Monson to Stratton: In Which the Waters Gradually Receded From the Earth

Tags: , , , — Jeff @ 02:47

June 20

(0.0; 114.5 total, 2059.5 to go; -15.0 from pace, -65.5 overall)

Today is my first “zero” day: a day where I don’t do any hiking down the trail. Excepting a very few crazies, everyone takes zero days every so often, to give the body time to regenerate and the morale time to be uplifted. There’s also a related type of day colloquially called a near-o day, in which you hike only a few miles and then fiddle around the rest of the day burning time rather than Roming great distances down the trail. (I’m pretty sure I misspelled a word or two in that last sentence, but I can’t be bothered to go back and fix the mistakes.)

The day starts off with an “all-you-can-eat” breakfast at Shaw’s. The A.T. Thru-Hikers’ Companion uses the abbreviation AYCE for such spots, since they tend to be popular with famished hikers. Breakfast starts at 7 and goes until around 8ish, so it’s really all-you-can-eat-while-the-grill-runs-and-you’re-waiting-in-line; I miss the memo about the start time and head down near the end of it, but I get a good helping of food, to be sure.

I first stop off at the Monson library for some Internet access, which I mostly spend catching up on web feeds, dealing with scads of incoming email, and doing a little work on the first series of reports. I notice a decision has been made in Boumediene v. Bush but sadly don’t have time to read it; I think I agree with the decision at its highest level, but I’m concerned about how its practical effects will actually fall out — concern that must be substanceless without reading the opinion or any of the dissents to learn details. (I listened to the oral arguments, but the details were arcane and too reliant on having read the associated briefs, quite different from the argument in, say, D.C. v. Heller.) Finally, I forget to purge pictures from my camera before the library closes, hence why my pictures are Katahdin to Stratton and not to Monson. (The next two places where I have access it isn’t a library and there’s no nanny, so I’m not nearly as rushed to get the pictures off. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a monster memory card in Gorham, just the other side of the New Hampshire border, so the problem of storage never manifests itself again.)

Next, I hit up the Monson General Store; the Companion says it offers “long-term resupply”, but that’s something of a lie: it’s more like “long-term resupply, but options are limited”. (Had I been around I could have joined a caravan to Greenville for shopping at real stores, but I didn’t happen to be at Shaw’s when it left.) In particular they don’t sell peanuts, M&Ms, or raisins in reasonable bulk, so I am trail mix-less for the next stretch of trail. I continue in the tradition of Knorr dinners and try to scrounge up a bunch of granola bars and such for breakfast and snacking; lunches are tortillas with peanut butter and honey. Also, tuna in a pouch is nothing short of miraculous when added to some of the Knorr dinners. Last, I visit the post office to pick up a box in which to put stuff I don’t need; that overheavy pack cannot be tolerated.

I sort of combine lunch and dinner into one by eating a BBQ pork sandwich from Spring Creek BBQ in town. There’s a pub down the street which I consider visiting but eventually decide to be cheap; I’m not sure that was a great decision, in retrospect. The rest of the ice cream from yesterday tops off the day.

That done, I proceed to packing. Among the things I drop are a third set of hiking clothes (leaving two sets, one of which is for use after I shower in towns I visit, plus fleece pants and sweater for cold-weather use), bowl and cup (titanium conducts heat extremely quickly — you can drink boiling water straight from the pot with a little care, so the cup is superfluous) and an extra spoon, and a pack towel intended for use in towns. I’ve probably forgotten a thing or two, but that’s about the gist of it, all total about four pounds dropt. Food packs up easily enough too, and newly-clean clothing rounds things out. On the porch other thru-hikers are fashioning alcohol stoves from pop cans for the first time; they’re welcome to it, but I’ll take known-working options over untested options when doing a thru-hike.

