“I saw a moose”

Cohos Trail, Day Ten: Panorama Shelter to Rudy's Cabins and Campgrounds

The trail that morning was a series of nice woods walks, interspersed with meadows that had been logged in the recent-ish past. The trees were only just starting to change. Even this far north we were too early for fall colors.

It was pleasant walking, on trails that had been cut specifically for the Cohos.

We were winding our way through one of the more open spaces when E whispered back at me to get my attention.

“I saw a moose,” E said. “It just ran off.”

He let me creep ahead and we found the moose’s fresh prints had kicked up a spray of dirt and mud in his wake as he ran down the trail—but he was gone, completely out of sight.

This was, understandably, a huge disappointment. I moped, picked a fight, and then walked ahead for the next hour or two.

E caught up and we made up at Coleman State Park. We ate lunch at a picnic table (the luxury!) looking out at Little Diamond Pond. I had packed enough food for this leg, but perhaps not the right ratio of snacks to lunch to dinner foods. For example, the peanut butter jar I expected to last eight days, lasted only three. But I had packed extra dinner foods, so we prepared a packet of instant potatoes and added za'atar and dill and spread it on tortillas.

However, we were at the very bottom of the food bag, and had eaten everything but a handful of prunes, so we absolutely had to get to Rudy’s Campground that evening to get our resupply box. Hopefully we would arrive before the office closed.

We left Coleman State Park on a paved road, then turned on to a narrow gravel road the guidebook said got little use but since then seems to have become a rather popular ATV route.

We had entered a distinctive new region of New Hampshire, one the guidebook compared to Vermont’s rolling hills, but less prosperous. In fact, it said the area was characterized by “grinding rural poverty.”

Every so often we would see signs that read “Stay on Trail or Stay Home” and couldn’t quite tell if they were for us or for ATVers, or both.

This walking felt a lot less like hiking and a lot more like trudging, even with the occasional expansive view.

We got a bar of phone service and called Rudy’s to see if we had to arrive before a specific time to get our box; they said no, they’d be around no matter what, but guessed based on our location we’d be there in 30 minutes.

Reader, we were not.

We were down to using the older guidebook for navigation, having lost the concise and more recently updated databook at the top of Mt. Waumbek days earlier. My only explanation for how little the guidebook’s description corresponded with reality is that ATV culture wasn’t as pervasive four years ago.

The “woods lane” we were walking on was a wide gravel road; the “weedy junction” that would take us to Rudy’s was also a gravel road (which we blew right past because there was a sign that said “private property” at the turnoff).

Diesel and Summit had mentioned there was a small sign for Rudy’s, too, which we hadn’t yet seen.

The “poor dirt road” we came to next had been recently graded and was even, smooth, and wide. There was the sign we were looking for! We debated as we walked whether this was the first or the second, longer way to Rudy’s (it was the longer way).

Then a truck pulled over, and Mary from Rudy’s Campground offered us a ride, which we accepted gratefully. She also asked if we wanted beer or soda on our arrival (E had beer and I had a Pepsi).

And there was our box! Food! There were two bags of Fritos nestled at the top; this was probably lunch or something for the next few days but I tossed one bag to E and kept one for myself and we sat in a couple Adirondack chairs by the water (the campground is on a pond) and ate and drank.

There were also two SOBO hikers who had set up their tent under a larger, protective tent provided by the campground (which the campground owner had said she would “reserve” for us on the phone but I now think she meant “reserve” for “any hiker”). They offered to move a table so we could tent under there as well but we set up in a different spot, thinking we might make a fire later.

But first we had to sort out a matter of utmost importance: laundry. This was the first place we had stayed at with a washer and dryer, and after 10 days of hiking our clothes were a bit rank. We got quarters for the machines, and for the coin-operated showers, and the owner generously let us use her detergent. We shuffled around the little bathhouse in rain gear while we waited.

Then I tried to shower—but the water didn’t heat up. I waited and waited but my time was ticking down (two quarters bought 10 minutes) and eventually I stepped under the cold stream, which immediately raised gooseflesh on my arms, legs, and belly. I started crying, I was so upset and disappointed. I had been looking forward to this shower! We didn’t have soap but I borrowed the Dawn dish soap from the kitchen sink and lathered up.

Eventually it did heat up and I let the hot water pour over me until the timer ran out.