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.