It continues intermittently raining today while I’m going through town today, raising fears about fords and rivers down the trail. The immediate next fords are of the Piscataquis River, and a bit later is the Kennebec. The latter is billed as “the most formidable unbridged water-crossing on the Appalachian Trail” by the Companion, which ominously notes a thru-hiker drowned in 1985 trying to ford it. The current ferry service started the next year as I understand it; it’s basically a guy with a canoe and some life jackets, with set hours of operation depending on time of year. Anyway, the water’s so high on the Kennebec the ferry isn’t even running, which could be interesting later down the trail.

Coincidentally, I happen to be sitting in the lounge watching a game show run out of some guy’s cab (the “Cash Cab”), and one of the questions he asks some passenger-contestants is, “In which state can you go rafting on the Kennebec and Kennebunk Rivers?”

I share the hostel itself for the night with numerous other people: one guy admitted to Harvard but deferring for a year to hike the trail and do other stuff, along with a cousin from Britain; a couple who go by the trail name The Honeymooners (just got married a month ago); Dan, who has now adopted the trail name “Two-Liter” for his habit of using two-liter pop bottles to transport water on the trail; Casey, with whom I shared the Newhall lean-to several nights back; and two others just arriving that day. Speaking of trail names, I adopt one myself: Mercury, from the winged appearance of my boots when I wear socks encased in grocery bags within the boots in an attempt to dry them. (I’d previously half-heartedly used Waldo, but that didn’t seem very trail-namey as it wasn’t acquired on the trail itself.)

June 21

(22.0, really 9.9; 136.5 total, 2037.5 to go; +7.0 from pace, -58.5 overall)

A motley crew of hikers heading out of Monson
The group that headed out of Monson with me; from left to right we have Jessica and Andrew (the Honeymooners), Colin and his cousin (can't for the life of me remember his name, and I might have mixed them up), Lucky, 2-Liter, Smoothie, and Mercury (me)

The Piscataquis is unfordable, so we “yellow-blaze” just past the last ford of it, shaving 12.1 miles off the trail. Since it’s a weather-related shave I feel no guilt, although some will doubtless wait it out as purists. The mud returns, along with a spat of rain, and we hike over a small mountain and into the lean-to ridiculously early in the day. By my watch the ten miles of hiking take five hours, so I sustain a two-mile-an-hour pace — madness! My first fuel canister finally runs out on dinner; I started with two 15.9oz canisters (one full, one full minus some small number of meals) not knowing how far they’d go, and I’ve been amazed to see how long it took to empty just one. We share Bald Mountain Brook Lean-to with essentially the same people from the hostel in Monson, minus Two-Liter and Lucky (who stayed at a different spot in town), who decide to take it easy since the Kennebec ferry’s out anyway. Discussions about the right to bear arms, habeas, Iraq, and other such fun topics fill out the night — the Brit provides a unique perspective on the former, which to a large extent doesn’t exist in Britain.

June 22

(14.7; 151.2 total, 2022.8 to go; -0.3 from pace, -58.8 overall)

Today’s a long but pretty easy day, past a Moxie Pond and over a mountain but otherwise fairly easy, if long. The others get out earlier than I do, planning to meet up at a takeout place with milk shakes in Caratunk. I go slower and end up arriving at U.S. 201 after 6, when the place closes; I head west intending to stay at a hostel listed in the Companion, but as it turns out, the place is closed. Perhaps I should have checked the errata before leaving Monson. A mile further up the road (two total) is Northern Outdoors Campground, so I grab a tent cabin (tarp on a stereotypical house skeleton, with a light, a screened door, and four beds with mattresses inside) there and eat a dinner at the accompanying brewpub — a BBQ burger with a pint of their home-brewed “Class V Stout”, which the table placard describes as their version of an English stout. I try that because it sounds essentially like a Guinness, and Guinness is good. It is, but the final verdict is that it’s not a Guinness.

