It’s Official- Triple Crown Award !

Small size, big deal

Small size, big deal

I opened the beat-up padded envelope that just came in my mailbox and was blown away to finally see this physical object in my hands.  I’m in a club of  230 individuals world wide !

The American Long Distance Hiking Association-West sent me a congratulatory letter with three statistics:

“On a single day in May 2012, more people summited Mt. Everest than have hiked the Triple Crown.

More people have circumnavigated the earth than have hiked the Triple Crown.

More people have been in space than have hiked the Triple Crown.”

Triple Crown patch

Triple Crown patch

I didn’t do it alone.

My deepest appreciation goes out to Dick Wizard,  Train, General Lee, Paddy-O, my wife Auntie Mame, my mother Isabel, my brother Roy, my son Lincoln and his fiancée Stephanie , Don Kivelus ( Four Dog Stove)  and my Trailjournal transcribers Jan Munroe (v8), and John Clark (Tenzing).  Special thanks to all the other hikers who helped me ( it’s an impossibly long list to do justice to) , my faithful Traijournal readers, and all the individuals , past and present, who worked or are working  to make our National Scenic Trails a reality that anyone can step onto and return to our ancestral purpose in the grand forests, deserts, mountains, and plains that grace the United States of America.

 

Hiking on Acadia is Primo in October

Our route

Our route

It was able to make a couple of scheduling adjustments and free myself up to join Guthook on an all-day summit fest on the lesser populated trails that run across the western side of Acadia National Park.  It’s not often that I get an offer to hike my heart out on a warm October day in Maine.

The weather was a bit iffy, with a 50% possibility of afternoon rain.  As it turned out, we were spared the wet, and instead blessed with a steady, cool, drying wind that came at us right off the Atlantic Ocean, which was often within sight.  No drenching our shirts today, either with water from the sky or from our own sweat.

Despite an early 7:30 AM start from Belfast, ME , ittook 5 hours to walk the 12 miles of trails, at an average speed of 2.3 mph. Guthook and I did not take many breaks today, and any that we did were relatively brief.  However, a few road construction delays and the dwindling daylight put me back home  after dark.

I was running two apps on the walk: Fitbit for the iPhone 5s ( no band needed) and Strava-tracking my hike, and playing with distances.  Guthook was packing a GPS, an also running Fitbit to double check steps and mileage. Its fun to know as much as I can about my hikes.

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve walked the Acadia trails.  The last time camped here was on a 2009 February winter trip in Blackwoods Campground where I set up my heated wall tent  for a few nights as we explored the snow-packed trails and roads.

I would characterize Acadia’s trails as “ Camden Hills on steroids”.

Atop Acadia Mountain

Atop Acadia Mountain

While the tallest mountains in Acadia are about the same height as my nearby Camden Hills State Park (roughly 1,000 feet in elevation), there are many more of them, and the trails are often wilder, with more fallen dead tress, and a footpath that is often much gnarlier.  Here’s a shot of Guthook and Casey dog on a rocky section up to Bernard Mountain. IMG_3626 Yes, that’s a blue blaze marking the trail in the lower part of the picture.

The flat light today and the still vibrant foliage made for Zen gardens, all day long.

Really....

Really….

It is the absolute best time of the year to hike in Acadia right now. At least one parking lot was almost empty. IMG_3605 We only saw a dozen hikers all day, averaging just one person per mile on a warm weekday. The Park’s website states,  “Acadia National Park generally receives more than two million recreational visits each year, making it one of the most-visited national park in the United States. The busiest months are July, August, and September.”

We each drove up, spotting my car at the end of our hike off the Western Mountain Road, and with Guthook’s car at the start in the parking lot on the East side of Echo Lake on Route 102.

Here’s what we did today:  Acadia Mountain (681′)—> St. Sauveur Mt.( 679′)  via Canada Cliff Trail/plus Beech Cliff Loop—> Beech Mtn.(839′) —>Mansell Mtn. (949′) —> over the Great Notch and Bernard Mtn. (1071′) and then back down the West Ledge Trail to the other  car.

Elevation, baby.

Elevation, baby.

It was up and down all day long.

Here are some additional pictures:

The beach at Long Pond

The beach at Long Pond

Looking south down Somes Sound

Looking south down Somes Sound

Panorama  from Beech Mountain

Panorama from Beech Mountain

Check out Aislinn’s blog entry about hiking Mansell Mountain for some historical background on Mansell and her own account of a great walk in an astounding National treasure.  Thank you U.S Parks  !

Walking out of The Hundred Mile Wilderness

We backpacked 16 miles today in order to reach my car, that was spotted at Abol Bridge at the end of the Hundred Mile Wilderness.  I pitched it to the guys that our goal was to walk 12 miles again, a distance that we had been accomplishing the past few days. That 12 miles would have put us at the last lean-to, at Hurd Brook. When we reached that empty shelter, on a day that was clear and sunny, with ample daylight left,  four more miles ( flat terrain) to the Appalachian Trail Cafe for dinner in Millinocket were easily completed.

