By Arnie P
Arnie aah were those angels!!!
This story starts on January 1, on a joint Meetup/GONE hike. I became aware of the hike from an Internet email I got from Gone (Go New England.org). A person called Feral_Cat was leading a hike for both groups and was looking for a co-leader. She picked me for this position. It was a great day for a hike, well attended and we all had a fantastic time. I did spend some time with Feral_Cat that day and found out we had a lot in common in the area of hiking. We had both hiked with some of the same hikers. We also were about the same height, weight, and shoe size. In I had the Gregory Whitney 95 and she had the Gregory Deva the equivalent backpack for a woman, and we hiked at the same speed. Some people have their own speed and can’t make adjustments. This does not make for an easy hike especially when there are in places where the trail branches in 2 or more directions. It is nice to have all hikers taking the turns together as it avoids having to look for anyone who may have gone the wrong way. I hiked locally with Feral_Cat who was staying in shape to finish her 48 four thousand foot mountains of New Hampshire. I had finished bagging my 48 peaks when Feral_Cat asked me to help her complete her remaining 5 peaks. These included the 2 longest and the others were some of the most difficult. We did the 3 shorter ones and left the 2 longest for last. It was now time to tackle these during the summer of 2009.
These being the longest hikes we were hoping to get them done when the days were the longest. The problem with that is these hikes for the most part required stream crossings which were still over flowing their banks from a large amount of snow that had fallen that year. Feral_Cat wanted to do Owl’s Head which she had not completed a small part of the hike and because of that could not get credit for the hike. That was the longest and the easiest of the 3 ways. We tried the bushwhack which involved a few miles of bushwhacking in a wilderness area. That trip was almost a success but the bushwhack took to much out of us and we turned back the second day instead of completing the hike. The most difficult part of the remaining way was the crossing of the Lincoln Brook when this brook was wider than normal. A lot of planning goes into the planning of a successful trip. This hike is about 18 miles round trip and the mountain is just over 4000 feet. There is a small slide to climb near the end. There were 3 possible routes for this hike. We eliminated the longest which had us going around the mountain before ascending it. All hikes start from the same trail head but one is a bushwhack and avoids a major stream crossing. There is some debate on which is shorter in time or distance. Feral_Cat wanted to do the stream crossing. I had done the bushwhack and had mixed feelings about it. We decided on the stream crossing. The next step was picking a good date to do this hike. We wanted a lot of daylight but also wanted to make sure the run off from the winter snow was over. We figured that by July the run off from the snow would be over and the days would be still long allowing a longer time to hike in the daylight. Since Feral_Cat was still working thus we had to do this on a weekend. Drive up on Saturday camp out that night and return the next day. We picked a weekend in early July and this backpack was about to happen.
Owl’s Head hike
We got a good start, the day was warm and pleasant. The trail was not crowded. We met a few hikers as we progressed on this trail. We were told the stream may still be high as there had been a rain three days previous. At about 4 miles into the hike we were not about to turn around.
We arrived at the stream and I removed my boots and socks. My first mistake was to put my only pair of socks into the boots. My second mistake was to tie the boots together and put them over my head. I reasoned that if I took my time and was careful I should not have a problem even if the water was frigid. The first few feet of the stream crossing was shallow and the water was not that cold. The slime covered rocks were slippery. The bottom was irregular and
getting a good footing was difficult. Feral_Cat had exchanged her boots for crocks and was crossing about 12 feet higher up in the stream. As I progressed the stream got deeper, colder, and the current was stronger. My heavy pack made me feel unstable when the current got too strong. To be safe I was checking out the depth of the stream before each step. I found myself in a spot where I could not go any further because the stream was too deep. I started to turn upstream to find a better crossing when I saw Feral_Cat go down and under the water. When I tried to move to be in a better position to help, if needed. Ifound I was in an unstable position. Then I spotted Feral_Cat coming out of the water, she called asking me if I saw her trekking pole and a crock. I started looking and did not see anything. I’m not sure exactly what happened but I found myself leaning forward to keep my balance and that is when my boots slid off my neck and down my arm. Feral_Cat was telling me to raise my trekking pole to stop the boots from going into the water. I was not able to raise my arm fast enough and when the boots touched the water they floated and the laces did not catch on the basket of my trekking pole. I watched in horror as my boots floated down the stream and were out of sight within seconds. I froze in place and had no idea what I would do to get out of this situation. I had nothing to put on my feet. I was in a daze when I heard someone say “How are you guys doing?” I raised my head and saw a young couple, tall maybe in their early 20’s. When Feral_Cat had finished talking I told them about my boots floating down the stream. The man ran through the water and looked down stream and said he could not see anything. He then asked me if I could use a ratty size 11 sneakers and a holy pair of socks. I was thinking that I was wearing a pair of size 8 boots that day and was just speechless until he repeated his offer, which I was happy to accept. We had now crossed the stream and were putting our boots on again. We walked at a snail’s pace, but in complete silence this time.
Discussing what transpired
We walked about 15 minutes when Feral_Cat said “Arnie were those
angels?” I responded “In what way?” She asked me the following
questions; did you see them appear, they seem to appear in the water, did you see their feet, did you see him take the sneakers and socks out of his pack, did you notice how they could move thought the water so fast, did you see how fast they disappeared? I had not seen them appear, nor did I see their feet, nor did I see where the sneakers and socks came from or where they went. I did notice and wonder how he could move so fast in water that I was having a hard time moving without falling. I will have a little more to say about this at the end.
We hiked until we were too exhausted to continue. At this point we found a place off trail to pitch camp. My pack was at least 27 pounds and here I had brought a piece of waxed nylon string to hang the food goods for the night. I was trying this waxed nylon string for the first time to find out if it would work as it weighed a couple ounces. In the morning it proved my knot tying ability did not work and the food supply was on the ground. Being in a thin plastic bag it would have been easy for any critter to have an easy meal. Luck was with us again and everything was in perfect condition. We had a slow breakfast and decided to turn back abandon this hike and try it again in the next few weeks. We got to the car, I changed into shoes I had for driving. I then went to the ranger station and left the sneakers and socks on the porch as they had no place for lost and found.
I am as skeptical of the supernatural as anyone but still wonder about some of the things that happened. I can understand not seeing the couple appear or leave. I worried how my feet would manage hiking with a 27 pound pack for 6 miles on a rock filled trail. Maybe I was distracted and did not see them arrive and did not see them go, as I was too elated at getting a replacement for my boots. I could understand why I had not seen the man take the sneakers and socks out of his pack. The part I cannot understand is how he moved so fast in the water, he seemed to move like a bird. The stream was noisy so I would not hear their greeting of “Hi”.I was still in the water when he gave me the items so my vision was focused on him handing me the items and I did not want to drop them. Bottom line I was lucky that this couple not only appeared but they handed me a workable solution to a situation that could be painful and one that I created. When I got back home I was elated that I did not have any problems with my feet. I have had some boots that caused more pain than these sneakers, that were 3 sizes too big.
Check back again when I hope to have another less adventurous story.