Journal Entry: June 9, 2010 – 100 Mile Wilderness

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 11

Climbed four mountains today.  Started with Columbus Mountain, Third Mountain, Fourth Mountain and then Barren Mountain.  Also discovered why I’ve been struggling the past few days.  It’s tough, being female.  To have to unwillingly submit to such an inconvenience every month.  And no wonder why I’ve been craving iron.  All the beef jerky is gone.  The amount of energy I am burning, the dwindling amounts of protein and iron in my diet explains why I almost passed out a few days ago.

I put in a good day today.  The only real difficulty were my feet.  The pain became noticeable  after nine miles or so.  Especially my right foot, the ball and toes.  They alternated between pain and numbness.  The trail was rocky, ridged with ups and downs that at times seemed endless.  Just when I thought, ‘This must be the last one,’ I would see another up ahead to traverse.

It begins with a ‘random’ thought entering my mind.  Why do I need a man to be a mother?  Well, other than for the obvious.  There are many creatures on this planet with only one parent raising the young.  I remembered a study I had read saying that currently forty percent of  human mothers are single moms.  Perhaps women should re-think their desire and expectations of men.  Or perhaps Society and Culture should stop dictating and perpetuating these rigid expectations which people cannot meet.  The resulting disappointment would be unnecessary.  It’d be pointless actually.  Maybe women, no people, should pay more attention to understanding who they are, the cause and effect of their actions, and ponder the dynamics and priorities of this world which we exist in.  Defy any and all expectations.  If it can be imagined, live it, then it will manifest and be so.

Other ‘random’ thoughts.  How interesting that my ex-husband describes himself as ‘widowed’ on his Facebook profile.  Such a tragic expression of anguish for his actions that precipitated my flight from him.  I wonder if he is still alive.  I hope for he is.  And that life is really truly good for him.  I hope for him to have a realization and to stop asking, “Why did you leave me?”  Each time I hear that question, my stomach churns and my heart breaks.  Because he knows.  Yet, he cannot see, his fear of acceptance and by giving in to those insecurities, how it’s destroyed the beauty we once discovered and shared.  Like a small child pulling the legs off, one-by-one, of Daddy Long Leg spiders.

I wonder if I am capable of having children.  There were so many opportunities, years spent trying but to no avail.  I wonder at the twisty-turny path that has brought me here to this very moment in time.  Will I hike the entire Appalachian Trail and still not find what I’m looking for?  Knowledge?  Adventure?  Philosophy?  As the man on the Hunt Trail suggested.  An escape?  A tragic death?  I walk in wonder…

I feel very happy here.  Each morning I awake and life simply begins.  Each day is filled with purpose and discovery on a winding path with an uncertain future around each bend in the trail.  It’s sheer bliss, Heaven really, when I reach a lean-to and no one is there.  I feel relief and glee.  I have the entire moment to myself to do what I want to do and in whatever way I want to.  The first thing I did when I reached the Long Pond Lean-to was to take all my sweaty, dirty clothing off.  I bathed nude in the cold stream trickling nearby then air-dried by a fire built by my own hand.  I spent an hour or more grooming.  Admittedly, one of my favorite activities.  This solitude, in the wilderness, has been one of the most relaxing and enjoyable times in my life that I can recall.

I looked at my maps trying to discern if I will make it into Monson for my first mail drop tomorrow.  The town is listed as two miles off the trail.  The post office probably closes at 4 p.m.  I think I could make it but it would be late and I would have to stay in town.  I’m not keen on that.  The hostel is twelve dollars and the alternative is to hike back to the trail and tent before dark instead.

I’m very very low on food.  I think I have enough to make it to the next lean-to, stay the night and then into town the following day.  My plan is exacting and precise, but, I like it.

Distance: about 11-miles

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

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 6, 2010 – The 100 Mile Wilderness

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Day 8

Woke up late, around 8 a.m.

