AT, Oct. 1, 2008

Crawford Pond to Cooper Brook Falls lean-to ( N)

3.2 miles

I might be the only guy in Maine who left his house at 4:45 AM today to drive two and a half hours north catch a 8 AM float plane shuttle.

No, I am the only one. I’m leaning back against the stacked log side wall,  sitting here now at noontime,  alone at my favorite shelter on the whole Appalachian Trail,the Cooper Brook Falls Lean-to.
Last year, I walked over 2,000 miles on the Appalachian trail to get right here.  This morning, the Katahdin Air Service took under a half hour to fly me from Millinocket smack dab into the middle of Maine’s One Hundred Mile Wilderness. The flight almost didn’t happen. Mine was the only flight out today, with cold rain predicted for this afternoon and evening. The pilot was concerned about the low thick cloud cover, and postponed our departure in the hopes of finding some gaps in the clouds.

He told me that landing on the Ponds required a visual reference, that instrument landings were not possible out in the widerness. He loaded my backpack, boots, and poles and told me to hop into the co-pilot seat.  We were going to head north for a while and try to find some clean pods of sky from that direction.

The power of the engine soon found us flying a zig zag course some 800 feet off the ground, using ponds and watercourses as our “road”.

I learned that hikers only make up 3-5 % of the air service’s business,  but the numbers have doubled each year for the past three years, with close to 60 hiker flying in this season.
The service allows one to be dropped off at the AT at various ponds or lakes at 1 to 10 day hiking intervals back to “civilization”. In my case, I was dropped at Crawford Pond, leaving me 49 miles to hike north back to my car at Abol Bridge. Cost was a reasonable $65, 2 person minimum, which included them shuttling my car to Abol for me.
My wife Marcia, AKA Auntie Mame, was all set to do the trip with me but her personal conflict about getting back to her work, the prediction of rain, and a very early start to this morning had her opt out.
I wore my Crocs into the plane, expecting to wade to shore, but was surprised that the pilot was able to taxi the tiny plane all the way up to the edge of a sandy beach on the south shore of Crawford Pond, where I hopped to solid land from a pontoon.

He handed me my boots, poles and pack.  I could have kept my socks and boots dry. It was one slick operation. The pilot shook my hand, thanked me, spun the plane back around, and left me high and dry.

I chuckled out loud to myself.
The AT was just 50 feet up a blue blazed trail, and there she went.

I was immediately aware of loud nearby diesel motor noise, and hoped that the obvious logging operation would not impact my night’s sleep.
I had just over three miles to cover until I reached my destination of this shelter. There was a lot of cold moisture in the air, with rain predicted for this afternoon and evening, with a cold front on the way. I felt  I had a good plan for the day.
Despite the recent 5″ rain storm, today’s footpath was surprisingly dry, and I made my miles in an hour.
I met the friendly and talkative thru-hiker Loveboat here. He told me my friend Troutbum has slept here last night. I also met a good natured group of hikers who stopped for lunch, including Smiles Davis, Hotflashes, and Sprite, who perked up when I introduced myself.  She was friendly with Bob Bissell, who had talked to her about my thru-hike that he followed on my Trailjournals last year.  Bob and I have taken two week trips to Labrador together:  one canoeing the 200 mile Grand River,  the other a winter trip around Menehek Lake, where I had my all time record of sleeping out in the cold at 46 degrees below zero.
I decided to stay here after the first wave of thru-hikers group moved on. It would have required me to hike 17 miles today to catch Troutbum, who was planning to spend tonight at White House Landing. Don’t wanna do big  miles in the rain to do that.
So it’s fine with me to be here for most of the day to listen to the falls and just watch this wilderness river flow.  

One thought on “AT, Oct. 1, 2008

  1. Queso

    Unbelievable first day for a section hike. The pictures from the plane ride are awesome. This would be a very do-able trip for me sometime in Rangeley and could come up from there. Cooper Brook fall picture is fantastic – I didn’t think it could any nicer than when we were there – I was wrong


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