Starting from camp, wondering where the two hikers ahead of me stayed, starting to question if there are even hikers ahead of me, or if I was told a farce. The trails tread tells a story, and it does seem to reflect that others have been here recently. The ground in places is desheveled in ways that doesn’t appear to be from animal activity. Some of the plants that extend up into the trail, are crooked, and crushed. My brain clearly wants to believe.
Leaving the trail for the beach, oh yeah! The coast! This trail takes you across the beach 4 times in total, if your timing is good, or if you’re lucky. So far I’ve been lucky, because the tides dictate your passing. High tide could mean swimming. Me being lucky means I didn’t ask.
Beach walking here is a lot of fun, and equally as technical due to the rocks and the strange footing to get across them. Really, I think the beaches have been my favorite walking of this trip so far. This beach was different from the last too. This beach had bigger rocks, the sea was calm, and there was no wind. On the last one the wind was so strong, all the flies eating the seaweed were being whisped away and pelting me in the face. To the point in which I actually put my glasses on as a shield.
I skip across the rocks, careful to avoid those that are wet, and likely slippery. Making my way, and enjoying my day. Everything looking as though I’m off to a good start. Walking closer to the waters edge to get a photo with my self timer, and I notice something in the water. Trash bobbing around? No, it’s seals! Maybe 30 yards off shore checking me out.
I walk on, and the seals follow for a while. Watching me, as I watch them. After a few miles of this, and enjoying the little ponds of water stuck on shore I approach another small village. In the cove it appears to be low tide, as there are two boats that look as though maybe they should have been anchored further out… totally bottomed out, and probably suffering damage.
With nothing in the village to do I move on, and the trail takes me up away from the coast on a logging road. Miles and miles up into the mountains, until I get to dart off into the woods again.
Here on the IAT it’s not uncommon to see very few trail blazes marking the path. At times I only see one every 15 minutes, or sometimes they’re everywhere. It’s hit or miss, and typically if I don’t see one, I don’t worry. 15 minutes goes by and I’m reassured by the white and blue sticker I’m still going in the right direction. Then another 15, 20, 25… climbing higher and higher. Eventually getting so far up, only to find the trail I was following impassible, and the last blaze I saw was a forgotten relic of the old route.
Back the way I came, up to the fork in the path I had missed, only to have forgotten which way I had originally come. Bah. No real signs, and frustrated already I make a choice. The wrong choice. Overall wasting over an hour, and a lot of brain power.
Finally making it down to the valley below, and to a refuge. The trail register is old, the shelter although full of cool furniture and strange paintings… is void of life, and so I move on. Just 11 more miles to go in what will be a 22 mile day. Tomorrow I get to resupply on food in Grande Vallée and am already thinking about a zero milage day.
Leaving the shelter, the trail is overgrown and wild. It winds down to a small river in which I’m asked to follow, and cross once or twice. Into the woods I’m confronted by a wall of vegetation. Somewhere in there I think is where I need to go. It’s now lightly raining, and all the plants scraping at my clothes are acting to soak them through, and chill me to the bone.
My last big climb of the day, and at this point I’m certain I’ll be staying an extra night in the next town. All the way up my movement is slowed by years worth of plant growth. Finally at the top I’m greeted by a wind farm, and my trail has now become a sea of ferns up to my nipples that I’m now wading through, hoping not to trip.
Tired, frustrated, wet, and ready to go to bed, the wind farm manages to cheer me up, and the trail provides. Easier tread to walk on, a road. As if it knew I was having a hard time and needed something.
Lasting just long enough to get me back up to strength for the last few kilometers into camp. Naturally, walking along a log placed over a muddy area I manage to roll my ankle.
Only 22 miles but it sure felt longer. Only 10 more until I’m in town tomorrow, and it’s all on the beach. I couldn’t be more thankful.
The trail here is very new, as I’ve been reminded. Without decades of foot travel to let it maintain itself. The beauty of the IAT outweighs the momentary lapse in support. In time, this trail will easily be an amazing extension to the Appalachian Trail of the south, as if it already isnt.