Appalachian Trail Trip
Maine Map 6
Maine Highway 27 to Maine Highway 17
From October 1, 1993 to October 9, 1993, Dave Henry, Jim Krause, Mick Krause and Harry Loomis took a hike on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. The following is the account from Mick's trail log about the experience.
The following is an excerpt of the Appalachian Trail Guide Maine 1 (1988) published by The Maine Appalachian Trail Club in cooperation with the Appalachian Trail Conference.
Section 8 - Maine Highway 27 to Maine Highway 4, 30.3 miles
This 30 mile section is the most difficult along the AT in Maine. It crosses four 4,000 ft. peaks and three other peaks of above 3,000 ft. In addition, it has substantial gains and losses in elevation between these peaks. These peaks are N to S:
|SECTION LENGTH||30.3 m.|
|TOTAL ELEVATION GAIN||10,000 southbound; 9,600 northbound|
|TIME TO TRAVERSE||2.3 days|
|BEST DAY HIKE||Saddleback Mtn. via A.T. elev. 4.116 ft.|
|BEST OVERNIGHT HIKE||Saddleback, Spaulding and Sugarloaf Mtns, 2-3 days|
|BEST FEATURES||Saddleback Ridge|
|LEAN TOS OR CAMPSITES||4|
|ROAD APPROACHES||Highway at each end and one logging road|
|NEAREST TOWNS||Stratton (5 m. north), and Rangeley (9 m. north of Trail)|
|MAIL DROP||Stratton 04982 and Rangeley 04970|
For the southbound hiker, the net elevation gain is a phenomenal 10,100 ft. The northbound hike is only slightly easier at 9,600 ft. These represent the greatest net climbs north of the Presidentials in New Hampshire.
Hikers should not underestimate the effort or time needed for a complete traverse of the section. Also, the hiker should be aware of the three mile above tree line traverse of the Horn and Saddleback. In inclement weather this section can be dangerous because of its high altitude exposure.
|North Crocker||4,168 ft.|
|South Crocker||4,010 ft.|
|Sugarloaf (on side trail)||4,237 ft.|
|Mt. Abraham (on side trail)||4,043 ft.|
|Poplar Ridge||3,120 ft.|
|Saddleback Junior||3,640 ft.|
|The Horn||4,023 ft.|
For the hiker, this is the most outstanding section of the Western Maine mountains. Its high peaks and above tree line climbing, its deep valleys, its mountain ponds and rock-strewn streams, all in sublime wilderness setting, offer the best of this part of Maine.
In 1971-74, the M.A.T.C. constructed a major relocation of the A.T. away from the intensive recreational ski development on Sugarloaf.
Although this mountain, Maine's second highest, is now reached by 0.6 m. side trail, two other 4,000 ft peaks have been added to the route of the trail. The relocation substantially improves the trail route and avoids conflict with the ski development around the north side of Sugarloaf.
The old fire tower and watchman's cabin located on saddleback have been removed and the summit returned to the alpine environment.
In 1987 a new 1.7 m. side trail to Mt. Abraham was opened, which is one of the major 4,000-ft peaks in Maine. This allows the hiker to reach all 4,000 ft peaks in Maine, except one, from the A.T. on its side trail system.
Section 9 - Maine Highway 4 to Maine Highway 17, 13.0 miles
|SECTION LENGTH||13.0 m.|
|TOTAL ELEVATION GAIN||2,200 southbound; 1,600 northbound|
|TIME TO TRAVERSE||1 day|
|BEST DAY HIKE||From Highway 17 to Sabbath Day Pond|
|BEST OVERNIGHT HIKE||Entire section|
|BEST FEATURES||Four Ponds Area, sandy beach|
|LEAN TOS OR CAMPSITES||2|
|ROAD APPROACHES||One at each end|
|NEAREST TOWNS||Rangeley (9 m. north of Trail)|
|MAIL DROP||Rangeley 04970|
Most of the section was relocated between 1973 and 1975 to avoid a five mile hike along a gravel road and other conflicts.
The new trail traverses no major mountains and may be thought of as a connector section between the Bemis Range to the west and the Saddleback Range to the east.
It touches five highland ponds and winds through a series of beautiful boreal bogs, typical of this part of Maine.
One of the ponds, Long Pond, has a sandy beach for super swimming on sunny days. Blueberries are also found in abundance in season.
Friday, October 1, 1993
Dave, Jim, Mick and Harry met at Jim's house in Fairport in the evening. We completed food packaging and discussed what we'd leave behind. As we learned by the end of the trip, most (but not all) decisions were good but we left less behind than what we anticipated at the beginning of the evening. We weighed in and found that each of us was carrying about 40‑50 pounds. We used the democratic process for vehicle selection and Harry decided we'd take his car. Bedtime was about 11:30.
