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  • Eric Kampmann

White Blazes

There is a way that seems right to a man,

but in the end it leads to death.

—Proverbs 14:12


Don and I had a late start the night before. Touches of winter were in the air even though we were only in the first week of October. By the time we reached Baldpate Shelter, it was night. Others were there preparing for bed, and soon, we too were in our sleeping bags.

The trail in Maine is rough; it is often wet, steep, and rocky. And the hiker also needs to stay alert for moose who occasionally use the trail as a pathway as they forage for food. Around noon, Don and I reached the summit of Baldpate; we spent about an hour there appreciating the fall landscape far below.


From there we descended sharply into Frye Notch. We stopped at a lean-to for a quick lunch and water refill. Don went to fill up his water bottle first; then, as I started to walk down to the stream, he pushed off to ascend Surplus Mountain. I was more concerned about water and paid no attention to Don leaving. But after I packed up, I noticed that two trails departed north from the shelter and neither had any markings. I looked at my map, but it gave no indication that two trails existed.


The Appalachian Trail is well known for its white blazes. Usually these markers are painted on trees every few hundred feet. They are essential for the hiker because often several trails can converge. Without a blaze or some kind of marker, the hiker would be reduced to guessing what way was the right way.


I had no idea which way Don had gone. If I chose the wrong way, I would be heading away from him. Or perhaps he chose the wrong path. If I was wrong, would he continue ahead or come back? Phones did not work, so it was possible that we would end up spending many frustrating hours trying to find each other.


—Eric Kampmann, Signposts

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