Friday, August 31, 2012

The Lobster Claw

Friday, August 24, 2012:

I named it that.  I don't know if it has an actual name yet - it's not mentioned in the AT guide.  But it should be.  It's an amazing little spot just above the bypass trail junction on the south side of Moxie Bald Mountain.  There's a gi-mongous (indeed hu-normous) rock slab sitting on other rocks that forms a spacious roof over the AT (passing to the right of the 'claw', a better look at the 'roof' is in the photo at right) and the same rock forms a roof over a perfectly passable tunnel (a bit of tough scrambling, and probably can't be done with a full pack) at left in the picture above.  In the spirit of the Lemon Squeezer and Fatman Squeeze, it would be cool to see this tunnel become the white blaze route some day.  Maine trail builders don't seem to have had time to be so 'playful' yet.  (There's another place - Safford Notch in the Bigelows - where the trail could go through some tunnels and do other really cool things with mansion-sized boulders ... maybe someday.)

I hiked twenty miles today and the weather was perfect.  Moxie Bald was the only mountain - the rest of the trail was fairly level and easy.  But that mountain is a gem.  Besides sporting 'The Lobster Claw', it has another truly unique experience - a ledge walk on perfect granite with wonderful views and easy walking.  Here's that ledge, first looking downhill with the views, and then looking uphill at the length of that perfect slab of granite.

Yes, Moxie Bald (or Bald Mountain as some crusty locals prefer to call it - they've tried to scratch off the word 'Moxie' from the trail signs), features some of the most solid granite anywhere on the trail.  Paved walkways a billion years in the making, and durable beyond the counting of years.  Here's another look at it, with some premature fall color thrown in:

And finally, here is another example of the stellar views this weather offered - looking down on Bald Mountain Pond:

Got another peek at Katahdin from the summit, and at the end of today's hike I reached the Piscataquis County line - the very last county on the trail.  Yes, it's a huge county, with nearly 130 miles of trail in it, but it still seems significant to be in the final county.

Near the summit I met 'Bird Man', who's starting the northern leg of a Flip-Flop.  He needs to get to Port Clinton, PA and he's done.  We got to talking, and it turns out that he's met Bomber and that he started his hike at Springer the same day that Paul 'Parkside' did.  He hiked with Paul for a couple days there at the start, and then Paul pushed ahead of him, as Bird Man preferred to take breaks to visit friends, etc.  It continues to amaze me how many intertwining connections I find among the trail population.  It's one of the truly unique aspects of AT hiking.  I'm sure there will be more ...


Here's the map of the route of today's hike and a link to two dozen photos:

AT Day 214 - Moxie Bald Mountain at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Maine

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The better part of valor

... discretion, indeed.  She dictated a short hiking day today, and I had to stifle my drive to push on.   Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ...

(And ahhhh ... where would our language be today without Shakespeare?)

Thursday, August 23, 2012:

It's all about logistics and the limited number of trail access points here in Maine.  I had to swallow my macho ambitions and get off the trail after just 5 1/2 hours of hiking.  Covering only 4.9 miles of new trail really bugs me when I had the energy to do much more.  But there's those logistics to consider.  I'll let my personal journal entry do the heavy lifting today:


I got up at 5:30 and drove back up to Bingham and then west 5.5 miles to Town Line Road and then north on that road as it changed names and forked and intersected but headed pretty much straight north for 11.4 miles to Moxie Pond. The parking area was not hard to find. It was tiny, with room for just two vehicles and one was already there. I parked, got ready and headed south for the uneven ascent to the summit of Pleasant Pond Mountain. The hike begins with a road walk alongside of 'Joe's Hole', a small section of the 8-mile long Moxie Pond:

Leaving the road after less than a quarter mile, the trail climbs gradually, following a ridge, rarely a good choice for easy walking. The glaciers carve ridges into knobs and notches.  Even down south ridges are there because they are made of the hardest rock - which translates to the toughest walking.  So there were lots of small steep ups and downs, though some easy trail as well. I did enjoy the sections where the trail walked on fairly gradually sloped bedrock, sometimes with views.

It took me 3 hours to get to the summit of Pleasant Pond Mountain, where I found that all the really good views were on the north side, so I had missed them yesterday. Below is one of the nice views (Hedgehog Hill and the north end of Moxie Pond) and an AT survey marker that is on a nice viewpoint knob but well off the actual trail.

American Red Squirrel
The return trip took less time and I met this cute little guy.  I love the way the red squirrels trill and chirp - it's as good as any bird song.  This gal or fellow perked up and stood still, looking right at me when I did my imitation of that sound.

