Maine – Part V

Friday, July 21st was my first day in the 100 Mile Wilderness, and within the first few minutes I saw this sign:

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Neither I nor any other hiker needed a reminder.

For the prior several days, I noticed that I was hiking on less granite and more slate. I also passed a slate rock company in Monson and folks there told me that slate roofs were popular in this area.

The trouble with hiking on slate is that it’s very slippery. There is nothing to grip your hiking shoes. Granite is significantly better to hike on. I saw another hiker trying to maneuver downward on slate. Her feet flew out in front of her and she landed squarely on her rear end, sliding about 8 feet forward and downhill before her feet finally stopped her descent on a huge boulder. She was very fortunate she was not seriously injured.

I met a group of teenagers who belong to a national high-adventure group for girls called WAVUS. There were about 10 or 12 girls with 2 adults. The same group gets together annually for about 3 weeks. Last year, for example, they went kayaking. The gals told me that once they are 17, they can’t participate anymore. This year the group is hiking the 100 Mile Wilderness and Mt Katahdin, after which they will be bused south to hike the Bigelows. They are a disciplined group. They can’t be heard after 2030 and they get up quietly at 0500, take down their tents, eat and are on the Trail by 0615-0630. As they take more breaks than I do, I pass them on the Trail, but we end up at the same campsite and cover the same miles and terrain. I think this is such a great program to give young gals confidence.

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I had one of my more serious fords today, with slimy, slippery rocks on the river bed, hip-high water, and a pretty strong current. It was very difficult to maneuver. I’m glad that I had the foresight to put my phone and the ziplock bag I use for a wallet in the top of my back pack. The wallet and contents would have survived, but not the iPhone.

I climbed Berren Mountain and the Berren Ledges on Saturday the 22nd. It was a rigorous 2000-foot climb, but it was a beautiful day accompanied by beautiful views. These pictures were taken from Third Mountain.

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Then I hiked to Cloud Pond Lean-to, which was located down a very steep half-mile rocky, rooty spur trail. For some reason, Maine uses the term “lean-to” instead of “shelter.” This is somewhat similar to NH & ME using the term Notch in lieu of Gap.

It was cold again in camp, so I started a fire which definitely helped.

It was very cold that night, and even colder getting up on Sunday, July 23. I used the toque beanie cap again at night. I started my day by climbing up the spur trail that I descended the day before. It took 15 minutes of climbing just to get back to the Trail. Although hiking was slow today due to the terrain, it was another gorgeous day with great vistas.

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Here’s a video from the summit of Third Mountain:

Many hikers were commiserating about the brutal descent we would face the next day on Chairback Mountain. Steep descents and I don’t get along very well and I am intimidated by them.

On Monday, July 24th, I was on the Trail at 0630, climbing Chairback Mountain. The descent was amazingly steep but not very long. That suited me just fine. The predicted rain never came and that was also fine with me.

I wish all fords were as easy as this one. I did this in my camp shoes so my hiking shoes and socks remained dry for this crossing at least.

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Strangers sharing a fording experience.

There was no cell reception anywhere that day, and I was disappointed because I wanted to wish my daughter a happy birthday. I met some very nice people on the Trail, though: two dads with their teen sons. They were Maine natives who were section hiking. We leap-frogged over the next few days, enjoying our lunches together on mountain tops.

Although it rained a good part of the night, it stopped about 0600 on Tuesday, July 25th, and I was on the Trail at 0640.

I hiked 11 miles and climbed several peaks that day, including Gulf Hagas, Hay and Whitecap. When I was at altitude I had cell service, so I called my daughter and left a Happy Birthday message for her. Then I had a nice conversation with Diane.

I had lunch on Whitecap and the views were spectacular.

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The WAVUS gals arrived as I was leaving, I told them that I thought they were all rock stars and that most people their age (or any age) could not do what they were doing. I could tell they were pleased by the grins on their faces.

It was a very good day. The recent weather this last week has been very cold nights and mornings in the low 40’s, followed by very warm (low to mid 80’s) beautiful days.

I passed this sign on the trail on Wednesday, July 26th, so I decided to check it out.

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Most lakes in this area have pretty good sized rocks in them and the shoreline is frequently trimmed with boulders. But, as you can see, Crawford Pond is not one of them.

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I hadn’t had a shower in a week, so I decided to rectify the situation. I soaked in the lake “commando” for half an hour and then put on clean clothes. It was very refreshing, and I felt like a new man. When I was dressed and presentable, the teenage WAVUS gals showed up. Timing is everything!

The campsite that night had a waterfall and swimming hole, and several of the hikers took advantage of them.

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On Thursday, July 27th, it began raining at 0500 and stopped at 0700. Very convenient!

I hiked 14 miles and, despite my liberal application of insect repellent, the mosquitoes were very bothersome.

That night I stayed at a remote sports camp called Whitehouse Landing. To access this camp you take a trail off the AT, which brings you to a dock on a lake. If you have Verizon as a carrier, you call the owner. If you have any other carrier, you use the walkie-talkie he has conveniently placed at the dock. Then he comes in his motor boat to transport you to his camp. Although there is no electricity (gas lanterns provide light for the cabins) and very rustic, the setting was beautiful and was a great break.

A real shower and his wife’s homemade pizza hit the spot. We were treated to the sounds of loons and the sights of bald eagles before nightfall.

I had 16 miles to hike on Friday, July 28, so I skipped breakfast at Whitehouse Landing and the owner brought me back to the dock at 0630.

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There were tons of roots, so hiking was slow-going, but weather-wise it was another great day. I had two pieces of leftover pizza for lunch at Nahmakanta Lake. What a great place for lunch!

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At the end of the day there was a nice fire at Rainbow Stream Lean-To.

One thought on “Maine – Part V”

  1. Hank – you’ve probably reached the summit of Mt Katahdin by the time you read this – 7 days after your last post with 30 miles to go… Following you with much pleasure and imagining all your challenges and joys. Thank you for keeping such a marvellous blog. Looking forward to following you on the southern section. Very best wishes Iain.

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