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The Hundred Miles Wilderness

I told you I had another post coming soon!  I know I have lost most of my readership, but my trip isn’t complete until this blog is complete… so here is my take on the Hundred Miles Wilderness.  Enjoy!

Day 163 – Historic Route to Monson to ME-15/Monson
Miles: 3.3

I did not sleep well, at all, last night. The room was far too hot for me, and someone was snoring. It rained most of the night, so we weren’t able to open the big window for the room, which just made the heat even worse. I got up about 7 and headed next door to Pete’s for breakfast. I ordered the “100 Mile Wilderness” – a meal consisting of 2 eggs, 3 slices of bacon, 3 pancakes, a pile of home fries, 2 pieces of homemade toast, and a bowl of Cream of Wheat. Plus coffee and OJ. I ate it all in under an hour – just barely – and was awarded a pin! If you ask me, it should come with some Pepto, too. After last night’s poor sleep, I made arrangements for a private room for tonight, and moved my gear to the room as soon as it was ready, while waiting for a severe downpour to end. I walked over to Shaw’s hostel, to grab a few items for resupply, and then stopped at the post office to mail home extra food and unneeded gear. I hiked out to the trail and completed the section I missed yesterday, so that I can start at the official trail head tomorrow. It also turned today into a nero instead of a zero, which makes it feel a little less wasted. When I got back to the hostel, I took a shower and relaxed the rest of the day. Later in the afternoon, the weather turned nice – sunny and breezy, but a bit cold. It probably would’ve been a good day to get some miles in, but it felt good to relax for a day.

Day 164 – ME-15/Monson to Long Pond Stream Lean-To
Miles: 15.1

I slept good last night, although I woke up a little earlier than I wanted. I got up, packed, and got a small breakfast from Pete’s. I took the shuttle at 7:45, getting on the trail by 8 or so. Getting dropped off at the trailhead today was a lot like getting dropped off at Springer Mountain, in that both had a “well, this is it” feeling to it. Today was the muddiest day on trail yet, too. It was everywhere and most of it was bottomless! It really slowed me down in places, and the roots and rocks just made it puddle up more. Between the mud, the puddles, and the fords, my feet were wet most of the day. But the weather today was absolutely beautiful. Sunny, just warm enough you sweat a little, a nice cool breeze, birds and squirrels chirping away all day. It was a good one. I saw a couple of SOBOs and passed on NOBO who looked like a section hiker, but otherwise, I was alone all day. I am guessing I will spend most of the 100MW alone. I made it to Leeman Brook Lean-To by 9:15, and kept going. The trail passes tons of ponds today, but still no Bullwinkle sightings. I got to Wilson Valley Lean-To at 1:15, and stopped for about 25 minutes for lunch. I had heard rumors of a trail magic cabin somewhere near here, but it must only be on weekends. I got to the shelter at 4, and decided to not push farther. My legs were feeling a little sore and extra miles today won’t help me tomorrow since there’s not really alternative camping sites listed through the 100MW. Taco and Shell, two NOBOs, were just leaving to move on to the next shelter. I filtered water and then changed out of my wet clothes. I was having some chaffing on my hips and the top of my butt from the weight of my pack. Now I know why Bookie hated her heavy pack! I cooked dinner and as I was finishing, Pilgrim walked into camp. Pilgrim was another NOBO hiker, one I had heard a lot of from Bookie. Later, another NOBO named Blue Kazoo came in and set up her tent nearby. I journaled some until it was too dark, then climbed into my sleeping bag to read. It was interesting to watch the light play on the trees and through the trees as the sun sets, making me smile as I settled in for the night.

Entering the 100MW

Entering the 100MW

Day 165 – Long Pond Stream Lean-To to West Branch Pleasant River Campsite
Miles: 15.2

I slept good last night, getting up around 6:30 and getting on trail within an hour. Today was a rough day, though, both mentally and physically. If yesterday was mud day, today was rock day. Steep rocks. Slippery rocks. Bouldering rocks. It was slow going, for sure. And don’t think there wasn’t mud and roots, because there was, but the general ache in my knees and feet says the rocks were worse. Or the ups and downs. Mentally, I couldn’t get my head in a good place, so I couldn’t find my rhythm, which just let my head focus on the pain of the trail… and more chaffing. I was sweating so bad today that everything was dripping wet by 10. Thighs. Top of butt. Ouch. It wasn’t all that warm, but just warm enough I guess, especially on the climbs. I got to the final campsite at 5. I set up my tent, then walked to the river and simply sat down in it. Sweet, cool relief. I watched the sun sinking behind the hill, casting beautiful light on the stream. Fortunately, I didn’t have a camera, I didn’t try to capture it, I just enjoyed it, soaking in the warmth of the sun as my legs went numb in the water. I went back to camp, filtered water (from a different portion of the stream, just in case!), cooked and ate dinner. Taco and Shell came into camp and set up nearby, although they kept to themselves. Pilgrim walked by and set up somewhere else. There’s an older couple here, section hiking, in a single-tarp double-hammock setup. Interesting way to create a nest, I suppose. But they went to bed while I was eating. And two others came in just as I was climbing into my tent. So while I was not alone tonight, I was alone. But I camped right next to a stream, which was rather loud and soothing, helping me drift to sleep.