I was back at the parking lot at 12:30, having seriously pondered what to do with the rest of the day. There was a 30% chance of storms in the forecast for the afternoon with a weak frontal boundary, but more importantly, it made no sense to hike less than five miles north, to at least the summit of Moxie Bald, if I did anything at all. And if that summit climb is tough, then that could get me back near or after dark, and the last thing I would have to do was ford the very wide Baker Stream right on the other side of the road from where I had parked. (On first look this morning I couldn’t see a way across without getting wet.)

Before I got back, I had decided that the only smart choice was to end my hike and make the leg north tomorrow, hiking by the clock to see how far I can get – thus not dependent on how difficult the trail would be. And that option sets up well for the next few road crossings, which are fairly closely spaced on the way to Monson.

So when I got back to the parking lot I changed into my Crocs and went to Baker Stream to do a preparatory ‘practice’ crossing. I only had to get wet on three submerged stepping stones on the way across, and then studying the rocks on the way back I found a dry route that was fairly easy that I had failed to see from the other side. So the little scouting trip paid off. Assuming that tonight’s rain (which did come) hasn’t raised the stream level tomorrow morning, the stream crossing will be quick.


So I'll end by paraphrasing another, not-quite-so-long-ago English author (Dickens):  'Tis a far, far better thing I do this day than I might have else-wise done.  'Tis a far, far better rest I go to this afternoon than I have known in many a day.


Here's the map of today's hike and a link to more photos:

AT Day 213 at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Maine

Under 1000 miles to go!

... which seems like a lot, but compared to the 4368.4 mile total ...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012:

... let's just say I'm happy to have made it this far.  And as far as my northern leg, I'm now just 144 trail miles from reaching the northern terminus of the AT at Baker Peak, Mt. Katahdin. (The rest of the 1000 miles remaining is between Daleville, VA and Caledonia State Park, PA, which I plan to do in the fall, once I'm finished up north.)

Today's 7.3 miles of trail started at the Kennebec River.  The water was in its low phase this morning (dam releases upstream cause it to fluctuate suddenly between high and low phases).  Shown at left is the spot a couple hundred yards upstream from the ferry site where risk takers and adventurers ford the river.  As long as the water stays this low, it would be no big problem - the problem is that the water can rise quickly without warning.

Between the Kennebec River and the summit of Pleasant Pond Mountain, the northern end of the day's hike, the trail was mostly easy except for the last mile, in which the 1100 foot steep ascent of the mountain happens.  That felt like a return to the tougher days farther south - some pretty steep pieces where I had to use my hands and even occasionally needed to slide on my butt on descending.

The summit of Pleasant Pond Mountain is only at 2500 feet, but there are some views from open bedrock areas.  At left is the view across the well-populated pond (lots of cottages) to the prominent dual peaks of the Bigelows.

Weather was great - wonderful late summer Maine weather with cool mornings and daytime temperatures in the 70's.  We've finally left that tropical rainy pattern far behind - more good weather is forecast for the coming days, so I'm loving life!


Here's the map of today's hike and a link to more photos:

AT Day 212 - Pleasant Pond Mountain at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Maine

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pierce Pond and the Kennebec

... not to mention a morning walk on a sandy beach at East Carry Pond.  I really miss hiking the beach - got seriously homesick as I walked this little patch of sand, surely the only place like it on the whole AT.

And then came Pierce Pond ... it was a day brimming with highlights and emotion.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012:

Twenty two miles of hiking on generally easy trail took me from East Carry Pond to the Kennebec River and back.

There were no mountains to climb today, but I crossed an emotional summit when I reached Pierce Pond.

Here, on Friday, June 15th,  Northbound thru-hiker Paul 'Parkside' Bernhardt left dry land for the last time, entered the water, probably at this spot right in front of the shelter, and headed for the dock in the distance.

The little stones in the foreground are from the water at this spot.  I left them at the pondside memorial site a few feet away:

I was glad to finally reach here and get some personal closure after following Paul's entries in the shelter log books since May 6th when we met on the trail for the second time and I told him to be sure to write in the registers, because I wanted to follow his progress.

Paul made no entry in the log book at Pierce Pond Lean-to, but many others have entered tributes and well-wishes since, and continue to do so.  Here's mine.

I lit a tea-light in Paul's honor (photo up top) on the shelf in the shelter where the family has placed a great photo of him taken atop 'The Lookout' in Vermont.  A minute later the wind came up - the only time all day when it got windy - just sayin' - and blew out the candle.  I got chills up my spine.  Just sayin'.

