Day 5, AT, Sept. 16

Horseshoe Canyon Lean-to to Shaw’s , Monson
8 miles

I walked back into the “shower world” this morning.
Before I said my good-byes to Cloudwalker and Xenon, I took the time to clean up all the trash left around the Horseshoe Canyon lean-to.  There were two sheetrock buckets that had been left there, one in the outhouse and one around the fire pit, and I suspect those were contributing factors to some one the trash, but come on!  Used tampons, discarded lighters, sodden bunches of aluminum foil around the pit, dirty wet clothes.  There is part of the user population that considers the outdoors a sort of garbage can, and I try and do my best to clean up the crap when I see it.   Cloudwalker told me was impressed that a ( former) thru-hiker would take the time to load up a motherin’ big bag ( double bagged) of crap and remove it from a place as beautiful as this lean-to could be.  I felt righteous hiking out of there.
I saw no one on my morning walk into Monson.
One aspect of completing my thru-hike, which I carried out with no blue blazing on my part, was that I can now do what I want this time around.  I decided that I’d take the road walk cutoff – off to Monson rather than do the extra section out to Route 15 several miles north of town, as I did last year.

I was pleased that I did it, as I  was able to walk past  numerous seasonal camps, some on Towne Cove, and others on the northeast corner of Lake Hebron.
I also enjoyed viewing the site of a former slate quarry, with mountains of slate still remaining .

You don’t see any of this on the present AT route, which by-passes the absolutely essential stop at Monson as it winds several miles to the north. Earl Shaffer remarks about this in his newest book. In 1998, Shaffer  made another northward through-hike (at age 79) from May 2 to October 21 (six days past official closing of the state park), in 174 days, for the 50th anniversary of his first one). He later developed his notes from this trip, into The Appalachian Trail: Calling Me Back To The Hills.  Shaffer  criticized the decision to bypass walking into actual towns and hunting camps in this section of Maine. He felt it as a  loss.   No cars passed me on my walk to town, which dumped me out right at Shaw’s Boarding Home, where I had left my car.
As I walked in  I saw someone familiar.  Sittting in the sun, and talking on his cell phone, was Ed, AKA Racoon, a soon to be thru-hiker who I had met at Trail Days in Damascus this past May.  Ed is the husband of Lipstick, AKA Cathy Benton, who I had previously met in 2007 when she was accompanying Bama. Bama, LIpstick and the core of MEGATEX were all spending the night at the Muskrat Creek shelter, some 80 miles north of my start from Springer Mountain. Ed was a greatly diminished version of the Ed that I met back when, but he looked fit and happy, and in ready shape to enter the 100 Mile Wilderness and then walk the final 15 miles to the top of mt. Katahdin.  Here is  photo of the man himself.

After I checked out of Shaw’s I went up to the Monson General Store, where I visited with proprietor Tim,  who I met last year when he graciously allowed me to use his stove, sink,  and utensils to cook up a big breakfast for Blue Sky Georgia Barbeque, Thunder, and myself.   Tim filled me in on all the local gossip, including some first hand details of the town’s conflicts with the Restore! Great North Woods proposal folks. I loved just sitting in there, drinking coffee, eating a chicken salad sandwich and saying hello to the couple of thru-hikers who wandered in and bought some food.

It has been a little over a year since I walked away from the AT .  My present life is no longer the same.  I often feel like I’m driving around the countryside with a big hole in the side of this vehicle where memories and images of the woods, trees, path, and hikers rush in when I least expect it making it difficult to even hold to the road, let along make it to my destination.
As I write this last entry from this sectional hike, I am anticipating my next foray back to the AT, which is scheduled for 5 days next week, where I hope to walk 50 miles of the 100 Mile Wilderness with my favorite hiking partner, Auntie Mame.

Day 4 AT , Sept. 15

Bald Mountain Brook Lean-to to Horseshoe Canyon Lean-to
14 miles

It was a warm, humid, noisy, windy, and rainy last night. Rain was peppering the aluminum roof all night long, shaken by the wind off the rapidly changing leaves above.
People were up early, silently packing their sleeping bags, and rolling their mats. I had to turn on my headlamp to make sure I had everything beside me for packing. My watch said 6:10 AM.
There were two true fords today, both requiring walking in the water.
I never saw another hiker until the second fording of the Piscataquis stream. The real measure of how wet things are here this year is that last year we rock hopped walked across both places.
My feet were wet enough from the trail this morning that I didn’t even change into my Crocs. I just plowed right across. One benefit from wearing the style of shoe I now favor is that the open mesh allows one to pump the water out of the shoe by just walking. I didn’t need to drain the shoes after I went across.
Reading this year’s Trailjournals I have noticed repeated references to the water and mud in the footpath. Today, I got a true picture of what those folks were talking about: wet feet, muck holes, and lubricated rock surfaces. I was totally focused on foot placement and balance today. Had to be.

