I had been getting a little annoyed with the group. They were almost on this work schedule of wake up early, so minimal miles and go to bed early, and repeat. Not to mention the intense food consumption & tone of how they talked to other hikers. They talked so confidently and almost presumptuous, which was embarrassing. I wanted us to get stronger and challenge ourselves, and enjoy that feeling of exhaustion met with reward. Don’t get me wrong, having people that help you and have someone to talk to is nice, and of course Indy loves them. But that’s kind of what led into the worst day.
I thought I was scared the last day in the 100 miles, that was nothing. Yesterday presented Grafton Notch, no, I had no idea what that was. And until too late I didn’t realize it was the end of my subscription to Guthooks as well. We crushed this giant mountain that had no views or signage. Indy did amazing, he just seems to get better and better at rock scrambles. I was tired but happy as we found the pond for lunch. We descended the arm without a problem, again, Indy was epically facing down rock faces with ease. I enjoyed being just the 2 of us, many hikers made a point to say hello and chat. They all talked about ‘the notch’. My guidebook only told me it was ‘the most difficult or most fun mile on the AT’. I met another SOBO and chatted while walking. The plan was the camp right before The Notch, but it was only 2:30 and I never saw a sign for the campground. Before I knew it I was standing amongst NOBOs all sitting right at the end of it. The urged me on saying it was fun and I’ll love it. I packed my poles into my bag, gave Indy’s feet one more wax treatment, and in we went. I knew there was a lean to 1.5 miles after, so that seemed like a perfect day.
We got right into it, massive boulders you had to climb on. Indy did his best and we scrambled through at first, but then it got harder and harder. All the rocks were 7 ft tall and jagged with no flats. There was a cave crawl that I had to take my pack off and rip it through. This was getting to be too much, but there was no way back, no side trails, just giant rocks. And hour went by, no end in sight. The difficultly kept getting worse and I had to coax Indy onto any route he might be able to do. He quickly became exhausted and he nails filed down to the quicks. I felt horrible. How could anyone think he could do this?? I couldn’t even do it! People passed with grim looks of distaste. Little me trying to lug around a 25lb pack and a 75 lb dog. They scoffed ‘it doesn’t get any easier up there’ as they passed by. I had to point of reference to know how far we’d gone, and was panicking. Another hour went by with no end in sight. Indy, bleeding and exhausted would find a tiny flat and lay down. There were no more people coming through, as another hour went by. I decided to run ahead as far as I could with my pack while Indy rested. I would drop the pack, and run back trying to find routes he could do. I tried not to crack as I told him over and over how good he was doing and we’ll be there soon. I so was also covered in blood as my legs took the beating from lifting him up cliffs. We then were out of water. It had been 3 hours. As I did another slack pack to get him, another SOBO appeared. He had a map on his phone and told us it was .01 to get out. I thanked him and followed him out. He said the lean to was in fact 1.5 miles away, but you had to go up and down this mountain to get there, and there was no water til then. Indy held it together and thankfully followed him up the mountain. I kept thinking as long as we follow him Indy will at least get there. I had pulled a muscle in my left leg and struggled to keep up.
After an eternity of straight up climb, and straight back down descent, we made it. People asked me questions but all I could do we cry. How could I put us through that? How could anyone think it would be ok? The Maine trail has been so insanely dangerous, I am shocked we aren’t in more pieces.
4 miles til New Hampshire apparently. I am so proud of what Indy has achieved, but feel so completely broken about what I’ve put him through. Remarkably even once we got to the lean to, he wouldn’t sit still. Wanted to follow me everywhere as I set up, even wanted to play. I struggle with this responsibility, it’s easy to beat up yourself through some shitty boulders, but to beat up my best friend who would follow me anywhere, just kills me.
I would hope they might create a rule preventing dogs from entering The Notch, just like Baxter Park. Or even a side trail ( which if there is one I’ll feel even worse, but I could not find it ). At this point I am hoping we can make it to Gorham ok. But this state has been madness.
We love being in the woods in nature together. This has turned into a ridiculous challenge I could not have ever imagined.