Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mile 2185.3 Mt. Katahdin, ME

Thurs 9/18
Today was another day spent in town. What do hiker trash do in town? We sit on the sidewalk outside of grocery stores, eat chicken, and drink beers. Well, Engineer ate chicken. I ate some vegetation alternative. Here's the drawing that Engineer made in the next shelter log. Engineer has been making drawings like this in the logs the all the way up to Maine.
I had already spent two nights in Stratton. It was time to hitch back to the trail. I ended up getting a ride from a local man who was driving in the opposite direction but saw me standing by the road and did a 180 to pick me up and take me to the trailhead. I hiked out a couple miles and camped the Cranberry Stream Campsite.

Fri 9/19
I hit the 2000 mile mark in the morning. 
And then I hiked the Bigelows, a mountain range with several peaks. I went over The Horns, West Peak, Avery. These will be the last 4000-footers until Katahdin. And on a clear day, you can see Katahdin from here.
I camped at the Safford Notch Campsite with Engineer, Delaware, and Sassafras. 9 miles for the day.

Sat 9/20
I hiked Little Bigelow Mountain and set up camp early in the afternoon at East Flagstaff Lake. I took a nap until I was met by Rock Sloth, Bluebird, and Simba. This was a beautiful camping spot worth not passing it up. 7 miles for the day.

Sun 9/21
In the morning, I passed this. "Mile 2000 congrats" is painted right there on the road. The chalk drawings and messages were from Miss Janet who drove up there earlier. Miss Janet loves us!
 I ate lunch on the rocks by West Carry Pond with Rock Sloth, Bluebird, and Simba.
After lunch, I meet up with Cheeky Chi, Triple-P, and Ravioli and we hiked to the Pierce Pond Lean-to. 15 miles for the day.

Mon 9/22
Here was the view of Pierce Pond in the morning.
Triple-P and I went to Harrison's Pierce Pond Camp for breakfast, just a short walk from the shelter following a blue blazed trail. Harrison's Camp is a little sportsman cabin in the middle of the woods. We enjoyed the 12 pancake breakfast.
After breakfast, we hiked out and helped put out this campfire that was left burning. You can't just make a fire wherever you want out here. Fires can burn underground through the root system and spread.
Lots of waterfalls.
When we reached the Kennebec River, we had to wait for the ferry service to come and take us across the river. The ferry service runs from 9am-11am and 2pm-4pm and we arrived just after 11. I took a nap and then Sloth and Southbound arrived.
The ferry came and we paddled safely across the Kennebec. Here's the famous white blaze on the bottom of the canoe indicating that the ferry is the official trail across the Kennebec.
The Kennebec is the most formidable unbridged river crossing along the entire Appalachain Trail. In 1985, AT hiker, Alice Ference, drowned while crossing the river due to strong currents from a hydro facility upstream and the ferry service has been in existence ever since. Here in Caratunk, hikers pick up their resupply boxes at the post office. 
We got a free shuttle to Northern Outdoors, a resort a couple miles just a couple miles away. Northern Outdoors has a brewery, restaurant, pool and hot tub, and cabins. Nine of us shared a lodgominium for the night.
4 miles for the day.

Tues 9/23
Today I hiked Pleasant Pond Mountain with Sloth and Southbound.
I camped at Bald Mountain Brook Lean-to with Drag'n Fly and Freckles. Drag'n Fly is on course for setting the record for becoming the oldest female thru hiker. Hiking the AT is HARD. It's hard for anyone, let alone a 74 year old female. Total badass would be an understatement. It was honor to hike with these ladies. And they're a lot of fun too!
15 miles for the day.

Wed 9/24
Today I hiked Moxie Bald Mountain. 
I stopped for lunch at Bald Mountain Pond.
I forded both the east branch and west branch of the Piscataquis River and set up camp by myself in the dark. It gets dark earlier these days. 16 miles today.

Thurs 9/25
I hiked 6 miles and hitched into Monson. I stayed at the Lakeshore House. 
Miss Janet drove a bunch of us to the grocery store for a resupply. We're all buying at least 100 miles worth of food because this is the last resupply before we enter the 100 Mile Wilderness. But we don't have to carry out all this food. The Lakeshore House will do a bucket drop for you. For $25, you get a 5 gallon bucket to fill up with food and supplies that is then dropped of for you half way through the wilderness. There was live music at the Lakeshore House in the evening. Also, a nice view of the sunset over Lake Hebron from the back of the Lakeshore House.

Fri 9/26
I had breakfast in town at Pete's Place. 
I hiked out 7 miles with Sloth and Southbound and camped at Little Wilson Stream.
Even though we were doing the bucket drop halfway, we still went out carrying a lot of food. Here I am with a bag of Fritos and a baguette as I enter the 100 Mile Wilderness.

Sat 9/27
It's a beautiful day. Lots of ponds. 
And colorful fall foliage.
Although we're in the 100 mile wilderness, the longest wilderness section along the AT, we still pass several logging roads, have a resupply halfway through in the form of a bucket drop, and get better cell phone reception than some people get in their own homes. But we do have to ford some streams and rivers. Here, Southbound is crossing Big Wilson Stream. 
Sloth, Southbound, and I watched the sunset and slept under the stars on Barren Ledges.
You don't get to view stars like this living in the city. 
10 miles for the day.