The family also posted some swim safety information.  If one person who reads this survives or avoids a fatal cold-water cramping incident, then for that reason alone Paul's death was not in vain.

That little tea-light had been with me every step of my journey - 3350 miles now in 211 hiking days since January 1st.  I left it there.  It was with me on March 6th when I first met "Just Paul from New York" (no trail name yet) on his way down Snowbird Mountain, headed for Max Patch.  It was with me on May 6th when I met Paul for the second and last time in a scrubby forest just south of High Point State Park in New Jersey when he showed me his trail name boldly printed with a black marker on the back of his shirt.

As I approached the shelter, Paul's last footsteps were echoing in my mind.  As I pushed on north and down toward the Kennebec River, I felt lonely.  Perhaps appropriately, I had not met a single person on the trail all day.

I got to the Kennebec River at 3:35PM - just enough time to make my unusual request of 'Hillbilly Dave' the official AT ferry man for six years running.  He was happy to oblige:  he took me across to the north side where I just set foot on shore for a moment, and then he paddled me right back across to the south shore again.

The canoe has a white blaze on the floor, making it the official 'footpath'.  I'm not sure of the technicalities when it comes to my definition of a 'footpath' (and the continuity thereof across the river); but this is for sure:  the canoe ride is the official Appalachian Trail.  Fording or swimming the Kennebec River is not.  And my primary mission is to hike the official AT both ways by means of daily N-S yo-yo day hikes.

My secondary mission of extending my 'Personal Continuous Footpath' (PCP) can wait for another day.  Perhaps I'll walk down from Pierce Pond all the way to the bridge at Bingham and back north on US 201.  That's more than 40 miles of walking - an overnight stay at Bingham would be necessary.  Perhaps another time.  My primary goal with my Personal Continuous Footpath project is to walk to all the places I've lived, connecting them with a continuous string of footprints (which disallows a canoe ride).  Extending my PCP from the Kennebec River to Katahdin is not a high priority.

I got a late start this morning because of some rain.  But I still made it back 'home' by sunset, and not nearly as 'worn-out' after 22 miles as I often felt after ten or fifteen miles of climbing in the White Mountains.


Here's the map of today's hiking route, and a link to the complete photo album for today:

AT Day 211 - Pierce Pond and the Kennebec River at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Maine

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hiked in Crocs

Monday, August 20, 2012:

This was an unplanned experiment.  I started out in my Brooks Cascadia Trail Runners as usual, but no more than a half mile from my starting point I came upon a crossing that involved a couple of floating logs spanning six feet to a floating stretch of bog board.  None of it would keep me above water, so I switched to my Crocs and made the crossing.  Then, inspired by my one-time trail hiking companion Corky, and by others who I'd passed hiking in Crocs, I gave it a try.

And I gave it a full-sized try.  I hiked eighteen miles in the Crocs today.  They have their pros and cons.  If you're used to hiking in trail runners rather than the heavy boots, the change will not be very noticeable.  I got my heels scraped and banged a few times (Crocs have no heel protection), got wet in muddy areas more easily (Crocs have ventilation holes on the sides where the trail runners would protect you from this dampness), and had more annoying trail debris accumulating inside the shoe.  But there are advantages, too, especially when it's wet.  My socks dried out much more quickly, and my feet felt less like they were in a 'straight jacket' at the end of the day.  My conclusion was that I prefer the trail runners when the conditions are dry, but in rain or persistently boggy walking, I'll be quick to switch to the Crocs.

Today's hike took me along  some easy trail between East Flagstaff Road and East Carry Road (Sandy Stream).  It took me alongside an arm of Flagstaff Lake (shown in its 'morning mood' at left, where the newly opened AT reroute adds more than a half mile of hiking, much of which is 'up close and personal' with the water and includes a new campsite complete with a bit of sandy beach and a new privy.
Then later the trail passes alongside a long stretch of West Carry Pond.  There's some slow going in wet areas where you have to rock-hop on irregular stepping stones and roots to stay out of the muck, but for the most part the trail was comfortable.  Thus I was able to accomplish nineteen miles in 11.5 hours of hiking.

And the weather remained just about as close to perfect as you can get - true 'chamber of commerce' conditions for 'Vacationland' Maine.  I'm so glad the persistent humid tropical wet pattern has finally broken.

