My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Another book in the continuing saga of questioning abundance. Not exactly. In one part, it lays out the psychology behind why one often experiences a letdown after purchasing an item that one has craved. It also illuminates the exhausting situations we find ourselves in these days, as we consider what to eat, where to live, even what to do each day as we are bombarded by a ridiculous number of options at every turn. Sort of like why one looks at Goodreads. One way of coping with choice is to see what your friends choose. Time and time again, I found myself saying, ” Good point”, as I read through this book. And don’t we squander away time in the outdoors, or talking with friends, or children in dealing with all the choices we struggle with? This book was right up my alley. There is an amazing number of excellent ideas in it. I plan to re-read it. I am more convinced that ever that ” good enough” is going to be one of my daily mantras, that and it is a lonely walk if you pursue the idea of wanting to be sure that you are experiencing ” the best” choice in whatever category comes your way. I think this review is good enough for now. Later.
Is there anyone who might care about what is like to hike out the Appalachian Trail in Maine in the Fall season ? Someone other than all the thru hikers who are still Northbound, starting Southbound, or flip flopping South from North? In these last 50 miles, I’m the only one who isn’t some form of a 2009 AT thru hiker. If it wasn’t for all the hopefuls out here still working their long distance luck, all these hostels, hiker hotels, and shuttle drivers would be going broke.
Bottom line- it is drop dead gorgeous hiking our here on old Maine AT Map 6. It’s the light in the early morning and late afternoon that’s the big deal, a rarefied, golden light that is cool and so thick you’d think you could bottle it. Maybe that’s what beer was originally all about, man’s subliminal attempt to encapsulate and then ingest that special light. No matter. It was there this week, mostly twice a day, and plenty of it.
On my last day, I never saw anyone other than Bear Bait. It’s one of the the Top 5 weather weekends of the summer! You can walk up here easily from Route 27! So, here’s more evidence for the couch potato appearing on the heavy play rotation front page Bangor Daily News story about the approaching majority citizen, the overweight and Type 2 Diabetes-in-training Mainer.
Hello! Where is every body? Not out here, walking and sleeping in the forests like the medieval souls traveling via the most incredible, fuel efficient two-heeled drive means available. I gotta tell ya, it’s the ultimate gift. Walking does it for me.
From Sugarloaf, I descended some 2,000 feet to the south branch of the Carrabassett River, where a judiciously placed plank saved my feet from a wet ford.
Then it was up, up , up, with me stopping to boil water for drinking from a stream close to the Crocker Cirque campsite at 2700 feet, where Bear Bait caught up to me. I let BB use my phone to make arrangements for Monson. Go up again, over the duet peaks of the Crockers, first South ( 4010 ) and then a mile later North Crocker ( 4228). Then a long, long downhill of five miles to my car at the Route 27 lot.
I was finally done backpacking. By now, it was 3 PM and I was facing 3 a three hour drive home. I drove the 5 miles back up to Stratton, and caught BB as he was coming out of the post office with his money and resupply package in hand. We then headed back to hiker central, the Stratton Motel, to check on who was there, and what was available for sleeping space.
I gave BB the Thermarest pad I had in the trunk of my car, as his pad had a serious hole in it that we were unable to fix with my patch kit, even with our repeated tries to do so. My own patch job on my Big Agnes air mattress held up superbly, so I didn’t need the Thermarest, and BB didn’t have the money to buy another. I also gave BB all the extra food I had left in my pack ( never needed the extra day’s worth) , and bought him a Long Trail Ale that we shared together on the bench outside the motel. He showered ( $5) and washed his fistful-sized pile of gray, ratty, clothes. I gave him a ride back to the Trail where I told him I was confident that he was going to make it, and hope that he’ll send me a postcard when he reaches Millinocket in less than two weeks.
Back at the Motel, Lion King, ( AKA Michael Daniel) a thru-hiker celebrity film maker/personality bounded out of the restaurant from across the street and held court for a while with the band of stragglers who were now descending from all angles on the motel. He is most known for his 2006 Appalachian Film Festival- Best Documentary DVD Walking With Freedom: A Hike Along the Appalachian Trail. One of the hikers even had him sign their AT Trail Guide. Lion King told me that he had just cut a deal with Netflix to have his videos available, but when I got home, they were absent so far. He shared that he was, “ sort of doing a thru-hike”, starting in Georgia and, “skipping sections that I don’t care for”. He later admitted that this was all possible due to him being paid to guide a twenty-something young man through the experience this season. Cool deal.
