The Rain and Pain in Beautiful Maine

My second night at Rainbow Lake was wonderful, knee pain or not.  If I can have only one memory from this adventure, that will be the one I choose.  It was clear and cool and beautiful, and for a while it was astonishingly quiet.  And I mean really silent.  The songbirds had quieted down for the night, and even the little bastard red squirrels — who are constantly chattering and taunting me — were finally quiet.  There were no voices or planes or trucks or trains, no sounds of rushing water or even leaves rustling in the breeze.  There wasn’t a sound.  Anywhere.  It was simply, thunderously, silent.

It stayed quiet until the loons started yodeling, and I listened happily to them for a while.  A while later in my half-sleep, I thought I heard a competing set of loons off to the east…but there was something different about that sound, and it took me a while to realize that they weren’t loons, but coyotes.  I lay there in the dark, listening to loons and coyotes singing together.  It was awesome.

It was as dark as it was quiet, and the tenting area was open just enough to see a few trillion stars through the trees.  I could look up and see more stars than I’ve seen in years.  I thought of my friend Jim at McCormick’s Creek, and how much he would enjoy this incredible show.  I wish I could have gone down to the lake shore — THAT would have been stunning — but I wasn’t feeling that brave.  No, I wasn’t worried about bears (much), but I was worried about limping around in the dark and tripping over a root or rock.  My knee was hurting enough as it was, so I just spent the night penned up in my tent and enjoyed the night from there.

I slept in and took my time in the morning since I knew I was going just a short distance.  Well, I also had to take my time because it was almost impossible to move my knee.  The swelling was down (sorta), but it was still a little on the wicked side of painful.  Getting out of the tent in the morning was a painful and awkward maneuver (I will spare you the details of dealing with the call of nature), but once I was moving around a little it seemed to get better.  Sorta.  I mean, I needed to use my trekking poles as crutches and could only move with little baby steps about six inches at a time, but that’s better.  Don’t you think that’s better?  I thought it was better.

The morning was grey and it started to rain the very instant I had my pack on my back and started down the trail.  Funny, God — real funny.  I just managed to almost dry most of my stuff from the other day, and now it is getting wet again.  Oh well.  Before I started this hike I had asked God for a couple of good nice dry days to start my trip, and of course had begged Him not to let me fall off Katahdin, so I guess a couple of days of hiking in the rain is a fair price to pay.  The trail followed the shore of Rainbow Lake for a couple of miles, and really was pretty level and flat, with just a couple of small little hills up and down, which was good news for my knee (the descents are KILLER on the knee!), but the trade-off was that it was very swampy, rooty, and muddy.
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I got to the cut-off trail for Rainbow Lake Dam, and a big part of me wanted to take that short little side trip because I thought it would be a perfect chance to see a moose, even so late in the morning. It was tempting, but I decided against it: an extra half mile was going to be a bit too much to do to my knee — that’s why I decided on such a short day in the first place.  And hell, there was moose poop EVERYWHERE on the trail anyway; it literally covered the entire surface of the trail for dozens of yards at a time. If I didn’t pay attention, I could walk right into a moose taking a big dump right in front of me.

The rain was steady, the roots were slippery, and the mud was deep, but it was still a pretty hike. I covered the four miles to Rainbow Stream lean-to in about three hours, which is a pretty slow and tedious pace, considering this is pretty flat terrain, but my knee wasn’t going to let me go any faster.

The lean-to sits on the far side of the stream, which was running high because of all the rain.  There is a long log bridge across the stream which was slippery and a little tricky to cross — the water isn’t deep, but it was running pretty fast, and I found out quickly that trying to use my poles for balance was a bad idea, as the water just grabbed them and actually pushed me off balance.  I just inched my way across slowly and was glad to make it across without slipping and taking a dunk in the stream.
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There wasn’t anyone at the lean-to (I didn’t expect there would be at this time of day), but I smiled to see an entry addressed to me in the shelter register from Sean and Clayton.  They were a full three days ahead of me now, and I know I won’t see them again at this rate.  I sat in the lean-to for a while and had a snack and some tea, and when there was a break in the rain I hobbled up the hill and set up my tent — just in time before another long deluge!

Four whole miles.  Sitting in the tent again, in the rain.  Everything is soaked and muddy, and my knee hurts like hell. Other than that, it’s wonderful out here!

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