I thought there were four entries about this trip, but there appear to be at least 5. Here’s number 4, where our trio of badass babes of the West walk around in the night to saddle up to the approach on Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental USA. Warning: bad words, bad words…
After hiking some 8,000 miles of National Scenic trail in the past six years, I have a feel for the best segments of trail. I found that yesterday, in Acadia National Park, 65 miles and 90 minutes away from my house on the coast of Maine.
I was invited along on an all day hike by a good friend, and increasingly frequent hiking sidekick Ryan Linn, AKA Guthook, owner of Guthook’s Trail Guide Apps. We had been up to Acadia together a few weeks ago for a long day hike in this same area, but this time, I felt as if I discovered the best kept hiking secret in Maine.
It’s still beautiful on the coast of Maine on this Halloween hike- there is still colorful foliage lingering in the trees.
The rich hues of green imbedded within the carpets of moss on ancient hummocks punctuated by glacial boulders in a landscape framed by the chilling grey waters of the Atlantic Ocean make this loop a definite to-do on any hiker’s checklist.
We started early and hiked until late, reminding me that from now on, I’m packing a flashlight on any day hike.
Take a good map- I had the Acadia National Park Waterproof Trail Map by Map Adventures. Carey Kish’s 10th Edition Maine Mountain Guide has a full map of the much more popular eastern side of Acadia, but you’ll need to look elsewhere for some of the western side map details, for example Beech Mountain. There is so little traffic on these western side trails- we saw not one hiker out on our 14 mile step-fest today.
Here was our itinerary: Park at the Pine Hill lot by Seal Cove. Up the Great Notch Trail, down to the lower part of Sluiceway Trail.
Guthook detected the remains of an ancient granite step staircase off to the right on the way down the Sluiceway. Here’s a shot looking down the steps. It appears to go straight up Bernard Mountain. I plan to go back and try to tease that out through a bushwhack that might get steep.
Then up the Bernard Mountain Trail back up to the Great Notch and down the upper part of the Sluiceway Trail onto the Gilley Trail.
Head east to the Cold Brook Trail through the Long Pond parking lot where we picked up the Valley Trail.
From here we ascended Beech Mountain via the South Ridge.
From the summit, we took the Beech Mountain Loop north.
Here we picked up the Valley Trail all the way back to the parking lot at the south end of Long Pond. Then a long shore side walk on The Long Pond ( Great Pond) Trail to where it terminates on the Great Notch Trail back to our car.
You may not want to do all of this is one day, so let me cut to the quick: the best stuff was on Beech Mountain. The trail was what I call “World Class Hiking”. Trust me.
All in all it was a great , long, and highly rewarding day, capped off by a visit with Carey Kish, who welcomed us to his new place on the western side. Kish has seen and done most all of what there is to do in Acadia. The high point of the evening was when Carey dug out the hand written notes that proceeded the original 1970′s vintage Appalachian Trail Data book (he has that too) that he used on his 1977 thru-hike of the AT.
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.”
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.
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”.
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. 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.
It is the absolute best time of the year to hike in Acadia right now. At least one parking lot was almost empty. 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.
It was up and down all day long.
Here are some additional pictures:
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 !
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.
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.
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.
After we descended the Ledges, the trail meandered through a Lord of the Rings landscape.
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.
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.]
Did they miss any that you readers have liked?
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.
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 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. 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.