The day’s hike started with an immediate 1250’ ascent of Moxie Bald Mountain (at 2629’), with a subsequent 1500’ descent down to a mid-morning snack break at Moxie Bald lean-to some 4 miles from the start point.

Then I had the relative pleasure of nine more miles of gradual descent of only 350’ to the end of my day at Horsehoe Canyon lean-to.
I toyed with the idea of continuing on another 8 miles to Monson, as I had reached the lean-to at 2:30 PM, but decided against it. I had to remind myself, I am NOT thru hiking any more, and that I didn’t really need to be in town so soon, eating and hanging out with hikers. I’d just be going home. Staying worked out well. Soon the skies cleared , sun broke through, and the empty shelter looked inviting, despite the copious trash that was littered around the shelter. I still even able to eat a decent amount of food ( everything I had left in my pack).
I immediately chomped my way through a double serving of deydrated corn chowder, with extra corn added. Then I cooked up the supper spaghetti, that I brought up to boiling, then insulated with my cozy, and double insulated with my Patagonia puffball jacket. I took a nap after reading a while, and when it was time for an early supper, the meal was still hot.
Stopping early was the right thing to do: nap, eat, read the register, get a big charge of water, wash up, and do all of it with no need to move quickly to avoid the dark and cold. Monson can wait.
I even got to hang out with hikers, namely Xenon and Cloudwalker, two men close to my age who were doing a long section south from Katahdin. Cloudwalker was headed to take out at Rangely, and Xenon was going even further. Turns out that Xenon has four years of sectional reports on Trailjournals, and hails from Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.
Xenon has completed the Fundy Footpath, a 26 mile section of rugged unserviced trail along the Bay of Fundy, a trip that Rangoon, General Tso and I are set to do over Columbus Day weekend in a few weeks. He was more than willing to try and help us out and gave me his address and phone number. It has been difficult for me to find people who have done the whole 26 miles, as there are still puzzling questions about spotting cars, and negotiating tidal crossings of rivers and streams that can only be forded at low tide up there, due to the 40 foot tides in that part of the world.
One more technical point.
Right now I am satisfied with my gear, finding no reason to replace any of it. But there are numerous hikers who struggle with upgrade transitions, and we are fortunate enough to gain some important information about the wisdom of replacing trail gear from the Speedy Sisters, seasoned long distance hiking machines.
[ What follows is an actual audio recording from my visit to the AT in Virginia at 9:30 AM, Tuesday 20th of May. AM= Auntie Mame, V8=V8.]
AM“ When you are gonna replace your gear, you want to make sure, from experience, that you try to limit it to one thing at a time. One major item at a time. Do not, like, try out a new pack, new footwear, and a new sleeping bag at the same time.”
V8 “Or a new sleeping mat. Everybody is inclined to do this. It is getting warmer, so you don’t need all this heavy stuff. Let’s get a light weight air mat. Get rid of that heavy sleeping bag! Let’s get a light weight pack. The lighter stuff will fit fine in a smaller pack , so let’s be efficient and replace it all at one time.”
A.M. “ What happens as a result of that is you go nuts. You don’t know what or where anything is in your pack. Maybe that new pack doesn’t fit right after you have been carrying it for a few miles. So, you are hurting , for one thing. Then you don’t have your usual pack so you can’t find that Advil that you need and your shoulders are still hurting because it is buried somewhere. And add a little rain, so your pack cover is on, your shoulders are still hurting, and that Advil is somewhere in there. Ok, so we get to camp and, Oh! Jee whiz! I have only one wet jacket because I sent my other stuff home because it is warm. But now it is 37 degrees out, the rain is falling and it is blowing hard!”
V8: “And sleet!”
A.M.: “So , Lets’ get that chin up, shall we? Get that chin up and huddle in that 40 degree sleeping bag in this 37 degree weather. But you can put all your clothes on , but, wait! they are half damp!”
V8: “You get the gist of this discussion. Trade out just one thing at a time. Get used to it then trade out the next thing. “