I thought if the weather remained clear I would traverse White Cap, Hay and Gulf Hagas.  This would have been a fine plan if it had simply remained overcast.  But, not long after setting out it began to sprinkle.

I caught up with the two young high school kids Just Bob and Trout had mentioned seeing.  They were busy rearranging their gear.  We nodded hello to each other as I walked by.  Soon it began to pour, coming down at a steady pace.

The hike was brutal.  Large blowdowns littered the trail.  Maxwell was not happy.  Navigating around the dense branches of the downed trees was hard work and required a lot of coaxing to get him to follow.  I suppose if I was a foot off the ground it would have made more sense to just trot underneath them, taking the path of least resistance.

I pushed myself, hard, to get up the lower half of White Cap.  I refused to let my mind think of anything but the now of my situation.  I still felt disconnected and haggard.  In an unfocused haze.  In spite of that, a dreadful thought, a reality, continuously circled in my mind.  An unwelcome realization while packing and eating this morning.  I was running out of food.  And quickly.  Also, my caloric intake was not nearly close to what it should be.  I had read that ideally you want to be consuming 3000 to 4000 calories a day.  I would be exaggerating if I said I was taking in 1200 a day.

I was soaked, inside and out of my rain gear.  The wind, sweat and rain had me chilled to the bone.  I was exhausted.  I knew Plan A, to stop at the Logan Brook Lean-to would be the smart move.  Immediately upon arrival I hung up everything to ‘dry’ and set up camp.  I pulled all my food out.  Looking at it I realized I had much less left than I thought.  I laid out five plastic ziplock bags and I portioned out everything I had for five days.  Four days worth of hot breakfasts and dinners.  Five days worth of cold lunches and snacks.  The amounts were painfully meager.  Portioning out the trail mix was a joke, about a cup per bag.  I counted the pieces of dried fruit and chocolate pieces I put in each bag to make sure they were evenly distributed.  Two small squares of chocolate per bag and a piece or two more than that of dried fruits.  And fragments of beef jerky in each.

Around 4:30 p.m., Eli and Crawford appeared, drenched.  We all bunked down early with the sound of rain playing us a lullaby on the roof of the lean-to.  One of them, maybe Crawford mentioned a planetary conjunction this evening.  I scribbled away in my journal.

Distance: about 3.9-miles

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Journal Entry: June 5, 2010 – 100 Mile Wilderness

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 7

The sound of raindrops splattered the tent.  It’s 4:30 a.m.  A warning of the day ahead and what’s to come?  A passing thought of going back to sleep had crossed my mind but scrambling to rescue my drying clothing had me wide awake.

I packed in the narrow confines of my tent.  There wasn’t much room in there to maneuver.  It’s inevitable I’ll wake to a full on rain storm in it, so it was good to get the drill down and be practiced.

Everything was in place and I was on the trail by 5:30 a.m.  I had a long day ahead of me if I planned to make it to the East Branch Pleasant River Lean-to.  Another big push.  I wanted to bust a move and get a good pace going.  Was I feeling motivated due to Just Bob and Trout’s presence?

My hunch was correct, it poured all morning.  The trash bag rain skirt kept the water out but the sweat had me drenched anyways.  I arrived at the Cooper Brook Lean-to around 11:30 a.m. and dried my socks over a small fire.  About 200 feet before the lean-to I had lost my balance and footing on a rock mid-stream.  To save myself from disaster I stepped into the water, up to my knees.  My feet had been dry all morning, in spite of the rain, and were soaked and boots sloshing.

I trudged to the lean-to, following two hikers that passed me after my stream ‘incident’, Eli and Crawford.  Not long after Just Bob and Trout came around the corner and joined us.  And then, a short while later, while lunching, another fellow appeared whose name I’ve forgotten.

The lean-to was crowded.  It was too crowded.  I spoke little and tended my drying socks and boots.  Dry feet are happy feet.  And I had not yet gotten a single blister.  The group finished eating.  Someone, maybe Just Bob, made a comment about ‘taking care to not let my wool socks get burnt’ before they left.  I shrugged and smiled.

