Hiking the Hundred, Part 3 of 3

I woke up to the sound of loons crying.

Photo by Mark Shaw
Photo by Mark Shaw

It was already another warm, very humid day. I had one of the worst sleeps I can remember, waking up at least every hour throughout the night.  Why, I don’t know.
After gathering up some dry pieces of wood from the campsite, I boiled up water for a strong cup of coffee, ate my granola , powdered milk, and Medjool dates. I had just 8 miles to walk this morning, back to my car, which was at the Abol Bridge store.
I was just starting back up the AT, when I saw another hiker.  He was camped not more than three hundred feet away from me yet I had not seen nor heard him. He was out for a 12 day traverse south to Monson, and proudly showed me his 30 pound food bag.  With his pack and gear he must have been humping 50-55 pounds at least.  Good for him. I had enough to do with my light pack as I headed up the 600 vertical feet with the immediate goal of topping out at Rainbow Ledges in two miles.
I came to the top of the ridge at the Ledges and spotted an obvious thru-hiker sitting at the Katahdin viewpoint. Here is photo of me on the Ledges taken previously by Bad Influence.

Photo by Mark Shaw
Photo by Mark Shaw

There was barely an outline of the mountain visible in the thick heavy atmosphere.  I stopped , sat, and talked a bit to Kuru, from Big Sky, Montana, who was hiking with his cousin who was up ahead.   He sometimes rode the steep snow slopes with my friend Eric Morrison, who also lives there.  Kuru told me that of the 30 plus people that started around March 24, he and his cousin were the only ones left walking the Trail.  The wet conditions this year just wore people out.  He said that the mud in Pennsylvania was the last straw for the stronger ones that even made it that far.  I gave Kuru the 4 ounces of denatured alcohol I had in my emergency bottle, and we hiked and talked the whole two and a half miles to the Hurd Brook Lean-to.  I met his cousin there, and learned that she had spent summers at Alford Lake Camp in Union,  the site of my first job in Maine.  I decided to let them have their time together at the end of the Hundred and pushed on.  Here are some additional photos  of the area by Mark Shaw, who is my favorite AT photographer.  -8

Wet section ( note white blaze)
Wet section ( note white blaze)

In no time I finished the final 3.5 miles, exiting the woodland section of the Trail, taking the right turn and walking a bit of the Golden Road before I hit the store for some snacks.  There were a couple of young women working there.  They told me the thermometer at the store registered 95 degrees yesterday.  I had one of them make me up one of those day glo- red hot dog, with relish, mustard , and even onions for just $1.26.  A pint of chocolate milk washed it down.  I love the place, and hung around talking with them until Kuru and his cousin showed up.
Kuru and I  exchanged info about our blogs and I thanked them for the time  they spent with me. I appreciate Kuru letting me know he has been able to use his iPod Touch, with a free WordPress App, to successfully compose for his blog, which then automatically connects and then posts when he reaches a Wi-Fi hub.  I wished the duo the best on  walking the last 10 more miles into Katahdin Stream Campground and then up to the summit when they end their long walk tomorrow.

As soon as I reached Millinocket, I hightailed it to the air conditioned Appalachian Trail Cafe, where I ran into Paul (“Ole Man”), owner of both the Cafe and the Appalachian Trail Lodge . I met him several times on my 2007 AT Thru-hike, both at day 1 , in Georgia, and five and one-half months later in Millinocket. Paul is from Fall River, MA, where I grew up.  We shared grief at the fact that our favorite chinese noodle supply station, The Oriental Chow Mein Co. had burned down recently.  We both have a big bag of those noodles stashed away in our respective freezers.

Paul told me the Lodge was empty last night, but that last year on that date he had been full.  He reported that  this year’s hikers were running about 2-3 weeks behind the normal schedule, due to the rainy weather delays.
All in all , I ended up hiking 31 miles on the Appalachian Trail  in 48 hours.  I was especially encouraged that the mileage was attained on the two hottest, most humid days of the summer, so something has dramatically improved with my stamina in the heat and humidity.