June 23

(0.0; 151.2 total, 2022.8 to go; -15.0 from pace, -73.8 overall)

After a breakfast from my trail supplies, I head up to the brewpub to refill water bottles, access the Internet (mostly epic fail since their computer doesn’t allow USB hookups, so I can’t dump pictures), and inquire about a shuttle back to the trail. Turns out the time to ask for the shuttle was the previous night, but at two miles it’s not worth the hassle of seeing if they’re in a good mood, so I start walking. I arrive at the ferry point, 0.4 miles up the trail, at around 10:30 to find the ferryman there waiting to direct people accordingly. Ferry’s still out, but wonder of wonders, it’s set to resume the next day, so I decide to take an unplanned zero and wait it out. I hear a few horrendous stories about mad efforts to not wait — a $220 taxi fee for eight hikers, a river rafting trip for two others, the Honeymooners who exploit a local connection somehow to go around the river — and decide waiting is an easy choice.

I could head back to the campground, but I don’t have a good reason to spend the money to stay there when I have a tent that’ll work fine in the current nice weather, so I hike back up the trail half a mile to get out of the no-camping zone and set up. I do some reading (the famous Federalist Paper No. 10, accompanied by an unending mental chorus of, “but, but, parties!”) and sleeping, cook a trail dinner, and sleep.

June 24

(14.0; 165.2 total, 2008.8 to go; -1.0 from pace, -74.8 overall)

I wake up late in the morning since the ferry doesn’t start until 9, passed by Two-Liter (post office-bound to get a mail drop, then to the ferry) and Lucky (ferry-bound) as I pack up; their leisurely pace gets them to the Kennebec right on time. I arrive right at 9 to see the first crossing underway, with Lucky and the aspiring women’s record-setting trail hiker (to hike the entire trail — was averaging around 44 [!] miles a day last I heard) as passengers. An hour, a life jacket, a release form later, and I’m across the beast. Even now the water’s still pretty high — I have no idea how you’d actually ford sans ferry. The claim is you can do it by wrapping your pack in an inflated sleeping pad and floating/swimming it across, but that just seems like insanity of the first degree.

A view across the Kennebec River, the largest unbridged water crossing on the A.T.
A view across the Kennebec River, the largest unbridged water crossing on the A.T.
A minor water crossing a mile or so south of the Kennebec across three logs suspended in the air; two serve as handholds while a hiker walks across the third
A minor water crossing a mile or so south of the Kennebec across three logs suspended in the air; it's not exactly walk-in-the-park quality, but it's sturdy and perfectly functional

Hiking’s easy; I stop for lunch at the first lean-to after the crossing, but it’s too early in the day for a stop at only four miles. I instead continue another ten to West Carry Pond Lean-to, around a few lakes along the way, chased by something buzzy (fly? bee?) around one of them. I share the lean-to with Jukebox, a fellow southbounder, whose planned pace is 8 miles a day (for now, ramping up in later sections of trail) but who is doing much better in practice. He’s got a fire going, which I use to try to dry out my boots (they’re far enough back to prevent burning or melting that I’m not sure it does much).

June 25

(14.6; 179.8 total, 1994.2 to go; -0.4 from pace, -75.2 overall)

Jukebox is up and out early; I follow shortly thereafter. Today’s big feature is Bigelow Mountain near the end of the day. I notice while hiking today that my legs don’t really hurt, even very late in the day — I’m at the point where I’ve been out long enough that things stop aching to a large extent. You can imagine this happening when you’re on a week-long trip, but you never quite hit it in that little time. The ups and downs agitate the knees, ankles, feet, and perhaps a tight calf muscle or two, but otherwise the legs, hips, etc. are all in spiffy shape.

Hiking goes fine, but it’s getting late in the day when I top the first of two peaks of Bigelow. The lean-to I want to hit is past the second peak, and it’s late, and there’s Avery Memorial Campsite between the two peaks, so I call it a day there after filling up at a slow-dripping spring just before the site. This is high-elevation camping in fragile areas, so my only option is a tent platform, which doesn’t work well with a non-freestanding tent but which can be made to work, given enough effort — so I do. Dinner and sleep follow quickly.

