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Day 79 – Naked and Afraid

There I stood on the riverbank of the raging Kennebec River with only half a mile to my resupply that included a much anticipated box from my Aunt Michelle. I had put in 14 easy miles by 11:00and just had one river crossing left. This crossing is not like the others that liter the trail in Maine. This crossing is so dangerous there are signs on both sides that say “EXTREMELY DANGEROUS, DO NOT TRY TO FORD, USE FERRY SERVICE.” The problem with being the first northbound hiker and so early that every business the last few towns has said they have never had a northbound hiker come through this early, is that the ferry service has not even begun running. There may have been options had I arranged it 3 days ago when I had cell phone service but now I was standing on the riverbank, deprived of food for a day and eager to resupply so I decided to make the risky ford. The water was going to be very cold, the bottom was going to be slippery and my pack was going to be drenched by the other side. I even doubted I would be able to walk the whole thing. I prepared my pack and myself to swim some portion of the river. I striped off all my clothes to ensure I had warm dry clothes to put on after 20 minutes in the 40 degree water and began the journey across. I had my traction devices on to grip the slippery rocks better and not 50 feet into the 200 foot ford my feet began to struggle to touch the bottom. It was the decision point, keep swimming or turn back. I went for it. I had my trekking poles in one hand and sidestroked my way slowly across while drifting with the current. My adrenaline and heart rate were sky high. I had 100 feet to swim and fatigue was already setting in. My legs were exhausted from the many days of pushing to the brink, the dilapidated muscles in my arms were already beginning to cramp up. I consciously told myself to relax and just keep moving diagonally across the current. I knew staying calm was the key and panic would only lead to disaster. The struggle continued to grow as my pack filled with water and weighed heavy on my tired body trying to swim. Just when the thought of panic forced its way into my mind I instinctively lowered a foot and found the the welcoming riverbed. I was still up to my neck in the swift river but I was once again on my feet. I had finally made it out of the channel and moved quickly through the last 50 feet. Once on land I was devoid of feeling. I wasn’t cold, wasn’t hungry, and wasn’t scared. The river crossing had so drained my body I just stood there, naked and afraid with my pack on just taking a few deep breaths before I returned to my normal state and began to reassemble my pack. I was extremely glad I had saved all my clothes (except my shoes) from getting wet as once the adrenaline wore off I began to violently shiver. I put on everything I had and was soon semi comfortable. From here I covered the 1.3 miles to the Sterling Inn where my package was quickly and began eating very quickly. By misjudging the last section I was left with no food to eat today. I could not have been more happy to see the package from my aunt and immediately dug into the trail mix and other snacks. The package has been very illusive over the past two weeks. It was at two post offices when I passed through the towns but they were either unaware it was there or overlooked it. At times it seemed I would never get this great box of gourmet treats but in the way that everything happens for a reason, it could not have been waiting at a better place!

This is a moose I ran into the other day. We had a staring contest and I won.

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