Mushrooms beside the trail, high point at Roundtop Mountain


Here's the map of today's hike, and  a link to a slew of additional photos (there were lots of them today):


AT Day 210 - Flagstaff Lake and West Carry Pond at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Maine

Monday, August 27, 2012

First look at Katahdin

... from 179.8 trail miles away (on Avery Peak in the Bigelow Range), here she is:

... and a closer look, via 10x telephoto lens:

Sunday, August 19, 2012:

Needless to say, it was a crystal clear day.  Everybody that reached the Bigelow peaks raved about the views.  They were even better than yesterday's because of the clear skies.

It was a long, strenuous hike today, getting back to Avery Peak from the north - from East Flagstaff Road, but as I told one hiker who asked 'is it worth it?' as he trudged up the 2800' climb from the road: "I'd climb twice as far to see these views".

Best of all, I met some special people today - connections from many months ago.  I met the gentleman who took my photo beside the first white blaze and plaque at Mile Zero - the summit of Springer Mountain - "Night Walker", at right here in this shot taken at the viewpoint in the west end of Little Bigelow ridge.  He's being paid by the ATC to take detailed GPS measurements of the trail with some expensive equipment.  He was just starting out when I met him down there - spent a lot of time initializing his GPS while we talked.  He made it north to Erwin, TN, got sick, took some time off, and then flipped up to Katahdin and is now working his way south with his sophisticated GPS unit complete with two-foot-high overhead antenna.

With him are Terranauta (sorry that she's in such deep shade) and Mandela, who started together at Springer on March 1st but who I seem to have missed down south.  They hiked north to the Partnership Shelter, Marion, VA, took a pre-planned three month break so Mandela could work a good-paying summer job at the Smithsonian in DC, and are now working their way south from Katahdin.  They have already met 28 people up north who they knew from their southern leg in the spring, including Johannes (who they met around Damascus) and Kit Fox and Man Cub (who they met on Blood Mountain).  I may well meet all three of these pictured folk again in the fall as I head north from Daleville, VA.

Great hike, great views, great weather, great people.  What a wonderful twelve hours on the trail!


Here's the map of today's hike and a link to more photos:

AT Day 209 - Little Bigelow at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Maine

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Big Beautiful Bigelow

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

... that would be Bigelow Ridge: and it has instantly become one of the top five of my 208 day hikes thus far.

The views were abundant and spectacular. What I couldn't photograph was the lush verdant mossy boulder strewn ascent from the Bigelow Ridge trail junction to The (south) Horn.  The boulders didn't get in the way, just made for interesting views.  The high altitude woods were alive after all the heavy rain - mosses and lichens of a hundred kinds, all flush and verdant with the new moisture.  It doesn't get any better, but it also didn't present a good photo-op.  The rest is just unabashed eye candy.  Enjoy.

Avery Peak and Flagstaff Lake as seen from West Bigelow Peak
Plaque on Avery Peak
Signs at summit (approx 2000 mile mark), Myron Haliburton Avery Peak
Flagstaff Lake from West Bigelow Peak
Horns Pond from the Horn, south peak
Horns Pond and the north and south Horns behind
Horns Pond
View of Sugarloaf Ski Area and environs from W. Bigelow

Touch of Fall color at a small Beaver Pond wetland area
Young Moose, Sugarloaf Ski area access road
Another look at the moose

It was a stellar day - 11 1/2 hours on the trail, great variety, and not one dull moment - one of those days that makes me wish this adventure would never end.

For those interested in more trail detail, I've pasted my personal journal entry below:


Leaving Stratton Brook Pond Road northbound the first thing the trail does is go up some steps to a little viewpoint then down a steep slope to Stratton Brook where there is a big footbridge. The water level seemed high – flowing over grassy tufts in places. Then there’s about a mile of gentle slope and easy trail passing the Cranberry Brook campsite and two stream crossings, then a steady climb but not too steep and not on hard trail – just lots of roots mostly. It pauses in its climb to pass a place just called Beaver Pond, which is just that, although the main pond is drained and has been abandoned by beavers (the dam has eroded away at the outlet). Still, it was a pretty place.

The weather was cooler and the sun was moving in and out of high clouds. These entirely gave way to sunshine by late morning as I climbed the steeper, rougher section up to the low ridge before Horns Pond. That climb was fascinating. It was among huge boulders, but these boulders were scattered, not so dense that the trail forced you to scramble over them – just walk among them for the most part.