I head home for two days to work, but in three days I’ll be right back on the AT in New Hampshire, with the hope of walking the Franconia Ridge Trail in that infrequent  5,000 foot range, between Mt. Lafayette and Mt. Lincoln in the White Mountains.

Hiking the Hundred, Part 2 of 3

Originally,  I planned to do the whole “100” with these two folks, but I had scheduled two work related gigs smack dab in the middle of what turned out to be the only week that both of them could schedule their trip, so, I now I’m hiking for a couple of days out with them, then back to Abol Bridge and the car.
On the way back I encountered TBO who was trudging his way south.  We talked again a bit.  I was astounded to hear that he paid a cab driver $160 to take him from the Bangor International Airport out to the start of the Trail in Millinocket, but it would have taken the cab driver 4 hours of out and back to do that.
Now, I’m alone.  BI and Birdlegs are headed south, and should go up and over Nesuntabunt Mountain in 6 miles, a 1600 foot blip on their relatively flat trajectory for today.   I am going to miss walking with them, and will think about them for the whole time they are out there.
Initially, it does not seem so hot and buggy today.  I hiked south this morning for 4 miles with them, passing Rainbow Lake ( “It’s big, about six miles of shoreline!)   We took a 10 AM break at the Rainbow Stream
Lean-to, one of my favorite campsites in Maine. It was there that I decided to turn back.
The trail in this 4 mile section was muddier than yesterday.  In one place there was a quarter of a mile long of mud on the Trail.  It was fun, and a challenge to try and keep my feet wet as I stepped my way through the mini-frog ponds.  I am normally pretty competent at weaving my way through, and constantly on the lookout for rocks to step on, but it was a slick log that ended all that.
I took a hard fall off a wet slimy log that was floating in a black pool of muddy water. The log rolled under my left foot and threw me off to the right side. At first I thought I was going to recover, but no, I pitched to the right and as I was going down, I imagined another broken trekking pole or worse.  I ended up bruising my right shin, right elbow, and left ankle, but it was nothing serious. I righted myself by initially stepping away from the mid-calf mud, and now had gritty, waterlogged shoes and socks.   I rinsed off the worst of the slime from my feet and legs by trudging back and forth up and down a stream that crossed the trail up ahead.  My whole right side was a smear.  Later,  I was dismayed that the fall had also dislodged my synthetic towel from the back of my pack, when it must have snagged on a underwater branch.  Gone.
I eventually covered 11 more miles when I decided to call it a day. It was only 3 PM, and I was thinking about walking all the way out when I found that the unofficial campsite at the eastern end of Rainbow Lake was empty so I decided to take it.  It was the same swimming spot that we enjoyed yesterday. I was looking forward to cooling off and washing the grime off.  That grime wouldn’t wash off, and had to be scraped away.   I went for a most refreshing dip in the exceptionally clear waters that graced this waterway.  My concerns about my tent spot being level enough were put to rest after I fell into a deep nap.
There are either all you can imagine or not that many leisure-time activities to choose from here today: sleeping,  eating ( I immediately downed a small bag of Goldfish, and mixed up some Gatorade),  reading, and writing ( happening now).  Nobody came by for the rest of the day.
One thing is can do right away is to reconstitute the dehydrated home-made chili that I’ll have for dinner tonight.
My camera is pretty much dead . The LCD screen is cracked and taped together,  I can’t get it to work on most of the modes on the dial, the shutter cover gets stuck all the time, and now it won’t focus properly.  This has happened before and the problems are to the point that I can’t depend on it anymore.  I will definitely purchase another Panasonic, as I love the quality and the aspect of the wide angle Leica lens.   Here is the only shot left from the trip I was able to salvage, a  picture of my tent at the edge of Rainbow Lake.P1050132

I still have have most of my bag of mixed nuts for more snacks.
Today , I really enjoyed  the simple routine of waking along the established path, setting up camp by the Lake,  fixing food and experiencing the enfoldment of the day.