Here are some photos from our last day:

Jocomotove and I successfully shuffled over the slippery log bridge above Rainbow Stream. G-Man walked right through the water.

G-Man gets to try his waders

G-Man gets to try his waders

The floor of Rainbow Stream shelter has the original baseball- bat style saplings.  Only in Maine.  No so comfortable for sleeping on a thin foam mat.  My Neo Air had no problem with it.

No plywood in this place.

No plywood in this place.

The only uphill of the day was just 400′ of elevation over the always astounding Rainbow Ledges.  Joe and I took a break here. We had an 18 year old female thru-hiker named Sprout take our picture. I was in awe that a young woman just out of high school could arrive at Katahdin looking as fresh as a spring daisy after 5 months on the AT.

Two old friends near Katahdin

Two old friends near Katahdin

After we descended the Ledges, the trail meandered through a Lord of the Rings landscape.

Our last memories

Our last memories

When we reached Millinocket, we bee-lined it to the AT Cafe, where I phoned up Ole Man to find out how the thru-hiker evacuation played out.

It was no surprise to me that it did not end well.  Ole Man said that when he got the guy in his Suburban, the hiker’s ankle didn’t seem to be that much of an issue. The trouble started when the hiker absolutely refused to leave the Suburban to go into the clinic and have his injuries assessed.  Next!  Other than the $20 bill I gave the guy, he had no money, nor any credit cards of his own.  So the next issue was how he would pay for his expenses in town. The young man had told me that he planned to call his father and have his father help him pay for stuff.  Ole Man said that didn’t pan out either.  The guys’ father only had an American Express card, which Ole Man was not set up to process, either at the AT Lodge, which is the hiker hostel in town, or at the AT cafe, which Ole Man also owns.  Normally, folks have a backup to an American Express card, which is increasingly declined at business establishment.  So, at the end of that day, Ole Man brought the  fellow over to stay at the Hostel.  Maybe a solution could be achieved to help this guy get back home how.  That next morning, Ole Man had to leave early to shuttle some folks to the AT.  When Ole man got back to assist the hiker, he discovered that the guy had just left, without a note. Vamoose !  End of story.

Ole Man said that he has usually just one thru-hiker case every year that leaves a bad taste in his mouth.  I was the guy that made that happen in 2014!  Ole Man let me know that there were no hard feelings between him and I. I volunteered to cover the charges that the felow rang up, but Ole man would have noting to do with me paying.

In retrospect, I would have done the exact same thing if I encountered an injured hiker in need out in The Hundred. People can get lost and die out there.

So Ole Man would get in his Suburban yet again, probably sometime soon, to evacuate the next injured hiker.  I hope that hiker, has a means to pay for the time, gas, and lodging that Ole Man would offer, as he does day after day, many times a day, in assisting the genuine thru-hikers as they experience all the jewels along the path that the Appalachian Trail has to offer.

Tested: The Best Apps for the Outdoors

from Outside magazine

from Outside magazine

Hot off the digital presses on Sept. 29 is Outside Magazine’s  filtered review of 23 of the thousands of outdoor/hiking related Apps that are coming at us for consideration.  Thanks, Outside !

My neighbor and hiking pal Ryan Linn’s Guthook’s Hiking Guides, made the cut.   [ Disclosure: I have purchased my own Guthook's AT Hiker App.]

>> Tested: The Best Apps for the Outdoors <<<

Did they miss any that you readers have liked?

Flying in to Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness

Coming through Millinocket around noon today we stopped at the Hannaford’s grocery store where down by the dairy isle I ran into Billy Goat, a former Mainer, who is best known for his perpetual thru-hiking of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Uncle Tom and Billy Goat

Uncle Tom and Billy Goat

I was astounded that he appeared in my life again. I had three conversations with Billy Goat on my 2010 5-month thru hike of that trail, that 2,700 mile baptism of ice, snow, and other forms of cold water.

Billy Goat and me on the PCT in Southern California in 2010

Billy Goat and me on the PCT in Southern California in 2010

Billy Goat gave me specific advice each time that we connected.  Slow down was his main message, “You may never pass through all this again.”

Billy Goat has been out providing ground/ auto support for a friend who is about to finish a long segment from Gaspe, Quebec to Katahdin.  I told Billy Goat he looked good for 75. His eyes are not worn and washed out, and still radiate hope.

The highlight of the day was sitting in the rear seat of a small 4 seat float plane with my buddies Chris and Joe when we departed from Katahdin Air Service and landed on Crawford Pond 15 minutes later to begin our 50 mile northbound section hike.  The cost of the flight included a shuttle of my car to Abol Bridge, a one hour round trip.  When we finish the hike, the car will be right there for us on the Appalachian Trail.  IMG_3507 Jim, the pilot,  pointed out where the AT meanders between the lakes and ponds below as it carries itself along the undulating green carpet.

It was the perfect introductory backpacking day.  Blue skies, except for the clouds over Katahdin.