The trail does get a little slow and tough in places near the top and on that ridge where there are two viewpoints looking across the valley toward Sugarloaf and on south. The second of these viewpoints also gives you a beautiful overlook of Horns Pond and the two peaks called the Horns beyond. There’s some rough descending in a couple spots to the pond itself where there are actually three lean-to’s—one built in 1936 is no longer used for camping, and two newer ones side-by-side nearby.

I headed on from there to climb up to the south Horn – steep but not too difficult and with nice views on top – the first breathtaking views of Flagstaff Lake, which is a huge lake that fills the broad lowland on the north side of the Bigelow Range. It was literally glowing, reflecting white clouds on the next range of hills. On that range were dozens of big white windmills (electric generators).

By that time I was becoming convinced that today was turning out to be one of my best hikes ever – the juxtaposition of the huge lake and the mountains and the great visibility, perfect hiking weather, calm winds and lush green moss all just blew me away. I descended from the Horn and crossed the high ridge toward West Bigelow, with largely easy trail but a few steep pieces. Then the climb up West Bigelow was again steep but with few difficult footing issues, same as the Horn (on both sides). The views from the summit of West Bigelow were just as spectacular.

Then I headed down into Bigelow Col where there used to be a shelter named for Myron Avery, but now there are just tent sites. Then immediately the trail climbs again, including one very tough (for me the toughest kind of trail) piece over big jumbled rock with no clear places to comfortably put your feet. That doesn’t last too long, however, and the rest of the ascent to Avery Peak is not difficult and not even that steep.

At the summit there is a foundation of an old fire tower or tower keeper’s shack, a big boulder with a plaque about Myron Avery, and a new MATC sign that includes a ‘2000 mile’ marker, although the actual 2000 mile point is now somewhere just below the ridge south of Horns Pond.

I reached there after six hours and five minutes of hiking, so it was my perfect turn-around point—I get to come back there tomorrow, though that will be a pretty long hike (I’m hoping the trail is generally a bit easier on that side, but there certainly are no guarantees of that).

I enjoyed the return trip just as much, but kept a brisk pace. I was thinking that I might be able to catch the tail-end of the AT 75th anniversary festivities at The Rack restaurant at the base of Sugarloaf, just a couple miles from where I was parked.

I got back to where I had parked at 5:40 and drove over there, but there was nothing formal happening – people were just standing and sitting around talking, some leaving, the whole shin-dig was seriously winding down. The person at the registration table ignored me completely when I hovered around there looking at stuff, and at the adjacent table where they were selling memorabilia I got the same total neglect. So I just took a couple photos and moved on.

And WOW was I glad I did. I drove on up toward the Sugarloaf Base Lodge and hotel and there, right by a sign saying ‘Watch for baby moose’ was a young moose standing in the road. I got a couple of good photos of it, which I never would have gotten if I hadn’t had my camera out to take photos of the AT gathering. There must be some food (bait) set out there to attract the moose, so in some sense (because the sign was right there) I was suspicious that it may have been an ‘artificial’ sighting. But it was a free ranging moose and the first one I’ve ever seen even half-way close in my life. (Way back in 1970 I saw a moose in a lake a long distance away on my cross-Canada trip.)



Below is the map of today's hike with a link to even more great photos:

AT Day 208 - Bigelow Ridge at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Maine

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Nothing to see here, folks ...

... just keep movin' right along.

Friday, August 17, 2012:

Only five miles of trail were on the agenda today - between the slopes of North Crocker Mountain and a little road called Stratton Brook Pond Road just north of ME highway 27.

Hmmm ... Stratton Brook Pond Road ... the name is almost as long as the road itself.

As I mentioned yesterday, the logistics of the road crossings here are limiting my options.  I was done hiking by 1PM.  As it turns out I probably could have done the 8 mile section of trail that I finished today in one day rather than taking three (two on the trail and a rain day in between), but hindsight is always 20-20.

I prefer foresight - I'm looking forward to traversing the Bigelows in two days - 8 miles of trail each day.  It will feel good to do a full day of hiking for a change!

But what about 'now-sight'.  What did I see on today's hike?  Well, the title of this post pretty well covers it.  There was a lot of pretty, damp, mossy woodland - flush and vibrant with the soaking from yesterday's all-day rain.  But there were no vistas, no side trails, no landmarks at all - nothing to photograph but parking areas at two road crossings.

So I had to create my own little point of interest:

And then I found another bored hiker, pretty much stalled on the trail.  He seemed to like his own display better than anything else he was encountering.  And I kind of agree ... nice coat of camouflage on this three-inch-long hairy little dude.   Never seen anything like him - wonder if he dropped in from another planet ...

... yep, had to find my own 'points of interest' today.