Hiking in The Hundred, Part 1 of 3

Finally backpacking this summer.
It worked out that in the space of one week, I would pack a few days along the Appalachian Trail in both Maine’s The Hundred Mile Wilderness and along the Franconia Ridge in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
The Hundred was going to be easy. I was so pleased to be hiking for two days with Birdlegs and Bad Influence, two adventuresome souls that I met on the AT in 2007.

They have since become close friends. We have even shared several outdoor expeditions of sorts between and now. It is always fun, interesting, and carefree for me to spend time with either of them. To spend a couple of days and nights with both of them is nothing but a gas.
It was easy for me to pack for this trip. However, my packing list is still refining itself. I have a new stove/ windscreen/ cooking pot set up. I have an additional I-Pod cable to pack.
Because it was going to stay hot, I didn’t even bring any long pants. I did have some thin wool tights that I sleep in which could be used daytime if I needed them.
I decided to take along a couple of dinners that I dehydrated at home. I will bring along a chili and spaghetti. I had a big bag of mixed nuts and fruit for snacks. Salami and cheese/mustard and tortilla rolls ups could be lunch. Of course, there are Fig Newtons.
We pulled out of the Lincolnville homestead and three hours later we hefted our packs at the Abol Bridge store and started walking south along the storied Appalachian Trail.

White Blazes mark a turn
White Blazes mark a turn

Today was the hottest, most humid day of the whole summer. By the end of the day, I drank four quarts of water, half of that mixed up powdered Lemon Gatorade. I didn’t want to mess with inadequate electrolyte replacement in this heat.
Six full hours later, we pulled into the Rainbow Lake Campsite, after traversing some 11 miles that afternoon.
There we met a young, quiet Southbounder named TBO that seemed like he was already struggling to fit in. He sat with us around a fire that he helped start. Birdlegs flung a couple of leads to get him talking and even briefed him on some relevant background. She was unsuccessful in encouraging him to engage with us.
There were enough mosquitoes to deal with, so BI and I both continued to stoke our backpacking wood stoves with additional application of damp leaves to spur smoke, which repels the pests.
I was really pleased that the Trail conditions were good here.

First sign of Fall
First sign of Fall

There were many stretches of walking through evergreen groves where the Trail’s surface was spongy and springy.

There were still areas where the Trail resembled a long, narrow mud pit. Mud Pit on AT by Mark Shaw I felt my stamina was good, despite the extreme heat and humidity.

BI and Birdlegs were on a schedule to finish the 100 Miles in 8 days. I had to be back home in two more days, so I am hiking and camping with them until I decide it would be time to turn around and pack back to the car at Abol Bridge.
I continue to be concerned that BI has brought enough food for the trip. I worry about him.
At the campsite BI and I swam in the cool, clean waters of the ancient Rainbow Lake while Birdlegs battles mosquitoes and their aftermath, the puckered skin landscape.

Floating in Rainbow Lake  by Mark Shaw
Floating in Rainbow Lake by Mark Shaw

In addition to the our pals, the mosquitoes, we noticed one of their bretheren lifesucking club members, the leeches, rapidly grouping for some en mass bloodletting.
The wild, crazy cries of the loons were incessant all night. At one point I counted calls happening once every twenty seconds, for endless time.
The sunset was worth sitting up for.

Sunset over Rainbow Lake
Sunset over Rainbow Lake

I remembered that I love hiking today. I plan to keep it up.

Going Backpacking

Heading up to Millinocket tomorrow with Bad Influence and Birdlegs to do three days of backpacking on the Hundred Mile Wilderness section of the Appalachian Trail. Then home for a music gig and and day of work and then out to the White Mountains of New Hampshire with my brother, his friend Jimmy, and Megatex member Rangoon where one of our hikes will be up on the Franconia Ridge. Pics and stories to follow.