Monday May 31, 2010
I got up and was headed at 7:30 a.m. this morning.
The Ranger at Katahdin Streams Campground said he climbs Mt. Katahdin four or five times a year. He has been working at Baxter State park for 20 years now. I’m working off old maps that a friend, Pete Mason had lent me for the hike. The Ranger pointed out a change, the A.T. had been re-routed through the Grassy POnd Trail since they had been printed. And in spite of dumping 10-lbs of dead weight, my pack is heavy. I read in the Appalachian Trail Guide that ‘every ounce counts’ which is all too true. I purposefully neglected adding the two liters of water in my pack when I had weighed in again.
It was a warm and sunny day. There were multiple spots along the Nesouadnehunk Stream that invited a swim. Around noon, I come across one that I just can’t resist and decided to stop for lunch. After eating, I decided to take advantage of the sandy beach and wash my hair. I haven’t bathed in three days.
I put on my bathing suit, the trail runs quite close by to the section of stream. Maxwell had found a soft sandy pit trapped on the rocks to lounge. When I jumped in he lifted his head up, looked at me then lay back down.
The water was frigid. It took three attempts before I could completely submerge myself. I scrubbed handfuls of sand into my scalp and across my skin. It took my breath away. When I’m done my skin aches painfully from the cold.
Too chilled to care, I strip out of my bathing suit and lay it next to me on the rocks. I let the sun and warm breeze dry me off. I trimmed my toenails, shorter than usual. They had been pressing hard against the front of my boots with every step downhill.
Just as Maxwell and I were about to head back to the trail, I noticed a discarded walking stick lying on a rock nearby. Thank goodness for that stick! An hour later we reached a cross-path and a sign reading ‘High Water Bypass 0.9 miles’. And indeed the water was high. It had rained last evening and the rocks and rushing water looked treacherous. But the thought of going a mile out of the way quickly dissipated when I recalled a slower shallow sandy section a short ways upstream. I back-tracked along the trail, pulled my pants up above my knees, slung my gaitors and boots around my neck, and forded the river with that stick to balance myself against the current.
I was already three-quarters of the way across when I remembered Maxwell. He was on the leash and dislikes water. There he was though, behind me swimming like a champ. We walked out onto a small island, or what we thought was a small island. We continued across, this section was deeper than the first but equally paced in its flow.
After an hour of hiking downstream searching for the trail’s intersection I slowly began to realize something was not right. We came upon a small sandy beach and I dropped gear to take a break. I left Maxwell and the pack and hiked further along the stream which had been growing in width and depth. I could not find the trail. I went back to the beach and sat down. It was getting late in the day and time was a-wasting. I considered camping at this spot for the evening. It was already 3:30 p.m. or so. Instead, I went back to my original crossing spot and waded to the ‘island’. My hunch was that the trail continued on the island. Sure enough, it split the stream and with a little bush-whacking I found the path and the white blazes.
We hiked until 4:30 p.m. stopping when we came to a nice wide ledge opening covered in pine needles, overlooking a roaring waterfall. The sky was beginning to gray up and I worried about the possibility of rain. I know my limits and I had reached them for today. The frustration of getting lost weighted my already heavy pack. My shoulders and back aching. My feet sore from fording the pebbly river bare. I set up camp, ate dinner and settled to bed. Only thing is, I’m not sure if I’m out of Baxter State Park at this point. I’m too tired to care.
Distance: about 4.5 miles
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