Day 3 Report- Where We Evacuate a hiker in the Hundred Mile Wilderness

10 Miles- Potaywadjo Spring to Wadleigh lean-to

The three of us rolled into the Potywadjo Spring lean-to at the end of our day’s hike last night to find a trio of men who told us they were thru-hikers that had just flipped from Hanover, New Hampshire up to the end of the AT in Maine and were now hiking south.

My bullshit radar activated immediately.  We’ve encountered several southbounders on the AT in the Hundred right now. Most told us they flipped from Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River, while others were bailing from as far south as the Shenandoahs on their Northbound hikes to then hike south through Maine. This trio’s plan made no sense to me, as they had been right at the doorstep of the White Mountains in New Hampshire, known for the worse weather on the AT. No reasonable hiker would stop at that point, in early September, when the chance of encountering snow and ice was minimized, compared to what it will be like there in late September into October.

I over heard them talking while they all smoked cigarettes in front of the shelter.
Here are some exact quotes I jotted down:
” I have hiked all the Superstition Mountains in the Grand Tetons, Arizona.” [Fact: The Grand Tetons are in northwestern Wyoming.I walked through them last year.]
“We’ll be in the White Mountains in just 70 miles!” [Fact:  They are approximately 240 miles away.]
” I paid $750 for my North Face backpacking tent. It is fireproof so I can cook right on the floor inside it .” [Nope.]
“I haven’t washed up at all in three weeks.  I’m really hiker trash.”[So pleased this guy was not bedding down next to me in the shelter.]
“ I have a great hammock that I bought at WalMart for 20 bucks.”[“Great backpacking hammock” and “twenty bucks” are not generally stated in the same sentence.  The same individual said that he had started hiking  carrying a home-made tattoo machine.]
“I pulled one of my own teeth out last week. I had another hiker pull out another one two weeks ago. ”  [Yikes- they were in the front, too !]
” I started hiking from Georgia May 15. I made it to Philly for the Fourth of July.” [Fact:  That's over 1,000 miles.  That would have made his daily average  close to 20.  It didn’t jive with his previous quote, “ I lost 90 pounds.  I was so fat I could only walk 3 or 4 miles at the start of the trail. I have these big flaps of skin I hope go away.”]
“ I was going to punch that guy who owns the hostel in the face when I asked him how much it would cost for him to drive me to Katahdin and he told me $30.” [Now my intuition was glowing strong.We had to get away from these guys.]

Later, Chris ( AKA G-Man) told me that he was holding on to his wallet as he listened to these guys and looked at their gear collection, which was tattered and was at least in part Walmart branded. But they slept in three tents in a non-authorized camping area in front of the lean-to while The Slocomotive, G-Man, and I commandeered the shelter. It was just the six of us.

We three were up early the morning, the Southern boys were still in bed but rustling around when we left.

After starting out rested and strong, we quickly became absorbed in  a beautiful, green palette of moss, leaves and grasses.  Flowing through the unfolding canvas were glinting shimmers of mirrored water that appeared in clearings off the side of the AT- impressions from the numerous streams, springs, and bodies of water that we hiked through on our northerly walk toward Namahkanta Lake today.

We were walking smooth and strong, with G-Man moving strong on point  for maybe three hours when I thought I heard a sharp yell, not a common occurrence on the AT in these parts.  I heard it a short while later, and mentioned it to Joe. It seemed to come from in back of me.

Slocomotive chugging up out of Tumbledown Stream

Slocomotive chugging up out of Tumbledown Stream

We had just crossed Tumbledown Dick Stream when  I had stopped and who should be limping quickly toward us but one of those three guys.  He was in a crazed state, highly agitated, snot coating his lower jaw and neck, and clearly banged up, with his arm in a makeshift sling with white tape around his ankle. He was initially incoherent, and agitating to go forward.

He eventually told us that he was the first of his trio to leave Potawadjo Springs shelter but then found himself off trail and at the spring itself, on a blue-blazed trail instead of the AT.  But he’s now steaming north like a true mad man, alone and disoriented on the AT.  He told us that he must have got turned around when realized that his compadres had gone head ahead and he fell.  It was a woefully inadequate an explanation for how banged up he was.

Joe is a war veteran who served in Vietnam, and was a nurse before he retired. G-Man is an Emergency Medical Technician. He was in luck in encountering some experienced medical personnel.  G-Man slowly engaged with the guy, who was settled down enough for G-Man to gently palpitate his shoulder and his back, the main source of his complaints.