AT, Day 3, Sept. 14, 2008

Day 3, Sept. 14.
Caratunk, ( Route 201) to Bald Mountain Brook lean-to.
15 miles

Karen dropped off Auntie Mame, Certain and me at 8:30 this morning.  Mame put us  to our paces as she wasted no time in fast stepping the first two miles up to the start of Holly Brook.  This first run of the day was a gentle uphill of almost 6 miles through hardwood forest, then spruce and fir, to the Pleasant Pond Lean-to .  Eventually the rain started up, and never really left.  There were positive features to walking in the rain today.  First, we were all prepared.  Hey, I even put on my rain pants and rain jacket. Second, it was pretty warm out, so today we had warm rain, which is much better than even a low 50’s degree cold rain.
At 10:45 AM  I was sitting at the Pleasant Pond shelter with Mame and Certain where we found not just the 2008, but also the 2007 shelter registers.  I located my 2007 entry, surprised to see I was here at the exact same time as last year, 10:45 AM, but on Sept. 3.   It was a kick to read all the familiar names written in there:  Blue Sky Georgia Barbeque, Terrapin Flyer, Jeb, Lifetraveler ( “Life is good”). Couch ( rant about Alpine Strider), Tom B, Castinets, Thunder, Mike, Boo Boo, Rizzo. Unbelievable.
We snacked down before we started squishing back along the Trail.
Next we faced an immediate 1,000 foot elevation gain that took up the whole length of mile 6.  This piece was time consuming, as the rock ledges were smooth here, and wet with lichens of all textures and colors, the footpath tilting this way and that.

We dealt successfully with the slipperiness of the smooth rocks, which appeared like a huge pod of black whales, their mottled backs backs exposed to the air, moving steadily upstream all the way to the top of Pleasant Pond  Mountain.
We were doing the Careful Foot Placement Boogie all the way up and all the way down the other side. The wind really whipped the rain around at the summit.

Walking wet for the rest of the day,  we eventually reached the Moxie Pond Road, where Karen was parked and ready for a return to Bingham for the night.  I felt wet but good wet,  and decided to camp out, so I said my good byes and moved on another three miles to the Bald Mountain Brook lean to.  I can eat in restaurants anytime, and I had just enjoyed  last night with the trio in Bingham.  I was all set to stay out. The Trail only gained 500 feet over the three miles, which I managed to crank out in just over an hour.
After I reached the shelter, I went about the routine of settling in for the night.  I spent a good deal of time working up wet wood, but eventually succeeded in starting a decent cooking fire in my home made stove.  Tonight I feasted on dehydrated Chicken Curry that was super tasty and satisfying.  This dehydrating thing is the way to go, but it does take time at home for the preparation.
When I arrived at the lean to, there was just one south bounder doing a long section staying here, a young guy, out of college.  He had already picked up a good deal of info from his walk starting at Katahdin, but curiously, had no idea what I was talking about when I asked him what he thought of the spring at Potawadjo shelter in the Wilderness.  It is thought by many to be the best spring on the whole AT, a huge pool of cold clear clean flowing water.  It is one of my top 10  places on the AT and he didn’t even take the time to turn his head and check it out!
Three thru-hikers came in at the end of the day.  Initially, they were stand-offish, but I slowly wore them down and that they began to talk to me.  One of the ladies  apparently didn’t mind being soaked, “ I hope it rains to keep us cool.”   The middle aged fellow’s leg was really swollen from the knee to the ankle. I told him I thought he was experiencing edema, which needed to be checked out by a doctor.
I had the same problem last year in Massachusetts and had to deal with it, and fortunately it subsided.   Edema of the legs is difficult to treat. Diuretic medications are generally not effective, and the usual prescription is  to elevate the legs periodically during the day, and to avail the use of compressive devices. It is not the sort of treatment protocol that is exactly compatible with trying to whip through the rest of Maine at 20 miles a day.  I encouraged him to elevate his leg for the night, which he did,  and the swelling  was much reduced in the morning.
There was much discussion about how much money would be needed for the rest of their trip.  I advised the trio that Shaw’s didn’t take credit cards.  They said they’d go to the post office for cash.  I told them not to count on it, as Monson is a tiny town, and enough thru-hikers try to work the same deal  (to get cash from the PO) so the P.O. usually runs out of extra cash. It is sort of iffy.   They then countered with that they’d  just find an ATM in town. Except there is no ATM in Monson, which is desperately trying to just hang on as a service town.  I told them they just passed the last ATM machine at Northern Outdoors, where they just visited and could have cashed up.  They were going to solve that problem with a stay at the Lakeshore House, which does take credit cards, gives back cash, but charges more for everything than Shaw’s.  When I told them they should do that,  because Baxter charges thru-hikers for camping and does not take credit cards either, one of them said they’d just stealth though.  The discussion kept slanting in this disagreeable direction, including one of the group even insisting that there must be a store inside Baxter to buy camp supplies and food, like ice cream.  “We’ve been to the Shenandoah and the Great Smoky  National Parks and they had stores! What’s so special about Baxter State Park?”  At this point I didn’t volley back any more data, like, no radios, no motorcycles, no electricity, no RV’s, no playing musical instruments, plus even more no’s on the long list.  With the attitude they were sporting, they may not even realize what’s so special about Baxter State Park anyhow.
Then the college guy and I were talking a bit as we were waiting to got to sleep when the hobbled hiker said, “Would you guys please stop talking!  I am trying to get to sleep.”  I looked at my watch and thought his demand/request was a little out of order, as it was just 7:23 PM.  I didn’t want to start a fuss. After all,  the guy had just said that he  downed another  Percoset, so I rationalized he was not in his right mind.
These pissy mood things sometimes happen, even in lean-to’s in the Great State of Maine  where you have the privilege of being surrounded by rain, wind, and billions of trees.

