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 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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