September 21 - 27 Journal Entries

9/21 - Day 195

17.5 to Pierce Pond Lean-to - 2004.7 cum

It felt good to be able to do some big miles again. I started the day just planning to go as far as was comfortable. It was a cook, breezy fall day with blue skies and puff clouds. The trail was particularly nice today - gentle terrain and in good condition.

I hiked for a little while with Big Bird and Mountain Laurel today. It was nice to have some chit-chat to make the miles go by. I also saw Sedona and Safari this afternoon. I was really glad to see them since I last saw them in NY.

As I was leaving the shores of West Pond this afternoon, I spotted a bull moose standing among some trees about 50' from the trail. He calmly watched Micah's and my progress and then slowly turned into the woods and trotted off. What an impressive animal!

I pulled in to the Pierce Pond Lean-to at about 5:15. SkyGod was already bundled up in the shelter. The wind was bitingly cold coming in off the lake and it was blowing full force right into the front of the shelter. I was relieved to set up my tent and get in out of the wind.

I'm so glad I've got a 0-degree down bag. Some of the other hikers have slept pretty cold these last few nights, especially the people with synthetic bags. It seems like a lot of the synthetic bags are just not lasting the whole trip. A lot of them have lost a considerable amount of their loft and just aren't insulating as well as they used to. I also noticed that people who had used compression sacks on their sleeping bags seemed the most miserable.

I was awoken at 3:30 in the morning by the eerie sound of the loons calling to each other across the lake. I don't think there is any other sound in nature that makes me feel so remote and separated from all the world, except for the howl o fthe wolf perhaps. The moon was shining bright and I stepped outside my tent to stand and look at the stars and listen to the wind playing among the branches. The loons continued their calls throughout the early morning hours, oblivious to their human audience.

9/22 - Day 196

3.9 mi to Caratunk - 2008.6 cum

Today may not have been a big mileage day, but it was a big day nonetheless - I crossed the Kennebec River! This river crossing used to be a major obstacle to hikers since the water level can rise several feet in a matter of minutes when an upstream dam releases. Several hikers have drowned trying to ford this river and now there is a canoe ferry service in operation for just two or three hours per day.

Micah and I left camp early to be sure that we'd be on the river bank when the ferry service began. From 9-11 am every day from May to October, Steve Longley guides a canoe back and forth across the river with one or two hikers per trip. I rode across with Hiking Viking in the bow, Steve in the stern, and Micah and I in the middle. Micah was perfectly calm the entire way and it was a fun morning.

I had quite a few boxes waiting for me in the Caratunk post office. Thanks to Eddie Grubb and George as well as Randy and Georgene Blankley's friend Edna, I was the most popular hiker at the PO today since I always share my loot with the other hikers. I also had letters from Grandma, Andy, John, and Ann Pifher.

Big Bird, Mountain Laurel, and I are sharing a little cabin at the hostel. It's a very basic little one room cabin but you can't beat heat, running water, and a bed! As an added bonus, there's a little kitchenette wiht refrigerator and a stove that doesn't require pumping or priming!

9/23 - Day 197

11.9 mi to Moxie Pond

I awoke with a sore throat today. I'm hoping it's just from the unexpected bonus of having spent a night with indoor heat and that it dried out my throat, but something tells me I'm in for a little more than just a sore throat. I got a last minute opportunity to slackpack today. Sedona, Safari, and Tadpole have offered to slack Mountain Laurel, Big Bird, and myself.

We hiked in the rain for most of the day. It definitely had everybody's spirits dampened. We had a "poor me" party at the Pleasant Pond Lean-to and Tadpole was almost physically ejected from the shelter for expressing feelings of happiness! How dare he be happy while all of us are wallowing in our sodden state of discomfort. He almost made it undetected until Big Bird read Tadpole's entry in the register. He had the nerve to write such comments as "I hope this never ends!" The man definitely needs some medical attention :-)

On the more serious side, it's really amazing how raw everybody's emotions are at this point. I think the majority of us (except for the mutant Tadpole), are at the end of our ropes physically and mentally. It takes an absolutely perfect day to raise us from our funk. God forbid the skies should threaten rain or the trail be the least bit difficult.

9/24 - Day 198

18.5 mi to Shirley Blanchard Road

Well, I was roused from my funk today. We had another gift from heaven day--another slackpacking day with absolutely beautiful fall weather and a delightful section of trail. A cool crisp day, blue skies, spectacular autumn leaves, and the music of the Piscataquis River to keep me company for most of the day.

Two river fordings to contend with today, but they were a lot of fun. Sedona and I opted to remove the boots and wade across the frigid waters rather than trying to walk the tightrope across the beaver dam that some of the other hikers used. We probably would have had a much different outlook on these crossings if the warmth of the sun had not been there for us. I imagine these rivers elicit quite a groan from many a hiker in cold, wet weather.

From Shirley Blanchard Road we headed on in to Monson, Maine. I decided to stay at Shaw's rather than the Pie Lady's house since Shaw's had a separate barn where I could bring Micah in with me. I'm absolutely wiped out today and I'm so glad to have a bed and a warm place to sleep. This place is jam packed with hikers who are laying over for a few last days of rest and creature comforts before heading into the 100 Mile Wilderness.

I had lots of mail at the PO--packages from Mike Tom, Tonia, Mom, as well as letters from Sandy and Eddie. As an unexpected bonus, I got to see Puget Pounder and his wife Julie as we pulled into Shaw's. Puget had just summitted Katahdin and was back to visit and see how everybody was doing. It was wonderful to see him again. Our last parting was just after Trail Days down in Catawba, VA.

9/26 Day 200

Mountain Laurel and Big Bird headed out of town this morning to start on the 100 Mile Wilderness. It was quite a tearful and emotional good-bye for Big Bird and me. We'd never really gotten to spend much time in each other's company until Shaw's. Now at the very end of the hike, we've finally had the opportunity to get to know one another and what great conversations and musings we've had. All of the good-byes between the hikers are much more heartfelt lately. Everybody is starting to realize that this may be the very last time we ever see one another.

Dingle and HatTrick just showed up at Shaw's. I'm so happy to see them again. Unfortunately, neither of them is in the best of health right now. It seems that a lot of the hikers have come down with various colds, flus, stomach viruses, etc. here at the very end. I, of course, am no exception. I definitely have either a cold or flu. Headaches, sore throat, nausea, weakness, body aches, .... Not fun, but at least it didn't happen while I was in the 100 Mile Wilderness.

9/27 - Day 201

Everybody is sick. Now Sedona and Safari have whatever it is that I have. The cab of Safari's truck is filled with the sounds of hacking and sniffling as we ply the roadways of Maine looking for another hotel to stay at that will allow dogs. Shaw's was jam packed and there was no room to stay for another day.

I managed to walk for an hour and a half today with Micah just to get him some excercise. I was absolutely exhausted afterwards and had to nap for 4 hours to recover. This is not a good way to enter the wilderness.