I thought about staying at the Cooper Brook but there was a pause in the falling rain.  My boots and socks were dry and it was only 2:00 p.m.  I decided to mush on.  The next lean-to, the East Branch River Lean-to was about 8 miles away.  I knew I’d get in late and the shelter would be crowded.

I decided to go for it.

The hike was grueling.  The trail up Little Boardman Mountain was littered with blowdowns, many of them too high to climb over.  The brush and trees were thick making going off-trail and around difficult.  I had to rest at one point and sit down for half an hour.  I was light-headed and all the energy suddenly drained out of me.

I was shaky.  I felt ravenous and ate a mix of chocolate, nuts and beef jerky.  As I continued on, I found myself reaching down and pulling up handfuls of wild clover to eat as well.  I couldn’t stop myself from doing so.

Suddenly, Eli and Crawford were there walking at me on the trail.  I was momentarily disconcerted.  Was I going the right direction?  They said they had missed a food drop they’d arranged and were back-tracking.  After they passed I momentarily thought about my food supplies.  I found myself eating more clover.  More blowdowns.  About 4 more miles to the East Branch Lean-to before White Cap Mountain, a 3500 footer.

My thoughts churned.  I had figured I’d need to average 11 miles a day to keep myself on schedule.  With yesterday and today I was up on miles.  I wanted a ‘day off’.  My feet hurt.  The wind was blowing hard.  I caught a whiff of smoke.  The others?  Campfire smoke?  I lose myself in placing one foot in front of the other.

It’s dark.  Close to 8:00 p.m.  I think.  I walked into camp.  Everyone was settled and preparing dinner.  A radio is blaring country music.  Just Bob had caught a couple under-sized rainbow trout and was just taking them off the fire.

I dropped my gear, hooked Maxwell’s leash on to a tree, and set up my spot in the shelter.  “I know it seems cruel but it will be a huge help if you could just please ignore him.” I say.  Maxwell whined.

He’d been difficult after Cooper Brook trying to pull ahead on the leash.  Everyone had been giving him love and attention.  At lunch, Just Bob asked if he could give him a treat.  I said, “Yes, just one.” and had then caught him feeding him more when he thought I wasn’t looking.  I was adamant that Maxwell walk beside or behind me on this hike.  He’d had other ideas.  My hike and energy expenditure had doubled as a result.  I was tired.

Just Bob and Trout lasted an hour before they went over, ignoring my request, petting him.  I was too tired to say anything.  I silently went about preparing my meal and eating it.  I fed Maxwell.  I went behind the lean-to, camp clothes in my hand to change.  Just Bob walked around just as I was de-panting.  I continued changing staring him down as he quickly scuttled back around to the front of the lean-to giving me privacy.

I rejoined the ‘crowd’.  Maxwell and I settled in to the sleeping bag.  A final thought before unconsciousness…packed too much dog food.

 

Distance: about 15.2-miles

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photographed by Nichole Hastings

Journal Entry: June 4, 2010 – 100 Mile Wilderness

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day 6

First up.  It was raining lightly.  I slowly started packing.  Wishing wouldn’t make the rain go away.  Used my spare garbage bag to make a rain skirt.  I didn’t want wet bottoms like the day earlier.

The rain  slowed to a light sprinkle.  I stirred the coals and got a small fire going to dry my boots a little more.  By then, everyone was up and preparing their packs to go.  I headed out while they were breaking their fast to get a start on the day.  About an hour later the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds.  Glorious!  I tucked my rain skirt away for another rainy day.

The rays of the sun filtering through the canopy overhead lifted my spirits.  It was decided.  The Antlers Tent site would be my day’s destination.  According to the map it was relatively flat terrain with a ‘bump’ at the end.  It was as exhausting as I thought it might be.  At points I found myself looking for a place to pitch tent, a way out.  There were no proper or accommodating places to easily do so.  I walked on.

