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  !

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.

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 Book Review- Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail

Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian TrailGrandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Grandma Gatewood broke the mold. The first woman to solo thru-hike the AT in 1957, she went on to walk the AT two more times, the last at 75 years old. She was also the first person to thru hike the AT three times. This was all accomplished with no money to speak off. The $57 a month she was receiving from Social Security at that time was all she would need.
Spoiler: stop right here if you don’t want me telling you details that I learned from this book, a 2014 release. Hell, it’s a book review. I am going to write what I want. Your choice.
This story is not about backpacking, because Grandma Gatewood never wore one. She probably couldn’t afford to buy one if she did. Even so, she might have declined to use a 1957 model, as it would have been too heavy for her to want to carry. The word iconoclast fits her to a “t”. Instead, she carried her spartan kit in a homemade bag slung over one shoulder. No boots, tent, sleeping bag or pad, stove for her, just Keds sneakers and carrying an army blanket to wrap up in, a plastic shower curtain for shelter, a cup, first aid kit, raincoat, and one change of clothes. That’s it ! Her food was no-cook high calorie stuff- dried beef, cheese, and nuts, supplemented by any wild food she was able to forage.
The AT is known for hardships: humidity, steep climbs, rattlesnakes down south, and periods of relentless rain. While the typical AT thru-hiker reports are all about the hike and how tough it is. For Gatewood, a thru-hike of the AT would have been a respite from the brutal life she led for her first 67 years. She married young to a bastard of an individual, who sexually and physically abused her on what appears to have been a daily basis, resulting in 11 children, 23 grandchildren, and a work day on the farm that would have crippled lesser folks.
Gatewood’s chance read of an old National Geographic article planted a seed in her heart that would not make growth until her last child was independent. When that happened, she just walked out of the house, without telling a soul where she was going.
She had to learn new skills, and really fast.
You may cry when you read this book, it is so well written and genuine.
While reading present articles about Gatewood, I learned that there is a movie about her that is currently in production ( http://grandmagatewood.wordpress.com/… ). This is one story that needs to be heard, a genuine American epic of a life saved and even graced by the open trail.

View all my reviews

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail | Longreads

I am still benefitting from my most enjoyable, 5 day walk on the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.  The cool temps, abundant wildflowers, word-class terrain, challenging climbs, fragrant forests,  plentiful water sources, and the top-notch Kincora hostel all contributed to an experience that continues to enrich me, as I reminisce daily about that ancient path and the effect it had in uplifting my spirits.

In 1955, a most amazing story began to unfold, when a tiny, aged woman laced up her Keds and started walking from Mt. Oglethorpe, Georgia.  Grandma Gatewood’s story needs to be heard today, when the complexity of one’s life begs for simplification.

This week’s Longreads Member’s Pick is the the opening chapter of Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, the new book by Ben Montgomery about Emma Gatewood, the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone—and who did so at the age of 67.  I  opened the following link and ordered the book after reading the introductory chapter.  It is so well written.  Check it out:—>>Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail | Longreads.

Riding Mountain Bikes on Mt. Rogers, VA

Last weekend I was down in the southern Appalachians.  The first 5 days, I was there, I walked 90 miles of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.  It was glorious.  The wildflowers were in abundance,  and were prolific . There were times when I was backpacking, sometimes over 5,000 feet in elevation, while at the same time inhaling the intoxicating fragrance of woodland plants and trees. It was a healing experience.

Flame Azalea

Flame Azalea

Rhododendron in full bloom

Rhododendron in full bloom

After my backpacking segment, I stayed at my friend Mike’s mountainside cabin that I reported on in my previous post about my week down south.

 

One of the activities that Mike and I shared was a 14 mile mountain bike ride from the cabin through the Mt. Rogers Wilderness, where we pushed our bikes uphill toward the Grayson Highlands.  Our ride then followed an abandoned railroad grade to the top of our ride, where we intersected the Appalachian Trail at a corral known as the Scales.

The Scales

The Scales

The other geographical feature of this area are the Balds,  which are large mountaintops that are devoid of trees.  here’s a panorama of a bald that I visited.

Bald near Mt. Rogers

Bald near Mt. Rogers

Riding bikes here was a unique experience.  My friend Mike owns two Diamondback bikes.  He rode a later model with a front suspension fork, and I chose a 1986 vintage Diamondback Apex for the day.  I have an 1985 Apex at home, that I have converted to a road bike.  On this ride, I was forced to remember why modern bikes often sport front AND rear suspensions. The ride up was not so bad, because it was a steady climb of 1600′.  The ride down was a real suffer fest, due to the constant pounding of the front end on the numerous rocks and ruts that littered the trail.  My forearm and wrists were toast.

The next day Mike, his wife Susan and I went uphill again, walking a new route.  The real treat of the walk was encountering two black bears.  Mike’s Blue Heeler Jackson had run ahead of us and treed them.  The dog came right back to us when Mike called it, when we were able to watch this giant fat black bear drop like a stone down a tall tree with it’s little cub doing likewise on an adjacent tree.