One of the many beautiful views

One of the many beautiful views

Day 166 – West Branch Pleasant River Campsite to East Branch Lean-To
Miles: 16.4

I slept great last night, although I woke a couple times due to the moisture in the air. Everything was damp this morning, including my clothes that were hanging to dry. Starting the day with wet clothes usually is a recipe for disaster with me, but it wasn’t. I got on trail early, but had a slow start with a ford immediately after leaving camp. Made decent time but the hills were killer today. I feel like I’ve gone soft since the Whites… or they just wore me out. There were lots of big climbs, rocks, roots and mud. I know I sound like a broken record, but the trail has been about the same lately. I was sweating within 30 minutes of leaving camp and never truly dried out all day, but the chaffing was mild today so it wasn’t too bad. The first couple hills had no views, but the view from White Cap Mountain was great. And on the way down, I saw Katahdin for the first time! It was too hazy to get a picture but I saw the golden egg. I ate a late lunch at Logan Brook Lean-To, then hiked the 4 miles to East Branch Lean-To. I would’ve liked to hike farther, but there aren’t any confirmed campsites near water for a while, so I called it a day at 4:30. Still, it was a good day of hiking today. I’ve come to realize I have “get there-itis”. I skip side trails and don’t like to just sit and observe during the day, knowing I can’t truly relax until I get to camp. But then I get to camp early and just sit there. I’m going to have to work on that down south. The mosquitoes were killer at the shelter, so I set up my tent and filtered water. When I got back from the stream, a section hiker named Terp was there. He’s from Germantown, Maryland, (near me!) although lives in Boston now. He gave me a lot of good info on catching a bus back to Mt. Greylock, and then he hiked on. While cooking dinner, Pilgrim and Blue Kazoo came into camp. While eating, Big Brother and Pink Panther came in. We had some good conversation while we all ate, which was a nice change from the solitude the last couple days, but the bugs were bad, so we were all in our tents by 7:30.

Pilgrim fording a river

Pilgrim fording a river

Perhaps the 100MW is more isolated than I realized!

Perhaps the 100MW is more isolated than I realized!

IMG_2317

Sunset at the stream

Sunset at the stream

Day 167 – East Branch Lean-To to Nahmakanta Stream Campsite
Miles: 23.8

I slept like crap last night. It was too hot and uncomfortable. I got up to use a tree at midnight and ended up reading my Kindle for an hour. I was finally able to sleep some, but it was restless. I woke up fairly early and got an early start to the day. Literally just outside of the camp, I saw my first moose! She was about 30 feet off trail, in some brush, but she was beautiful! And more gangly than I expected. But finally!! I’ve seen a moose! The trail was fairly easy and mild, with lots of decent trail. Just as I got a rhythm going, a section of mud or roots would appear and throw it all out of whack, but I guess I’m getting used to it. Surprisingly, the chaffing wasn’t bad at all this morning, and I made very good time. I got to Antler Campsite about 1, and ate lunch along the pond shore with Two Bad Dogs, an older couple from Colorado who had lots of stories and comparisons of the AT and the PCT, which they did a few years ago. Just as we were packing up, a lady walked up and said she and her husband had hotdogs and soda and homemade cookies, if we wanted any. Umm, thru hikers here! We packed up and walked over to chat and partake. And it was wonderful. Dawn and her husband, Gwen, were a nice couple from New Hampshire, visiting their cabin on a pond next to this one. Their son, “Red on the Head”, hiked in 2005, and when Dawn beat her cancer a year ago, she said giving trail magic was on her bucket list. And here they were. A hot dog, two cookies, a handful of chips, and a Pepsi later, and I was all smiles. And as I was leaving, Dawn insisted I take a beer for dinner. Amazing. It was an honor to meet them and share their celebration. But the trail called, so I headed out. And right away, I was in pain. Apparently, I had stopped long enough for everything to dry just enough that things were “tacky” and the chaffing flared up immediately. I got to Potaywadjo Spring Lean-To about 3:30, and quickly decided I could do more, so I headed for Nahmakanta Stream Campsite, even though the chaffing was telling me to stop. But my legs felt great so on I went, setting my new longest daily mileage. I made it to camp at 5:30, quickly set up my tent and then waddled to the stream, where I once again waded in and sat down in the cool water, drinking my beer as I relaxed. Cold relief. Anywhere else, this would be horrible, but after hiking, the cold water feels wonderful. I sat there for a good 15 minutes, giving myself a little bath of sorts, then got up and filtered water. The mosquitoes were horrible, so I cooked dinner and ate while walking around camp, trying to not provide a stationary landing platform for the thirsty blood suckers. If I stopped, they attacked, so I added some “unofficial miles” to the day. As soon as I was done, I hung the bear bag and took shelter in my tent, which is fine since it gets dark about 7 now anyways. I was all alone in camp tonight, but I didn’t seem to mind. Hopefully I can get a good night’s sleep.

Lunch on the shore

Lunch on the shore

Trail Angels Dawn and Gwen provided an amazing lunch

Trail Angels Dawn and Gwen provided an amazing lunch

Day 168 – Nahmakanta Stream Campsite to Hurd Brook Lean-To
Miles: 25.4

I slept great last night, thank the sweet lord of sore muscles. I woke up at 5:45 and was on trail by 7, with clear skies and cool breezes for a few hours, which was wonderful. About 20 minutes from camp, I spooked a bear, and almost had to stop and change my underwear! I didn’t see him until he went crashing through the brush running away from me. Perhaps I need a shower more than I thought. The trail was monotonous today, and definitely a “root day”. Big, gnarly masses of roots that you had to pick your way through, hoping you don’t slip and fall (which happened twice…) But the day went on ok, even though my legs and feet were sore. The chaffing seemed to be under control most of the day, mostly because it was warm and I was sweating a ton. Today ended up being a mentally tough day, with aches and pains, boredom, and just “being done”. I hit my wall early and just wanted to be done hiking. But after a short break, I was able to hike on. I got to Rainbow Lake Campsite, my intended destination, about 3:15 and decided to push on. And before I knew it, it was 6 and I was walking into the shelter, once again resetting my distance record. Hardware and White Wolf were there but nobody else, which was odd considering this is the last shelter before the Birches. We’re guessing most people pushed the extra 4 miles and then hitched to town for the festival this weekend. I filtered water as it got dark, cooked dinner and headed to bed. Talking with Hardware and White Wolf, I realized how much I was going to miss the group of hikers I had met the last week or two, once I traveled back to Massachusetts. My legs and back were already aching as I cooked dinner, so I hope I can sleep.