Sun 9/28
Just another day in the wilderness. 10 miles to Chairback Gap Lean-to.

Mon 9/29
I hiked 10 miles to Carl A. Newhall Lean-to taking a short detour to see a couple waterfalls along the Gulf Hagas Trail.
Enjoying a campfire with Little Foot, City Slicka, and Fifol.

Tues 9/30
This is really the best time to be hiking in Maine. The black flies are all gone. It looks like autum but still feels like summer.
I hiked White Cap Mountain and spent a few hours just hanging out on the summit.
That's Katahdin over there just barely visible beyond clouds.
I hike 11 miles today and stayed at East Branch Lean-to. I'm really going to miss this shit when I'm done.

Wed 10/1
I picked up my resupply bucket today and guess who I saw at the road. Miss Janet!
I hiked 16 miles today to Antlers Campsite which is perhaps the prettiest campsite on the entire trail!

Thurs 10/2
I had breakfast with these guys-Sassafras, Engineer, and Delaware. 
I made a stop at Fort Relief, another two seat privy, before hiking out.
And then a sandy beach at Jo-Mary Lake.
At Pemadumcook Lake, I get this view of Katahdin. It looks like Katahdin is merely a short swim across the lake but I still have another 50 miles to go.
I hiked 15 miles today and camped with Twirls and City Slicka atop Nesuntabunt Mountain. Here is another view of the Big K.

Fri 10/3
Here's the view from Nesuntabunt Mountain in the morning. In the clouds. 
I stopped for lunch at Rainbow Stream Lean-to. I sent my stove home back in Vernmont. It's been pretty much trail mix, Cliff Bars, and blocks of cheese for me ever since. 
Another view of Katahdin from Rainbow Lake.
Rainbow Ledges with another view of the Big K. I'm often asked why most of us hike northbound rather than southbound. Well, here's one reason. We get an epic finish on Katahdin and we can see the mountain from miles away. 
18 miles for the day to Hurd Brook Lean-to.

Sat 10/4
I hiked 3 miles out of the 100 Mile Wilderness. I could have continued into Baxter but it was raining so I hitched to Millinocket from the Abol Store. I meet up with Paul, my friend and old trail supervisor from my days working for Baxter Park. Patrick came for a visit too! Here's to another Baxter Park 2010 trail crew mini reunion on a rainy night in town. 

Sun 10/5
It was still raining in the morning. I entertained the idea of just staying in town for another day and summiting tomorrow, leaving 10 miles that need to be made up the following day. I want to summit on a good day and it's looking like tomorrow might be the best day for it. But I can't take a zero today. The summit of Katahdin is the finish. It needs to be the end. Paul gave me a ride to the trail in the morning stopping for a quick photo at Pockwockamus Rock right outside the park.
I've been here before. This is a photo of my trail crew from back in 2010.
Well here I am again, but this time I walked here! 
I met up with Hob and his wife, Chickadee and we hiked the ten miles to the Birches at Katahdin Stream Campground. I was happy to see them. I hiked with Hob back in Pennsylvania and haven't seen him since.  The Birches is the campsite in the park that's reserved just for thru hikers. Well, the rain stopped and it was a beautiful hike. 
We had to ford the two branches of Nesowadnehunk Stream.
Here's a nice view of Katahdin from Dacy Pond.
And then I arrived at Katahdin Stream where I will spend my last night on the trail.

Mon 10/6
I woke up at 2 in the morning and packed up in the dark by myself. I'm going to try and make it up for the sunrise on Katahdin. I have about 5 miles and 4000 ft of climbing that now stand between me and Baxter Peak. This is no easy hike and it's even more difficult when hiked in the dark. When I was on trail crew in 2010, I worked on the "Stairway to Heaven" project. After 22 years and thousands of man hours with techniques developed right here in Baxter, the project is now complete- 430 steps up the Hunt Trail. I now walk up the completed staircase. 
The sky was clear and the views of the stars were incredible. I was about a mile from the summit and started running. I wanted to capture the view of the stars from the summit. But I didn't make it in time. Instantly, the stars vanished. But I still made the sunrise.
Having made the sunrise on top of Katahdin, it's quite possible I was the first person in the country to see the sunrise this morning. It was cold at the summit. I stripped down and got all my warm clothing on. If it was any colder I would have gotten in my sleeping bag. I haven't been cold since I was on Clingmans Dome in the Smokies (where we did get in our sleeping bags). But then the sun came out and it warmed up. On what turned out to be one of the busiest days on Katahdin in terms of AT finishers, I had the summit all to myself for almost 3 hours before anyone else showed up. But once people did start showing up, it started getting a little crazy. Here was the the first group of finishers. Many more summited after this photo was taken.
I had my moment of glory too.
I took Knife Edge and hiked Helon-Taylor down the mountain. This was the first time for me doing both of these trails. Knife Edge is a mile long and has some precipitous drop offs. Don't hike this trail of you're scared of heights or if there's weather.
And don't look down!
If the Appalachian Trail were a race, the summit of Katahdin would be the finish line. But it's not a race and Katahdin isn't even the destination. The journey is the destination. This is the end of the journey.

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