October 1st - 4th Journal Entries

10/1 - Day 205

Potaywadjo Leanto - 48.3 mi to go

I felt wonderful today--the first time in a long time. The trail over this section was a dream come true. For the most part, it is a pinestraw covered footpath meandering through the woods on a fairly flat treadway. Thank goodness the trail has eased up for us bone-tired thru-hikers.

I did get the opportunity to enjoy some trail magic at the Antlers campsite. I can't really give many more details than that, but let's just say that Antlers is probably the most famous site of trail magic along the entire AT. Sedona and I were sucked in for 3-1/2 hours. Texas Tapeworm, Moose, Sky God, and Ranger Dave were already there when we showed up. Moose had been there for over 3 days, so you know the magic had to be good.

10/2 - Day 206

15.8 miles To Lake Nahmakanta - 32.5 to go

The shelters in Maine have been outstanding for the most part. The ones I have seen are spotlessly maintained with lots of little extras. I think the most appreciated extra is the skylight type roofs that are installed on many of the shelters. The MATC often uses a type of roof sheeting that allows sunlight to penetrate and brighten the shelter's interior. What a huge difference it makes. The shelters are so much more attractive to spend time in when you don't feel like you're being stuffed away into some deep, dark cave. The privies are another obvious point of pride for these maintainers. In the past few days, I've visited privies that had windows with curtains, reading materials, candles, toilet paper, and even a vanity in one particular privy.

I had a spectacular view of Katahdin today, but it was a mixed blessing. From Nesantabunt Mountain, it was a picture of fire and ice. The flaming reds and oranges of the fall foliage extended off into the distance and then the ground began to rise up the flanks of Katahdin. At a certain point, the bright autumn colors gave way to a blanket of snow which covered the entire mountainside. SNOW--Oh no! Here it is only the first week in October and already Katahdin is white! I don't want to think too much about what this might mean for me being able to summit. I'm just going to keep heading north.

Safari, Sedona, and I are staying at a sporting camp along the shores of Lake Nahmakanta. The nights have gotten quite chilly and we all agreed that a nice wood-burning stove would be a just extravagance for three recuperating hikers on a chill autumn night. As we drove into the camp, we passed a clearing filled with dog houses. Atop each and every dog house was a dog perched in a sitting position attentively watching our progress down the road. These dogs were of medium size and seemed to be of various mixed breeds. We later found out that they were sledding dogs!

10/3 - Day 207

17.4 mi to Abol Bridge - 15.1 to go

I was blessed today with the most breathtaking, awe-inspiring sunrise I have ever seen in my life. At about 6 am I awoke and just happened to glance back over my head towards the windows on the cabin. The panes of glass had a strange purplish cast to them--strange enough to merit investigating. I put on my glasses, arose from my cot, and was absolutely bowled over by the color display taking place right outside our front door. I called to Safari and Sedona and we all ran to the windows. In front of our little cabin, the lake's surface was lit up with the reflections of clouds on fire. To the left the sun had not yet broken the ridgeline, but her rays were just hitting the bottoms of the clouds and bathing them in reds, purples, pinks, oranges. I'd never seen anything like it. The reflection traveled across the entire length of the lake until it ran into the shore line and was lost to the equally stunning colors of the leaves. The absolute perfection of this sunrise only lasted a few minutes, but how lucky we were to have seen such a performance. Once again, the trail is in great condition. It's cold and cloudy, but our feet flew. Another spectacular image of Katahdin's white flanks from Rainbow Ledges. The word on the trail is that Katahdin is closed and has been since the 1st of October. I don't know if it's going to stay closed, but it's hard to imagine all of that snow miraculously melting away when the days are so cold and cloudy. I've been hearing stories of thru-hikers illegally summitting the mountain. The rangers have designated the mountain as Class IV--all trails closed above treeline. Just looking at the snow encrusted sides of Katahdin would be enough to discourage me, but not some of the others. Three thru-hikers attempted a summitting of Katahdin starting out at the base at midnight. They chose this time so they would not be apprehended by rangers. What normally might take 6 hours to do round trip took them 16 hours. Two of them had sense enough to turn back. The other did make it to the top and did return, but what if something had gone wrong? It is not just their lives that they were putting in jeopardy. What about the lives of those who carry out the rescue?

