Friday, September 11th: Moxie Bald to Monson-17.9 miles
Saturday, September 12th: Monson to Long Pond Stream-15.1 miles
Sunday, September 13th: Long Pond Stream to Logan Brook- 28 miles
Monday September 14th: Logan brook to Potaywadjo Spring- 23.1 miles
I must confess that I have been derelict in my duties as a journal writer for these past few days for various reasons. Today’s entry will try to cover what was missed in those days though I may forget items or place things out of sequence. I also do not recall the pictures I took well enough and so will simply try to figure that out after they are developed.
And now, all the way back to Friday. It was an exciting day as it marked my arrival into Monson, the last real trail town. It was a rather gloomy day, overcast and drizzly all day, but my spirits were good thanks to the promise of town. My memories of the hike that day consist primarily of slipping and sloshing in the mud. At one point my foot got suctioned into mud half-way up my shin. It also involved the first genuine fording I had to do in Maine, and since my shoes were already soaked and muddy, I plowed right across the stream in my shoes.
I go into Monson around 3:30 which was nice as it gave me some time to take care of business as well as decompress. I picked up my final mail for the trail, the food I had bounced ahead, and then supplemented my supply with items from the hiker box as well as donating my surplus. After cleaning up I was lounging, waiting for my laundry and some others put on the movie Southbounders. It seems to be a low budget but fairly realistic story of AT thru-hikers. It was amusing to see what they showed and what they didn’t.
I went out for dinner with a few other hikers to the BBQ place in town and while the burger was reasonable, the cornbread and the blueberry pie were both amazing. My only real frustration with Monson and my stay at Shaw’s was that I couldn’t get any phone service. Thankfully I was able to communicate with my beloved through Facebook though.
Saturday morning I was treated to Shaw’s famous breakfast, and it certainly did not disappoint. I was however, disappointed to find a list of things I still had to do that I should have done the evening before. All that together added up to a late start and not hitting the trail until around 9:30 when I headed into the Hundred Mile Wilderness. The weather was lovely but trail conditions were poor still from Friday’s rain. The roots, mud, and multiple fords (which I did change my shoes for these times) meant that I made less progress than I’d hoped. Around 4 pm I still had about 6.5 miles to go but I came across a sign advertising some trail magic down a dirt road. I hesitated; knowing that to go to the trail magic jeopardized my chances of making it to the shelter by dark. As I waited at the cross roads, four ladies came back down the road and told me it was well worth it to check it out. That swayed me and I walked down the road to find Scout and his cabin.
His dog barked to greet me and he welcomed me onto the porch offering a beer, which I gladly accepted. Three other hikers were there too and we all talked for a period and then Scout fired up the grill and made us each a burger and a hot dog. It really was some wonderful trail magic. As we kept talking someone mentioned it was now past five and, startled, I took my leave. I knew that I had lingered too long.
I made my way far more slowly that I wanted the two and a half miles to a shelter but had scheduled to go four miles further still. It was well past six already and the sun had almost set. Torn I eventually called it a day and went to the shelter and set up camp. My feet were killing me and I didn’t trust myself to night hike in this terrain.
Somewhat miraculously I had cell service at the campsite and in a moment of sheer blessing I was able to call my beloved and she spoke to me exactly the encouraging words I needed to hear. I ate a nice hot dinner and then slept under the stars in my hammock, resolved to wake up early and make up the miles.
I awoke Sunday morning even earlier than I’d intended, as I felt raindrops falling on me. Thankfully it was a slow rain so it gave me the time to react before everything got soaked. After checking the time and seeing it was quarter to five I opted to just pack up rather than put up my tarp, so I loaded up my pack and then ducked into the shelter to wait for it to get light. The platform itself was full so I sat on the ground under the roof and ate my breakfast as I huddled against the morning chill.
A little before six I deemed it light enough (and myself cold enough) to begin hiking. I used my head lamp for about fifteen minutes until it lightened enough to render it unnecessary. It was still raining lightly and the terrain was very poor, but I found a fresh motivation and moved forward with good purpose. All day I kept a deliberately strong pace, breaking rarely and only for a short time. The rain mostly let off, only occasionally drizzling though it stayed overcast all day.
By lunch I had done over 15 miles and then I met a ridge runner who gave some encouraging news. The trail ahead was easier and in better condition in spite of having to go over White Cap Mountain. This gave me heart for the afternoon and I pressed on, aiming to complete 28 miles, making it my longest day on trail. My body ached but I dragged myself up White Cap Mountain and reached the summit with about 45 minutes of daylight left and one and a half miles. I began the descent and gave up prayers of thanks as I found it gentle with steps leading down it. Never have I been so grateful for uneven, unhewn, rock steps as in those moments.
As I finished my descent I heard a crashing noise in the brush off to my right and turned just quickly enough to see a bear disappearing through the forest. I had hoped for a moose but a bear was still a cool sight. Fifteen minutes later, I gratefully arrived at the shelter and dropped my pack. I rested just a moment and then began doing camp chores.
As I was making dinner I was cutting some salami and thanks to the combination of a dull knife and my tiredness the knife slipped and stabbed my left palm near the thumb. Thankfully it wasn’t deep and only bled slightly but the shock and tiredness made my head begin to spin and unsettled my stomach. I quickly took a seat, grabbed a handful of trail mix and took a drink of water. I let myself sit and recover for a minute before more slowly finishing chores. I at a cold dinner and slept in the shelter for the first time since Virginia, too tired to try setting up my hammock in the dark.
I woke up several times in the night, mostly due to my hips being sore from lying on the shelter floor with no pad, but overall I was so tired that I slept well. It was difficult getting up in the morning, especially as rain continued, but I remembered my motivation and got moving just after seven. After a few small climbs early the trail levelled out and I rejoiced at the relative ease of walking, and my muscles were quite relieved to be done climbing. The rain kept coming and going, alternating between clear skies and the storm blowing in.
I stopped for lunch at a shelter with a beautiful falls before it and enjoyed the sight and sound as I ate. Not long after lunch I was surprised to run into some more trail magic at one of the gravel roads that does enter the Hundred Mile Wilderness. He was waiting for his son, to pick up his dog, and was offering hot dogs, beer, and chips. I happily sat down and partook.
The afternoon was mostly more of the same, though slower as my body protests against my forcing it into such long days. I got to the shelter shortly after five and enjoyed the slower set up and dinner. It’s just myself and one other hiker, tickles, so I strung up my hammock in the shelter and we were both enthralled by an owl that showed no fear as it hung around the shelter for quite a while. It was a splendid looking bird. Just two more big days now, and both smaller that these last two, so I have great confidence. It’s so close now.
Pictures: Start of Hundred Mile Wilderness Sign
Little Wilson Falls
East Branch River Ford
Cooper Brook Falls