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,
( AKA John Clark)