Saturday, October 2
We left Jim's at 5:08 a.m., odometer 57814, with Dave at the wheel, Harry riding shotgun and Mick and Jim in the fetal position in the back seat of Harry's car, the smallest of the three vehicles available to us for the trip.
|Time||Odo.||Location (p‑p/tot. Mileage)|
|7:30||57904||Route 81, Breakfast (90/90)|
|7:50||On the road again (68/158)|
|8:30||57972||Bridge to Canada and Customs (83/241)|
|10:00||58055||10 minute break (83/241)|
|11:00||58111||Crossed St. Anne's River (56/297)|
|11:30||Harry's turn to drive|
|11:48||58157||Route 227 (46/343)|
|12:05||58175||Route 139 (18/361)|
|12:12||58183||Approaching the foothills (8/369)|
|12:22||58195||Road construction begins (12/381)|
|12:37||58210||Route 55 ‑ Magog (15/396)|
|12:45||58219||Route 141 & $3 gas (9/405)|
|1:20||58245||US Border and Customs - "Just Gas!!" (26/431)|
|Gas ($15 @ 1.169/gal)|
|Lunch at Bessie's, the Poutine was like bread pudding and was good|
|2:25||On the road again|
|2:48||58279||Dixville Notch (19/465)|
|3:02||58291||Errol ‑ first sign for Rangeley (12/477)|
|3:12||58300||Maine border (9/486)|
|3:49||58334||Rangeley, ME ‑ Great view of Mooselookmeguntic Lake as we approached town where we stopped for information (34/520)|
|4:15||Leave for Strattford|
|4:41||58356||Strattford ‑ rented room at the Strattford Motel, $45/night (12/532)|
|5:10||Harry and Dave left for Rangeley to meet Bill Stark at the AT.|
|7:15||Harry and Dave returned. Saw one moose at dusk between Rangeley and Strattford; couldn't easily find the AT.|
After Dave & Harry returned we had dinner at Cathy's Restaurant next to the motel. The meal was good, the hot peppers were the hottest ever. The buffalo was sweet and good. The check was for about $120. Bedtime was about midnight.
Sunday, October 3
|5:00||Jim's alarm went off an hour early!!|
|7:00||After waiting for the diner to open across the street from the motel, we had breakfast.|
|7:30||Bill Stark, the motel owner, carried us in the back of his pickup to the AT which was about 5 miles away. It was overcast and there was light drizzle.|
|7:45||All situated, pictures taken, we hit the AT in light drizzle, temp low 30's|
|7:57||Stopped to remove rain gear|
|8:04||Started up steep incline|
|8:35||Removed more rain gear|
|8:45||Started again but on a horizontal grade now|
|9:10||Temp = 36 F, moderate wind|
|9:55||Breakfast break, 36 F|
|10:30||Break over, still headed south|
|10:35||Passed the first AT ground marker|
|11:00||Steeper incline, bridge|
|11:10||Overlooking a river to our right (not named on the AT map)|
|11:13||Climbed ladder‑steps to get up steep incline|
|11:20||Break ‑ steep incline, 40 F|
|11:28||Started hiking again|
|11:30||Stopped to filter some water from a small stream|
|12:15||We're nearing the top of Crocker North Peak, traces of snow on the ground|
|12:30||Reached Crocker North Peak summit, 40 F|
|1:05||Passed another AT ground marker|
|1:23||End of descent, beginning the ascent|
|1:35||Reached Crocker Crotch, 32 F, and stopped for lunch|
|While looking for a water source, Mick saw a spruce grouse in a tree and approached to within four to five feet.|
|2:20||Begin ascent of Crocker South Peak|
|2:35||Reached Crocker South Peak summit|
|2:55||Bio‑break, 32 F|
|3:25||Rocky overlook of Caribou Valley, 34 F, begin descent of steep (52 ) incline|
|4:20||Arrived at the Crocker Cirque Campsite, filtered some water, started a fire, cooked spaghetti. Mick's legs were very sore. Harry discovered the key for our Strattford Motel room still in his pocket. We noticed that another hiker had already made camp across the stream from the tent platforms. All seemed quiet at his tent.|
Monday, October 4
|7:00||Alarm awoke us to a windy and cold morning. There was rain & snow through the night. We broke camp without breakfast. Tents were wet inside and some bags got a little wet, but not bad. Mick's knees were stiff and sore.|
|8:05||Our neighbor broke camp and as he passed us we learned that he was a thru‑hiker headed north and for Katahdin.|
|8:15||On the trail again|
|9:05||Stopped at Caribou Valley Road and the South Branch of the Carrabassett River for breakfast, 44 F|
|10:30||Encountered a Maine hiker|
|12:35||Break, 46 F, discuss side trails for the upcoming days|
|We reached the side trail to Sugerloaf Mountain and all signed the register. The trail up to the summit was only 6/10 mile but the fog was so thick that Harry, Jim and Dave voted not to go. Mick was in much pain so his decision was made for him.|
|1:20||Stopped for lunch|
|1:45||Started again for more fun|
|3:00||Begin ascent of Spaulding Mountain|
|4:30||Reached Spaulding Mountain lean‑to. Before dinner we all had to unpack our packs and hang up all of our wet gear. We all drank a great deal of water because we had not been drinking enough during the day. We cooked and ate dinner and hit the sack by about 6:30.|
Tuesday, October 5
6:45 Wake-up to a clear & crisp 32 F
8:10 Break camp, back on the trail (of course, we took the longer way around to the trail, Mick loved that!)