June 26

(8.0; 187.8 total, 1986.2 to go; -7.0 from pace, -82.2 overall)

I’m up pretty late today, and not hitting the lean-to yesterday makes me decide to stop in Stratton just down the trail a bit for the night, rather than just for food as I’d intended. Since I don’t have a cell phone and Stratton is five miles away, this is my first true hitch into a town, after about twenty minutes of waiting (about average from what I hear). I get in, take a shower, buy food plus a half gallon of apple juice, two pounds of strawberries, a can of pineapple, six or so apples, and two cartons of yogurt for food while I’m in town, and unwind. The Honeymooners and Jukebox are also here for the night as well, and Jukebox is here a further day beyond that (at least). While Batman Begins plays in the background on the TV, I pack up my food, offload pictures from the camera, make some posts here, and then go to sleep for the night.

This section of trail was pretty quick and easy: nothing too big in terms of elevation, not too much food to carry, and the miles just flew by. Things get more interesting in the next section of trail. Pictures are still forthcoming on parts of the last update; it takes some effort on my part to get them into place, sadly. As before, I’ll notify here when I complete that work.


Katahdin to Monson or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Water

Tags: , , , — Jeff @ 03:12

June 7

Today’s move-out day at MIT for graduating seniors, so I’m busy packing my stuff and deciding what should go with me on the trail. Everything else is getting shoved in the van the family brought up here, to be taken home and not touched quite possibly until I’m ready to get it in November, when I plan my thru-hike should end. I do that, see off the family, visit a graduation party, travel to REI for a few last-minute purchases, buy food for the first leg of the trip, do a last walk through the institvte, and hit the sack.

Today I make my first mistake, although I don’t know it at the time: I decide what to take without consulting a scale. I don’t yet know how bad this is, but all shall be revealed later.

June 8

I sleep a little later than I’d intended and don’t end up having time to make the bus I’d planned to make, but no worries: there’s another bus later in the day. I pack up everything, eat a few last bits of food I have lying around, and head to South Station for a bus to Medway, ME. Katahdin lies in Baxter State Park, and compared to much of the trail it’s a royal pain to deal with — you have to make reservations for sites, and it’s 17 or so miles from the nearest town of Millinocket.

The bus ride, which first goes to Bangor, ME and then transfers to a different bus from there to Medway, is uneventful. I spend the time sleeping and reading from the Federalist Papers (my only reading material on the trail save for a Bible). My plan at Medway is to call a taxi to go to a campground just past Millinocket, but Paul from the Appalachian Trail Lodge is there to give a ride and overnight shelter to two other hikers. That plus breakfast and a ride into Baxter is $70, which might seem steep but from what I’ve since heard is reasonably competitive. Convenience wins out, and I spend the night at the A.T. Lodge after getting a bowl of French onion soup at the associated restaurant. (Good soup, recommended if you’re there and it’s still around — apparently the stuff takes forever and a day to make, so its being around that late at night was fortuitous.)

June 9

(5.2; 5.2 total, 2168.8 to go; -9.8 from pace, -9.8 overall)

Rejoice! First day of hiking! After breakfast and a shuttle into the park, I hit the trail along with Toby and Eric, recent Penn State graduates. (I get the impression many if not most south-bounders right now are grads, to be honest.) We go up and down the mountain using daypacks borrowed from the ranger’s station (as do most thru-hikers); some crazies hike with a full pack, but nobody really recommends doing so, and the terrain involves enough bouldering it’s kind of insane.