In the end, I decided to stay the night at the Hotel. All of the regular rooms were full, but there was a space available in hostel apartment, in the upstairs 4 bed room for $20, including shower, linens, and bedding. I should have headed home to sleep . The hiker stank was significant, as most of the guys had their packs in the room with them. My bed was creaky, the headboard was flapping back and forth, the hall light shone in the room, and a fan roared all night as it made a feeble attempt to push the hot, dead air out of the single tiny window. But, it’s what we do, and I’ll be back, for sure.
One more stab at name dropping. A section hiker from DC that I had breakfast with the next morning who had started at Katahdin and was working his way south to Route 17 told me that he shared a meal at a restaurant in Millinocket a few weeks ago with ultralight guru Ray Jardine, of Beyond Backpacking fame. On 8/2/09, Ray completed yet another AT thru-hike, this time in just three months, and one and one-half weeks. Read some interesting facts about Ray’s modified gear on this solo 2009 thru hike by heading over to the Ray-Way News section of his website . The man is a force.
I hiked alone all day today, trudging 11 more miles North on the AT.
I thought I’d pick up Bear Bait on the way, as I was up and walking by 7:15 am, but when I passed the railbed campsite just above Oberton Stream, there was just one tent there, and I couldn’t find BB’s hammock, so I assumed he was up and out, and pressed on. I highly recommend that hikers check out this site as a campsite. It is one of the most beautiful places to camp up in Maine.
It is another day of uphills for sure. The thirty two miles From Route 4 to Rt. 27 that include the three mountain ranges in this section are considered the toughest along the AT in Maine. From Oberton Stream you grind out a 1700 foot vertical climb until you reach the summit of 3280 foot Lone Mountain. At times, it is really slow going, picking your way over streams, mini-cliff faces and ledges. Slow and steady did it, along with the background iPod tunes and judicious altimeter checks.
I eventually ate lunch at the Spaulding Mountain Lean-to, 8 miles from the Poplar Ridge Lean-to where I spent last night. From here, the Trail is a mini roller coaster, up and down on 500 foot lumps until you reach the Sugarloaf Mountain side trail, which happens to be the old AT.
At 4,237 feet, Sugarloaf is second in elevation to Mount Katahdin, Maine’s highest mountain. I decided I was going to stay on top, and believed that several of last night’s Simpsons gang would be up there already, after having passed me earlier in the day. I had told them they should consider spending the night on top of Sugarloaf, inside the shelter of the Warming Hut, which until this year , had welcomed AT hikers.
The Maine ATC has been posting fliers saying this Warming Hut is now closed due to vandalism and the presence of toxic mold, but comments in shelter registers indicated that the mold thing might be a rumor that served the purpose of keeping hikers out of the building. I had to check it out. So, I trudged off the AT, adding 600 feet in additional elevation, and in .5 miles had the Warming Hut in sight, after I had tanked up on a liter and a half of water from the boxed spring on the side of the trail.
One of the doors was open, but no one was inside the cavernous shell. The place is still a dump, but a dry, sheltered dump, and and the chance to spend a night atop Maine’s second highest mountain sealed the deal for me.
There is now a newly built, insulated Ski Patrol room that they have sectioned off from the increasingly worn Warming Hut. To me, that means it was used last winter for the staff, and that would be good enough endorsement for me.
I felt like a bum when I was pushing the dirt aside with a windshield scraper before I laid down my mat and sleeping bag. I was just settling in for a nap when a voice called out of the wilderness. Soon, I was guiding Bear Bait into the building. I had passed him at Oberton campsite and he had slept until 11 AM. I took him for a tour of the upper level. The newly sectioned-off room had brand new doors that were not locked.
We commandeered the insulated portion of the building, and then did what we had to in order stay comfortable, which was basically nothing.
We were essentially two exceedingly satisfied homeless guys fleshing out a couple dinners and some bed space. Inside we found a mouse prevention hanger made of discarded soda bottle, tin can, string and a stick to hang out food bags on. The electricity was turned off and we didn’t want to risk detection by trying out the phone. It was clear from a bit of wax on the floor that we were not the first to risk the wrath of toxic mold up here. We definitely left the place in better shape than we found it.