Day 2, AT Sept 13, 2008

West Carry Pond to Caratunk, 14 miles

“Every step a forward step”.

“ Nope, we don’t do any AARP or any other discounts.  It’s $75 for 2 , we’re now the only place in town, and we think it is a fair price.”  I’m spending  tonight safely ensconced at one of my old Route 201 lodging stand-bys, the Bingham Motor Inn. It wasn’t in my original plan, but I’m very pleased to be drying out in here right now.
Bingham is 16 miles south of the AT where it crosses into Caratunk.  The other place I’ve stayed while hiking the AT up here in winter is the Carrying Place Camps, which is now out of business and for sale. Welcome to the fluctuating status of Old School AT establishments.

I left the campsite this morning at 7:15,after a breakfast of hot oatmeal, nuts, and coffee.  I ended up spending last night with a couple of guys, Ghost and Doctor Dick.  They were about my age. Ghost had completed the AT about 15 years ago and Doc was trying to finish his thru-hike this year.

There was a great deal of water on the trail today, after last night’s rain.  There were many slippery roots and mud pits to deal with.  I was generally able to step on mostly submerged rocks and step to the high points of ground so that my feet stayed dry for a reasonable amount of time.   Part of the trail was through beautiful piney woods, about 45 minutes along.   I anticipated East Carry Pond.  I fully remembered the Benedict Arnold section, passing Arnold Point and then Arnold Swamp, with it’s ancient split log elevated walkways, which were very dicey do to the wet.  I am continuing to make good time through here.  I do have my pack cover on but it has not started to rain yet.  There is still a lot of water dripping off the trees. The leaves are wet, and grasses are tall, so the high gaiters are helping as well.  I am trying to zig my way though , so I don’t go to the sticky, confining rain paints.
The run of the AT in this area  of Maine is exquisite, with the ever present swamps, stream flowage, and default up and down rock and root strewn footpath.

Today I finally met Certain,  the legendary 400, 000 plus Trailjournal Hit Lady who has teamed up with our own Auntie Mame for this section of the Trail.  She’s positive, energetic, funny, and very capable of planning and then executing an intelligent approach to each day she’s out. They are supported in this section by Karen, who is working wonders at searching out obscure woods roads to allow them to slack pack all the way to Monson.
Auntie Mame and Certain started ahead of me today.  Where they started was unclear, but I successfully figured out they put in  at the <Long Falls Dam Rd/Bingham>  sign  by recognizing Mame’s footprints in the morning mud.  There was another set of smaller Keen tracks, that I suspected was Certain’s.
I only saw one other hiker all day, a Southbounder named Wall Street.  He told me he had run into a pair of women heading north just ahead , so I stepped on the accelerator in an effort to catch them.  I eventually caught them at Pierce Pond lean-to where they had just started lunch.
I was walking carefully today, especially after sliding a bit on wet split logs, fearing I’d slip off and God forbid, turn an ankle.  Later, I was walking along and thinking about how great it would be to see a moose.  Every hiker going through this ribbon of muck littered moose dung must have the exact same thought.  Suddenly, I heard a brief pair of cracks and breaking sounds to the left of me about 30 feet in.  I unconsciously thought, “Moose!”   Then I breathlessly watched a fairly good sized hardwood tree topple right over, where it  loudly thundered to the forest floor.   A true happening.  In “Walking With Spring”, Earl Shaffer wrote about how rare it is for a person to experience that final movement of an old growth warrior tree.
I had planned to take an extended break for lunch, so I decided to cook up my supper at lunch time, and eat cold tonight.  I went with some veggies, supplementing a Lipton sides with dehydrated chicken and broccoli.  The meal was too much and  too hot, so I ate what I could and bagged the rest for later.  Mame and Certain headed out before I was done, so I played hurry up to catch them again, reaching  them a mile or so before the Kennebec River.
I was doggone beat, merely stumbling along the serpentine, wet, rooted final march from Pierce Pond to the Kennebec River .  I fell twice in the last 3 miles, and bonked my chin when my Leki pole reached it’s bending limit on the fall, but then sprang back and smacked me in the chin with brute force.

The river was running unusually full today, and fast.

Negotiating the current took some real canoeing skill on the part of the ferry man.  Mame and I went over together, me in front, her in the middle.  He told me to stick to padding on the left side.  First, we hugged the bank of the river where we struggled to make progress, until we worked our way some distance upstream from our eventual take out spot on the far side, some 100 yards across the river.  Next we moved out into the main body of the river , still paddling directly upstream, but drifting across.  It was soon painfully obvious we were going to drift right past the take out, when I heard, “Paddle Hard!”  I thought I was already doing that!  Sheesh! I dug in deeper and faster, and we eventually banked the canoe and had to walk up stream to the Trail.  I forgot we were not done yet, and still had to walk 0.4 miles up to Route 201.

