverbed for us to safely make our way across.
Boston decides to camp a little ways away, downstream. Fredo, Buckeye and I make a fire. I scout out the Caribou Valley Road, a tenth a of a mile away, thinking that my sister, Lutricia, might get dropped off there by our parents. But no, the "road" is an almost impassable mess that would be hard to drive with a trail-rated Jeep, let alone a Honda Civic hybrid. I make some rather primitive signs pointing towards where we'll be, then return to our campsite and hope for the best.
The three of us stay awake long past sundown, congregating around the fire, as is our wont. As the minutes turn into hours, I grow increasingly worried and impatient, but there's little I can do but wait. Eventually, the snapping of twigs and appearance of a lone headlamp peering out of the darkness signals my sister's arrival.
It's too late for celebrations, and my sister too tired to do more than introduce herself to Fredo and Buckeye before turning in. The rest of us soon follow suit.
One of my ever-considerate companions—probably Buckeye—decides to see if one can extinguish a camp fire with urine. Turns out you can, but it smells terrible.
I don't dwell on it. I lay awake for some time, but not because I'm too excited or relieved by Tricia's arrival, or feeling some indescribable mixture of conflicting emotions, tinged with melancholy. No, I lay awake mostly because my tent, although generously described as "1+" in its literature, is decidedly too small for two people to fit in, unless they're both lying on their sides, and my sister is sleeping on her back, snoring like a Freightliner downshifting on the interstate.
196.2 miles to go.
1. The same rule holds true for any other professional or collegiate sports team. If you wear an Indians hat, your trail name will be Cleveland. Or Chief Wahoo. If you wear a Mets cap, your name will be New York, if only because Laughingstock has too many syllables. Alternately, if your Ohio State bandana is your one piece of indispensable clothing, your name will be Buckeye.