North - Day 16

It took an hour of walking to shake the chill of a heavy fog. Turning right from Ch. Robbinsville Rd., I strode up the steep incline of Route 17, and stopped for a snack at Art & Pat’s convenience store, remade from a filling station. Good-natured customers bantered. I departed as a full-fledged member of the “Liar’s Club.” The mist began to burn off around 10 a.m. Changing my clothes out of sight in a ditch, I stepped into a pointed branch and narrowly avoided an eye injury. Was a guardian angel named Pamola actually watching over me? Turning left near Dawsonville, I enjoyed views of waterfowl, beaver dams, a beautiful lone horse, and a bald eagle casting its shadow across me. The road walk along the Restigouche River featured brightly painted houses. Reaching Matapédia meant walking away from it along the river in order to reach a great highway bridge and return on the other side.

On this short hiking day I collected my maildrop at the post office, shopped for food and bought my passport to the Québec trail system from David Leblanc. In the Motel Restigouche restaurant Pete Dube indicated that hikers usually complete the Québec IAT in 25-27 days. After dinner I washed clothes in the sink.



Emma Jean

...Canoe builder Bill Miller had recommended I contact the trail angel Emma Jean in Kedgwick. When I reached her by phone, she agreed to pick me up that evening after I hiked further ahead on the rail trail. When Emma Jean drove me back to Kedgwick, the wide open views from the road astonished me. The landscape had been obscured by trees all afternoon.

Gratefully, I treated Emma Jean to a fish dinner at a local restaurant. We had a pleasant conversation, part mundane and part philosophical. What a nice lady!

When we finished eating, she announced in a matter-of-fact way, “There are a lot of unemployed guardian angels waiting for jobs. I’m going to assign one of them to you. Tell me the first name that comes into your head.”

Her announcement took me completely by surprise. I blurted out the word, “Pamola,” if only because I would prefer to have that demon on my side, rather than against me.

After I had described the terrain of Mount Katahdin, my experiences at the Chimney, and the Indian legend about the fierce spirit of Pamola Peak, Emma Jean again spoke matter-of-factly. “Pamola is your friend.” Emma Jean stated, “She saved your life.”

In truth, I was more preoccupied with my sore toe and knee than with angels. This talk of spirits and angels perplexed me. I had thought the “demons” I faced on that foggy passage of the Knife Edge were my own, and that such words represented convenient simplifications.

In my mind, the mountain had spared me, not saved me. And why was this spirit a “she” instead of a “he?” How happy would Pamola be to take this assignment? Not very happy at all, I thought...



North - Day 7

Chores and errands took me until 10:30 a.m. After glimpsing ducks in a dammed pond upon leaving town, I climbed the ski trail at Mars Hill. The route took an undulating, puddle-filled dirt road to an isolated communications tower on the northern summit. A new trail descended the hill to Knoxford Road. Next, the barricade at the New Brunswick border. A rough 4-wheel-drive route went along the border strip. Emerging from the woods, the strip had views of patchwork-quilt fields on the U.S. side. After about 7 miles, it became unmaintained and descended into swampy areas filled with water run-off. I tied my shoes around my neck and waded through hip-deep water where wooden ramps floated randomly. At other points I followed meandering bypass roads or soft-shoed through marshes.

Returning to higher elevations as darkness fell, I watched a boy ride an ATV out onto a field on the Canada side to dig up some potatoes for dinner. After passing an abandoned border checkpoint, I bedded down on the edge of a Christmas tree farm, falling uncertainly asleep to the barks of a dog in the valley who simply KNEW I was there.