The sunset was beyond spectacular. Later, there I never saw so many stars on a night as when we ventured outside to take in the night world. We each read for a bit by the glow of our headlamps.
In the end, our stay on top of the Sugarloaf was one of the top highlights of my Map 6 traverse.
The second day out, I ended up walking 12 miles, giving me a total of 27 in my first two days out on the AT. I was pretty surprised at this respectable mileage and felt very positive about my endurance and that my feet help up well with my new Asics Gel Trabucos.
Clarkie did an excellent job of writing up our morning adventures, which culminated at the summit of Saddleback Mountain, but before he showed up to walk with me, I had a few hours to kill between the time I left the campsite at 9:15 AM before I met him him back on Route 4 at 10 AM.
Here is a morning shot taken at the Piazza Rock Lean-to, hanging out and preparing breakfast in the company of Slayer, Bear Bait, and Lone Wolf.
We have a fire going in an attempt to warm up, as it was really cold out, not yet 40 degrees at the time of the photo.
Here is a shot of Clarkie and Bear Bait taken while we were huddled out of the wind on Sadleback summit.
Clarkie was just about to dose BB with Trail Magic by handing him a half dozen Sweet and Salty bars and a few fresh apples, an timely act, as BB had just told me he was out of snacks and still had a couple of days to go before he could resupply at Stratton.
Soon after Clarkie went back the way he had came, I was trying to hang with BB, who was dancing down hill over the rocks on the steep descent as we then both headed over our last two climbs of the day, up to the top of another 4,000 footer ( The Horn) and lastly Saddleback Junior, at 3655 feet.
All of this took close to 5 more miles to the day. When I reached the Poplar Ridge Lean-to I decided to change my plans and call it a day. Bear Bait and I had planned to try and make it 3 more miles to camp at the old railroad bed just above Oberton Stream, and he decided to move on but I was toast. I was the second person into the shelter that afternoon, with another thru hiker, Too Bob , who told me that another 5 or 6 Northbounders would probably roll in, so I decided to give them the floor space and set up my tent by the stream in front of the shelter. Two of the guys who came in were Coolio and Zen Dog.
I soon discovered that my Steripen was not going to purify any water. My batteries were dead, and the two spares that I had with me were old ones that I forgot to throw away after my last trip. No problem. I had the Bushcooker Lt2 stove with me and boiled up a couple of quarts of water. There was plenty of small bits and chunks of wood all around the fire ring that I used for fuel. I also used a double pot set up that Don Kivelus of Four Dog Stoves had sent me and successfully baked biscuits to have with the dehydrated home made pea soup I had made the day before the trip.
The crew of six at the shelter had been together for a while and were living proof that the two forces that can bind an AT group together were hiking speed and sense of humor. For these guys, the humor was nonstop “The Simpsons” talk. I really had no clue what they were talking about, so I was out of the loop, which made my retreat into the Double Rainbow uneventful. I didn’t feel I missed anything. It gets dark early up in the Maine woods, and by 7:15 my GloToob light was truly out.
Imported with permission from John ( Clarkie) Clark. Originally posted on the Yahoo group “The Bus”
Saturday morning, while my wife was exercising her mind and spirit at the Mindshift Institute Gathering in Rangeley, I met Uncle Tom for a hike. Tom had started the day before after a shuttle ride to the AT where it crosses Rte 17 near Oquossoc, and hiked about 15 miles past Rte 4 where we had planned to meet and onto the Piazza Rock Lean-to where he spent the night in the company of Lone Wolf (southbound) and Bear Bait (northbound).
I pulled into the trailhead parking lot at 10AM [Editor’s Note: EXACTLY at 10 AM] as planned and found Tom waiting for me. He promptly told me, “Don’t get your gear out, we can drive into the woods and save a couple of miles of hiking and be pretty sure you’ll have enough time to bag Saddleback.” I had read about a hard to find logging road, and with UT’s help, we had no problem finding it and we were on the trail about 10:30 which gave me 6 hours and 30 minutes to hike before I needed to get back to pick my wife up for our drive to Danstock.