The G-Man assist

The G-Man assist

G-Man’s eyebrows shot upward when he gently examined the man’s spine, and called me over and had me feel the prominent hard lump that was just off the side of the fellow’s backbone.  Later, G-Man told me that he thought that one vertebra was misaligned, and that it was very likely that the guy was in an incredible degree of pain, which became evident after he doubled over and threw up after he began to walk again.  When I was alone with G-Man a little later and the guy was in the care of The Slowcomotive, I told G-Man I that I didn’t buy his story of  falling as he turned around.  I believed that he had been beaten up by one of the two other guys , or at least picked up and thrown against the shelter, or onto some rocks.  His injuries were not consistent with a simple fall , especially a fall that would have been cushioned by a loaded backpack.  When out of earshot, the Slowcomotive told me that the guy told him said he was on meds for auditory hallucinations.  Oh, Oh……

What to do?
We couldn’t leave him after he told us that he had no money, and that he threw his phone away back near the shelter when he realized that he broke it when he fell on it.  At this point he was about 30 miles south of Abol Bridge where he could get a ride out to Millinocket. He told us he had money and food at a mail drop in Monson, some 70 miles south.

We had a quick triage, and decided to assist the guy by walking him out to get help via a medical facility in Millinocket.  We decided that since he was ambulatory at the moment, we could not call 911 and initiate a likely helicopter rescue.

I opened up his pack and distributed the bulk of his gear to our three backpacks. We headed out.  He was able to walk at a surprisingly good clip, considering his condition.  Eventually he became faint, and we all sat down and made him eat and drink water.  He was in and out, sometimes starting straight ahead with open eyes, and occasionally unresponsive to our efforts to converse with him.

Eventually we came to the gravel Nahmakanta Stream Road,  where we eventually listened to G-Man, who argued strongly that our new goal was to find a way to evacuate at him via this road.  The problem now was twofold:  no traffic at all and the fact that our very narrow AT strip map was inadequate to determine which was the best direction to get him out. It was here that I vowed to (in the future), take with me pages from the Delorme Gazetteer in future Maine hikes, so that I’d be able to see where these wilderness woods road might go.

Initially, I was not able to get a cell connection at all at this spot.  However, while we were waiting for something to materialize, a miracle came to us, literally out of thin air.

I heard by iPhone buzz an incoming text notice.   It was a message from Duff, a woman that I had hiked 2,000 miles with on the PCT in 2010.  She was messaging me from Baxter Peak at the top of Katahdin, and at that exact moment, completing her own AT thru hike!  I messaged her back before the intermittent Verizon signal faded and asked her to contact Paul Seneshal, AKA “Ole Man”, and get him to text me about this situaiton.  Old man owns both the Hiker Hostel and the AT Cafe in Millinocket.
After too much waiting, and some confusing responses, everything fell into place for a rescue, of sorts.

I texted Ole Man this photo to show where we were.

I texted Ole Man this photo to show where we were.

Here’s some of the texts:

Ole Man-“Hey Tom.  I can get him if he can get to the S end of Nahmakanta Lake. There is a camping area there and it would take almost an hr to get there.”
Hey Tom. Do I need to come out there?”

Me- “Yes! You coming?”
Ole Man- “Yes. I’m on my way.”

While we were sitting in the road waiting for Ole Man to get here, the injured party told us, “I hear a car.”  We didn’t.  Then he righted himself, squinted up one end of the road, pointed and  then said, “There it is!”

Just at that moment, I saw a grey truck up in the distance that appeared to be turning around and heading back.  I ran up the road, where I discovered a smaller gravel road curving off into the woods.  I bolted up there and discovered a couple getting out of their truck.  The guy had a big holstered pistol on his hip. After I carefully approached and explained to them what was going on, they offered to immediately drive the guy out to the Jo-Mary Road checkpoint, a manned gate that Ole Man would have to pass through in order to drive the 24 miles of gravel to reach us here at the south end of Namahkanta Lake. They told me that it might take as long as two hours for him to get to this point from Millinocket.
I got in their car and brought them to our victim.  Things moved fast and furious when we emptied all of our packs of the guy’s gear and loaded him in the front seat. I handed him a $20 and wished him better luck in the days ahead.

Later, I received a final text from Ole Man- “Got him.”

Our day’s mission was formally accomplished.

[You'll have to wait for a future post to pick up more on this thread I'm going in chronological order and haven't written the rest of the trip yet.]

Day 2- Walking Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness

Cooper Brook Falls Shelter to Potaywadjo Spring Shelter      11.3 miles

I’m spoiling G-Man and The Slocomotive for any future backpacking trips. Today was that good.