8:46 Reached the Mt. Abraham side trail but decided to pass it up. 10 demerits for Dave
9:21 View of Mt. Abraham. Walk through pines with views of snow on mountain sides, easy warmup. 34 F
9:28 Lone Mountain summit
9:46 Descending into the hardwoods again, lots of birch. Put up grouse.
10:10 First rest stop
10:37 Back on the trail
11:08 Starting to snow
11:58 As we approached an abandoned railroad bed we walked along a long natural water slide. Had it been warmer we would have enjoyed a fun slide down. Stopped for lunch, 48 F & overcast. Great stream setting.
1:00 After lunch all discussed the departure with Mick. We talked, voted and argued about Mick leaving the main trail and the group but there was no talking him out of it so we let him go, not to everyones liking (see next section).
1:38 Stripped to T-shirts on ascent of Poplar Ridge
2:12 Stopped for a short break before the main ascent to Poplar Ridge summit and talked about how Mick might be doing; well, we hoped.
2:35 Leaving hardwoods, ascent to summit must be 50
3:10 Reached summit with clear view
3:20 Reached the Poplar Ridge lean-to with a small brook in front of this older shelter and a floor made of 1½" to 2½" saplings. 38 F
4:59 Dave is cooking supper. We have a southbound guest tonight from Australia who goes by the name of Wombat. Beef and veggies for supper, wood fire is going for heat, it should be cold tonight.
5:30 Amazing, Mick rolls in!!
= Mick, searching for civilization =
1:00 I walked, stiff legged, at a good rate as the path was level and smooth, no ruts, no rocks. I soon reached a dip in the road, maybe 2-3 feet deep and 10-15 feet wide, with a small amount of water flowing. While crossing was not difficult it was my first return to more pain in my legs but I trucked across and kept going. Next I encountered a more significant stream with a bridge out. I had to walk down the shoulder of the road to the water's edge and back toward the center of the road to where rocks in the water made the crossing possible. The other side was a gradual upward incline so rapid travel resumed.
The next obstacle was much more scenic, by far, but a significant planning endeavor. I reached the outlet of Redington Pond and was pleased with the good time I had made. I was also anxious that I would soon reach civilization where I could get transportation to the Horsefeathers B&B in Oquossoc. (According to the Appalachian Trail Guide for Maine, Oquossoc is an Abenaki Indian name meaning "a slender blue trout. The Abenakis were hunter-fishers that ranged up and down the river-lake system in what is now Maine and New Brunswick.) The crossing, though, would require much leg work in that the water way was probably 200 feet or more wide. As I approached the water I picked up an eight‑foot long 2 inch thick pole which the beavers conveniently left for me. Rocks in the water provided adequate passage. As I approached the other side I could see that one more painful obstacle remained; I needed to vault up onto a very large rock to reach the last few foot rocks that would get me to the other bank. As I rested on the big rock I noticed with great interest what appeared to be a brown painted‑over white AT blaze. At the time I didn't know the significance of this marking but a few months later Jim learned through reading the Maine Appalachian Trail Guide that trail relocations and redivision of sections have markers "browned out" in this way.
