The Saddlebacks (The Hiker Hut to Poplar Ridge Lean-to): Day 128
The Hiker Hut, bathed in the soft warm glow of sunrise, is the perfect country idyll. Wisps of clouds rise above the carefully maintained gardens. A string of Tibetan prayer flags lines the ceiling of the bunk house. As I step outside, I notice a handful of rocks painted with silver swirls, gold script, and quotes by the porch. I peer closer.
Events happen, deeds are done, but there is no individual doer thereof - Buddha, reads one rock.
Nowhere have I seen that more than in Maine. Nowhere have I leaned more on my friends. We all fear slightly different things. Nighthawk and I fear the heights: the slabs of rock at or above tree line. Tenacious, river crossings and the nooks and cracks of Mahoosuc Notch. Together, we keep each other going. Somehow, the never-ending slabs of rock are less scary when listening to Nighthawk belt out Disney songs. Tree line is more tolerable when joking with Tenacious. We find solidarity in our shared suffering. We lift each other up when one of us falls down.
Catherine offers us tea and coffee.
As we sip our drinks, Nighthawk tries to get Chippy the chipmunk to come over. “Chippy! Chip-chip!”
“Oh, I see him circling around,” Steve says, pointing.
“They’re really easy to train…It was cute until we had four or five of them,” Catherine notes. “They would go into hikers’ packs and just – take. Giant fun sized snickers bar - they hauled that off - a whole kiwi fruit…“
Steve shows us his collection of herbs in the garden, placing a cutting of each into our outstretched hands. We rub the leaves together, smell the fragrance, and try to guess each herb. Tenacious wins handily. Before we leave, Steve brings over a small bag of jewelry and trinkets from India. “If you resonate with any of these, you can take it.”
I choose an Om keychain.
“That’s from Dharmsala. Where the Dalai Lama is,” he says. Cool! I hook the keychain onto the front of my pack.
As Nighthawk and I reach Saddleback Mountain, Tenacious comes up with one strap of her pack half-torn. She attempts to tape it back together. On top of that, her new Oboz trailrunners give her absolutely no traction on the rock slabs.
We hike together down the steep north side of The Horn, reaching Saddleback Junior in the late afternoon. From there, we slowly scoot our way down to Poplar Ridge Shelter.
Today, the views were worth the climb.