Here’s the deal: cool September temperatures all day long, and clear blue skies. Humidity takes a holiday. The first half of the day was flat, with the strong morning sun breaking through the green canopy and gracing the footpath ahead of us in a golden light.

Slocomo enjoying the view

Slocomo enjoying the view

The trail itself was cushioned in a thick layer of pine needles, making for very comfortable miles.

We had lunch at Antler Campsite, a red oak sanctuary sited on the former sporting camp, on a sandy finger of land jutting out from the shore of Lower Jo-Mary Lake.  It was windy and I soon became chilled.  The Slocomotive dove into the pristine waters and swam a bit before we downed lunch. I was disappointed to see that the former well kept rustic outhouse had fallen into disrepair.

Soon Gone

Soon Gone

A new mouldering privy took it’s place, but change is inevitable and I’m not going to fight it.

Three miles later we all swam at a sunny, warm sand beach that faced south after we wound our way to the opposite shore of the lake.

IMG_3528  This is world class living.  We have seen no one, nor any man-made structures or sounds within miles of our direct sight line up the Lake.

Arriving at camp, The Slowcomotive was upset at discovering a couple of chew holes in the Arc’teryx pack that I loaned him. IMG_3521 He had forgotten that he put a ziplock bag of trail mix in the top compartment. Shelter mice are extremely persistent at sniffing out food, and will eat right through a tent wall and pack compartments to get it.  That is why hikers hang their food at night.

Potaywadjo Spring is a huge 12-15 feet diameter free-flowing spring.

Potaywadjo Spring

Potaywadjo Spring

It’s the only place on the hike where I drank untreated water.

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.

My Packing List – 1 Week/ Baxter State Park

Still working on streamlining my current backpacking gear.  My “kit” is now down to 15 pounds without food or water.  Since all but one night will be under shelter ( 3 sided lean-tos ), I will probably ditch my 2 pound tent and be down to 13 pounds.  Comments, suggestions , and questions welcome.

“The more you know, the less you carry”- Mors Kochanski

Uncle Tom’s Final Packing list  (rev. 8.14)

1. Pack Group:
1 Backpack – Granite Gear Leopard AC 58…………………   49 .0 oz =3.06  lbs.

2. Shelter Group:
rain wrap                                                                                          2.4 oz
rain jacket                                                                                        8.0 oz
1 Tarptent -Moment —–                                                            32.0 oz.
Total…………………………………………….                                      42.4  oz  = 2.65 lbs

3. Sleeping Group:
1 down bag, Western Mountaineering/stuff sack, 40°F        26.0 oz.
1 Ibex wool long sleeve zip T                                                       5.8 oz.
1 Ibex long tights                                                                            5.4 oz
1 socks wool                                                                                    2.6 oz.
1 headlamp w/ batteries  ( Princeton Byte)                              2.1 oz.
1 stuff sack sil-nylon………………………                                        1.3 oz.
1  Neo Air  inflatable mattress                                                   13.0
Total……………………………………………                                        56. ounces  = 3.5 lbs.

4.  Spare Clothing :
1 pr. wool socks                                                                              2.9 oz.
1 pr. Manzilla Windstopper gloves                                            2.2 0z.
1 Ibex wool hat                                                                               2.1 oz.
1 pr.  Patagonia mid weight stretch tights                                8.6 oz.
1  wool Patagonia midweight long sleeve hoodie                    9.4 oz.
1 Patagonia Puffball  jacket                                                         11 oz.
1 pr. New Balance Minimus shoes                                               9.0
Total……………………………………………                                       45.0  ounces=  2.8 lbs.

5. Kitchen Group:
1 Steripen  Utra                                                                               4.8 oz.
1  “Four Dog”  Bushcooker LT1 multifuel stove,  titanium
windscreen, titanium cook pot 700 ml w/ lid                         10.0 oz.
2 lighters…………………………………………….                                 1.2 oz.
1 water bottle – used Gatorade bottle…                                       1.7 oz.
1 qt. water bottle ( “Triple Crown Tiki Mon”)                           5.4 oz.
1 Ursak Minor – food bag………….                                                2.7 oz.
abrasive scrub pad, Bronner’s soap                                            1.0 oz.
1 titanium spork……………………………………                               0.3 oz.
1 cup, bowl=Orikaso                                                                      4.2 oz.
1 MSR coffee filter                                                                          0.6 oz.
2 bandannas………………………………………..                               2.0 oz.
1 length cord – 50’……………………………..                                   2.5 oz.
Total………………………………………….                                          36.  ounces     =  2.25  lbs.

