I’m here with the last of my remaining client on this 100 mile backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. Three paid up, and due to unfortunate circumstances which were in part due to the astrological decimation of this round of Mercury retrograde, two pulled out a week before the trip was scheduled to depart. They have credit toward one of next season’s Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures offerings.
Yesterday we started hiking from the Abol Bridge southbound at 1 PM. We had left my house in Lincolnville at 7 AM in order to meet a shuttle ride by Hippie Chick, who now owns Shaw’s boarding home in Monson. Shaw’s has been a stalwart staple for decades in Monson, serving the needs of AT backpackers at the southern terminus of the Hundred Mile Wilderness. For a fee of $110 I was able to leave my VW Golf at Shaw’s and then have Shaw’s spend the next 90 minutes driving us to the other end of the Hundred where we’d spend the next 8-10 days walking south to the car.
On the way over , we made a stop in Millinocket at the AT Lodge, where Hippie Chick’s stepfather, Ole Man, handed us two 5 gallon plastic buckets where Shari and I loaded 5 days of stove fuel, and food for the second half of the hike. Ole Man has a system where he hides the buckets near Crawford Pond, which can be reached by a logging road. He charges $35 for the service, which saves the biker from carrying the full ten day’s of food from Abol Bridge . Ten days of food is about 20 pounds, and is something I will pay to avoid carrying.
We were able to put in 8 strong miles yesterday, even with starting at 1 pm. We reached our unofficial campsite on the northern end of Rainbow Lake at 4:30 pm. We had the lakeside campsite to ourselves. It was just us and a pair of loons who were singing loud and crazy for the rest of the day and then early morning.
There is always at least something that goes wrong out here. I fell victim to a tube of Bert’s Bees foot lotion that somehow leaked a sticky scented mess into the top pocket of my pack, coating all sorts of items with goo. All I could do was sacrifice one of my two bandannas and mop it up the best I could. Not a pleasant activity to spend my time with on the first night of camping.
Bert’s Bees just so happened to be the reason that President Obama designated 87,000 acres adjacent to Baxter State Park as a National Monument two weeks ago. It was land that was donated by Roxanne Quimby, along with a $40 million endowment to help run it. I believe she sold the company that she co- founded to Proctor and Gamble for somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 million dollars. So I have an olfactory souvenir embedded in my Granite Gear backpack that reminds me that things should be up and coming in the Millinocket Region. I also plan to visit the new Monument in October, when I am up for three nights at Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps.
We packed up and were hiking by 7 am today, with a goal of reaching 12 miles, giving us a 10 mile a day average for our first day and a half of actual hiking. We hope to improve on that a bit as the trip goes on. While Shari is not a very experienced backpacker, she sure is fit, and with her in the lead, we reached our first break at the Rainbow Lake Campsite, at 8:45 AM. I was pissed that there was some used toilet paper right by the side of the spring and grudgingly packed it out.
We passed up a stop at the Rainbow Stream Lean-to, a dark, ancient structure that I believe will be rebuilt in a couple of weeks. There was someone still sleeping in there. By the looks of the lawn chair, and the type of soiled clothing handing up on the line beside the campsite, there was a citizen squatter taking up space here for a while. Both Shari and I agreed there was a bad feel to the place. This was a teachable moment so I took the opportunity to advise her to listen to her gut in situations like his and if things don’t feel right, then take that seriously and move on.
I love walking beside Rainbow Stream. The pools, sluices, and rushing waters set up a world class hiking situation.
Coming close to Namakanta Lake at the end of the day, we were left with a decision to make. We were out of water when we reached a one mile long road that lead to a state campsite on Pollywog Pond, off the AT. If we continued on the AT we’d have to go up and over Nesuntabunt Mtn- short but challenging ascent. I wanted to pick up a couple of quarts of water, which would have allowed us to gain another couple of miles on the uphill to Nesuntabunt where I hoped we could find a flat spot and carve out space for 2 tents. That didn’t happen. We eventually agreed to call it a day after 14 miles, and headed over to the Pollywog West tent site. It is “camping sauvage” here tonight. The pond itself is much too mucky to wade into, however we were able draw water from shore to wash clothes and ourselves up a bit before settling in for what should be a very quiet night.