photographed by Nichole Hastings

Journal Entry: June 8, 2010 – 100 Mile Wilderness

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 10

A nice early start this morning.

All up hill.

The Chairback Mountain is no joke.  Especially when you are carrying fifty pounds and managing a dog.  I had taken a picture of it a ways before on the trail.  Not long afterwards realizing that was where I was headed.  The trail took a ninety degree turn straight at it.

A super steep rise of rocky cliff.  A tumble down that and you’d be sure to break bones and puncture soft flesh.  This thought occurred to me half-way up when I looked down behind me.  The rocks were sharply angular and sat at a nearly vertical rise.

photographed by Nichole Hastings

"View from the Summit of Chairback Mountain" photographed by Nichole Hastings

The view.  At 2100-feet.  Simply breath-taking.

Past Chairback, the trail dips back down about 300-ft and then begins climbing  up Columbus Mountain, 2250-ft.  I made it to the Chairback Gap Lean-to just after noon.  I was writing in the register when it began to rain.  The wind had been gusting all day.  The sun was out but it was cold.  The next lean-to, the Cloud Pond Lean-to is about seven miles away.  I knew I wouldn’t make it there today if I continued on.  Columbus Mountain, Third Mountain, Fourth Mountain and the majority of the incline of Barren Mountain lay ahead.

At the start of the day, I was 89-miles South of Katahdin, Baxter State Park and Wayne, the guy at the gate.  It’s good to periodically look back and say, “Hey, I did that.” and feel satisfaction at the pace and what was accomplished.  I’m slightly behind my self-imposed schedule, an average of eleven miles a day, but a mountain is certainly not a molehill.  And I prefer to not tent in the rain.  Or carry all the extra water weight that would come as a result.

This decision puts me in a rather precarious food position.  It would be good if I can reach Monson in two days.  If I push tomorrow and get down Barren Mountain, there’s a lean-to near the Slugandy Gorge and Falls.  I think.  Pete’s maps are from 1988 and it says, ‘Site of Proposed Lean-to’.

And of course, all this will depend upon nice weather.  It’s been off and on rain all day.  I hoped these winds would push this storm past us, and quickly.  Not only is it windy, it’s cold enough where I can see my breath.  I managed a fire.  It survived the rain showers as they come and went.  The fire pit was in a terrible spot in conjunction to the lean-to.  The wind’s gusts kept the smoke blowing in my face.  There was plenty of burnable dry wood available.  Left overs from lean-to’s construction.  I want to sit by the fire and avail myself of its warmth but breathing seems more important.

Another factor, my feet, they need rest.  No blisters still but the bottoms hurt.  Most nights I wake up in the middle, my feet cramping and legs aching.  Maxwell needs rest too.  He’s visibly lost a lot of weight and at times he’s hobbling along.  As soon as I deposited my pack in the lean-to he went and laid down.  Poor guy.  I upped his food rations from a cup to a cup and a half a day.  He needed it and it makes my pack lighter.  A win-win situation for both of us.  Time to make dinner.  And then early to bed.

 

Distance: about 4.5-miles

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Journal Entry: June 1, 2010 – The 100 Mile Wilderness

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day 3

I woke early and to an overcast sky.  Looked like rain was on today’s menu.  We packed up and headed out at 6:30 a.m.

Not far along we reached a deep and fast flowing tributary entering the river  we’d been following.  The only problem was I couldn’t see the next blaze.  I didn’t see anything resembling a path or opening on the far bank of the tributary.  And certainly no visible blaze.  I was loath to cross the stream.  It required a lot of work, removing all my footwear, rearranging gear and Maxwell would have to swim for it.  My pack was heavy and the thought of taking it off was not an appealing one.

There was a path heading upstream along the tributary  but that didn’t make sense.  I checked my map.  I saw boot prints at the stream’s edge.  What to do?  I followed the path but turned around after 100-ft when the old and fading blazes disappeared and the path appeared old and overgrown.  I tossed down all my gear and re-inspected the map.  We had just started out and already, so early on in the morning, there’s this.