Now I was even further spent.  Plus  it was my personal magic prana battery drain hour hour of 3 PM,  and the forecast was for more rain tonight, with  the falling  barometer on my watch confirmed it.  I was hoping and praying that Auntie Mame would offer to take a room with me at the Bingham Motor Inn, where she was scheduled  to share a room with Certain and Karen.  She really did ask, and I really did respond with , “Absolutely!”
The big deal of the night was The $10.95 All You Can Eat Dinner Buffet  at the Maplewood in Bingham.  It wasn’t anything that you’d call gourmet, but did the job.
A 14 mile backpack on the AT in Maine carrying  several days worth of food in the is a good day, no matter how you slice and dice it.

Back on the AT in September, day 1

Long Falls Dam Road to West Carry Pond lean-to
3.5 miles

It’s 5:11 PM and I’m alone in this lean-to, drying out after just spending a mere 1.25 hours back on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. Right now I’m seated in my sleeping bag, with  dry socks, Patagonia Puffball jacket zipped up tightly, wool hat on my head, and I’m  leaning against the back wall of stacked logs while the supposedly brief showers have fully morphed into a deafening roar of heavy rain.
Auntie Mame dropped me off on the AT here, some 20 miles north of North New Portland at about 2:30 this afternoon.

Long Falls Dam road
Long Falls Dam road

I was very surprised how long it took us to get here today, given that we left our house at 9:15 this morning.  My car is spotted at Shaw’s Boarding House in Monson where I’ll complete this 55 mile section .  Much of the time was spent driving the convoluted Route 16 that meandered south, west, then north again as there is no  East<–>West  route to speak of up here.  Too many mountains, ponds, lakes , and streams in the way.
Two weeks ago, Auntie Mame and I did a section of the AT together that took in the whole Bigelow range.  After coming home, I wasn’t really focused on getting out again, plus the usual demands of life began to snow me in. Then I was reminded of the quote I used to refer to a bit, “Don’t let the rat of doubt nibble away at your resolve.”  Unless I make it a priority, I don’t find it easy to string together 4-5 days at all.   Earning money ( mostly to pay bills while hiking), dealing with the vegetable garden, processing vegetables for harvest, riding my bicycles, reading, playing music, all of this stuff is fun to do and much easier than getting ready to walk out and hike.
I owe this return to the AT to Rangoon and Queso, who reminded me that Sept. 16 was the anniversary date of MEGATEX’s completion of the AT last year.  They wrote about commemorating our Long Walk by getting out and hiking.  Receiving those e-mails from the was like a big wake up call. I listened.
I had to force myself to cancel my presence at several meetings and at least one important music practice.  I usually put work first, but there are times when I have to face the big questions myself which should not be too conflicting, but often are.  “What takes priority, the ticke rtape  of routine, or one’s passion?”  Or as my friend Edward recently said, “ When you are dead in the ground for 10 years, what will it matter to people how many meetings you attended?”  Who is really keeping track?
It took me so long to get through the day yesterday.  I know I was going to leave for a few days, but forgot how many loose ends I still had to tie up.  Like processing 30 pounds of free tomatoes for the freezer, or dehydrating 15 pounds of peppers, or writing an article for a deadline, or calling 5 people to cancel out of meetings I originally agreed to make.  The day went on and on.  I also had to work a half day, I almost forgot to mention that, and packing.
But that all fell away after planing my foot on the AT at 2:30 this afternoon.  The sky here looked bad.  It was 56 degrees out, and a black rain cloud was moving in against a very portent sky.  I hadn’t walked for more than 5 minutes when it began to rain, and it is still coming down right now at 5:30 PM.  At first, I convinced myself I wasn’t getting wet.  The leaf cover was dense in this hardwood forest, but the insipid water began to reach my skin eventually, slowly soaking my back, my head and the top of my pack.

Wet Trail Today
Wet Trail Today

My socks became wet.  Even so, I decided not to stop and put on a pack cover, as I was playing that all to familiar game of ” try to make it to the shelter before I really get wet”.  Also I was headed uphill for 2 miles over Round Top Mountain  , so I reasoned that if i did put on my rain jacket I ‘d just get sweat soaked anyway.
So, I’ll soon boil up some water for supper, listen to music on my iPod, and write a bit in the shelter register.  Right now I’m dry and I’m lovin’ it.   Looks like my early exit today will find me walking 14 miles to the Kennebec River tomorrow.  Maybe I’ll just wind it up by hitching a ride and head up to spend the night at Northern Outdoors if we have another rain day?
I’m feeling right smug here, completely toasty in dry clothes, with a warm belly full of a meal I dehydrated for myself this week at home.  Yup, the rain is pouring down , and I had the sense to stop and err on the side of meager miles this afternoon, in favor of comfort.  This is big news for me.  I’m embarrassed to say that this feeling of capability/luck/thankfulness is not that frequent an outcome product of my usual outdoor escapades.  It has taken me a lot of years to be working this sort of thing out, but today I know I made some pretty good progress.