6. Hygiene Group:
1 small pack towel……………………………..                                   1.0 oz.
1 bottle hand cleaner                     …………                                   1.3 oz.
1 small zip lock………………………………….                                   1.3 oz
w/ floss, vitamins, ointment, emery boards
1    toilet paper……………………..                                                   1.0 oz.
1 Baby wipes                                                                                    2.0 oz.
1 chap stick                                                                                       0.2 oz.
1 disposable razor                                                                           0.1 oz.
1 small child toothbrush……………………..                                  0.5 oz
1 small tube tooth paste…………………….                                    0.7 oz.
Total……………………………………………..                                       9.4  ounces  =  0.6 lbs

7. Electronics:
1    iPhone with headphones                                                            5.1 oz.
1    Olympus Stylus Tg-830 waterproof digital camera/video  7.1 oz.
1      Anker portable charger for camera, iPhone, Steripen       4.2 oz.
Total……………………………………………..                                          16.4 ounces =   1.0 lb

8. Navigation:
Map, compass                                                                                            3.9 oz.   =    0.2  lb

9. Wearing:
1 cap                        1 pr. On The Beach/ boots
1 pr. sunglasses                1 pr. gaiters
1 pr. Leki poles                1 pr.  socks
1 Ibex wool zip-t        1 pr. synthetic underpants     1 pr. Patagonia shorts

Total packed weight  without food, or water                                   15    pounds

Thru-Hiking Baxter State Park (2014 version)

Me on the Summit of Baxter (2009)

Me on the Summit of Baxter (2009)

My long-awaited week at Maine’s Baxter State is almost here.  Here is the itinerary that I just sent the three folks on this adventure. At the time I reserved my route, three months ago, Chimney Pond Campground was already sold out for Monday with space for just 2.  Chimney is the pick of the litter as far as BSP campgrounds go, even though it is a 3.3 mile hike from your vehicle.

Day 1 Roaring Brook parking lot to Chimney Pond Campground (CPC)     3.3 miles
( Guthook and Uncle Tom have the last Bunkhouse slots )

Day 2 Summit Day for Katahdin   (staying in Lean-to #02)       route undetermined
( Chris could hike in 3.3 miles to Chimney Pond Lean-to for his 1st day)

Day 3  CPC—>Roaring Brook—>Russell Pond CG  (lean-to #05)         10 miles
(Chris could also meet up at RB parking lot for his first day and have 6.5 miles for this day)

Day 4  RPCG—> Upper South Branch Lean To- via Pogy Notch Trail                9.5 miles

Day 5 USBP Lean-to to South Branch Campground Lean to # 02         12 miles (via Traveler Mountain Loop) – (lower mileage and much less demanding options are 2.1 on east side of SB Pond or 4.7 miles on the west side of the Pond)

Day 6 SBCG to Long Pond Pines tent site                    7.5 Miles

Day 7 Hike out from tent site back to a car ( back the 7.5 miles ) at South Branch Campground and then drive to Nesowadnehunk Field Campground (NFCG) for Lean-to #7  – We planned to summit Doubletop ( 6.8 miles round trip) either this day, or sleep at NFCG this day OR

Day 8   Double Top Mtn. in the morning with no gear in a day pack (6.8 miles round trip) and drive home this day  .

Chris,

all the maps for this itinerary are downloadable on the Baxter State Park Web site- if you have the ability to print them out, you should do it and have your own map(s)- alternatively you can purchase a nice Delorme waterproof map of BSP for about $9,  or a MUCH better deal is to purchase a copy of the revised (2012)  AMC  Maine Mountain Guide for $24, which will give you great reading about all these trails . You’ll also have the 100 Mile Wilderness map for our upcoming September fly-in trip on The Hundred.

Here is an excellent description of the rigorous, but rewarding Traveler Loop Trail that I hope to do on Day 5.

All nights except for one will be in a 4 person lean-to.

As of yesterday, there are still mosquitoes in BSP. I am undecided as to how I will deal with them.  If I had a bivvy sack, it would be my first choice.  I may go minimal just bring some Deet and a head net.  Only 1 night will be at a tent site, so I may cowboy that night, or if the weather is iffy, I will have my tent stashed in the car at South Branch Pond campground.  I’ll get that and pack it in to Long Pond Pines tent site.

I will update my packing list and get it to you, Chris.

WHOOOOOO!