A fog-shrouded view of part of the trail up Katahdin, Eric and Toby in the distance
A fog-shrouded view of part of the trail up Katahdin, Eric and Toby in the distance

The views from the top are pretty awesome, taken within minutes of each other:

The view from Katahdin when fog surrounds the peak
The view from Katahdin when fog surrounds the peak
The view from Katahdin when it's clear, minutes later
The view from Katahdin when it's clear, minutes later

And here I am next to the sign at the top:

The obligatory stand-next-to-the-sign picture
The obligatory stand-next-to-the-sign picture

Last, take a look at this brief 360-degree movie from atop Katahdin:

360 degrees atop Katahdin

Once the summit is achieved, I return, set up camp, eat dinner, and sleep.

(Explanation of the secondary header here: (5.2; 5.2 total, 2168.8 to go; -9.8 from pace, -9.8 overall). 5.2 indicates I traveled 5.2 miles on the trail; 5.2 total indicates I’ve gone 5.2 miles from the northern terminus of the AT on the summit of Katahdin; 2168.8 to go is how many miles until the southern terminus on Springer Mountain; -9.8 from pace is how I did compared to the 15 mile per day pace I need to average, more or less, over the trail to complete it by November; -9.8 overall is how much further I’d need to be to be on that desired pace. All numbers are from the 2007 A.T. Thru-Hikers’ Companion, which is basically the same as the 2008 edition and the actual numbers when I hike the sections over the next several months. For the initial stages the pace is kind of a joke — terrain and condition coming in dictate that pretty much nobody’s consistently doing that sort of mileage for awhile. I’ll probably make it up further down the trail, and if not, there’s a little slack for start of November anyway — no worries yet.)

June 10

(0.0; 5.2 total, 2168.8 to go; -15.0 from pace, -24.8 overall)

My initial plan was to hike six miles to Katahdin Stream Campground in Baxter from the entrance yesterday, summit Katahdin today, and continue tomorrow, so I have an extra night of reservation to burn here. Since I fell a touch weird on an ankle yesterday on a descent, I decide to take it easy a day and do a day hike to Daicey Pond and back, 4.8 miles round-trip down the A.T. using a borrowed daypack again. On the way back I catch a moose in one of the lakes and get a picture, but my camera has very little storage space and it got punted later for other pictures. That and dinner make it a day.

June 11

(13.4; 18.6 total, 2155.4 to go; -1.6 from pace, -26.4 overall)

After breakfast, weighing my pack on the scale at the ranger station (58 pounds, sans three liters of water and one Nalgene — this is at least 10-15 pounds more than it should be now!), and filling those three bottles and adding iodine to purify them after time, I hit the trail. The going’s easy, but I hit the first river crossing, see a high-water trail, and take that instead — I’m off the trail and it’s only the second day of hiking! That trail leads me through a portion of the river that’s only about knee-deep — I switch shoes, make the crossing, and continue.

Near the end of the day I hit the park boundary, after which most campsites are once again free. A little down the road and I enter the 100 Mile Wilderness:

It is 100 miles south to the nearest town at Monson.  There are no places to obtain supplies or help until Monson.  Do not attempt this section unless you have a minimum of 10 days supplies and are fully equipped.  This is the longest wilderness section of the entire A.T. and its difficulty should not be underestimated.  Good hiking!  MATC
The 'Be Afraid' sign at the start of the 100-Mile Wilderness heading south, placed by the Maine Appalachian Trail Club

This stretch of trail is the longest stretch not passing by cities or well-used roads, or something like that. It’s supposed to be scary and all, but it’s really not that wilderness-y, actually — it’s just long and early (for us south-bounders; most hikers do the other way and have this when they’re already in good shape).

A few miles in I hit the first shelter (lean-to, in local parlance): Hurd Brook Lean-to. I end up sharing the place with three other hikers: another college grad named Dan, a chauffeur whose trail name is Lucky, and A.T. “Almost There” Dave.