I don't think that an illegal summitting is an option for me. With my fear of heights, I'm just not willing to draw my hike to a tragic close. If the base of Katahdin is the end of the trail for me, so be it. Some of the other hikers are absolutely incensed that they might not be able to summit. They act as if this will ruin their entire hike. Maybe it's just the heat of emotion talking, but I hope they realize that the journey was the thing. Yes, a summitting of Katahdin is a glorious finish to our adventure, but I would have thought that more of them would have gained the wisdom to accept the trail as it is. Maybe it's even more fitting that we not summit Katahdin so that symbolically our hike never draws to a close.

Whatever happens, I am at peace with it.

Today is Micah's last hiking day. From Abol Bridge onward, no dogs are allowed on the AT.

10/4 - Day 208

10 mi to Katahdin Stream Campground - 5.1 to go

We got a late start this morning. It was a drizzly day and we were hoping the skies would clear some if we waited a bit. Safari dropped Sedona and I off at Abol Bridge and we headed on into Baxter with just our daypacks on. This may very well be my last full day of hiking. What a weird thought.

I dawdled on the trail. Things seemed to stand out in some type of surreal relief today. It was as if I was watching myself from a point outside. I can't explain it more than to say that it was some type of heightened awareness of the trail and my surroundings. Sedona and I hiked together and conversed much of the time, but I felt detached and distant. I listened to my own words and responses as if they were coming from somebody else.

We met several other thru-hikers on the trail today: Phoebe, Hackamatack, Technicolor, TrailMouse, Wandering Jack. We all got bunched up at some of the hairier river crossings. Lately I've not been in the mood for rock hopping. I tend to just take off the shoes, strap on the sandals, and ford across. There were two crossings today that were challenging. I think the water levels are up a little higher than normal from some of the snow melt. I hope that means that Katahdin is clearing up a bit. Unfortunately, I forgot to toss my sandals in my daypack today. I waded across both streams barefoot and as I clambered up the bank from the second one, I looked down to see that I had cut the back of my heel open. Nothing major, but the water had been so cold and numbing that I never felt it happen. I don't think that wearing sandals would have prevented it from happening.

We saw another bull moose today. He was ambling down the trail in front of us when Sedona spotted him. A glorious sight and we enjoyed following him for a little ways. As we approached a pond inlet crossing, he cut off the trail to the left to skirt the edge of the water. I was hoping to get a picture of him and followed cautiously behind. From across the inlet I could hear a strange guttural grunting noise. Obviously our bull moose had heard it as well and he was crashing through the undergrowth to get a better look. You could mark his progress by the swaying tree tops and finally the greenery parted to reveal his head and rack as he peered intently across the water. It was then that I realized the sounds were coming from another person!! There was an older gentleman on the far side of the bank trying to call the moose out! When the moose realized what was going on, he gave a grunt as if in disgust and turned back into the woods.

The trail report at the Daicey Pond Ranger station stated that there were 1-3' drifts of snow atop Katahdin. It doesn't look good, but I'm just going to keep my fingers crossed.

When we arrived at Katahdin Stream Campground, there were several other thru-hikers hanging about. We enjoyed some beer and snacks at one of the shelters. Some previous year thru-hikers had been kind enough to haul in some stuff and share with us.

After that, we headed back in to Millinocket and I was delighted to get a call in the hotel room from Big Bird. He was still in town and he stopped by for one last visit. He would be leaving Maine tomorrow morning with his parents to head back home. Unfortunately, he had been unable to summit Katahdin before it closed, but he was pretty comfortable with it.

We talked for a while and then decided to join some of the other thru-hikers at a local dance bar for a little celebration. We had quite a crowd there. It was pretty amusing to watch the locals staring at the thru-hiking "weirdos" as we cavorted about the dance floor in tevas, shorts, fleece, and various other types of trail wear. The group included Peaches, Lone Chair, Steady Freddy, Moose, Mountain Laurel, Bulldog, Big Bird and myself.