About a mile in we were at the Lean-to, where Tom, having already hiked 3 miles, introduced me to Lone Wolf who recited for me a nice poem that he had composed about woodpeckers while Tom donned his back pack. And we were off, Tom taking the lead an setting a pace which suited me just fine.
This first portion of the AT was pretty nice. Not too many rocks and roots to deal with and just a couple of short steep sections and muddy bogs as we passed three ponds, each prettier than the one before it. At the third pond (Eddy Pond [Elevation 2680’]), the trail steepened dramatically and for the next mile or so climbing through the conifers to the treeline at 3200′ where we were rewarded with beautiful views across the lakes of the Rangeley region and 40mph wind under sunny skies.
As we ascended the rolling crests we finally saw the summit marker after about 4 false summits and the wind was really starting to howl. We reached the peak [Elevation 4,120’] at 1:05 PM in 60mph wind. Taking photos of each other and other climbers was a challenge as the wind made it nearly impossible to hold the cameras steady. The views were the best I have ever seen in New England with both Mt Washington (60 miles southwest) and Mt Katahdin (90 miles Northeast) visible on the opposing horizons.
We hunkered down for lunch behind a little three side stone wall and were soon joined by Bear Bait who heard us talking from his chosen wind break. We shared trail stories, food, drink, and even a Dancing Bear carabiner before we parted company about 1:30 PM, Uncle Tom and Bear Bait continuing north on along the AT, and me returning whence I came.
The return hike was uneventful with the usual occasional jolts of pain from this and that ligament on my knees, but nothing that I couldn’t walk through. I made it back to the car at 4:30 PM and had time to stop and reward myself with some milk and cookies before I picked up my wife who had a fantastic day herself.
I am hoping that not only will Uncle Tom award me my Opie Badge, but that I will be able to find more hikes in Maine with him (and his buds) in my future. My first 4,000 footer in Maine was indeed a wonderful hike.
May you find, savor, and share all the jewels along your path,
My first day of walking involved a paid auto shuttle, my first. The Stratton Motel has a list of places they can drive you to on their website, and after I coughed up $52.50, Drifter drove west toward Oquossic, then 11 miles south on Route 17 where we found the AT crossing. Sounds expensive, but it works out to a reasonable rate of $35 per hour for the driver to make a round trip, and I think it took Drifter close to an hour and a half to deal with me. The charges are the same regardless of whether there is one hiker or there are 4 hikers in the vehicle. On the positive side, there is no charge for shuttles to the Appalachian Trail road crossings for Rangeley (Route 4) or for Stratton (Maine Hwy 27 – also know as Route 27 or Route 16 on some maps).
At 10:45 I made it to the Sabbathday Pond Lean to where I applied moleskin to my left toe, ate and moved on. I was walking in and out of light rain, with air temperatures in the low 50’s.
I couldn’t sit and rest for long without getting cold. It was weather that kept me walking.
It’s crying time again. That sure hasn’t happened at home. I had just made the approach to a former campsite at South Pond where MEGATEX stayed in 2007 when a power rush of memories overwhelmed me. I believe that I cry rather than allow the size of the feelings inside to blow my chest out. Originally, I planned to stop for the night here, but it was only 3PM, and cold out, so I decided to keep walking. So that’s what I did, eventually crossing Route 4’s construction zone
, and up the hill to Piazza Rock Lean-to, rolling in at 4:45 PM. 15 miles in from Rt. 17.
I only saw two other hikers all day, thru-hiker hopefuls heading north to reach Katahdin by the overnight closing date of Oct. 15. There are also flip floppers on the path, folks who have been walking from Georgia who are running out of time that hitch all the way to Baxter State Park and walk south until they reach their prior furthest north point. I’m staying in the shelter with one of them, Lone Wolf ( Michigan model). There is also a caretaker, Slayer, here who is living in a platform tent here on her last 10 day stint. On the AT, many of the hiker’s trail names stay the same, year after year. They are all out here, the Rainbows, the Mountain Men, the Striders. Only the faces and body types change. Birdlegs is right on when she notes that even the comments and points of views in the shelter registers live on, year after year. How could they not? It’s the same walk, same challenges, same realizations.