Carving or writing things in lean-tos may be highly frowned upon, but of course that doesn’t stop people from doing it. This lean-to happens to have the following carved into it::

All your base are belong to us
All your base are belong to us

June 12

(11.5; 30.1 total, 2143.9 to go; -3.5 from pace, -29.9 overall)

I take my time getting up and out this morning, or maybe I don’t: I seem to have trouble getting up and out quickly in mornings. It doesn’t help that for this first part, I’m eating oatmeal for breakfast, and heating the water to make it is time-consuming. The hike today goes up and over a small mountain (hill, really, it’s only up at 1517 feet):

The view from atop the small mountain, back toward Katahdin
The view from atop the small mountain, back toward Katahdin

It then meanders next to a lake. I see a duck in the water but can’t get a camera out before it’s gone, and I think I scare a moose away when I’m hiking (big crashing noises heading away from me). The day goes slowly, and I get into Rainbow Stream Lean-to kind of late, sharing it with the same set of people. Out comes the raincoat to ward off bugs (June is black fly season in Maine, but for the most part it’s the mosquitoes that are the killers right now). This lean-to has a funky totem pole outside it:

A small totem pole
A small totem pole

June 13

(13.9; 44.0 total, 2130.0 to go; -1.1 from pace, -31.0 overall)

The day goes pretty well; I make Wadleigh Stream Lean-to, 8.1 miles up the trail, and decide it’s not far enough, so I head on to a campsite 5.8 miles further up. Along the way I encounter my first stretch of trail that’s underwater — it’s along a lake, and the water’s higher at this time of year. I cut a trail along the shore to avoid the water. About this time the mosquitoes descend in force, and I practically run the next several miles into Nahmakanta Stream Campsite (passing by the first northbounder I’ve seen, although I only learn this from reports of others), where I drop the pack, pace for a minute, grab the raincoat and don it, set up the tent and huddle inside it for an hour to wait for the bugs to go away. They do, I set up a little more and secure smellables from wandering rodents, and go to sleep. Lucky’s the only other person in the site; Dan stayed at the previous lean-to, and Dave pushed on a little further.

Another view back to Katahdin from above a beautiful lake
Another view back to Katahdin from above a beautiful lake

June 14

(7.8; 51.8 total, 2122.2 to go; -7.2 from pace, -38.2 overall)

Today I encounter the first civilization in the middle of the “wilderness”: White House Landing. Take a side trail off the AT and you hit a lake; blow an airhorn and Bill Ware jumps in a motorboat, runs over and picks you up, and takes you across to the Ware house (pun intended). Nearly anything you could want except long-term resupply is available here, but it’s not necessarily cheap — AT Dave and Lucky are both here, and Dave says he spent over $150 for a two-night stay. (Dan apparently stayed the night and showed up after I left.) I settle for what the Companion calls “Linda’s famous one-pound burger”, a cold pop, and some matches, which come to $13.60 total — a very reasonable price if you ask me, all things considered. I head back over after lunch and continue to Antlers Campsite to get some reasonable mileage and avoid paying for lodging at White House Landing. Bugs are a little annoying for dinner, but I have a nice night with the tent fly rolled back on my full-length mesh tent.

A pink-and-purple cloudset across the lake from Antlers Campsite
A pink-and-purple cloudset across the lake from Antlers Campsite

June 15

(16.0; 67.8 total, 2106.2 to go; +1.0 from pace, -37.2 overall)

Whee! First day in the black! (Am I the only person who never remembers whether red or black is good?)

First landmark today is Jo-Mary Road. If you set it up, you can get people to securely store your pre-packaged-up food along the road for you to pick up when you’re here. I stop for water and a snack break, staying long enough to see Lucky, AT Dave, and Dan at the same time. I’m also passed by a couple, Andrew and Jessica, married barely a month ago, who go by the name of The Honeymooners. When I get going again, I pass by Cooper Brook Falls Lean-to; I stop for another snack as it starts to rain; the shelter’s pretty full. It’s getting pretty late in the day when the couple peels off for an unofficial trailside tent site. I know I’m just short of East Branch Pleasant River (supposedly the first ford of the hike according to the Companion, but I barely have to get one boot wet), and just beyond that’s East Branch Lean-to, so I press on. Lucky’s there, and AT Dave and Dan show up after me.