Day 169 – Hurd Brook Lean-To to The Birches
Miles: 13.4

Unfortunately, I got no sleep at all last night. My back and legs kept cramping up, I was hot in my sleeping bag, then cold without it, had to get up to use a tree a few times, etc. Needless to say, it was a rough night. It started raining at 3, and was still drizzling when I got up at 6:30. We were all slow to get moving, especially since it was very cold. Once I hit the trail, I found it to be a mix of rocks and roots but not too bad. I got to Abol Bridge at 9, stayed for 30 minutes eating a breakfast sandwich, cinnamon roll and a Pepsi, then hiked on, with a mix of nature trail and “normal trail” until Katahdin Stream Campsite. I got there at 1:30. It just seemed like a very odd day, leaving the 100MW and reentering civilized camping. I got a couple views of Katahdin and every time, my breath caught in my throat a little. It has been years of planning to get to this trip and tomorrow, with luck, I will summit Mount Katahdin. But I don’t really know anyone I am with. Hardware and White Wolf are going to town tonight, but they’ll summit tomorrow, most likely later in the day than me. The campsite is supposedly full tonight, but so far, I don’t recognize anyone. It’s an odd feeling being surrounded by hikers and feeling totally alone. There wasn’t cell service at all at the campsite, but I did have it for a minute earlier today to be able to receive some texts from the past week. The group of us hung out around the campfire, trying to stay warm. I filtered water, cooked dinner, and enjoyed a Pepsi with dinner – I feel like an addict with Pepsi. We sat up around the campfire a little while talking. Burl and Tree Beard showed up at dark, a nice couple I wish I had met sooner.

Mt. Katahdin as I crossed Abol Bridge

Mt. Katahdin as I crossed Abol Bridge

Finally, Baxter State Park.

Finally, Baxter State Park.

Walking to the Birches

Walking to the Birches

Trailside waterfalls

Trailside waterfalls

Tomorrow's goal - Mt. Katahdin.

Tomorrow’s goal – Mt. Katahdin.

Day 170 – the Birches to Mt Katahdin (and back to Katahdin stream Campsite, then to Milinocket)
Miles: 5.2 (plus 5.2 back to Katahdin Stream Campsite)

I slept great last night, even though it was super cold! I woke up before sunup, though, excitement in the air. I walking to the ranger station at 6:15 with Five. We set up our slack packs and hit the approach trail at 6:45. It was bitter cold this morning. My hands were freezing from climbing on the rocks. I hiked up with Tree Beard, Burl, and Five, talking most of the way up. We summitted at about 10:30, with amazing weather – cool temps (although it warmed up nicely once the sun peaked), a slight breeze and clear skies. The summit was full, too. Tons of people didn’t summit yesterday due to the rain, so they were climbing today. I saw Pilgrim, Papa Oats, Hardware, and White Wolf at the top (or as I was headed back down), and we all congratulated each other on reaching the summit. It feels very odd to be at Katahdin but not be done. I got back to KSC at 2:15, along with a large group of other hikers. I repacked my backpack and tried to hitch, but didn’t find any cars leaving, so just decided to wait for the scheduled shuttle. I got a little reflective while waiting, looking around at everyone giving high fives, laughing and relaxing. All of the people sitting at KSC are done. They are thru hikers. They are headed home. I’m not… not yet, anyways. And I will probably never see any of them again. That saddens me. I look at the short list of deep friendships I have developed while on trail, and I wonder what affect it will have on me in the long run. I have never made friends easily, always keeping a part of me reserved and protected, and as much as I had hoped this hike would bring some of that out, I am seeing that it isn’t. It was an hour drive to Millinocket, but the van was full of laughter and discussion of future endeavors. I checked into the hostel, called my dad, then went to the AT Cafe for dinner. But nobody else did, so I ate alone. I walked to a market for snacks, and texted my mom a little, although she was out of town so I didn’t want to interrupt her too much. Back at the hostel, I showered, made a call home, and tried to embrace the day. I feel very down, though. This is not how I imagined Katahdin being. I did laundry and generally kept to myself, knowing that others were celebrating and I still had hiking to do. I was also a bit stressed about trying to find a bus to Greylock. It was a late night, for sure.

Baxter Peak, 5.2 miles.

Baxter Peak, 5.2 miles.

Success!

Success!

Words cannot describe the "high" from being so high!

Words cannot describe the “high” from being so high!

Just one view... you wanna see the rest, go for a hike! (and take me with you!)

Just one view… you wanna see the rest, go for a hike! (and take me with you!)

Burl and Tree Beard.  I wish I had met these amazing souls much earlier.

Burl and Tree Beard. I wish I had met these amazing souls much earlier.

Mt. Katahdin

Mt. Katahdin

Day 171 – Millinocket, Maine, to Williamstown, Massachusetts (via bus)
Miles: 0

Surprisingly, I slept great. I got up at 6:45 and putzed around until the shuttle to Medway left at 9. From there, I caught a bus to Bangor, Maine. I texted friends all day, on and off. From Bangor, I got a bus to Boston, then another to Springfield. I almost missed my bus transfer to Pittsfield because of an accident coming out of the Boston area. Thankfully, they held the bus until we could transfer. I called Kamikaze during my hour-long layover at Pittsfield, chatting about how the trail had been for each of us so far and giving her some tips for the 100MW. Then I took a bus to Williamstown, Massachusetts. Walked the mile across town, got a room at the Willow Motel, wandered to the gas station next door to get food, made a call home, and tried to relax before turning in, completely exhausted.

