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

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