Below is the map of today's hike with an extraneous line connecting the two parking places I used and with a link to a few more photos-mostly of parking areas and road crossings:

AT Day 207 - slopes of N Crocker at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Maine

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wash Out

Thursday, August 16, 2012:

Today I got all my clothes wet.  Fortunately I did it in this Laundromat ... because otherwise I would have well-and-truly done it on the trail.  It rained non-stop from sunrise until nearly sunset, and I just couldn't bring myself to head out into that deluge - according to the radar data, the place where I was going to hike got between 2 and 2.5 inches of rain.  Some places nearby got half a foot - a true wash-out.

So it became a day off.  I went back to Rangeley where I had noted this little laundromat out in the country three miles from town.  Just look at it ... 'Cute as a Button',  'Neat as a Pin', 'Clean as a Whistle', 'Quiet as a Mouse'.  I had the place all to myself.  It was as immaculately clean and fresh on the inside as it looks from the outside.  Every machine was in working order.  The floors, sink, bathroom and lounge area were spotless.  What a cozy little place!

Besides getting a clean wardrobe, I bought some groceries, ate as much as I could (trying to get my weight back up to my target of 153 pounds for the first time in more than a week), and spent abundant amounts of time just resting or napping to the sound of the rain pattering on my roof.

So I'll go into tomorrow well rested and refreshed.  There's yet another threat of rain tomorrow afternoon and evening.  But this time it's a cold front that ought to put an end to the tropical, rainy weather pattern we've been having here, and perhaps bring in a touch of fall.  Best of all, it should bring an end to the constant daily battle with damp trail and fog that I seem to have been dealing with ever since I got into Maine.  Let's hope ...

Crocker in the Rain

... or how the weather once again humbles the meteorologist ...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012:

I decided to start hiking as early as possible today, hoping that the forecast 60% chance of rain would come in the form of small, short-lived showers.  That's all that was appearing on radar when I hit the trail at 6:50AM.  And the model output suggested that the bigger threat for rain would be after 1 or 2PM.

So much for computer forecast models and mountain weather.  By 9:30AM it was pouring - a steady gushing rain that didn't stop for well over an hour.  I and the two dozen or more other hikers I passed were all soaked to the bone.  I cut my hike short, turning around at the half-way point between the two road crossings (Caribou Pond Road and ME 27), figuring that I could do the other half with dry clothing either today or tomorrow depending on how long it took me to get back and how the weather evolved.

Well, it took me a bit too long to get back - there was a lot of climbing today over two of Maine's 4000 footers - North and South Crocker (both with wooded summits and no views) - and that included one steep section that had some difficult, slow footing (even when dry), but with a few half-decent views - at left is a view back to Sugarloaf, and below is a look down into Crocker Cirque where there is a campsite:

The rest of the time I was in the woods, and often in fog as well, but on trail that wasn't terribly difficult to negotiate, just fairly steep.

I finished this 4 miles of AT by 1:20PM ... just as the sun began to break through the clouds.  The afternoon turned out to be gorgeous - full sunshine and warm - but logistically I had no choice but to sit still - rest up for another day - stoke up on calories (I continue to battle to keep my weight up), and try not to feel guilty about failing to take advantage of the beautiful afternoon weather.

These are the times when I envy the thru-hiker's freedom.  They can hike on, camp in the woods if they can't reach their goal, but accomplish extra miles while the weather is good.  My logistics are a little more complicated when there aren't many intersections between trail and road, and today I felt tied down, restricted, constrained, un-free!  And I didn't like it.

Well, Okay.  Life's not perfect.  Get over it, dude.  I established my hiking rules for this year-long challenge before I started it, haven't broken them yet, and don't intend to.  Tomorrow's weather looks sketchy again - a good day to be hiking just that other four miles up from the other end and back.  It seems like I'm just creeping forward these days, but Katahdin is getting ever closer - under 200 miles now - and I'm beginning to feel its tug.


Here's the map of today's route and a link to more photos:

AT Day 206 - N and S Crocker at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Maine

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Happy 75th, Appalachian Trail

Tuesday, August 14, 2012:

75 years ago today a crew from the Maine CCC cut the last bit of trail near Sugarloaf Mountain, Maine, which completed the Appalachian Trail.  Today I got to hike that same bit of trail on the anniversary.  I'm truly blessed.  From here, I'll let my personal journal entry tell the story:


Well before daylight I headed out for the long drive up to the Sugarloaf Ski area vicinity (67 miles) where I needed to find Caribou Pond Road and drive 4.3 miles up this unimproved dirt road to the trail crossing. Well, Caribou Pond Road was blocked off at a nice parking area after 3.8 miles so I parked, prepared, and started the road walk at 6:50AM.