After I walked up the other bank I noticed a sign on a tree announcing "No Trespassing" and that this was a United States Naval Training Base and no one was allowed past this point. By now I had been traveling for at least 30 minutes with about 10 minutes crossing the pond outlet. I expected to reach a chain link fence with barbed wire along the top and which I would need to follow to a gate where I could get a ride. I also thought that I might be taken into custody by the MP's but didn't care. The pain in my legs would be nearing its end if I could just get to a place where I could sit for as long as I needed . . . even if it was in the brig! I walked some more and saw another sign with the same message as before. The road so far had shown some sign of traffic . . . I thought. It seemed that at least ATV's if not 4 wheel drive vehicles had routinely but not frequently used the road. Contrary to that thought, though, was the fact that some streams and old rotted bridges obstructed clear passage. On this side of Redington Pond outlet I encountered several wind-fallen trees crossing the road. I rested on one of these and decided that I might make better time if I defecated. (Ah, I was right, what a relief, but I lost some time, too.)
At about one hour away from my departure from the AT I came upon another stream crossing the road. This stream was different in that it appeared to be an extension of the road. The road appeared to continue across the stream but the stream made a 90 turn to my right and came from straight ahead. I walked down the left shoulder and across a dry stream bed to get back to the main road on the other side, or so I thought. After crossing and then swinging back around to where the road / stream was supposed to be I began to panic when I couldn't find the road or the stream!! I got very anxious but quickly realized that I needed to remain calm, turn around and follow my tracks back to the last remnants of road before making any new decisions. At this point I was beginning to fear for my life and wondered (finally??) if leaving the group had been a major mistake.
By the time I got back to the road, just a minute or two, I decided that the only thing to do was to return to the AT. I knew that moving deeper into this unmarked territory could lead to disaster where search parties might never find me (or my body). I thought that if I got back to the AT I'd at least be able to camp on the trail where other hikers or a search party could find me and pass the message that "an injured hiker is camping at the old railroad bed."
It had been about an hour and ten minutes since I left the rest of the group and I was concerned that I might not make it back to the AT in time to continue toward the lean-to where they'd be spending the night. I thought I could make it most of the way down the trail toward the lean-to before dark but knew that there weren't many places along the trail to pitch a tent. I was unreasonably concerned about getting back with the rest of the group.
I knew the type of trail that was ahead of me but didn't know what pace I could keep with my two bad legs. I reached the AT at about 3:05!!! Terrific time, less than an hour to get back but still two hours behind the others. I had stopped several times along the road, on the way out and on the way back, for some very beneficial relaxation. The "side trip" was educational in that respect; short periods of relaxation seemed to make new energy available to me and traveling at my own pace without the psychological burden of feeling left behind by my hiking partners as I had while hiking on the trail allowed me to set a respectable pace. I didn't want to be alone, I didn't want to be left behind, that was a significant part of leaving the others. But the biggest reason was that my legs hurt! and I couldn't take a step without major pain. Now, though, the thought often ran through my mind that returning to the trail and catching up with the others was maybe a matter of life and death.
After another short rest on a rock near the AT I headed down the trail. Down is the key word here. Even before we reached this point two hours earlier I used the information on the map to help make my decision to leave the trail. The trail descent was so steep here that a long set of log steps had been installed by the MATC. I didn't even try walking down these steps, I sat right down and started scooting along on my rear-end. The view of the stream was phenomenal with the water cascading over a large waterfall and rocks. What a shame that I couldn't enjoy it to the fullest, I thought.
My hike continued with only the difficult and dangerous ascent to Poplar Ridge to concern me. The only real danger of the ascent was the result of my fatigue and lack of confidence in my legs and in my balance.
But I made it!!! About dusk, as I worked the descent of Poplar Ridge, I saw the metal corrugated roof of the lean-to! I wanted to call out, to yell at the top of my lungs, to let the whole forest know that I, the super gimp, made it back to the group and would be safe for the night!! And then I remembered the whistle I was carrying as a safety measure. I pulled it out and blew it a few times. "Strike up the band" I called, "I made it!!!" (what a relief!!!, safety, people, warmth, a dry place to sleep, FOOD!!)
= A complete group again =
A southbound couple, The Family Circle they called themselves, The Chiropractor and Chiropractors Wife we called them, and just after dark another single south-bounder arrived. Chiropractor and his wife put up their tent for the night as the other guys, Wombat and Redman, were traveling separately and neither had a tent!.
6:47 Hit the sack
Wednesday, October 6 HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JIM!!
6:40 Wake-up. Hot breakfast. Clear & cold, 30 F
7:45 Hit the trails
8:14 Ice on the trails
8:30 First view of Saddleback Junior. Views are incredible!! Windy, 10 mph, 35 F, looking at snow on The Horn and Saddleback Senior. Very difficult descent; steep, rocky and needing lots of concentration.
9:15 The flat bottom is a welcome site
10:40 Reached the top of The Horn. Upper third of the rock ledge is snowy and icy but good climbing. Going from The Horn to Saddleback Sr. we encountered a very wide metal ladder on the trail which allowed for a controlled decent of a huge rock.