Maine’s Fall Foliage Show Expected to be Magnificent


Maine’s fall foliage season began today with the first foliage report from the state Department of Conservation.  Officials are forecasting a colorful season based on the current health of Maine’s forest.

“With a few localized exceptions, the forest statewide is in good health, thanks to the abundant and relatively well-distributed rain we’ve had since spring”, said Bill Ostrofsky, a forest pathologist with the Department of Conservation, Maine Forest Service.  “The great majority of hardwood trees have carried a full complement of healthy foliage, and appear to be on typical schedule for changing. Overall, expect leaf coloration to be magnificent once again for this season.”

The report also marks the start of the 50th season of tracking foliage color and leaf drop by forest service rangers. Maine’s weekly public foliage reports began in 1959 under former Forestry Commissioner Austin Wilkins.

“In the early years of reporting, rangers simply took notes from their post and phoned or snail mailed their observations to forestry headquarters”, said Department of Conservation Commissioner Patrick
McGowan.  “Today, rangers use email to share their observations and to send photographs of changing foliage that are posted on the official Maine foliage Web site“, McGowan said.

Currently, rangers throughout the state are observing very low leaf color, or less than 10 percent toward peak, along with very low leaf drop. Just recently, overnight temperatures in far northern Maine began dropping to the low 40s and high 30s. Those cool nights and sunny days will spark the gradual change in leaf color from north to south.

Maine’s fall foliage conditions will be updated on this site each Wednesday through October 15. Be sure to sign up to receive the weekly reports by email.

“We are looking forward to welcoming visitors who enjoy viewing our wonderful foliage by our scenic byways, on mountain and coastal trails, or from the seat of a canoe or kayak,” said Pat Eltman, director of the Maine Office of Tourism.”

Fun fall events happening this weekend include the 11th Annual MDI Garlic Festival in Southwest Harbor, the Lubec Fall Festival on the Downeast coast, and the Celebrate Bowdoinham Festival on Merrymeeting

To provide the most accurate foliage information, DOC rangers will report conditions statewide every Wednesday through Oct. 15. Updated reports and information can also be obtained by calling the Maine
Foliage Hotline at 1-888-MAINE-45. Learn more about Maine’s fall touring routes and outdoor activities at

Press contact: Kevin Gove, Nancy Marshall Communications, Email:, Phone: (207) 623-4177.


Visit for more information about Maine foliage including photos, trip planning tips, kids’ pages, and more

Bigelow Range, Final day

I woke up with much anticipation for today’s hike.  The morning was clear, which was a total plus for me.  I have exited various tents enough rainy mornings to deeply appreciate today’s dry conditions. Little things can matter in a big way, if you let them.  

Our routine out on the Trail each morning is much the same as it is at home, namely me up at the crack of dawn and Auntie Mame approaching her own awakening process in a much more leisurely manner.  

Before things got too busy, i decided to I walk down to Horns Pond to try and see a moose. No luck this morning.

Horns Pond
Horns Pond

Back at the site, I fired up the stove, boiled a quart of water, made drip grind coffee, mixed up a couple of packs of oatmeal, then just sat on the big rock and allowed the coffee and food to settle in and eventually get me rolling.  I was pretty much was satisfied staring off into space for a while.  

Mame was soon up, and we slowly collected our respective gear and did what we love to do:  walk. 

AT detail
AT detail

There was no need to push today.  We planned to walk out of the tent site, head toward the ancient lean-to just above the pond, hang a left on the AT and head down back to the car and drive home.  

 Looking at our map, I thought we’d head down the whole way, but we quickly found ourselves headed up hill yet again, where we quickly  took a short blue-blazed side trail to an overlook taking in one last grand view of Horn’s Pond and a northern glance at the Bigelow range we had already traversed. 

AM  Overlook toward Horns Pond
AM Overlook toward Horns Pond

The deal was up, then some level walking , followed by a big mess of downhills. 

This section of the AT, from Horns Pond to the Bigelow access road is especially beautiful. In addition to the usual rocks,  roots, and ruts, we even encountered a bench sited tastefully beside a bend in a stream framing a massive fern-covered boulder.  


Boulder detail
Boulder detail

I also registered a decent campsite not far from the end of our hike.  

Once we hit the access road, we had about 1.5 miles of walking to reach the car.  I suggested Mame consider walking the last AT mile out to Route 27, while I retrieved the car, but we both ended up heading to the car. We ditched our packs on the side of the road, and I hadn’t walked more than 100 feet or so when I remembered that my car keys were in my pack.  I doubled back, but no amount of my fast walking allowed me to catch Mame’s rabbit pace.  