Cities are a bit overwhelming after the 100MW!

Cities are a bit overwhelming after the 100MW!

Overwhelming, but beautiful nonetheless.

Overwhelming, but beautiful nonetheless.

I am still working on the final few weeks of my trek, but hope to have it out soon.  Thank you, again, for patience.  And remember to always Spin the Compass!

My view from atop Bigelow West Peak - what an awe-inspiring view.

Mostly Maine

Yes, I am alive!  I have just been severly busy… and having a hard time adjusting back to the “real world”.  That said, I am slowly – stressing the word SLOWLY - working on getting the last of these blog posts posted.  With that said, here’s Maine… mostly.

Day 147 – Full Goose Shelter to Grafton Notch
Miles: 9.7

I woke up way too early, with one of the large groups semi-quietly leaving camp at 5. I didn’t sleep well anyways, with lots of snorers in the shelter…including my hiking partner! For some reason, my legs are super sore today. I didn’t think I pushed excessively hard yesterday, but maybe I did. I officially got up at 5:30, packed quickly and waited on Bookie, with us getting on trail by 7:15. It was a rocky trail to the start of the Mahoosuc Notch and then all hell broke loose! The Notch was amazing, though. It took us 2 hours 20 minutes to get through the Notch, laughing and playing as we went. It was fun but boy was I glad it ended when it did. We took an early lunch break at a campsite just after the Notch, and were back on trail by 12. The trail was not much better or worse going up the Mahoosuc Arm, but definitely more tiring than the Notch. We got to Speck Pond Campsite at 2, and took a half hour break to filter water and grab some snacks. The climb from there was rough, but doable. Then the downhill was actually not too bad. Just after we started down, I saw Bear Bell!! I haven’t seen her since Trail Days, and it was great to catch up for a few minutes before we each hiked on. Bookie and I got to the parking lot at 5:45, with local EMS in the lot for a hiker with an injured wrist. Bookie’s mom was just arriving when we got there, with soda and snacks waiting. We relaxed a little and talked with a few other hikers before loading up the car and starting the drive to their house. We stopped for dinner, then stopped for groceries in some small town, arriving at her mom’s at 10:30. I got a quick tour of the house (which is amazing!), we took our showers, and settled in. I was able to check my weight – I am under 200 pounds for the first time since high school! My arms and shoulders are really sore, and both knees are killing me. Apparently, the Notch was harder on my body than it felt. If Advil came in a Pez dispenser, I’d be overdosing right now! It’s been a late night, but what a good day.

Scrambling through the Notch

Scrambling through the Notch

Very humbling.

Very humbling.

Day 148 – Bookie’s
Miles: 0

We all slept in this morning, and did I ever sleep great. We enjoyed a simple breakfast on the screened porch, enjoying the morning view. This house is really nice, with lots of creature comforts built in. Bookie took me into town so she could get a coffee and to show me around. She even took me to the NEMO Corporate Office, but alas, they were closed. We grabbed some groceries for the birthday party, including a few adult beverages and two cigars. We headed back to the house to rest before going to Bookie’s grandpa’s birthday party, where we enjoyed a ton of great food, a swarm of welcoming people, and a good time all around. Afterwards, we ran errands to EMS, toured the area a little, grabbed some Mexican food for dinner, and went back to the house. After a quick call home, I socialized with Bookie and her mom a little before turning in.

Knock, knock, NEMO!

Knock, knock, NEMO!

Bookie found her "pot of gold"

Bookie found her “pot of gold”

Party food + thru hiker = AMAZINGness

Party food + thru hiker = AMAZINGness

Goofy pics while touring town.

Goofy pics while touring town.

Day 149 – Bookie’s
Miles: 0

I slept in again, but didn’t sleep very deeply. Guessing the relative inactivity yesterday got to me. We again ate breakfast on the screened porch. Bookie had two doctor appointments to go to, so I stayed at the house and wrote a blog post (obviously not this one) while she was gone. I ended up going out to the back yard to play fetch with Star (who is also bored out of her mind…), and to sit in grass, smoke a cigar and write some letters and post cards. It was a very relaxing day, with absolutely perfect weather. And I love this house and yard. It’s a perfect setting, quiet, beautiful, full of life. Pease Air Base is nearby, so there are lots of planes overhead. The birds were chirping, chickens clucking, honeybees buzzing. It’s just an amazing setting. Later in the afternoon, we went for a short boat ride with Bookie’s uncle, which made me completely homesick for Michigan. After, Bookie’s mom made us an amazing dinner of salmon, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, all fresh and delicious. Bookie went out to meet with a friend, but I opted to make some phone calls and give her some time with her friends. When she got back, we all had some ice cream while watching tv. As is typical for a town day, it was a late night, but it looks like we might be taking another zero day tomorrow so that Bookie can get a new inhaler prescription filled.

The view from the backyard.  Amazing.

The view from the backyard. Amazing.

Star has no problem settling in.

Star has no problem settling in.

Day 150 – Bookie’s
Miles: 0

As I suspected last night, Bookie was unable to get her inhaler prescription filled, so we took another day off. I tried to sleep in, but was rather restless all night. We lounged around a little this morning. Bookie cooked some gluten free pancakes, which we ate on the screened porch, of course. I posted another blog update while Bookie went out with a friend for coffee. I took a nap for a while. Later, we went to dinner with Bookie’s family to a seafood restaurant in town. It didn’t look like much from the outside, but the food was great, and I had a good time getting to know some of her family. She finally got her prescription after dinner. Bookie had arranged to meet a friend at a nice restaurant in the next town, but I opted to not go out so I could get packed up. I had a rather unpleasant phone call home, turning the day into a late night. I know I won’t sleep well now, too, but I am ready to get back to the trail. This trip has turned long and expensive, with far too many zero days.

