Now, having said all that, let's walk to Katahdin (or run, or skip, or swim, or (egads) DRIVE!)
I feel so good!!! - YEAAHHH
I've decided I'm not going to attempt Mahoosue Notch with Micah. Four hikers were injured in just one day over this infamous one mile section of trail. It's a jungle gym of house sized boulders that you climb over and under. One hiker broke her wrist and fractured her foot. There goes the rest of her trip. Another hiker fell several feet onto her back. She was wearing a full pack and came away just severely bruised. Another hiker did a face plant and split open his lip, and another torqued his knee so badly he can barely bend it. That all happened in just one day, and it wasn't even raining or anything! Maybe I'll try it with just a daypack on and without Micah, but for now I am very much at peace with my decision. FireBall, Micah and I are going to come in to the AT on a side trail just south of the Notch and hike south to Gorham. Then we'll drive to just north of the Notch, get back on the AT, and continue heading north.
Well, FireBall, Micah and I had a great day yesterday. We reached Gentian Pond Campsite (hiking southbound from Carlo Col) around 1pm, and there we stayed. It was a beautiful site with the pond nearby and the sun was actually shining! That sun felt absolutely delicious after two weeks of clouds and rain. There were lots of hikers there drying out gear and clothing on every flat surface. All of them were muttering aobut having to push on, but not me. I had found a beautiful, peaceful spot and I was going to enjoy it to the fullest!
I saw OneLife and Julie the other day in Gorham. OneLife's knee was all bandaged up. Apparently he took a nasty fall just before Gorham and put a gash in his knee that required 6 stitches. He only took a day or two off before hitting the trail again. Now it's at a much slower pace though.
The weather was gorgeous and my steps felt so light as I climbed Old Blue. The absolute high of the day was spotting Katahdin from the second peak of Bemis Mtn! I was filled with so many emotions - joy and sorrow, excitement and fear. I have about 230 miles to go, but Katahdin is actually only a little over a hundred miles away on a direct route. I had always wondered when that first sighting would come. I would get all quesy and jittery when I thought about that very first time I would see her. She was more beautiful than I'd ever imagined.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day once again. Micah had a great time retrieving sticks from the shore of Long Pond. The colors on the trees are getting more and more vibrant every day.
There were some rowboats and a canoe at the Little Sabbath Day Pond Leanto. I thought this would be a good time to see how Micah was going to be in a canoe since we were going to have to cross the Kennebec River in one. The hardest part was coaxing him nito the thing and having him sit still at FireBall pushed us off. Once we were finally under way, Micah was perfect. He just sat stock still as we paddled about. I can't say that he enjoyed it exactly, but he seemed to tolerate it. I enjoyed it immensely - enough to make up for Micah's lack of enthusiasm.
Paul and Ilene's kitchen is the community center. Everybody hangs out at the kitchen table just talking or flipping through Ilene's hiker photo albums. When meals are done, we all chip in with cleanup - it's not that they expect you to clean up, it's that you feel comfortable enough to just do it automatically, like you would at home. Every hiker is returned to the trail with sincere good wishes, admonitions to be careful, and a sweet fresh apple.
My days in their home were sweet medicine to the soul - just what I needed to send me on my way. Thank you, Ilene and Paul. The two of you offered me some of the most sincere and heartfelt trail magic I've had the good fortune of coming upon. I know that you've made a wonderful difference in this particular hiker's journey, and I'm sure there are countless others who feel the same way.
Today's hike included the Horns, West Peak, and Avery Peak of the Bigelow Mountain Range. I thought I had read somewhere that therer were only 11 peaks in Maine greater than 4k feet in elevation. If that is in fact the case, the AT crosses eight of them and two others can be reached from the AT via short side trails. Today I climbed two of those 4000+ footers: Avery Peak and West Peak.
I had only planned on doing 8 miles today, but that would have put me at the Avery tentsite at 3800' of elevation. The wind was roaring up there and the skies looked like they might let loose a downpour at any moment. I decided to press on and try to get to a lower, warmer elevation before setting up camp.
The climbs over Avery and West Peaks were above treeline and freezing. At times I'd have to grab on to nearby rocks to keep from getting blown over. The views were still spectacular despite the cloud cover, but it was way too cold to linger for any length of time.
I met 4 women backpackers on the trail today. They were all from Maine and were usually just dayhikers, but had decided to try a backpacking trip. Unfortunately, they picked a lousy weekend weatherwise and were cutting their trip short and heading back to their warm, dry homes. A nice bonus for me as a result of their change in plans was that I got all their extra food - ham and cheese, fresh bread, hummus, Snickers bars, Ramen Noodles, peanut butter crackers, and even a fresh tomato. As they were pulling all these goodies out of their packs at the Little Bigelow Lean-to, it really began to pour - I mean skin-soaking, cold sheets of rain. With all my new found goodies, the idea of going out in that rain to walk 7 more miles in the rain was becoming les and less attractive. I ended up staying right where I was and I'm glad I did. The rain never really quit.
Hiking Viking pulled in not too much later and decided to stay as well. He's from Raleigh, NC too and got his trail name for the unique had he sports while hiking: a black fleece hat with two large viking-like horns extending from either side.
Just at dusk, a very cold and wet Big Bird and Mountain Laurel showed up followed by Will. It's a full house, but we're all just glad to be under a roof.