Day 5: More of the same. Ups and downs with an overall increase in elevation. We ended the day at Logan Brook Lean-to; a 12.5 mile day. As we began a slight elevation gain, the bugs weren’t quite so bad. They went from insane to terrible (a notch or two on the bug scale). One of the great things about the Maine Appalachian Trail is that there are excellent lean-to sites spaced out between four and ten miles apart depending on the terrain. Almost all of the lean-to sites have a great water source, a privy, and sites to set up your tent. The lean-to itself is an excellent shelter with room for about eight hikers elbow to elbow in sleeping bags.
After arriving at each lean-to my priorities of work are 1) to get my tent (sanctuary from the bugs) set up immediately; 2) to obtain a full load of water from the associated water source by collecting in my Sawyer filter bags and filtering into my three 1-1.5 liter bottles (Stryker carried the 1.5 liter bottle); 3) prepare and eat chow using my jet boil; 4) to let my feet air out, dry my shoes and socks, and escape the bugs inside my tent. All of this took about a half hour to forty-five minutes and by this time, Stryker is begging to get inside the tent to escape the bugs as they harass him even more than Andrew and I because he refuses to wear a bug net over his face.
Day 6: After packing up, our first step was up. We began to climb the most significant mountain in the 100-mile wilderness, Whitecap. Whitecap rises to around 3600′ in elevation with an overall climb of around 2500′. Honestly, this was by no means the hardest climb in the wilderness. After summiting whitecap, we took a few minutes to enjoy another great payout (view) and then headed on to face three more summits, Hay Mountain, West Peak, and Gulf Hagas before starting a very difficult descent. As the terrain eased and began to level out, the wilderness had yet a different kind of obstacle for us. It looked like a tornado had went through the woods and knocked down about 20 trees across the pass in a half-mile swath. Many of these trees were large and we either had to crawl under them or climb over them as we went a long.
We stopped for the evening on the south side of pleasant river. We logged in nearly thirteen miles, climbed four mountains, navigated the tree obstacles, and for icing in the cake, had to ford the pleasant river. The pleasant river ford site was about a 50 meter water crossing. We took our shoes and socks off to cross barefoot. The rocks were covered in algae and were INCREDIBLY slippery. One of the biggest mistakes I made in preparing for this trip was not bringing some type of water shoe. Crossing the river killed our feet, exasperated our blisters/ deteriorated the blister dressings, and came with a very real threat of falling due to how slippery the rocks were. Stryker? I leashed him at each crossing, but as with everything else, he had no problem navigating the obstacles.
Day 7: Once again, we began the day climbing. However, to this point, we had been lucky to have really nice weather. Not today, it poured. Unfortunately, we were also negotiating the most treacherous part of the wilderness. About two miles in we had a boulder crawl that ascended nearly straight up a mountain, Chairback Mountain. The entire mountain was rock or root of some kind and incredibly slippery in the rain. We made it just a hair over four miles and took shelter at Chairback Lean-to.
This was the first and only night I slept in the lean-to. A few of the other hikers we had met also stopped for the night here and we all happily cuddled together in the lean-to and hung our stuff to dry. It rained for the rest of the day and all night. To make up for lost mileage, we began our hike the next day at 0500.
Day 8: Columbus Mountain, Third Mountain, Mount three and a half, Fourth Mountain, and Barren Mountain were conquered, along with Fourth Mountain Bog, Baren slides, and ledges, two fords, and the usual daily grind in our nearly 16 mile day. We stopped for the night at Wilson Lean-to. Priorities of work were completed, and this ol’ guy and his dog were out! Exhausted.
Day 9: Our last day in the wilderness–10.4 miles. This was the best stretch of hiking we had had since the first two miles in the wilderness. Many ups and downs, and a couple of fords, but one unusual obstacle. All of a sudden, the trail just ended at a huge pond (probably 200′ or more in diameter). Upon inspection, we noticed that the tell-tail ‘white blaze’ marking the way, was painted on a tree in the middle of the pond. At the deepest, the pond was probably about 4′. After further investigation, we realized that a beaver or more likely a family of beavers had built a dam directly on the trail.
An opportunity to teach! I taught Andrew how to do the box method and bypass an obstacle while keeping your general direction or azimuth. Wow, an Army skill paying off. Ha! He thinks I’m a genius. We ended up scaling the beaver’s dam one at a time. Styrker, once again, right over the obstacle without a trouble. We spent six hours completing, what was most likely the easiest 10.4 miles of trail in the wilderness. As a point of reference, the Army’s standard for a 12-mile foot march with a 35 pound pack is 4-hours. In my glory days, I’ve completed that same 12-miles in just over two hours. #terrainmatters
The three of us were picked up at the trail head by Shaw’s Hiker Hostel shuttle and taken to the hostel. Where, we were offered a PBR or soda upon entry and a couple of nights much needed R&R, the ability to stock up supplies, do laundry, and chat with other hikers doing the same. Shaw’s even offered town clothes so you could do you laundry all at once. Additionally, a homemade breakfast of eggs, bacon, potatoes and all the blueberry pancakes you can eat is a daily occurrence. These guys have it going on. I highly recommend Shaw’s to anyone considering the hike.