Bookie's grandpa and his wife are the picture of true love.

Bookie’s grandpa and his wife are the picture of true love.

Day 151 – Grafton Notch to Frye Notch Lean-To
Miles: 5.8

I had a weird dream last night, so I woke feeling slightly irritable. I got up at 6 to finish packing. Bookie’s mom made breakfast for us, but that made us run later than we had planned. We left the house at 9, and stopped twice (Dunkin Donuts for coffee and a grocery store to grab a few resupply items) and were back at the parking lot by 12:15. An AMC trail worker was there providing lunch as trail magic, so we ate a little, then said goodbye to Bookie’s mom. We walked out of the lot at 1, so not too bad after all. It was a beautiful day, sunny, warm and a little humid, but with a slight breeze. Of course, we crossed the road, went over a stream, and then the trail went up. It always goes up. The hike to the first shelter, Baldpate Lean-To, wasn’t too bad, though, even though there were a lot of stone stairs that made the knees wake up. But after three days off, it seemed much worse than it was, for both the lungs and the legs. We got there at 2, took a 45 minute snack and water break, then hiked on. That’s when the trail got bad. There were lots more stairs. Rock faces to scramble up. Roots where there weren’t rocks. And it was steep. Very steep. The views from Baldpate West Peak and Baldpate East Peak were stunning, though, ALMOST making it worth the pain. Almost. I even stopped to pick some blueberries at the summit. Unfortunately there was a lot of haze so my pictures weren’t the best. The hike down to the shelter was a tad rough, very steep and with a lot of rock scrambles and rock faces, but we made ok time, getting there at 5:30. Somewhere on the way down, I took a step and my left ankle rolled, bringing me to my hands and knees. There wasn’t any residual pain but it sure caught my attention. My left ankle seems to roll a lot lately, something it hasn’t done much of since the first month or two of the trip. We set up tents, filtered water and ate dinner while the sun set. My legs feel like jello with razor blades inside them. My body feels like crap. I hope this is just readjustment for being off-trail so long. It was dark by 8, so we hung bear bags and headed to our tents for an early evening.

My first moose sighting!

My first moose sighting!

Day 152 – Frye Notch Lean-To to Hall Mountain Lean-To
Miles: 10.5

I slept ok last night, getting up at 6:30, and on trail by 8. I feel slightly off today, having some mental games going on with regards to being away from home for so long. Today was a warm and humid day from the get-go and just got hotter. The initial hike was nice trail, with a gentle slope and only occasional sections of rock or root. But after a road crossing, it got steeper, rockier, rootier, and muddier. After a while, it felt like I was stumbling along trail. I got to Hall Mountain Lean-To at 1:15, ate lunch, filtered water, and relaxed while waiting for Bookie. She showed up at 3:30, in pain, so we stayed. I would’ve liked to have hiked at least 1.5 miles more to the campsite at the bottom of the notch, but judging by Bookie’s pain levels, I don’t know if she would make it tonight, so instead we hydrated, snacked, talked with a college group that was camping nearby, and relaxed. I cooked dinner around 6 and was in bed by 8. This early darkness is weird.

Day 153 – Hall Mountain Lean-To to Bemis Mountain Lean-To
Miles: 12.8

I didn’t sleep well at all last night. People snoring, squirrels on the roof, and a sore knee all contributed to a restless night. I got up at 6:30, and was on trail by 8:15. Temps were cool with a slight breeze that lasted all day, both of which were welcome considering the trail we had to hike. And the trail sucked today. I thought I was back on the Mahoosuc Range again, with rocks and boulders and roots everywhere! My right knee was achy within 2 hours and just got worse as the day went. I had lunch at the top of Old Blue Mountain, which was kinda neat. About three miles from the shelter, I came across a group of SOBOs filling water at a creek. They let me know they had heard reports that the shelter had little to no good water. Crap. So I spent 45 minutes filtering water for my 2L platypus and 3L canteen jug, plus a couple bottles to drink right then. And I carried it all for the final 3 miles. Needless to say, I was wiped out by the time I got to the shelter. I did stop to pick more blueberries at the top of Bemis Mountain, though. They were big and juicy and delicious and worth the 10 minutes I spent picking them!! While I was filtering, Mushroom, one of the SOBOs, noticed me fighting with my leaking Evernew bag and offered me her new and unwanted Sawyer bag. Trail magic! After they left, another SOBO named Lil’ Bean (she has a lot of stuff from LL Bean) stopped and we chatted while filtering. There was one NOBO at the shelter when I got there, but he moved on almost immediately due to not having any water. Sadly, he was at the creek when I learned of the poor water. Apparently, he wasn’t paying attention. I cooked dinner and ate while waiting for Bookie, who arrived at 7:15, with Second Hand, another NOBO. They cooked and ate as it got dark and I headed to bed, exhausted. Bookie saw a moose, and even had a little video of it. Hope I see one, too.