Finally, I took off all my footwear and forded the stream alone.  Lo and behold, there was a path on the other side, obscured by the low hanging branch cover.   The trail turned immediately 90-degrees to the right.  Roughly 20-ft in that direction after the turn I saw the white blaze.  Relieved and fighting off frustration, I headed back across the stream to collect my gear and Maxie wondering if I should make multiple trips.  Instead, I tossed all my gear on my back and around my neck and go for it barefoot.  Maxwell swam like a champ.

About mid-morning the clouds opened up and it began to rain steadily.  Soon after my pack, jacket and pants were soaked through.  A plus was my feet were still dry.  Then suddenly, to the right there was a crashing sound of tree branches.  A bull moose, 30-ft away from us and startled, dashed off in the opposite direction.  A while later an upset grouse crossed our path.  Maxwell didn’t know how to react.  He seemed taken aback at this unafraid creature squawking and moving at us aggressively before disappearing back into the underbrush.

The trail flattened and widened.  Up ahead a kiosk with a drop box appeared.  Upon closer inspection, I realized this marked Baxter State Park‘s boundary and that I had just ‘stealth camped’ for the night.  I completed the register form.  The path became a road.  It was 12:30 p.m. and the Abol Store and Campground appeared a half mile or further along.  We entered the store, dripping and cold, signed the register and then headed back out into the rain.  The man and woman didn’t want my dripping pack inside and we needed to press on to make it to the Hurd Brook Lean-to, hopefully by 4:00 p.m.  They had a sign saying ‘No dogs’ on the entry door but smiled seeing Maxwell and offered him a treat.  Just outside of the store we took a brief respite at a picnic table with some branch cover and quickly ate lunch.  Everything on me felt soaked through, cold and heavy.  I knew I was carrying at least 10 extra pounds of water weight.  While crossing the Abol Bridge, a gentleman in a truck towing a trailer stopped to make sure I knew I was heading in the right direction.  Another 200-ft and we enter the 100 Mile Wilderness.

It was like entering a beautiful softly glowing dream of thick green moss-covered rocks.  The ground blanketed in pine needles and spotted with ferns.  Pale pink, white and purple Ladyslippers dotted the edge of the trail.  Two stood silently as beautiful sentries on either side marking the entrance into this seemingly enchanted forest.  A point of no return.
The only sound was the rain falling softly on the already soaked canopy overhead.  I felt relieved and full of wonder as I headed further in.  I studied the subtle changes of forest as I walked along.  It was peaceful here.  I felt a profound sense of satisfaction, alive and aware.

As I continued on I noted a few clearings where a tent could be set up but my mind was set on reaching the lean-to.  We walked.  A wooden sign came into view  saying ‘Spring’ and we stopped to gather water.  Not long after that, almost a mile or so I saw the roof of the lean-to.  It was heaven out of the rain.  We pitched camp and I changed into dry clothing wishing the conditions would permit starting a fire.  I snuggled into the down sleeping bag to warm up.  About an hour later a soaked older man appeared.  Limp Along was an old-timer from Georgia and had flown up to do the South bound thru-hike, a pleasant fellow.  He and Maxwell got along famously.

I prepared the first hot meal, needing it after this long wet challenging day.  I ate and then fed Maxwell in the disappearing light.  My legs ached and the bottoms of my feet hurt.  I needed all the rest I could get.

 

Distance: about 8.5-miles

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Katahdin Streams, Appalachian Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine, May 30, 2010.

Photo Memory: “First Bath on the Appalachian Trail” photographed by Nichole Hastings | Hiking

“It was a hot day and I hadn’t bathed for three days.  This spot on Nesouadnehunk Streams looked so inviting.  It was painfully cold.  I forced myself into it, scrubbed my skin and hair with sand while shaking uncontrollably.  The mountain fed stream was icy, I could hardly breathe, my skin stung and turned red.”

Katahdin Streams, Appalachian Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine, May 30, 2010.

First Bath on the Appalachian Trail photographed by Nichole Hastings

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Content on this site may not be sold or reproduced without permission.

Journal Entry: May 31, 2010 – Hiking from Katahdin to the 100 Mile Wilderness

Monday May 31, 2010

Day 2

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.

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Distance:  about 4.5 miles

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Copyright 2010 The Truth Will Set You Free

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