A superb hike in Acadia National Park

West Side Trail map

West Side Trail map-click to enlarge

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.

Green World

Green World

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.

Mystery steps

Mystery steps

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.

Great Notch

Great Notch

Head east to the Cold Brook Trail through the Long Pond parking lot where we picked up the Valley Trail.

Guthook plots the next moves at Long Pond lot

Guthook plots the next moves at Long Pond lot

From here we ascended Beech Mountain via the South Ridge.

Beech Mountain fire tower

Beech Mountain fire tower

From the summit, we took the Beech Mountain Loop north.

Looking north up Long pond.

Looking north up Long pond.

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.

Going up Beech Mountain

Going up Beech Mountain

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.

 

Walking the Trails Near Katahdin Lake – Baxter State Park

Crafty Use of Birch

Crafty Use of Birch

Our second full day at Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps was so interesting.

Last night I awoke to the sound of waves slapping against the sand beach below us.  I walked out on the porch to check it out and was pleased to see a starry sky. Right in front of me was the Big Dipper, boldly presenting right above the horizon behind Katahdin Lake.

Our front porch

Our front porch

This porch faces directly north, boldly defiant in it’s willingness to comfort any potential traveler.

I awoke to a still, cold morning with the thermometer outside registering 34 degrees. I took a number of photographs just after light appeared.

Katahdin to the Turners - Panorama

Katahdin to the Turners – Panorama

Here are two brave canoeists who were wearing winter coats and gloves.

North Across Katahdin Lake

North Across Katahdin Lake

The unmistakable sound of a powerful airplane engine echoed against the nearby painted hills. Just about everyone in camp was on the beach to greet Jim, ace bush pilot at Katahdin Air, who was taxiing right up to the beach. Jim flew three of us into the Hundred Mile Wilderness in August.   to pick up Chris Huntington, a landscape painter who was wrapping up a two week residence here today.

The Artist Exits

The Artist Exits

Three of Huntington’s paintings of Katahdin hang in the dining room here, along with two of Caren Michel’s pieces. He told me that he had been  here for two weeks, but usually lives here for  a month.  Marcia and I shared two meals with Caren, who is a Maine-based painter, and was bundled up and standing outside all weekend, creating new treasures.  I particularly enjoyed two of Michael Vermette’s small, thickly layered renditions of the mountain that were on display above our wooden table.

Classic Baxter signage

Classic Baxter signage

Marcia and I walked a 5 mile loop today to the Martin Ponds where a new lean-to faces yet another unique view of Katahdin.

Katahdin from Martin Pond

Katahdin from Martin Pond

It is the closest view of Katahdin that we’ve seen. Canoes for rent pepper the shores of the Lake and ponds here.  ($1 an hour in Baxter, $10 a day at KLWC).

We walked over a beaver dam to start our loop.

High Water Would Have Been Tough

High Water Would Have Been Tough

The path was rocky, rooty, and covered with moss in parts.

Marcia keeps dry boots

Marcia keeps dry boots

I was hoping to get in some canoeing this time, as walk all the way out to the end of the Twin Ponds Trail, which would have added 10 more miles to the day’s efforts.  Next time, for sure.

Marcia and had our last dinner in the Lodge tonight. We didn’t know the menu, but found out when the cook himself quietly tapped on our cabin door at ten minutes of six to ask how we wanted our sirloin steaks prepared. Caren and the two of us were the last “sports” served dinner this season, as the camp was closing tomorrow, on Columbus Day. They tend vegetable gardens here. The roasted potatoes, boiled carrots, and friend onions that accompanied our perfect steaks were especially tasty.

Auntie Mame

Auntie Mame

We lingered for an hour or so in the tiny, ancient library in the Lodge before we walked back to our car, the woods vibrant  in pulsing light.

Fall Treasure

Fall Treasure

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.

Day 4- Walking Maine’s 100 Mile Wilderness

10.2 miles.

Started walking today at 7 AM.  I was first to the top of Nesuntabunt in 75 minutes. As I approached the top, I passed the Jocomotive, who had been on point, and had been storming up ahead of me.  He had stopped to catch his breath and eat a Snickers bar, and told me that he was fine.