Day 154 – Bemis Mountain Lean-To to Little Swift River Pond Campsite
Miles: 12.9

I slept great last night, although there was a lot of mouse activity in the shelter. I got up at 6:45, but Bookie was moving in slow motion so I decided to head out without here, getting on trail at 8:15. Regardless of my early start, I had a very slow start due to blueberries and pictures! But the trail was decent, with only some rocks and roots. I took a snack break at the first road crossing, and saw a truck dropping hikers off. Yukon, the driver, offered me a Pepsi and we chatted for a while. He’s opening a hostel next year nearby. As always, the trail went up, up, up from there. I got to the overlook at ME-14, was able to send a few texts, so I decided to take lunch to be able to chat longer. As I was getting ready to leave, a truck stopped and offered me some freshly picked local apples, tossing me four small ones through his window. There was a tough uphill after that but with some great views of lakes in the distance. Snake Mountain should be the name of this hill, as I saw eight garter snakes on it. I feel like I’m in a great mood today, the day is warm and sunny, the birds are chirping, the evergreen forest is refreshing, the roots are killing my ankles but I’m still making good time. I just feel great, and thankful for the opportunity to be here. I stopped at the beach prior to Sabbath Day Pond Lean-To to swim. It was a perfectly refreshing stop. Drying in the sun afterwards, I was mesmerized by the waves. It makes me miss Michigan, though. Bookie showed up, and harassed me about not texting my parents earlier to verify our resupply availability. I just can’t seem to win with her. Then she wanted to discuss mileages even though she was eating lunch and had no clue of any details. It just stressed me out, and put a damper on my mood, so I packed up and hiked on. I walked the last five miles in under two hours. I got to camp and set up my tent, filtered water and snacked, trying to relax. I was cooking dinner as Bookie walked into camp at 6:30. We ate together and talked about the day. She apologized for harping on me, saying she was just joking, but the sting is still there.

The overlook at ME-14

The overlook at ME-14

Little Swift River Pond

Little Swift River Pond

 

Day 155 – Little Swift River Pond Campsite to ME-4/Rangeley
Miles: 4.8

The stars were beautiful last night! I got up about 0300 to use a tree, and noticed the sky full of speckled dots. It was so breathtaking that I had to send an email home explaining it. It took me a bit to fall back asleep, but I slept great both before and after, especially once the Vitamin-I kicked in. I got up around 6:30, and was on trail by 8. I walked with Bookie this morning, and we had some decent conversations, reminiscent of our first days hiking together. We got to the road crossing at ME-4 at about 10, but it took us around 45 minutes to get a hitch. Slim, a worker at the Farmhouse Inn, took us back with him after he dropped off some trail magic at the trailhead. Unfortunately, our trip was delayed until he had a “Safety Meeting”. Lovely way to invite hikers in. We got the Farmhouse, and found out that they were doing free lunch, free dinner and free breakfast tomorrow for the weekend, so we decided to stay. The “free food” more than made up for the cost of staying the night, which we were able to barter down by staying in our tents out in the yard. The day was a beautiful sunny day, so we set up our tents and laid out gear to air out in the sun. The Farmhouse is an odd place, with no clear identity to who is staying as a guest, who works there, or who lives there. There are a bunch of small children running around, and some teenagers that entertain the children by driving an old jeep throw the grass around and around. We caught a ride into town for resupply, and I headed to Ecopelagicon to get my trekking poles serviced. While waiting, I saw a sea plane landing in the lake, so I ran to the waterfront to snap a few pics and watch. After my poles were repaired, we walked to the grocery store and then back to the hostel. Bookie and I had agreed to plan out our daily mileages from here to Katahdin while at the hostel, but when we got back from town, she fell into conversation with other guests and appeared unavailable for planning, so I did my own version of planning. The tension is rising. I made a call home, and then headed for my tent, trying to avoid a confrontation from the growing irritation with how long this trip is taking. It was a cold evening, but the sky was amazing and made for some great star gazing while I calmed down.

The pond behind Ecopelagicon.

The pond behind Ecopelagicon.

Day 156 – ME-4/Rangeley to Poplar Ridge Lean-To
Miles: 10.7

I was awake by 6, and wasn’t feeling good at all. Guessing last night’s free dinner, on top of the stress of everything going on, has my gut upset. Whether it was because of this, or if I just woke on the wrong side of the tent, I was feeling very antisocial this morning and somewhat upset for the way yesterday had gone. I packed up my gear and kept to myself, waiting for the shuttle to take us back to the trail. While it was supposed to leave at 8, it didn’t actually leave until nearly 8:45. When we got to the trail, I was feeling impatient, so I threw my pack on and headed out. The day was warm, but very windy, especially at the summits. It was a decent hike up to Saddleback Mountain, and I made really good time. I almost got blown off the trail at the summit, though, and had to really concentrate on maintaining the trail while walking. The hike down from the Horn was steep and a bit rough, then the trail went up and over Saddleback Junior, which wasn’t too bad. From there down to the shelter, though, was pretty rough, which slowed me down some. I got to the shelter about 2:30, and immediately filtered some water and ate lunch. I had pushed myself harder than I thought, and while it felt good to do so, I was worried I had pushed too hard. I talked to a flip-flop SOBO named The Artful Dodger, and to the local caretaker, Grace, and gleaned a lot of information about the trail to come. Bookie arrived much later, and we had a breakdown, which ended in us basically ignoring each other for the remainder of the evening. Someone made a campfire as the sun was setting, and someone else played a guitar softly, making it a very picturesque evening, but unfortunately I was lost in my head and didn’t truly enjoy the evening for what it could have been. But I went to bed more determined than ever… tomorrow, I would hike hard and see how far I could get. In my head, I had reached a breaking point – make good time, or go home, because the trip had lost its fun-factor.