30 F with a light breeze. A great view with logs of lakes in sight.
12:00 Reached Saddleback Sr. summit after ascending nothing but rock. 34 F, breezy and overcast. Colors keep changing. We must have crossed 10 ridges on Saddleback Sr. of nothing but rock. Our joints are screaming.
12:30 Ten minute break at the summit
12:40 Just starting the descent. Eddy Pond is in sight, need to stop for apple bits. Short break part way down to let Dave catch up to his sleeping bag. Restrapped Dave's bag. We all took a few slides on the way down the almost 50 incline which was covered with wet leaves. The steep rocks made for a slow, careful descent.
1:39 Reached Eddy Pond where we dropped our packs in relief. Cooked what has become our typical lunch, Ramen noodles with the addition of a package of Cup-O-Soup for added flavor. During lunch we watched a cow moose with two calves across the pond while they watched us. We also kept our eye on a squirrel in the camp was relatively fearless and thought he'd find food around our packs.
2:38 Back on the trail which was nice and soft at this point to do the remaining one and a half miles to the next lean-to. Ethel Pond was about the half way mark.
4:00 Reached Piazza Rock lean-to under clearing skies and 50 F temperatures. This lean-to is nice and new. Two other campers, north bounders, are already at the site but have pitched a tent away from the lean-to on the tent platforms. They have a fire going and say it should be 70 F tomorrow, sounds Great! Jim, Harry and Dave leave to check out Piazza Rock. What a huge bolder!! At least 40'-50' long, 20' wide and about 20' thick resting on three points. Dave walked 200 feet further behind the rock to the caves but unfortunately he didn't bring his camera. The caves were a sight to see and it was quite an experience to crawl amongst all of the rocks.
4:45 Redman, the last southbound hiker into last nights camp, hikes by and continues southward. The other two campers, Photographer and his wife, just started on the trail today from Route 4 and Rangeley and are asking questions about the trail to Strattford. Photographer has a very heavy camera and tripod. They're baking potatoes in the fire and apparently our talk about pack weight and terrain, not to mention Mick's moaning about his legs, encouraged them to bring out a loaf of fresh banana bread which they shared with us (and they let us eat most of the loaf!!). Dave put the third fuel cell on the stove to cook the Spicy Hawaiian Rice with Chicken for dinner with Kraft Macaroni and Cheese for a snack.
6:54 Supper's done, pots are clean, the fire's going and we're still not in bed. The sky is all stars tonight. Mick was in his sleeping bag already but Jim, Harry and Dave sat around the campfire. All reviewed the last fifteen miles of trail.
7:40 Hit the sack, "Good night!", 42 F. Set alarms for 6:00 am.
Thursday, October 7 HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAVE ! !
6:15 Wake-up, alarms didn't go off (or we didn't hear them!). 47 F and we were overdressed for the sleeping bags last night in the much warmer temperature. Mick will part with the group 1.8 miles from the lean-to at Route 4 and head for the Horsefeathers B&B in Oquossoc. Clear skies and other hikers that we pass on the trail say it should be 70 F today.
7:25 Breakfast is done, it was another oatmeal day. We break camp in 48 F. Mick left ahead of the group to help make better time. We caught up with him near the foot bridge crossing Sandy River, a very short distance from the highway.
8:15 Reached Route 4. Great time made this morning. Mick takes the two tents and leaves the group; catches a ride from the first car that goes by.
8:27 Back on the trail again.
= Mick, enroute to Rangeley, Oquossoc and the Horsefeathers Bed & Breakfast =
The van that picked me up held two Mexicans. We had an interesting time wondering who would understand the others mumbling first as neither of them spoke English and I didn't speak Spanish. The driver asked if I "habla Español?" and I said "un puqieto, like 'bueno, casa, denaro, aqua, amigo, qué pasa. . .'". So the remainder of the ride to Rangeley (7 miles?) was quiet except for some more fumbling to understand that I wanted to get out in "Wrong-lay".
During the ride I was somewhat nervous; felt that we should have arrived in town already and wondered if these guys were outlaws who were going to beat and rob me. I thought back to all of the hitchhiking I did more than twenty years ago without incident. We finally reached the edge of town and I wondered if they'd race through without putting me out but all went well and we said "Buenos dias".
