Trail Angels

15 Jul

Well, I am a bit bummed and a bit behind. I had a wonderful post going and somehow lost it, so I will start again and hopefully it will be better. Jen, Bear, and I have been on the trail 4 days since our last zero day needed for Bear’s recovery. We had an awesome 20 mile day first day back, then 12, 5, and 5 mi. Short days with some big climbs. This last five mile day was what we call a “nero” day. AT slang for “near zero” so closer to zero miles hiked than twenty. We hiked 5 miles into Stratton and immediately ate burgers and fries. We will stay the night at the hostel here and then head out for a big day.
While eating lunch we spoke of the blog and are excited to get some posts up. So if you will indulge me I am going to back track a bit and speak of some of the wonderful people we met on the trail and to some of our unique experiences thus far.

As you already know I had to go to the ER in Greenville. It was a super cute hospital near Moosehead lake. It took a bit of time to be seen but I forgave the MD because he had a patient he needed to fly out. The doctor was amazing. He cleaned my infected foot, painfully well, and then gave me multiple antibiotics to treat the infection of all possible nasties. Plus he gave me a double dose so that of it happens again we are covered. Super nice! As near as we can tell it was some sort of allergic reaction that I scratched, and then with a week of putting on wet socks and shoes and slogging through bogs a lovely bug brew grew in the open skin. The worst part was a necrotic little spot in my heel. But due to our excellent nursing skills it is on the mend! (I am sure the antibiotics are also helping.)
Before heading out from Monson the next day, not quite the week I was told to take off my foot, Jen received a gift from an angel named Southside. Southside is a hiker that is section hiking the trail. He was getting off the trail in Monson and had heard Jen talking about needing to buy trekking poles. In the morning Jen found herself with a pair of new poles, courtesy of Southside. Thank you Southside! She was smiling as we took off down the trail from Monson.
The second day after leaving Monson we had the best day! We summited a beautiful mountain and celebrated Bear’s birthday with a lunch by a gorgeous lake and gave Bear his birthday beef stick. We set off the next day happy and optimistic.
Two miles down the trail on a beautiful morning we heard a ruckus to our left. After calling for Bear he returned to us with a face full of porcupine quills! The poor puppy was in a panic. We spent two hours pulling quills out of the poor dogs mouth, lips, tongue, nose, and paws. We were down to the last few and he just couldn’t take any more. To be honest, neither could we. Jen had held it together amazingly well as she held her dog while I helped/hurt him by pulling out the quills. We all limped down the trail another couple of miles to a road crossing hoping for cell phone service.
No luck. It was obvious Bear still had some quills in his paw but he would not let us touch it. There were no cars on the road, only a scary vacant house across the street that after walking up to I decided not to go any further. ( You know the house, the one from all of the horror movies you’ve seen. Seemed like a bad idea.) So Jen made the difficult decision for her and her dog to push forward to the next lean to a mere 6 miles and a mountain away.
That night we wrangled Bear and removed 3 more quills from his paw. After that we were all exhausted from the many adrenaline peaks and crashes throughout the day. We decided to sleep and reassess in the morning.
We woke early and were able to feel at least one if not two more quills in his paw. There was no way he was going to let us near him again with the tweezers so the decision was made to go the hikers parking lot nearby and try to hitch a ride into town to get to a vet.
As luck would have it we met our third trail angel Joe right off the trail. Joe is a local raft guide and had a bus load of campers that he was waiting to take back to “town” after they came off the mountain. He offered us a ride, and the campers left the front seats open for us and the dog.
Caratunk is literally a street in Maine with a few rafting outfitters nearby. We needed to get Skowhegan many miles away. Once we called the vet we had spoken to from the top of Pleasant Pond Mountain and confirmed they could treat Bear that day we had to look for a ride. Joe to our rescue again. It may have only been 30-40 miles but it took an hour and it was an hour out of his way. We gave him some gas money, which he did not want to take, but we insisted remembering all to well what guides make for a living. Thank you Joe!
