Tuesday, June 1, 2010
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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