The summit of Saddleback Junior

The summit of Saddleback Junior

Day 157 – Poplar Ridge Lean-To to ME-27/Stratton
Miles: 21.5

It rained a little overnight, but was more wind than anything. Still, I didn’t sleep well at all. I was up by 6, packed quickly, and ready to leave by 7. I sent a quick email to Bookie apologizing for last night, explaining our different mindsets, and wishing her luck on the remainder of her hike. I walked out of camp just as she was getting up. The day started ok, but I really don’t remember much of it, lost in thought. It was definitely a day of mixed emotions. I was sad for losing my hiking partner, mad at myself for losing my temper last night, lonely and nervous for knowing that I am truly on my own now, and a bit excited for what the trail might offer. The climb up Lone Mountain seemed never-ending, and by the time I reached the top, I was drenched in sweat, something that has become a normal state lately. I couldn’t drink enough water today, either, sweating it out as fast as I was drinking it. I stopped at Crocker Cirque Campsite for lunch, not because I was hungry but rather because it had an ice cold water source. Frankly, I had to force the food down. I moved on about an hour later, deciding to push harder. The trail was a mix of rocks and roots, with some stretches of decent trail interspersed between. The Crocker Mountains were rough, steep and draining, and the long downhill to the road crossing just never wanted to end, but it finally did. And I passed the 2,000 mile mark of the trail! I also broke my “longest mileage in a day” record, which my legs were quite aware of. I got to the parking lot at 6, to find out that I had just missed a ride into town. I tried to hitch, but there were no cars traveling the road at all, so I started walking towards town. Thankfully, a car with another thru hiker, “Not Yet”, and his family, stopped and picked me up. The hostel in town was full, so I got a room at the White Wolf Inn. While I waited for the hotel manager to arrive, I walked through the grocery store mere minutes before it was closing and grabbed some dinner and a handful of Gatorades. Once I was checked into the room, I took a shower and actually soaked in the tub for a while, trying to avoid the leg cramping that seemed to be coming. I spent the remainder of the evening alone, eating, rehydrating and relaxing. It was a later night than I expected, as always.

2,000 mile marker!

2,000 mile marker!

Day 158 – ME-27/Stratton to Horns Pond Lean-To
Miles: 5.1

I slept in a little and found I wasn’t as sore as I expected to be. Maybe the hot bath helped. I relaxed in the room some, not feeling motivated to hike at all. I finally got up, showered, and walked across the street to resupply. It was a hot and humid day out, and I was not looking forward to it. I hitched a ride with Fat Man Walking, the same guy with an RV that had given Bookie and I a ride in Vermont. He dropped me and three other hikers off at the trailhead at about 11. The trail was a big mix of steep rocks, roots, boulders and steps. It really wasn’t a ton different than what I have seen the past week or two, but for some reason, it kicked my butt! I felt sluggish and was having a hard time catching my breath the entire way up the hill. I finally got to the shelter at 2. I debated staying or hiking on, knowing that a large group of hikers left the shelter as I was arriving. They were headed for where I would have to aim for, and I don’t know that I would be able to hike past there if the campsite happened to be full. While I was thinking this over, I went for water. I seem to be having a lot of loneliness issues today, too, feeling isolated and not really enjoying the trail at the moment. I decided to stay, to rest, and to regroup, against my better judgment. With the way my head is right now, it would be better to keep hiking and stay “distracted”, but I don’t know if my legs could take it. I probably should’ve stayed in town longer, but I had a ride, and it’s too late to worry about anyways. I set up inside on of the two shelters, and tried to stay busy all afternoon by planning the section down south that we skipped. Unfortunately, there are too many variables to plan ahead much. I filtered more water, and was happy to see Arrow and Green Bay arrive at the campsite around 6. While they mostly keep to themselves, their presence helped to calm my isolation issues. I cooked dinner just as it started to rain, watching the storm as I ate. With the quickly darkening sky, I was in bed by 7:30, although I read for a while before truly turning in.

My view from the Horns Pond Lean-To

My view from the Horns Pond Lean-To

Day 159 – Horns Pond Lean-To to West Carry Pond Lean-To
Miles: 17.9

Today was a fantastic day. I got up a little after 6, and found the day to be misty, very windy and cold. Green Bay was already up and had made coffee for everyone, which was surprisingly good. I might have to add coffee to the grocery list. I was out of camp by 7 and felt great when I started. The ups weren’t too bad, and I had lots of caffeine-fueled energy to drive me forward. The temps were on the edge between cold and warm, so I sweat a little on the uphills, then dried off on the downhills, even getting a little chilled at times, but I’ll take this any day. The wind was really whipping on top of Bigelow West Peak and Avery Peak, especially above tree line, but the views were awe inspiring and amazing, with the fog and mist blowing across the mountains and though the valleys. I actually stopped and said a little prayer thanking God for the beauty before me. As if the day could start any better, there were tons of blueberries on Little Bigelow Mountain, which always makes me smile. I took a 20 minute break to filter water and use the privy at Little Bigelow Lean-To. I had heard rumors of trail magic at East Flagstaff Road, just past the lean-to, so I didn’t eat lunch and sure enough, it was there. And enormous! Mad Mike, Fig, Walkin’ Home, and Zephyr were cooking hotdogs and hamburgers, had coolers full of soda and tea, pasta salad and snacks on the table, and a big chocolate cake. I spent an hour there, eating and talking with them. Fig had just finished his thru hike three days ago, and was a wealth of information on the areas I had left to hike. It was tough to leave but I did, making it to the shelter along with a large group, just as it started to sprinkle. I quickly filtered water and then hung out and chatted with the other hikers there. I didn’t know any of these people, but they are all pretty social and included me in the conversations. I cooked dinner and watched the sunset across the pond, which was full of pinks and oranges from the rain clouds. Arrow and Green Bay walked into camp, wet and cold, as it was getting dark. We talked briefly before they ran off to set up their tent. The rain got worse as the night went on, but it sounded amazing on the tin roof.

My view from atop Bigelow West Peak - what an awe-inspiring view.

My view from atop Bigelow West Peak – what an awe-inspiring view.

Trail magic!

Trail magic!