We were easily done with the 5 miles before noon, and decided to stop in Kingfield for a real sit down lunch.  I favor a turkey club sandwich with fries and a cup of soup when I can get it.  

We didn’t want this trip to end, and we quickly patched together a plan to head over to our camp on Hobbs Pond in Hope, rather than return home this afternoon.  It is a  quiet spot just 10 minutes’ drive from our home, with a real bed, and although it has no real shower, a quick dip in the pond is enough for me to wash away the layer of grit and sweat.  On the way over, we picked up a half dozen ears of corn and some fresh tomatoes from a farm stand.  To round out the meal, we fired up the grill and broiled up a couple of burgers.  The tiny camp is surrounded by huge oak trees,  and the cool evening breeze off the pond blew through the open windows  to guarantee us a  comfortable night in the forest that we’d savor until next time.  


Bigelow Range, day 2

“We’re pathetic!” stated Auntie Mame after she calculated that we covered a whopping 5.7 miles on the AT today.
“Pathetic, well maybe , but definitely beat, ” I replied.
It was just another day on the rocky, rugged, rooty, and relentlessly escalating and elevating AT , as we moved south and up and over Avery Peak ( 4088’), West Peak ( 4145’) , and South Horn (3805’).
We started the day gaining back the elevation we lost coming over to last night’s camp site with a 1700’ climb back to Avery Peak from Safford Notch .

Auntie Mame heading up Safford Notch campsite trail
Auntie Mame heading up Safford Notch campsite trail

When we made back the two miles, we brewed up fresh coffee at the very top of Avery, finding a sheltered space from the wind to the side of the old Fire Watch building. I also snacked on pistachios and dehydrated apple slices.

Today we finally saw an array of AT thru hikers, including Dart Man ( who told us he thru-hiked in 2001, and did a big section in 2006). I talked to anyone who had the inclination to stop, which wasn’t many of them. I later heard that a group of three of the guys didn’t even stop on either of the summits on this awesomely warm and clear day. I suspect they didn’t enjoy hiking any more and might have just wanted to be done the the whole thing.

Uncle Tom looking back to Avery Peak
Uncle Tom looking back to Avery Peak

Marcia and I continue to do well together on this trip, even with our inevitable disagreements. Most of her concerns are related to her clearly stated position that I continue to beat the hell out of my body and that it might be better for both of us if I was to attempt to listen to what my body is trying to tell me. I counter that if I really listened to it, I’d be up at about 300 pounds, and focus on drinking Andrew’s beer and watching the Patriots and other sports teams beat the hell out of their own and any neighboring bodies.
Truth is, I actually don’t find all of this hiking business fun on a daily basis. There have even been days when a majority of the walking is hard, stressful, and quite a bit of work. It’s damn hard to backpack! My lungs ache, chest and neck pulse away like a runaway train, and various body parts call out for some mercy. But it sure feels good when you accomplish a spectacular summit, or complete a section of hard traveling. It’s pretty compelling stuff, I’m not sure if it isn’t a deep part of me, but I know she’s making a good point. I have some thinking to do on that.
Tonight we bucked in at the Horns Pond lean-to/ campsites ( 3160’), where we came in relatively early and were able to snag a respectable tent site.

Horns Pond tent site
Horns Pond tent site

Respectable due to the multiple on site locations that were at seating level, with large sitting logs and even one piece of huge flat stone that actually lined up perfectly well at normal chair height. They even supplied each site with a covered metal trash can for placing food in at night, due to the highly trained and intelligent food sensing resident red squirrels, and not because of recent bear activity.
I love the way the Maine Appalachian Trail Club is maintaining their presence on the AT in this state. This is a staffed campsite, with resident caretaker. There are two relatively new lean-tos, two composting toilets that actually don’t stink like crap, and clean, maintained group of sites, complete with those trash cans. No charge. The MATC feels that they want folks to stay in these developed sites, so they don’t charge for them, which in turn stimulates useage. I’d encourage anyone using the Maine AT to send them some bucks once in a while. I do.
I really enjoy the ritual of preparing supper; including getting water, firing up the stove, stirring things, even mastering the art of effortless clean up ( with the help of a couple of paper towels I placed in my food bag), and tonight’s experiment ( #2) in the saga of dehydrating food. I had a packet of Lipton’s sides, maybe a Noodle Alfredo selection? While I was “resting” in the tent, I soaked a dehydrated can’s worth of white meat chicken and a handful of garden broccoli, which I later cooked up with the noodles with some added milk powder, butter, and Tabasco sauce.

Check out the bottle of hot sauce
Check out the bottle of hot sauce

Another hit! Excellent, not rubbery in the least.
So , we ended up eating, and cleaning up by 6:30 PM. We both sat around the edges of the camp site and wrote until a bit after 7 PM, when it was really starting to get dark.