Katahdin looms in the distance

Katahdin looms in the distance

IMG_3515 A short 3.5 mile afternoon, and a bed space in my favorite AT shelter, Cooper Brook Falls. Tomorrow we start our first full day of adventure.

Upper South Branch Pond in Baxter State Park

Day 4- Thru-hiking Baxter State Park

Russell Pond to Upper South Branch Pond
7.5 miles

My hiking today was completed by noon. It was a straight shot north up the Pogy Notch trail, a path that was cut in 1951.  I can’t remember when I had this much time off on a recent backpacking trip. I have the whole afternoon to lounge around this tiny lean-to that’s facing a smooth-stoned beach on this remote wilderness pond.
I’ve already Steripen’d a couple of quarts of water that I scooped from the pond, brewed up a fresh cup of the last of today’s coffee, and went for a chilling swim/ rinse in the clear, tranquilizing water not 50 feet from my bedroll.  I even read my book, a thin volume entitled The Backbone of the World: A Portrait of the Vanishing West Along the Continental Divide
Chris is here already. I was moving pretty good and expected he would be a bit behind me, but he rolled in just ten minutes after I did.
Guthook is still out, putting on additional miles.
It was overcast and cloudy all day long.
I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon at this private, well-maintained camp site.

The single lean-to at Upper South Branch Pond

The single lean-to at Upper South Branch Pond

I swam in the pond and rinsed off yet again.

Right off our front porch

Right off our front porch

Dry dead fire wood had been stripped away for quite a distance from the fire ring but who minds a bit of of walk when the payoff is a cheerful, evening campfire?
Guthook eventually came in with a smile on his face after a bit more than 18 miles of laying GPS track.
The hiking today was definitely mild, with the ancient trail meandering trough a variety of ecological slices: marshes, through beaver flowage, spruce forests, beech groves, and even a stand of hornbeam.
I really enjoyed my dinner tonight: 2 cups of instant Idaho Red Potatoes, a packet of tuna, mayo, pickle relish, and lots of Siracha.

Chris worked hard to produce a  fine evening camp fire.

Day's end

Day’s end

Guthook’s blog of today here.

Russell Pond Campground in Baxter state park

Chimney Pond –>Roaring Brook Campgrounds–>Lean-to at Russell Pond CG.
10.8 miles

Despite adding another hiker to our duo, we were able to started hiking today at 7:15 AM. We encountered dozens of hikers that were coming up the 3.3 miles ( and 1500′) from Roaring Brook campground to Chimney Pond.

Chris had come in on his own, and had the consciousness of a heap of throb after he lumped his 40 pound pack up here yesterday afternoon.  However this morning, he carried himself surprisingly well on the descent.  We stopped just once on the way down. Here is a video clip of Chris checking in with “The Daily Inventory of Pain”, a phrase and practice coined by my Canadian hiking buddy The Burglar.


When we reached our cars at the parking lot, Chris decided to take me up on my offer to look through his stuff and suggest what might be left behind to get his pack weight down.  I implemented the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, and clothes closet pile technique and watched him orient his gear in the proper categories.  Chris’ empty backpack/ day pack military ops combo weighted 6 pounds one ounce empty. He reluctantly replaced that with the 3 pound ULA Catalyst that I had given him.  Even his camp chair was dumped, shedding 2+ more pounds. In the end, Chris reduced his load to 28 pounds, a much more reasonable weight that included even more meals than he carried up last night.

Guthook was on his own today. He went back up high over Hamlin Peak then took the North Peaks Trail and ended up with us in lean-to #5 at Russell Pond.

Number 5 , Baxter style

Number 5 , Baxter style

I was hoping to meet up with the Russell Pond ranger, Brendan, who lives not far from my house, but Guthook met up with Brendan, who opted for the challenge of the high route as he was headed home for a couple of days.

The walking was especially great, and followed a big day of going up and down. I was transported back in time as we passed the huge glacial boulder known as Halfway Rock. My wife Auntie Mame and sons Lincoln and Arlo were in my thoughts today, as they were physically back in the 1980’s when our family traversed this and many other of Baxter’s trails on our annual Columbus Day weekends.  Today the trail was wooded, dappled in greens, and frankly, easy.  We were in the green tunnel all day long. Today, Chris and I took the right fork over the Wassataquoik Trail.

We made two fords: one little and another wider over Wassataquoik Stream, about 2 miles before we ended the day’s walk. It made sense to keep my feet bare and walk the 100 feet or so across a fairly soft footpath to the second ford, rather than putting the boots on and taking them off and then putting them on and off again a minute later.  I was shocked to find a leech already stuck to the heel of my foot, even though I had been in the water for less than a minute.

We were way off on our own in Lean-To #5 at Russell. 

Lean-To #5

Lean-To #5

Dead wood was scarce, and what few solid sticks we could find were some distance from our spot. I bear-bagged my food way up in a tree after I spotted a huge pile of bear crap beside a nearby blueberry patch.
The crowds are gone now that we left Katahdin.
We had our session of “cowboy TV ” on a small wooden bench in front of the  cracking spruce wood fire.
I was asleep before dark.