The vet visit went as smooth as possible. They have a new drug that allowed them to sedate Bear to remove the quills, and then reverse the sedation. Bear was a bit groggy but Dr. Gibson told us he removed 5 more quills! He also told us to be on the lookout for sometimes the quills can get embedded and then work themselves out a few days later. We were so happy Bear was okay, and so relieved to have the quills out that we were both on the verge of tears. Everyone had been so nice!
As we were settling up we asked the next big question…”how do we get back to Caratunk?” That question silenced the room. They looked at their client list for the next day trying to find us someone we could ride with after spending a night in town. No luck. Jen and I were outside trying to find a ride and calling local campsites when the two vets started to approach us. We were certain they were going to ask us to leave because they were closing. We were wrong.
Jack and Gail Gibson introduced themselves to us and asked if they could take us home and offer us dinner, a shower, and a place to sleep. Plus Gail would drive us back to the trail in the morning. We were so overwhelmed we were speechless. As we loaded our dirty gear into the trunk of Gail’s car, Jack asked us if we liked salmon. I know I pinched my self and I think Jen did too to make sure we weren’t dreaming.
As we drove to their farm Gail told us about her family and some of her local hiking adventures. When we pulled up the drive I could not believe it. We had driven to heaven. The Gibson’s have a beautiful farm with 3 horses, chickens, a garden, a greenhouse, two kitties, and a spaniel named Josie.
She showed us to our rooms and the shower which I immediately took advantage of while Jen walked Bear.
We put on our “clean” clothes for dinner, and enjoyed a short walk to the stables before dinner was served. Dinner was amazing. Jack made us salmon, grilled veggies, and potatoes, with homemade pesto from basil grown in the garden. It was fabulous! After seconds and a glass of wine they insisted on taking us to ice cream!!! Gifford’s is a local Maine ice cream and it is delicious. We all ate our fill and then headed back to the house.
When we got back their son had stopped by for one reason or another. I am certain it was to make sure that his parents were okay after picking up some random hobos, but he was just as great as his mom and dad had said. While we did not get to meet their daughter, I am sure she is just as amazing as the rest of the family.
After a short visit we all retired to bed. I went to bed with a cool Maine breeze blowing through my room and slept the best I had in a week. I know Jen did the same.
In the morning there was more of the same. We gave Jack a hug as he set off for work. We had breakfast with Gail who made us eggs, toast,cantaloupe, and real coffee!!!! After she guided us through the grocery store we took off up the road. Gail risked being late for her doctors appointment that morning just to get us back to the trail. There was no end to their generosity and kindness.
I think Jen and I said 100 “thank-you’s” in that 16 hours. We were simply overwhelmed that these strangers had taken us into their home and shared with us a small part of their lives. We thank you Jack and Gail, but as Jen said “there are simply not enough thank-you’s in the world”.
We have barely begun this amazing journey and have met so many awesome people. It just makes it easy to look forward to the next 2,000 miles. Jen and I thank everyone for their love and support. It truly makes us smile everyday.

Special thanks to:
Nat for being willing to drive 6 hours and put us up for a week if need be.
Mike for being willing to come get Bear if he needed to get off the trail.
Gil for being the best husband
Our parents for being such great support

4 Responses to “Trail Angels”

  1. Wilderness Escapades July 15, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    Poor Bear! I hope he has a speedy recovery.

  2. Judy July 21, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    Keep at it. We’re cheering for you! every day in every way BUT i’ve not managed to send a care package to you. Sorry!

  3. Reid Gibson July 23, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    Hi Ladies! I posted your story from Skowhegan on our Facebook page this morning and there are already 100 likes and numerous comments. Everyone thought it was a very good story and now you have even more fans in this town! If you want to check it out it’s Facebook.com/amcskowhegan

    Hope Emily is feeling better, sounds rough!

    Ps – Giffords has just made their way into VA!

    • emily July 23, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

      Thanks Reid! We saw it this morning and were both quite moved. Your family will forever have a special place in our hearts.

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