It’s clearing off here at the shelter, and at 2080 feet in elevation, the temperature is dropping into the 40’s. Slayer said it will drop into the 30’s before daybreak. It just 7:10 PM and I’m way down in my sleeping bag, leaning against the back wall of the lean-to, typing on my iPod Touch with cold fingers. My body is aching enough that I believe I’ll down some Advil. Last night in the motel room I glued up the two holes I finally located in my leaky Big Agnes and have big hopes that I won’t need to refill the mattress in the night.
Lone Wolf and I were talking Trail as we lay in the dark. He told me that he made up his Christmas presents at his last town stop in Stratton. He bought a $2.99 can of spray polyurethane and applied it to a couple dozen moose dung pellets. Whey they dried, he mailed them home.
Lone Wolf predicted that we’d see someone come in even after dark. He was right. Bear Bait rolled in through the pitch black night at about 8 PM. He was a thru hiker headed N who was on limited gear and funds. His Thermarest had a couple of serious holes in it, which I helped him try to fix the next morning.
After I had been asleep for a couple of hours, I leaped out of bed out with serious case of double leg cramps. I was whimpering and frantically rubbing them out when the other two guys woke up. Bear Bait advised me to apply hard pressure to the fleshy area between my thumb and my index finger and miraculously, it worked. I have never been able to interrupt the inevitable progression toward further agony before, and was intrigued that it might not have just been a coincidence.
When I awoke at daybreak, my thermometer verified that it dropped to 35 degrees on my first night out.
Again. Have to.
Sept. 16 is the ending date of my Appalachian Trail thru hike and last year has proved itself to be a massive propellant toward two-heeled action. So, shoving aside the calls to work, play, and deal with things here and really working the “No” response ended up with me carving out five days in mid September to walk Maine’s majestic segment of that National Scenic Trail.
I’ll be backpacking 46 miles north over four 4,000 and six 3,000 footers. That’s all of Map 6 on the AT in Maine Map and Guide.
While driving on Route 27 I see Avery Peak’s abandoned tower from twenty miles away.
This is the first artifact of Trail life that greeted me as I pulled into the parking lot of the local hiker hangout, the Stratton Motel. The light tonight is cold and clear. It’s almost Canada out there.
I’m walking alone, or at least expect to. It is at once a thrilling and frightening anticipation. So much can happen, and it’s me and the Force steering the Polish Hulk along this week. I expect that there will not be many of us backpacking. Simply walking and sleeping in the woods is not happening in this culture. There is just all too much pulling at us that keeps our routines in place.
My friend Clarkie recently questioned me about his soreness after a strenuous hike in the White Mountains of NH. This is from a guy who is commuting 30 plus miles a day on his bicycle. Even big tough rugged hockey players are humbled by challenging backpacking terrain. Read on: Hockey teams bond during Katahdin hike – Bangor Daily News
Pushing along through ninety seven percent humidity, with a 100 percent chance of rain is not a pleasant experience on any day of hiking, but that is what was on our plates, so the Band of Four persevered through that and more. We were my brother Roy and Jimmy, both from the Boston area, and Clint ( ‘Rangoon”) and me ( “Uncle Tom”) from Maine.
Our plan was to stay three nights at Russell Pond Campground, off the Tripoli Road , accessed via Exit 31 off Rt 93, just south of Lincoln, NH in the heart of the National Forest south of the Kangamangus Highway.
Our plan had us in on Thursday afternoon, with a challenging hike on Friday, a less challenging hike on Saturday, and after breakfast in North Woodstock, NH , head to home on Sunday.
One of the main pleasures of this type of trip is eating, and Roy is a master at cooking outdoors, bringing along a Baby Webber gas grill, as well as prepared dishes to minimize the prep time in camp.
Thursday night supper was assorted sausages with grilled onions and peppers on fresh rolls. It got even better the next night when Roy grilled to perfection four thick 18 oz. bone-in Ribeye steaks from Stockyard Steaks out of Chicago. I supplied the topping of finely chopped onions, olives, sundried tomatoes and feta cheese.
About the hiking. Friday’s weather prediction was 100% chance of rain, high winds, the possibility of hail, and of course thunderstorms. Roy had an Internet access cell phone. The storm was on it’s way. Ever hopeful, we reasoned that the rain would probably hit in the afternoon, and that if we got an early start, we would be able to complete our loop hike before the storm reached us.