I stopped at a viewing point, Sand Pond, which looked back upon Mt. Katahdin.  I even mustered the energy to put my pack down and dig out the digital camera to take a picture of the lovely view across the lake.  I looked back at the mountain whose summit I had stood upon just a few days before in the distance.

Just Bob and Trout flew by me about mid-morning.  I paid them no mind and tempered my desire to travel at their pace.  I don’t know what happened to Limp Along.  I never saw him again.

It was a day of thought.  About life and this trail.  The twists.  The turns.  The obstacles getting to it and so far along the way.  Often I couldn’t see exactly where I was heading, what was around the bend, until I was right up upon it.  Several times I had to stop and get  my bearings, checking to make sure I was traveling in the right direction.  Many had walked this simple foot path, my feet, their feet, a past present connection with each step taken.

The last couple of miles, maybe more, my mind was lost in the zen of the moment.  I found a thought repeating itself, “If you can’t run, walk.  If you can’t walk, crawl.  But by god, keep moving forward.”  A rally cry of encouragement from me to my soul.  Funny, my ex-husband had loved that saying and quoted it often.

I stumbled in to the Antlers Tent site in the early evening.  It was maybe around 6 p.m.-ish.  I smiled at the sight of the tall pines and spacious tenting sites carpeted with long pine needles.  I pitched my tent and set up camp quickly.  There was a methodical comfort in knowing exactly where I wanted everything placed, strung and hung.

I saw Just Bob and Trout a few sites away, camped close to the water to the left of my mine.  I went and said ‘hello’ on my way to the lake.  They looked settled, as though they wouldn’t be straying far from their fire and dinner preparation.  I hustled to the water, took a quick look around, stripped and jumped in.  It was a pleasure to bathe.  To scrub off the day’s sweat and dust from my skin.  To wash it out of my hair.

The water was clear, cold and refreshing.  The lake was dead calm, a flat mirror reflecting the evening sky and trees in the distance.  Maxwell sat on the shore, waiting.

Once done, I dried off with a hand towel and dressed in my camp clothes.  Refreshed, clean, swinging my bag of toiletries and Maxwell trotting along at my side I headed back to my campsite for the evening.  I made dinner quickly as the mosquitos began to swarm, slid into my tent to eat it at my leisure, and reflected upon the day.

 

Distance: about 13.8-miles

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Journal Entry: June 3, 2010 – 100 Mile Wilderness

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Day 5

Rain.

The storm did not pass in the night as I was hoping.  The day was a blur.  The scenery was a blur.

Limp Along and I leap frogged all day.  The reality of my non-waterproof pants soaked in and chilled me.  It crept down under my gators, my boots and waterlogged my socks.  I’d like to say the scenery was beautiful but the rain and cold had me focused and introspective.  It was a grueling 8-mile hike.

Before leaving the site, I devised a way to keep most of the water from soaking my pack.  Two-thirds of a blue poncho, among other things, had been abandoned at the Rainbow Streams Lean-to.  I used it to make rain cover with one knot and strategic strap tucking.  It wasn’t pretty but functioned perfectly in preventing that extra water weight from accumulating and soaking my pants.

At one point the trail opened up onto a logging road.  Limp Along and I are pacing each other, about 30-feet apart.  It’s a slow steady incline, pouring, and the mosquitos are still a bother requiring netting.  We both came to the realization that something was a-miss.

“I think we missed the trail re-entry but it appears as though this logging road loops back into it further ahead.” Limp Along pointed to the line of the logging road when I reached him.  “Can you get my water bottle from the side of my pack and hand it to me?”

He put the map away and I handed him his water bottle.  He took a deep drink and then I put it back in the netted pocket on the side of his pack.  We continued on and sure enough, the trail’s entry appeared.  The logging road had looped and the trail cut across it twice.

