Tuesday, June 8, 2010
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.
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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Friday, June 4, 2010
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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