Naturally, we zeroed in on the “ Strenuous Hikes” section listed in the 28th Edition of the White Mountain Guide; the 8.9 mile Franconia Ridge loop, which would also net us 3,850 feet of elevation gain ( as well as about 3,00 feet in loss ( descent)) for the day.
We reasoned that if we’d break down the hike into sections, we’d powpow at intersections to determine if we’d be able to handle the weather as we experienced the real conditions on the trail.
We definitely entered the humid zone as soon as we left the car at the parking lot opposite the Lafayette Campground. We were Looping clockwise, and headed up the Old Bridle Path to start. The air was so thick and cloudy that we experienced none of the spectacular outlooks when we finally reached the ravine itself at the 1.9 mile mark. All of us except Jimmy were depending on our Leki poles to assist our foot placement , particularly on the steepest part of the ascent just before we reached the Greenleaf Hut, Rangoon and I arriving there a full hour under the listed time of 2 hrs. and 40 minutes. The Hut Crew ignored us as Clint and I sat at one of the tables inside, snacking and hydrating while we waited a few minutes for Roy and Jimmy to arrive.
We learned nothing new about the updated weather from hearing another party discuss their plans. The wind was strong outside, gusting up to 30 MPH. We decided to chance the next 1 mile section, from the Hut along the Greenleaf Trail up to the Ridge itself, where we’d decide to either turn back or keep going. The 1,000 feet of elevation in a mile did not seem as tough as it could have been, with rock steps between stone walls, and light drizzle and fog everwhere. We all put on our raincoats, primarily for warmth, as we were completely soaked from the exertion plus humidity quotient. We encountered one AT Thru-hiker coming down from the ridge who was planning on staying at the Hut at least one night until the weather cleared. He told us had done the mileage math that had him to reaching Katahdin by Oct. 15 and reasoned he had the time to take a day off. The trail ended at the summit of Mt. Lafayette ( 5,260 feet), where there was a large party on middle aged guys who were also figuring out what to do. At this point, we reasoned that it was still not even lunch time, and that if we headed 1.7 mile south, we’d traverse the Franconia Ridge, where we’d go up and over Mt. Lincoln at 5089, and then down to Little Haystack ( 4760). The option was to go back down the way we came, with complete exposure for 1 steep mile of descent. So we headed over new territory , and even had time to stop for a quick lunch break on top. Mind you, we had NO visibility at any point at altitude, with a limit of approximately 50 feet.
The wind was not so bad. Still no thunder nor hard rain, and we considered ourselves very fortunate to have come this far.
The last section of the hike was going to get us down back below tree line and in relative safety when the weather event arrived.
We just made it down the Falling Waters Trail before the storm hit. The trail is a 3.2 mile ( 3,000 feet in elevation) descent. We were saved by the trekking poles many times, and even Jimmy was seen frequently propping himself up with the stout cedar hiking pole that Roy had lent him.
Rangoon and I were really hoofing it on the last mile, as we could hear thunder in the distance that seemed to be getting louder and more frequent.
All of us were in the car by 3 PM and as we were approaching RT 93 and heading back to the campground the skies darkened and the rains unleashed. The Voyager was crawling along as I was just trying to see out of the windshield. There were rivers overflowing the culverts on the long uphill to the campground. The rain got even stronger as we pulled into the campsite. We just sat there, stunned. None of us were willing to get out of the car and head into the tents. Eventually I had Jimmy pass me an umbrella. I did get soaked to the skin in the few seconds it took to open the door, step out, and put up the umbrella.
I checked the tents.
Rangoon’s was toast. A river was flowing right across the campsite, and was diverted by Rangoon’s little tent, which was struggling to stay upright as 4 inches of forceful water was pushing against the uphill side. The other bigger tent was OK.
The tarp over the picnic table held.
Rangoon moved to plan B , which was his backup hammock and fly for the night.
Here’s a video clip of Jimmy reinforcing the upper section of drainage at the site.
It rained off and on for most of the evening, with the updated weather reporting near to one hundred percent heavy rain for the next day.
All of us agreed that it made no sense to try and walk in the rain for our second day of hiking and we reluctantly started the grimy gritty wet task of dismantling the site.
Even so, we had some measure of satisfaction, having used the best of our our savvy outdoor skills in reaching the fabled Franconia Ridge, even without any of those world-class views.
We dealt with world-class weather, several inches of it, we later learned.
There is always next year.