It took just fifteen minutes to do the easy half mile. At the trail crossing it felt like a tent city – had to walk right past people at a fire right on the trail, then crossed the West Branch of the Carrabasset River, which would have been a tough ford through deep swift water among large round rocks and boulders were it not for a single 2x10 board across the worst part – a bit springy walking across it.

Then there was a steep climb up toward Sugarloaf, with a couple hundred vertical feet that were as tough as some of the tough climbs in the Whites – but not nearly as sustained or scary as notable places like Webster Cliffs or Beaver Brook or the west side of N. Kinsman, just to mention the three that stand out most in my memory.

The rest of the trail was a bit rough in places, fairly easy in others. I passed the side trail to Sugarloaf’s summit and then began to get excited with the anticipation of passing the plaque commemorating the completion of the AT in this very section exactly 75 years ago on this very day.

I had not even realized that this plaque existed until perhaps a week ago, so clearly didn’t plan to be here on the exact day of the Anniversary, but I sure wanted to make sure that I did do that once I realized I was close a few days ago.

So it did happen, and on a very nice weather day. I passed Johannes again just before reaching the plaque – we chatted for a while. He’s taking three zero days in Stratton and several more in Monson – trying to time his completion of the trail to September 1st which is the day he returns to Germany. He clued me in that there was a register and a give-away of lapel pins at the plaque, so when I got there I took a bunch of photos, signed the register with a fairly detailed entry, and took two lapel pins, one for each direction, since I’m doing a complete double hike of the trail.

I then made the fairly steep climb up and down Spaulding Mountain. I had thought the trail went over the summit and had views but there was a side trail (150 yards, the sign said) to the summit and no views at all from the AT. I didn’t take the side trail, however, because it looked steep and rocky and there had been a few views along the way in other places – and they were hazy views today. There’s bad weather moving in for tomorrow and Thursday and in advance of it the moisture is building up in the atmosphere again.

I got to my turn-around at the Spaulding Mountain Shelter after 4½ hours of hiking and made the return trip in four hours. I had one careless fall, slipping on sloped mud just after passing the Sugarloaf side trail – was drinking a can of Dr. Pepper and trying to hike at the same time – a few small cuts and a lesson learned (or re-learned).

As I descended the steep part back down to the W. Branch of the Carrabasset, where there are good views of Crocker Mountain’s dual peaks, I saw a big black thundercloud off to the north. I had already decided not to hike a leg north up toward Crocker from Caribou Pond Road today (because I was drowsy from limited sleep last night and it was also not a good logistical move), but this threat of rain sealed the decision. Still, I always feel guilty ending my hike so early (3PM) and hiking so few miles (5.5 miles of AT).


Well, guess what else has a 75th anniversary this year.  The official day was July 11th, I believe.  Good ol' Spam:


Here's the map of today's hiking route, with a link to more photos, but no more spam:

AT Day 205 - flanks of Sugarloaf at EveryTrail
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Monday, August 20, 2012

Equipment Malfunction, and a surprise

Monday, August 13, 2012:

Today got off to a very bad beginning - my car wouldn't start.  But by the end of the day, it was 'normal service resumed'.  I'll let my personal journal ramblings tell the full story:


When I got up at 5:45 and tried to start the car the battery was dead. I couldn’t imagine why a nearly new car battery would go dead, but on reflection it appears that my laptop drains it much faster than I had considered possible. Anyhow I had to call AAA, and Roger Palmer from right in Rangeley, less than 2 miles away was there within half an hour.

After jump starting my car he led me to his little shop with no sign (everybody knows him) on Clay St. There he did some diagnostics on my battery, guessing that my alternator might have a bad diode or is just overcharging the battery and boiling out the liquid. That’s a possibility to look into, but since the engine started right up briskly after shutting it down there at his shop, it appears that the battery was just drained by the laptop – I had it on all night for the past three nights monitoring the weather with the engine off and did very little driving (just 8 miles up to Saddleback Ski area and back) or otherwise running the engine (since it was the right temperature outside).

Anyhow, as a precaution I decided to buy a spare battery and carry it with me. The one tiny auto supply store in Rangeley was closed until 8AM (it was 7AM by then) so I headed out for the long drive that I had to do anyway. I drove back down ME 4 to the intersection with 142 and then another mile and a half to the town of Phillips where I was unbelievably fortunate to find a big auto repair shop, literally the second building I passed as I approached the town. I expected little inside this shop other than an office, but found a full-sized auto parts store – I was shocked and delighted.