I yanked my pack out and hefted it onto my back, happy to be to town but still in much pain as I hobbled over to the pay phone on the street. A man was using the phone so I waited for a few minutes but then decided to go into the small food store to get change for the phone. Outside I asked an old guy for information about rides to Oquossoc but he said he was new to the area and was just passing through. I went back outside to the phone only to find that there was no phone book so I went into a different store and talked with three other friendly old guys who looked like they should be playing checkers at the pickle barrel. We talked about my situation and the fact that I was trying to get to the Horsefeathers B&B in Oquossoc. One recommended the Rangeley Inn that cost only $7 per night for hikers, had showers but only a few cots so I might have to sleep on the floor.
I decided I'd rather pay a little more so I could sleep in a bed as I had found it difficult sleeping the past two nights from the constant pain in my legs and knees. I was unable to get comfortable; couldn't lie on my side because the sides of my knees hurt too much pressing on each other and I couldn't lie on my back or front because the backs of my knees hurt too much. The last night at Piazza Rock lean-to I thought I was awake all night with all of the tossing and turning and the night before I found the sapling floor very uncomfortable. I was sure I must have kept the others awake much of both nights with my constant movement. I was sure that under different circumstances I would have slept fine.
One of the "pickle barrel guys" finally told me that he was going right by the Horsefeathers B&B and that he'd be happy to let me ride with him. We went outside to his truck and talked for a few minutes or so until his two partners caught up. One put his bag of groceries which had a box of donuts on top into the back of the pickup and the driver invited me to hop in, too. I had already tossed my pack in so I went to the rear bumper and climbed in. As we drove down the highway I was awed with the view of the mountain range we had just crossed with its at-peak autumn foliage. The wind in the back of the truck was cold but not uncomfortable as I wondered what circumstances would be required to get me to move up to this area . . . and how long it would take to feel welcome and a part of this very friendly area. And then thought that maybe I should keep this area as a special place to visit.
The truck turned off the main highway and went around more turns onto smaller and smaller back roads. Again the thought of being beaten and robbed crossed my mind but I couldn't imagine why these kindly old geezers would find any pleasure or value in such an act. I was relieved when we stopped to let one of the riders out and he said jokingly that I shouldn't worry, they weren't taking me deep into the woods to beat me up.
We drove back to the highway and the great view and soon found ourselves in Oquossoc. Two quick turns and we were in front of the B&B. I hopped out, called "Thanks, and have a good day" and the truck was gone.
I hobbled across the lawn and up the stairs. I knocked on the door a couple of times but no one was around. While standing there I read the notices thumb‑tacked to the wall and learned that AT hikers were welcome and I should go in and make myself comfortable, which I did.
Upon entering I expected (hoped) to find signs of life but the house was empty. Not able to walk upright up the stairs I scooted up the stairs on my rear-end and dragged my pack up after me. I noticed a register on the dresser upstairs but didn't have the energy to log my presence. I walked by the bathroom looking forward to a cleansing shower and checked out the three or four bedrooms along the hallway. I chose the one that I thought would hold all four of us the next night which was a room with a double bed, a single bed and a roll-away. I put my pack down and began to disassemble it looking for my clean clothes.
With clothes and tooth stuff in hand I waddled into the bathroom where there were a shower and a whirlpool tub, just what I dreamed about on the last leg of the trail. Not wanting to struggle with the whirlpool training immediately I got into the shower and tried to relax before getting into the whirlpool tub. After a few minutes in the low pressure shower I decided I was ready to learn about the tub but was disappointed to find that the water supply to the tub had been turned off.
With a clean body, clean teeth and clean clothes I slid down the stairs where I found a Maine Moose Watchers Guide. I soon discovered that the most comfortable position for me was to lie on the floor with my lower legs resting on the sofa. After reading for a while I fell asleep for about an hour.
= Jim, Harry and Dave, back on the trail =
9:20 Reached South Pond and saw a huge adult and one young bull moose. The adults rack had to be 4' - 5' wide. Hearing him go crashing through the brush sounded like hitting a tree with a baseball bat. No time for pictures as they left in such a hurry. 58 F
10:42 Took a break at Little Swift River Pond; we've done 6.2 miles already. There's a campsite here. On our break we talked about how quick we were traveling; about two miles per hour. Went down to the pond for water and saw an amazing spike horned bull moose who allowed us to approach to within 15 yards of him.
11:50 Finished lunch and had ice cream for dessert. The moose guest is still with us on the opposite side of the pond from where he started. 62 F in the shade, 70 F in the sun.
12:12 Back on the trail with 4.6 miles to go to the lean-to.
12:50 Two calves at the bog. There have been bogs about every 200 yards; real sloppy going.