The walk up Nesuntabunt is a true steep, rocky trail going up though a primal forest! Here, I was able to get my first phone call out to home where I asked Marcia to get a radar map up on her computer. She told me that a rain front was approaching us from less than 50 miles away.
Marcia also said that our 57 year old veterinarian, Jim Laurita, died from a fall and possible heart attack in the elephant pen, and that the two elephants that lived at his place in Hope, Rosie and Opal, are going back to Oklahoma.  It is so sad.  Each of us has such a short time on the planet. It’s a blessing and a curse that none of us knows the eventual end date on our tombstones.

After 25 minutes waiting on top, I started to get concerned about Jocomotive and G-Man. After 40 minutes had passed, I was uncomfortably cold due to my sweat-soaked shirt.  I headed back down to check them, and was relieved to see them both heading up. I learned that Joco bonked. G-Man stayed with Joco until he was ready to walk again.  The G-Man himself was pretty spent as he make it to the top of this 1,600′ mountain. Nesuntabunt is not that high in elevation, but a dramatic change in the land of relatively flat walking in this part of The Hundred.

After another short break on top, we all reoriented to the North again. When we finally all started heading down the other side of Nesuntabunt, it was 9:50 AM. It had taken us almost three hours to make just two miles. I had hoped that we could make the Rainbow Stream lean-to before we got wet.
The rain came a mile later as we reached Crescent Pond. We all stopped and put on rain jackets. Joe and I pulled out pack covers.  I had also lined my pack with a trash compactor plastic liner, so I had a double wall of protection for my meager set of dry clothes and sleeping bag.  Chris didn’t have either a rain cover, or a liner for his pack, but he did bring along a poncho, so I showed him how to wear it in a way that partially protected his pack.

Progressive misery advanced as the rain increased in intensity and the water seeped into my clothing, and ran down my bare legs into my boots, chilling my feet. I was experimenting on this trip with rain gear options. Instead of packing my trusty Patagonia Specter rain jacket, I substituted a brand new 2014 Houdini, which boasted a fresh water-repellant coating. In just one hour I became saturated and increasingly chilled. The rain became stronger, so I decided to forgo snacks, lunch, and even drinking water in order to keep pushing to reach the dry interior of the Rainbow Stream Shelter, where we experienced a bona fide deliverance.

While I was hiking in discomfort, I recalled the sage advice of my friend-for-life, David Hanc, who once told me, “You don’t have to like something to have the right attitude about it”.

I was impressed with the grit of both the Jocomotive and G-Man, who were learning to just keep walking in steady cold rain. I get chilled easily in rain this time of year, and unless I have bars or quick food packed in a jacket pocket to eat while I’m walking, I don’t eat. I press on.

Rainbow Stream lean-to is a pretty dark place. Even thought the rain let up later in the afternoon, there was no way anything was going to dry out for tomorrow AM.

Our wet clothes picture frame

Our wet clothes picture frame

Joe and I were able to dress in to dry warm clothes.  I cooked up hot drinks, and then spent most of the rest of the day comfortable in my sleeping bag, reading, listening to Podcasts and audiobooks, writing, and socializing.

Before we ate an early dinner, a totally drenched Brit in an aeronautical engineering program, with his lady, a pre-med student squished their way into the shelter.  They were from San Francisco. They had flown to Bangor, where they were picked up by a guide who brought them to Monson to walk The Hundred. They had a set date to come out where the guide was going to pick them up at Abol Bridge drive them back to Bangor for their flight back.  The young lady looked fine, but the Brit’s feet were shot, and he was limping around badly. I politely quizzed him about his experience with this sort of thing, and he told me that he was an experienced backpacker who had backpacked the John Muir Trail, and along with other walks in California.  They were honest in how difficult The Hundred was for them.  Their first day of 10 miles , with each carrying 10 days worth of food, had them endure 12 hours of suffering, walking into darkness-a day that saw the fellow’s feet get torn up and blistered, a situation that only worsened as the days went on.

This group spent a comfortable night in the shelter.  G-Man set up his little tent on a nice rise beside the rushing waters of Rainbow Stream.  One day to go!

Jocomotive walks across Rainbow Stream

Jocomotive walks across Rainbow Stream

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.

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