I bought a battery and adapter posts so I could use it for jumping and was on my way without needing to do any unplanned driving to find the battery. From Phillips my route to the parking area for today took me on east or north on 142 for less than 2 miles to New Madrid Road. From there I had very detailed directions to what is described as one of the most remote and hard to find trail crossing parking areas anywhere along the trail. But these directions were very precise and were spot-on.

The drive was supposed to be 10.7 miles from Rt. 142 and the last half is on woods roads with some road-wide lakes (potholes) and some rocks, but nothing nearly as bad as the Nimblewill road I successfully negotiated down at Springer Mtn.

I got to mile 9.2 where the directions said take the left fork, and found that fork uncompromisingly blocked off with a big ditch and high dirt barrier followed by not one but two walls of huge boulders (some as big as 8 feet around and high). More bad news. More delays.

I parked there and got ready for the extra 1.5 mile hike to get to the trail. Another vehicle came by and stopped and I confirmed with the driver (who had been up that road before it was closed) that I was in the right place.

I was finally on the trail (or on this access road) at 9:20AM and it took only 45 minutes to walk the 1.5 miles to the AT – the road was smooth and gently graded, so it was a very easy walk. The reason for its closing was obvious when I got to the Perham Stream bridge right at the AT crossing – there was a gaping chasm before the bridge – a washout.

I headed on south on the AT at 10AM and almost immediately ran into Kit Fox and Man Cub sitting along the trail. We had a nice third conversation - it's probably the last time we'll meet. Then I descended along Sluice Brook, which has a section that looks like a natural sluice, to Orbeton Stream. There I decided to change into my crocs and ford it rather than cross on stepping stones that were overwashed by half an inch of water after last night's rain – fine for waterproof boots but not for my trail running shoes.

At the stream crossing I met a man who had just crossed by fording as well – a middle aged man with a German accent who I had passed several times before in recent days but never had any in-depth conversation. Here’s his photo, and the surprising story follows:

As I changed shoes we talked and I soon began to suspect that this was the same man I met at Gingersnap’s hanging bear-proof trail magic station near Rock Gap, Franklin, NC on March 22nd (must moments after I met Bomber). Johannes arrived for some trail magic at the same time that I arrived coming southbound, and in our conversation he told me he was from Munich and had until September 1st to finish his hiking.

This man today said the same thing, and that, rather than his face, was the primary trigger to my memory. The man I met today had a goatee and looked lean and fit - quite different from the clean-shaven, slightly frumpy Johannes in a narrow brimmed rain hat who I remembered from Rock Gap.

But when I mentioned the trail magic to him I could see the 'light-bulb coming on' – he remembered me because he had taken a picture of me back then (wanting to document the unique trail magic but saying to me that a picture is always better with people in it).

Once he remembered me he was super-excited, we took each other’s photos and chatted more and he took more photos as I crossed the stream and changed back into my hiking shoes. Then we each headed on our way.

I climbed up to my turn-around point on the slopes below Poplar Ridge, taking a total of just under 3 hours from Perham Stream Road. The hike back took less time and I was back at the road at 3:20PM. The weather today, by the way, was nearly perfect – warm but not too humid and partly cloudy with plenty of sunshine and good visibility (too bad there were virtually no vista points on any of the trail I covered today).

I was determined to hike until dark if necessary to cover the miles I had originally intended, despite the late start, so I headed on north from the road crossing and climbed Lone Mountain and hiked on to the Spaulding Mountain Lean-To where I turned around. This whole section was easy, though the 1000 foot climb to Lone Mtn was steep. There were no big rocks or bedrock slabs at all.

The shelter had already filled up – 8 or 9 people were there. I took the usual photo of the building, talked with the people about Parkside some, and signed the register. This and the previous register at Poplar Ridge had no entry from Paul, but had entries from some of the others that were with or near him who I knew and who had hiked with Paul.

I headed back down to the road and took just half an hour to walk the road back to where I was parked, arriving there right at sunset. The car started right up, cranking briskly.

So it was a full and eventful day and yet I wasn’t that tired because of the mostly easy trail, just some steep stuff on either side of Orbeton Stream and on the slopes up to Poplar Ridge.


And as they say, 'All's well that ends well.'


Here's a map of today's hike with a link to more photos:

AT Day 204 - Lone Mountain at EveryTrail
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