1:42 Crossing the power line
2:32 We drop at the lean-to at Sabbath Day Pond after hiking 10.5 miles today, total body abuse. Great day for viewing, no outlooks like previous places, just wildlife. The leaves are getting deeper on the trails. We're taking the old lean-to about ten yards from the lake on our last night; a great setting. We all thought that dropping all that weight with Mick at the road would made our packs feel lighter for a while but after 10.5 miles at two miles per hour even the weight of an additional feather in our packs would have felt like a ton of lead. Every inch of our bodies was sore. Dave had one small blister on his toe and decided that he should have trimmed his toenails. Jim gave him some moleskin, though, which took care of it.
4:15 64 F and everyone is crying for supper but we don't want to eat too early. Supper tonight will be Oriental Sweet & Sour with a side of Stove Top stuffing. Dave is trying to build another fire.
The only way to see this part of nature is to totally abuse your body by getting to these places but it sure is worth it. This trip was definitely a test of mind and body. Everyone who does this, no matter how much or to what distance, still comes out ahead. Maybe sore, but still ahead.
= Mick, at the Horsefeathers Bed & Breakfast =
Back in Oquossoc, when I awoke I rested for a while, set the time on the VCR to stop it from flashing (my first technical challenge after returning to civilization) and watched some TV. After an hour or so my legs felt good enough to get me out the door and down the street to get a bowl of soup, chicken sandwich and glass of sulphur water for lunch. I paid the bill and hiked across the road to the store for a couple of bottles of fruit drink and a bottle of aspirin.
I returned to the B&B, sucked down a bottle of Raspberry, took three aspirins and got into some more TV, another nap, and some more aspirins. Still no sign of life in the house. It was time for supper so I walked to the other restaurant in town where I had an excellent fish fry while sitting at the bar and had some good conversation with the bar tender. I told the bartender about the moose we saw on the trail and about the birds (which we thought might be ptarmigan) that didn't fly away and allowed us to within three or four feet of them. He told me that the birds were Spruce Grouse, are dumb as dirt and are protected for use by hunters in distress.
I finally headed back to Horsefeathers hoping to find other hikers to talk with but, again, found the house quiet. I tuned in to some more TV and read some more of the Maine Moose Watchers Guide wondering if the landlord would be by to check up. Between 10 o'clock and ten-thirty Mac came to the door, introduced himself, explained the B&B arrangements and sat to talk for a while. He told me about moose and the danger they can be to humans, especially at this time of the year when they're in rut. Mac said he'd be over in the morning to prepare breakfast for me as part of the B&B deal but I convinced him that he needn't come because I wouldn't want any breakfast. Mac accepted and wished me "goodnight" on his way out.
I turned in a little latter and found that I could sleep quite comfortably by putting a pillow between my knees. Later in the night I was awakened by the first rodents of the trip. At the Eddy Pond lean-to Chiropractors wife was very concerned about protecting their food from rodents but we'd had almost no encounters with wildlife at all on the entire trip. Now, back in civilization, I had to get out of bed to hang my edibles on the door knob for protection for the night.
= Jim, Dave & Harry at the Sabbath Day Pond lean-to =
Friday, October 8
6:30 60 F, too hot in sleeping bags last night, even without clothes. Overcast and drizzly. Dave's stomach is still growling. Five miles to the car. The pond is still and quiet. Light breakfast and looking forward to a shower and fresh clothes but not to the end of a great journey!!
7:45 Saddling up to hit the trail for the last time.We are all glad to be on our last day though it will be hard to leave what we had seen and done in the past week; things and sights that every human being should see in their lifetime. Although we know Mick could not enjoy all that we saw we all hoped that he saw some of it. The five mile hike out was very wet. The gentleman who takes care of this leg of the trail hasn’t done a very good job. We did, however, make it out without a mishap. Heavy fog rolling in.
8:30 Moxie Pond
9:30 Jim, Harry and Dave stood at the end of the journey which was supposed to be an incredible view of Mooselookmeguntic Lake. Unfortunately, it was rainy and foggy. Harry and Dave took turns taking pictures by setting their cameras on a broken tree.
9:42 Sitting in the car, 50 and raining
= Mick, back in Oquossoc =
The next morning Mac stopped in again after I'd finished reading the Maine Moose Watchers Guide. We talked for fifteen minutes or so when Harry came to the door. They made it back to the car and drove to Oquossoc by about 9:30 or 10 o'clock. Harry explained that they'd decided to head back home immediately instead of staying at Mac's for the day and night. My pack was ready to go and waiting down stairs so Harry brought it to the car while I paid Mac for the night. I thanked Mac and headed for the car before Harry drove off.
I was confused as we headed for Rangeley instead of west toward home. I asked about our direction and Harry explained that he didn't want to tell me in front of Mac that we were headed for a "better" abode to spend the night.