We reached the Wadleigh Streams Lean-to just after 2 p.m. and decided to call it an early day.  The rain had not let up.  The lean-to was a welcome relief from it.

A couple appeared around 4 p.m.-ish, Just Bob and Trout.  Shortly after their arrival there is a reprieve from the rain for a few hours.  Some wood and tinder had been placed under the lean-to overhang and Just Bob got a fire going.  Trout and I strung up a blue nylon cord I had brought to dry our clothing and socks.  We stood up two large soaked logs and ran the cord back and forth four or five times.  It was a beautiful sight, the steam rising from the boots arranged around the fire pit to dry.

Just Bob and Trout looked to be near my age, probably a a couple years younger.  He was a military veteran and she was a semi-pro cross country ski competitor.  Trout said one day Just Bob had called and said, “Let’s hike the 100 Mile Wilderness.”  They shared some crystallized ginger with me, a welcome treat.  Both were quite taken with Maxwell and greeted him quite enthusiastically.

Limp Along had gone straight to bed, skipping an evening meal and did not stir until almost 8 p.m.  He did not say a word when he got up and quickly headed away from the lean-to.  I assume the privy.  He was gone a while and when he returned he went straight back to bed.  He didn’t introduce himself and said he was was feeling unwell.  I asked him if he’d like me to put his boots near the fire to dry.  He thanked me and then turned over and away in his sleeping bag.

Sometime in the middle of the night I heard the rain start up again.  It must have been around midnight or earlier.  Trout heard it too.  We both crawled out of our sleeping bags and rescued all the gear we’d left to dry by the out fire.

I had studied Pete Mason’s maps before going to sleep.  My sights were set on reaching the Antlers Tent Campsite tomorrow.  It would be a huge push.  If the weather was accommodating it’d be well worth it.

 

Distance: about 8.4-miles

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Journal Entry: June 2, 2010 – The 100 Mile Wilderness

Wednesday , June 2, 2010

Day 4

Woke up sometime before 5:30 a.m. to the sound of rustling plastic.

Mouse!  In my food!

I scrambled and pulled everything out to see what damage had been done.  Thankfully not much.  There were two holes chewed through two different bags of dried fruit and nuts.  Maxwell did not move once.  My little ratter.  I put everything in a spare garbage bag near my head.  When I looked up the little culprit was in front of me and headed back for seconds.  It ran when I reached for my pack.  Cute little bugger.

Up and headed around 7:00 a.m.  Today was a grueling one.  I hiked 11.5 miles, according to my map, from the Hurd Shelter to the Rainbow Streams Lean-to.  We walked through a multitude of ever-changing forest realities.  The bugs were out and thick.  I wore mosquito netting all day and sweated.

Stopped mid-day to rearrange gear.  My pack is heavy heavy.  Maxwell got the first aid kit and his rain jacket to carry.  Little pack dog.  I decided to drop some gear.  An easy decision.  I left soaked pink Nike sweatpants neatly folded on a downed tree.  Good-bye 10-lbs of dead weight.

The rest of the afternoon I leap-frogged with Limp Along.  Back and forth.  The two miles prior to reaching the lean-to was all mud, gnarly tree roots and swarms of insects.  Limp Along sat down on a rock and I continued on ahead.  At one point, I looked out through the trees to the lake on my right hearing voices on the water.  Was I hallucinating?  A canoe with two men in it paced me and then it paddled off, disappearing.  I paid it little mind.  I focused on picking my way carefully, steadily along the rooty trail.

The light was disappearing.  I was in a haze.  Then suddenly a gray shining rectangle appeared in my line of sight.  I blinked twice wondering if it was a mirage.  I tamped down that feeling of excitement and relief as I approached, just in case.  It was the lean-to.  Relief.  I thought back to the moose, seen earlier in the afternoon crossing the shallower open water, and smiled.

 

Distance: about 11.5 miles

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