Mame woofing down
Mame woofing down

It was also colder, and I put on three layers. I put on wool tights, 2 long sleeved zip neck Ibex wool shirts , and my Patagonia Puffball jacket, plus wool hat.
We slept really well, after both talked bout the good kind of tired legs we were both experiencing. It was a cooler night, the site was perfectly flat, and the stars came out, blanketing the black sky with shimmering white lights.

Bigelow Range, day 1

Sept. 1.
The Call of the Trail comes my way again. This time, I was packed and ready for two whole days before Marcia ( trail name = Auntie Mame) and I headed up toward Kingfield/Stratton to spend three days backpacking a section of the Appalachian Trail that she needed to fill in during her 6 month period of churning up miles on the fabled path.
The Bigelow range is a very familiar place to me, as I have made at least a half dozen previous trips up there, both in winter and summer. The hike is considered by many as the most spectacular high-elevation traverse in Maine outside of Baxter State Park. What made it our final choice was the ability to take just one car, and complete a circuit hike.
We left the house at 9 AM, and finally reached the tiny parking area at the end of the rutted, but passable access road just before 1 PM. Out first mini-challenge was to negotiate the stones placed in the outlet stream, but no problems for us. I reminded myself that here on the left as you head down the path is a great campsite with ample water and a fire ring. Just the thing for some future night arrival. We found a second, “official” campsite just at the point where the signage for the Firewarden’s Trail begins. From there we enjoyed a one mile gradual uphill saunter until we reached the intersection of the Horns Pond Trail, which veers off to the left. I was more than content to follow Mame up on this walk, she was making good progress, and I was off my best a bit.
The total distance from the parking area to Avery Peak was approximately 5 miles. We continued on up the Firewarden’s Trail, as it gained more elevation through a beautiful hardwood forest, with water still plentiful in the streams that passed over and near the trail. We soon learned why the FWT is the most direct route up to the Bigelow Ridge, after we passed the Moose Falls tent sites and commenced the last mile of lung busting action. The elevation gain on this trail was about 2700 ft – from around 1300 ft at the parking area to 4088 ft at the peak. I call this section the “Stairway to Heaven”, with hundreds of man made granite steps and twisting stairways, but always up.
I ate some kind of bar on the way up. It must have made a difference, as I was able to take the lead and do the whole last mile without stopping, plodding along, but eventually collapsing at the junction with the AT for a brief wait for Mame to reach me. It was near the top that we saw a father and young son backpacking down. They appeared to be in some world of hurt, as their comments revealed that they bypassed a trip up to Avery Peak, even though it was an unusually clear sky day.
It was Mame’s first time to the top of Bigelow ridge, so I pointed out the Bigelow Col tentsites, the Firewarden’s cabin, and the winding way up to the 4,088 foot Avery Peak.

Mame approaching Avery Peak
Mame approaching Avery Peak

It is a relatively short, but rocky climb up through small trees to the actual bare rocky summit where Flagstaff Lake to the north and Sugarloaf Mountain to the south revealed themselves. We both needed water, and my gamble that the boxed spring on the AT below the summit was active was correct. I expected there to be people up there, given the Labor Day holiday, and the clear crisp skies, but nope, we were all alone and it stayed that way.

Auntie Mame / summit Avery Peak
Auntie Mame / summit Avery Peak

This was a trip where we hadn’t planned our complete itinerary, leaving ourselves the luxury of following our whims once we reached the top.

Summit Avery Peak
Summit Avery Peak

We decided to continue north on the AT, toward Safford Notch tent site, two miles and some 1700 feet in elevation drop down. We had spent a night together there in the company of V8 last fall, and I had previously spent a Aug. 31 evening there in the company of MEGATEX on my 2007 AT thru hike. I love the spot, some .3 mile off the AT in a copse of leafy tree cover. There is a huge rock we were able camp next to, and water nearby.

After Mame and I set up our Tarptent, we proceeded to boil up some water to reconstitute my first attempt at freeze dried backpacking chili for two. I brought along a 1 quart ziplock bag that consisted of a can of kidney beans, can of pinto beans, cup of hamburger, cup of salsa, and chili seasoning, all dehydrated, of course, and weighing in at just 12 OZ for the two of us. Adding 5 cups of water and about 10 minutes of slow simmer not only made it palatable, but downright excellent, with enough left over for me to repack it in a baggie and have it on a bagel for lunch the next day.
We weren’t the only visitors to the camp site. A group from Harvard University camped on one of the tent platforms nearby, and we learned that they had departed Boston, MA that same morning after rising for “inspection” at 4:45 AM. It was a group of freshmen on their first day at Harvard , understandably looking shell-shocked , as they were devoid of any degree of the usual spirited joviality that these college groups are famous for. They were fast asleep by 9 PM, and we were too.