Maximum Bliss

My friend April has an expression she uses when a bunch of us are out doing something, enjoying each other’s company. “Have we reached maximum fun?” she’ll ask. This means: have we reached the point at which it’s not going to get any better? If so, we should make like 30 Rock and quit while we’re ahead.

Officially: we have reached maximum fun.

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The pendulum has swung fully from the blizzards of March in Tennessee to the blazing heat of Maine in July. The sun is out every day, and the views are vast and nearly Montana-worthy. There are ponds here, clear blue eyes scattered in the forests. We came upon a beautiful little one just in the heat of the day, stripped to our underwear, and waded in. The water was perfect, comfortable and refreshing and clean, with warm rocks to dry our feet upon afterwards. To a girl born and bred in the Land o’ Lakes, it was bliss, evoking Lake Superior and the chain of lakes in the Twin Cities in and around which delirious Minnesotans bask during their brief annual affairs with warm weather. We walked on with cool skins and wet skivvies.

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Also, the plants. They are fully summered too. I had made peace with the blueberries being green, even pink-tinged, but never ripe, during our hike. I sent to them sweet energy for the lucky hikers who would follow. But yesterday, under a power line, there they were: blue! Berries! Not the sweetest, but tangy like these northern ones are. And the flowers that I have watched poke through the cold soils of spring, bloom, and fade–they are now growing berries that I have never before seen. Bunchberries, Solomon’s seal, and the bluebead lily with blue beads on its stems. And the fungi: a gaggle of white Indian pipes poking up through the thick leaves and duff, eerie and translucent, unstoppable. Mushrooms of every conceivable color, size, and shape. Candy-colored. Bright yellow slime molds that look furry but aren’t.

And, icing on the cake: we reached the only bit of trail where it is kosher, required even, to progress without moving one’s legs. We got up at the insanely early hour of 4:30, before the mosquitoes even, to make sure we arrived at the broad, swift Kennebec River before 11 am. For it is dangerous to ford; a hydro plant upriver will without warning open the floodgates. So a man with a canoe paddles hikers one and two at a time across the river, for several hours each day. There is a white blaze painted on the floor of the canoe, just to make sure we know it’s okay.

Despite our saturation in summer, we’re not going to quit yet, but the end is near. The full moon approaches, the sun beats down. The moose tracks in the mud are deep and fresh, though the moose hide far back in the bogs. We have given our two weeks’ notice here. We are on the home stretch. The Hundred Mile Wilderness… and then Katahdin!

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