Day 160 – West Carry Pond Lean-To to US-201/Caratunk
Miles: 14

It poured all night, which made for a loud night, but it drowned out the snoring and let me get a good night’s sleep. It stayed dark longer due to the storm and the shelter didn’t come alive until 7. I packed and ate while contemplating the day. I decided to push for Caratunk, especially with the rain still falling. The trail was fairly level and decent, with patches of rocks and roots but not a lot. Or I am just getting used to them. Everything was slippery, though. I slipped on a root and fell sideways into the brush, scraping my knee and jamming my right wrist. The rain seemed to have stopped by mid-morning, but the trees were still dripping most of the day. I made it the ten miles to Pierce Pond Lean-To by 11, taking a half hour break to drink and snack while talking to Birdie, another NOBO, before hiking on. The trail was MUCH more rocky and slippery from this point on, with lots of roots and bog boards. I slipped again on a root and fell to my butt. As I stood up, I hoped I didn’t puncture anything inside my pack, but there was no place to put my pack down to check without it filling with mud, so on I went. I made it to the Kennebec River at 1, giving me some time to relax before the ferry started up. There were lots of warnings of the dangers of fording the Kennebec, and I’ve heard the stories of hikers getting swept away by the rapidly rising water, so I had decided early on to wait for the ferry if I wasn’t there when it was running. I found a clump of grass along the bank and ate lunch while waiting. Birdie arrived about ten minutes before the ferryman appeared on the other side of the river, giving me someone to talk with. The ferryman quickly paddled over to us and after our release forms were signed, we were shuttled to the other side of the river. I walked to the Caratunk Post Office to call for a shuttle, since the “town” doesn’t offer much. I arrived at the Sterling Inn, got checked in, retrieved my mail drop, showered, ate some food and started checking my resupply. I spent the afternoon and evening relaxing, watching a movie and writing in my journal. Some of the others went into town to a bar playing live music, but the quiet of the Inn was too much to pass up. I’m glad I stayed, too, as Arrow came in and we were able to talk about the 450 miles of trail skipped. He gave me tons of good tips and ideas for how to maximize my time on trail there without being too slow. It was a late night, but a great day of relaxing.

Fancy bog boards

Fancy bog boards

Waiting for the ferryman at the Kennebec River.

Waiting for the ferryman at the Kennebec River.

The Sterling Inn was a fantastic stay.

The Sterling Inn was a fantastic stay.

Day 161 – US-201/Caratunk to Bald Mountain Brook Lean-To
Miles: 14.7

I didn’t sleep much last night. The drunk crowd decided to come to the bunk room at 11 and talked until 12:30. Once they shut up, I slept ok, but it was a short night. I got up and finished packing, then got breakfast. I decided to buy a new water filter, since mine was getting pretty tough to push water through even after back-flushing it. I took the shuttle back to the trail around 9, feeling a little lonely again as I leave behind the group I started to grow comfortable with, including Arrow and Green Bay. The trail wasn’t too bad to start, although there were some uphill scrambles that slowed me some. I got to Pleasant Pond Lean-To a little after 11, and took a 15-minute break to snack and drink. I hiked non-stop to the next shelter, finding the trail muddier and rockier. I slipped pretty bad on a wet rock face and landed hard on my left side. My left knee hurts a little, my left middle finger feels broken, and my ribs ache a bit. I got to the shelter at 3, finding it empty and quiet. I snacked and filtered water, then ate dinner early. I am finding that when I hike in a group, I prefer my tent for some solitude, but when I am alone all day, I like to stay in the shelter for a little socializing. Two other NOBOs, Big Brother and Pink Panther, came into camp at 6:30, but they set up a tent and did their own thing. Around dark, two Amish section hikers came in, speaking their Dutch language. They made a campfire, though, so Cowboy TV kept me entertained for a while, until I climbed into bed to read.

Obstacles aren't always ON the trail!

Obstacles aren’t always ON the trail!

But sometimes the trail IS the obstacle.

But sometimes the trail IS the obstacle.

Home for the night.

Home for the night.

Day 162 – Bald Mountain Brook Lean-To to Historic Route to Monson
Miles: 18.7

It started raining at 2am, and continued on and off all night. I was woken very early, before daylight, by the two Amish boys, as they made their breakfast and packed up. Once I got up, I made great time. The trail sucked, full of roots, slick rocks and deep mud, but I must be getting used to it because I was just cruising. I arrived at Moxie Bald Mountain Lean-To at 9:30, and took 15 minutes for snacks and water. The trail from there was varied, from decent to real rocky or full of roots, but I was still maintaining a decent pace. I had my first real ford at Piscataquis River, with water knee deep and cold. I also realized this morning that autumn is here, as the trail is covered with colored leaves. I got to Horseshoe Canyon Lean-To at 1. There was a SOBO there eating, and I decided to eat a quick lunch. Twenty minutes later, I was back on trail, headed for Monson. I got to the road at 3:30, and hiked the two miles along the road to get to town. I walked into the Lakeshore House at 4:30, got checked in and showered, and texted home. I’m glad I didn’t walk slower, as I got the last room they had, and a large group of hikers walked in about ten minutes behind me. I walked down the street to a gas station to grab some snacks, then went downstairs to the pub for dinner since it’s closed tomorrow. The service was horrendous, taking over an hour to get a simple burger and salad, but the food was good once it arrived. I went back to the hostel and texted home some more, watching tv until late into the night. Tomorrow is a planned zero day, before heading into the Hundred Mile Wilderness.

I decided to break the Hundred Mile Wilderness into its own post… mostly because it was so beautiful, and mostly because I wanted to get this post up, and it would take me a while longer to write up the Wilderness.  So look forward to that post, coming… soon-ish.

Thanks for your support and patience.  Remember to Spin the Compass!