The hike started off like any other, one foot in front of the other. However I quickly had to turn around as I had left my hiking poles in the car and this being the longest of the hikes I was worried of the knee pains. Thankfully the problem was noticed quickly and along the trail I went. The trail wound through a farm of maple trees with tubes stretching miles, literally, to collect the sap.
The trail was well maintained and walked up a reasonable grade. It wasn’t flat, but also not a staircase. The maple trees turned into birch trees and eventually as elevation increased into evergreens. The Jerusalem Trail ended at a junction with The Long Trail which remained on the ridge line. This is where I saw the first hikers of the day, passing by the opposite direction, likely thru-hiking the long trail.
After more walking I began thinking about the summit, and how the information suggested there was no view. I looked at my watch and it had been an hour since the trial junction. Without a view would I notice the summit, or just pass it by and continue hiking. Soon after I met two hikers going the opposite direction who asked where I was heading. “Mount Ellen”, I responded and they looked confused and told me they had not got to Mount Ellen yet.
Either I had already passed the mountain or they had. I figured I would continue along a bit further, but the seeds of uncertainty were planted and sprouting. Less than 15 minutes later I was on a ski slope and took a great break at the ski-lift talking with a couple different hikers. This was the first summit that didn’t have swarms of people, and you couldn’t even say it was because of the weather which was perfect for hiking.
One hiker had just finished 65 of the 67 new england peaks, saving Baxter and Hamlin peaks on Mount Katahdin for last, also shared the location of Mount Ellen just a few hundred feet up the trail. After a nice snack I completed the summit then worked my way back down where the uncertainty sprouts continued growing, had I walked beyond the trail junction?
I’ve never been that uncertain while hiking in the woods. Why was I so worried about missing a trial junction, or the summit? I would walk for 5 minutes and begin wondering if I should turn back. I never did turn back as that should only be a last resort. Every now and then I would see landmarks and reminders on the trail. Hard to say if they were more or less often than normal.
Life is uncertain.