We checked a couple of places but settled in on the Rangeley Motel for $60 a night. We showered, told stories, joked and walked down the road to lunch. After lunch the others walked around town but I headed back to the motel room to rest my legs some more. While waiting for the others to return I called the Strattford Motel and talked to Bill to see if anyone had discovered a baggie with my driver's license, VISA and bank cards but he explained that no one had. I arranged with Bill to return the motel room key but Harry later dropped it into the U.S. mail box. Later in the room we discussed unsettled debts and evened up with one another. These expenses totaled almost $150.
That evening we drove through the very dense fog to a country club restaurant a couple of miles out of town. We got there at about 6:30 and commented about how, during the week, we were usually in bed asleep by this time. We had some beers and bread while we waited for our meals to be served. Other conversation had to do with the food we ordered compared to the meals we'd "enjoyed" on the trail. After our meals arrived we soon learned that we had resized our stomachs during the hike and all had difficulty finishing our meals. Dave took most of his Mexican style meal back to the motel in a doggy-box.
After the meal we drove back to Rangeley in search of ???, a store owner in town, who was reportedly singing at an Irish pub. We picked the place in town that most appeared to be Irish and "back seat guided" Harry as he made multiple attempts to park the car.
Inside we discovered a sports bar and unbelievably low priced Bass ale. After a couple beers we headed back to the room and our last night in Maine where we watched some T.V. while Dave finished his dinner.
At 5:30??? the alarms went off. We packed the car, assumed the fetal position and were off for New York by 5:54.
Saturday, October 9
5:54 58428 Packed and left the motel and Rangeley behind with Harry driving.
6:34 58462 New Hampshire line
6:40 We stopped to watch and photograph three moose on the side of the road.
6:53 58472 Route 26, Errol
7:20 58495 Colebrook, Route 3
7:30 58503 Canaan, Vermont. Breakfast at Bessie's
8:15 Back on the road
8:20 58505 Canada border, taking Route 141
8:37 58522 Route 147
8:54 58533 Route 55
9:11 58550 Route 10
9:21 58561 Road construction starts
9:26 58566 End of construction
9:32 58573 More construction for .5 mile
10:18 58624 Crossed bridge over St. Lawrence River
10:23 58629 Route 20 "Quest"
10:42 58649 St. Anne's River bridge
10:50 58654 Road construction, got off Rt. 20, onto 340 for 3 miles and then looped back.
10:55 58659 Back onto Rt. 20 west
11:12 58678 Entering Ontario. Rest break
11:30 Gas, $9 CN
12:50 58769 Two minute bio break
1:09 58786 Route 81 to the U.S.A.
1:16 US Customs stop
1:46 58820 Got onto Route 3 at Watertown for lunch.
1:49 58821 Ann's Restaurant is too "pricy" so we moved on.
2:00 58822 Back onto 81 without eating
2:04 58829 We figured out how many ounces (1986) are in a ½ keg of beer
2:45 58873 Route 49 to Fulton
3:02 58888 Fulton
3:30 58917 Stopped at Wolcott for another bio break
3:52 58928 "Sawdust"
4:00 58936 Williamson
Jim called Becky on his cellular phone and asked her to order two pizza's, one with the works with "chovies" on the side, the other with cheese, pep, peppers and onions, so that we could eat soon after we arrived.
4:25 58957 Jim's house, filled up the gas tank
= More "Legs" info =
On Sunday I called my doctor at his house to ask about relief for the pain in my legs. He told me to take four Motrin four times a day and to make an appointment to visit him in his office. I learned from that office visit that the pain was from ligament strain. After a full week I could walk almost normally again. A month later I learned that the only real way to prepare for next years adventure will be to carry a load up and down a hill (like Brantling) at least once a month until I'm fatigued (or stay in shape to begin with!!).
In the years to follow I've had no residual effects. In spite of many miles of biking, hiking, and backpacking since then, I have had no problems whatsoever with my knees or legs. Some time after the Maine hike it occurred to me that I should have taken advantage of the cool (cold!) water in the stream next to which camped the first night to soothe my knees.
I started a conversation about a 10 year anniversary hike with Jim and Harry but it never materialized. Perhaps it's yet to happen.
The bottom line: I didn't prepare my body for the hike, carried far too much weight (possibly more than 60 pounds), and overlooked using cool compresses to treat my knees.
In the end, I know it was a very painful experience and that while on my "diversion hike" I had thoughts of my dried carcass being found by some lonesome hiker but I wouldn't trade the experience, now that it's past, for anything. It's not necessarily a story to share as a red badge of courage, actually more one of a series of stupid, careless decisions, but it a great lesson to pass on to others.