Shari and I hobbled into the Cloud Pond lean-to at 6:15 pm. Despite starting the day at 7:10 AM, it took all our reserves and energy to make it sixteen miles.
We had a serious water issue at the end of the day that forced us to stretch what would should have been a more comfortable 12 mile day. We encountered many hikers today, equally represented by section hikers and thru hikers. We must have seen 30 people come through.
Of particular note were the walking wounded, who were both experienced and inexperienced at backpacking. One fact stood out. Hiking this section of the AT is the most difficult walking a number of these hikers have experienced.
Two guys, middle aged, from Tennessee who had both hiked most of the AT in the south and who haven’t had blisters for years reported multiple blisters in boots that they had worn on previous extended AT hikes in the south.
And then there were The Griswolds, as Shari named them. They were some sort of middle aged family group that we saw stunned, sitting in the middle of the trail, with one of the women doctoring up her already blistered and lacerated feet. They were on day one. They were complete novices at backpacking and were from Indiana. When I asked them how they came to be here hiking in Maine, the guy responded, “It was on the Internet. I Googled what the most beautiful place was on the Appalachian Trail and this Hundred Mile Wilderness came up so here we are.” They didn’t even know that the trail was marked by white blazes. We heard them shouting all sorts of meaning to the colored surveyor’s tape that flanked the trail in parts. “Red must mean go right!”
We also saw an older guy, lying stunned on the side of the trail. We tried talking with him and he just kept mumbling about “the lake” but there was no within 5 miles.
Two other middle aged guys came toward us in the late afternoon and said they were not doing so well. They had ridiculously huge 70 liter packs with fishing lures, nets and rods strapped to the sides. They said that while they had been able to make 10 miles a day out of Monson their first two days, they hit the wall today, only reaching the 5 mile mark by 4 pm. They felt they had to quit.
As did two middle aged women from South Carolina who were sitting off the trail in the brush after trying to make it up the notoriously steep and rocky Fourth Mountain. One told me,”We just texted Phil to come get us at the Katahdin Iron Works road. We’re done. We started in Caratunk. We just don’t have the legs for what we have to do to move along out here. We can’t do this! ”
The other frustrating situation we have here has been the contradictory stories about water sources. On the way to Chairback Gap we talked with Batman, a northbounder who was most enthusiastic about Guthook’s AT hiking app. We asked him about water ahead of us and he gave us his accurate info.
A half hour later, we are at the admittedly nasty-looking, brownish purple “spring” that services the Chairback Gap lean-to with a couple of lady day hikers and a northbound thru hiker.
We asked them the same question that we asked Batman. Then the ladies left and I started talking to a thru hiker who had been sitting beside the ladies as we were talking to them. He said, “There is no water from here to the Cloud Pond lean- to ( 7 miles south). ”
I then mentioned that the two other women who had just left had told us different. He was adamant that he was right. Two miles later we walked over a loud, rapidly flowing, stream that crossed the AT that was at least eight feet wide! Somehow he hadn’t registered in his consciousness that this major water source existed.
It goes on and on. After reaching this Cloud Pond shelter we are now hearing this new rumor that “there is a 90% chance of rain tomorrow.” While I was getting water out of the pond I started talking to a hiker who told me that he was in Monson early this morning and heard the weather report, which was good until at least Sunday!
It’s now 6 pm and it hasn’t rained yet but it has been beyond humid today. My shirt and shorts are thoroughly saturated from a week of perspiration. I’ve hit the sweat/humidity wall. The characteristic marker is hanging up a stinking, greasy, sweat saturated microfiber, quick-dry shirt on a clothesline overnight and put it on the next morning with it in exactly the same sorry state is was when you peeled it off.
It was too much for me to deal with yesterday morning, so I walked the day with no shirt at all. It sucked to have cobwebs sticking to me as I broke trail in the morning.
There is no getting out of it as a hiker, until less you carry many shirts, taking a dry one out each morning, only to find it saturated with sweat and stinky at the end of the day.
In truth, we look like mobile rag bags, with wet stinky garments draped off the back of your pack, going slip slop all day long against the pack as we perspire our way to our places of rest.