Man, it feels good to have hiked better than my intended pace.

June 16

(10.8; 78.6 total, 2095.4 to go; -4.2 from pace, -41.4 overall)

The big attraction of the day is White Cap Mountain at 3650 feet. True to its name, the spectacular view from the top extends about 100 feet in front of me. The trail up is wicked steep; not much in the way of switchbacks at all. On the way down I encounter one tree that’s across the trail at just the right height to make it impossible to go over or under it; it’s the sort of thing I’d expect trail maintenance people to have removed. To add insult to injury, the other side has a white blaze on it (the trail’s marked with stripes of white paint, 2.5″x5.5″ or so, well enough that many thru-hikers don’t even carry maps; it’s really odd not carrying a map as I’ve chosen to do, because practically every “ten essentials” list includes maps of the area), almost as though they wanted to rub it in our faces. Better yet, it starts to rain, and I stumble into Carl A Newhall Lean-to half-soaked.

Here’s where it gets really fun, because the shelter’s full. There’s space for a tent, but I’m in no mood to set up a tent. As it happens, some amazing people backpacking with their dog (bowl and all) decide to de-shelter and use their tent, so I get a dry place to sleep and avoid needing the tent! Two further hikers who arrive after me also cram in, and we’ve got a cozy night all around. Since then I’ve slept in and out of lean-tos, but I’ve never minded so much one way or another as I did that night.

June 17

(11.9; 90.5 total, 2083.5 to go; -3.1 from pace, -44.5 overall)

We have our first real ford today, across the West Branch Pleasant River. There’s a ranger (or at least uniformed person) there, and I catch up to Dan just at the ford. It’s maybe mid-calf deep or so, and it’s mostly pretty simple.

Continuing on, we go up Chairback Mountain. I feel pretty good, so I pull out the stove and eat a dinner (something teriyaki-flavored, noodles maybe, with a package of tuna) even tho there’s more hike to do. I think I’m at the top of the mountain, but it’s really probably the “seat”; after dinner I have a nice stretch of bouldering, after which I hit a lean-to. There’s space, but I feel like pushing on to the next one — a mistake. It’s late but not dark, and I really should be stopping now, but I don’t.

Hiking goes okay, and I pull out a headlight when it gets too dark to see well. Problem is there’s fog out, so it’s not the greatest thing for visibility. I stop atop one of the mountains and even get in a sleeping bag, but eventually I’m convinced it’s too exposed (and a smattering of raindrops on my exposed bag help too), so I pack up and move on. Eventually I see a decent spot and set up my tent in the rain; it’s now nearly midnight, as I recall.

Today’s mileage is an educated guess, but it’s the best there is.

June 18

(8.9; 99.4 total, 2074.6 to go; -6.1 from pace, -50.6 overall)

Today goes slowly; I don’t pull out the stove to make breakfast, so I settle for dry oatmeal mixes with gulps of water. I also run out of trail mix, and my energy sags a bit.

A view of Lake Onawa, according to Google
A view of Lake Onawa, according to Google; I didn't know it was that lake at the time, of course, because I wasn't carrying a map

I don’t know why, but I think about continuing five miles past Long Pond Stream Lean-to to the next one, across one named ford 0.8 miles up the trail. I see the ford, make two attempts, and declare failure. The water’s wicked deep — we’re talking waist-high or so, and I think knee level is about what boy scouts say is “too much” (there’s an interesting game in this, figuring out when Boy Scout over-safety can reasonably be broken, and when it can’t) — and the river’s choked from so much rain recently. I give up and return to Long Pond to see Dan, Lucky, and a northbounder named Crazy Diamond. This sets up an epic 15.1-mile day to reach Maine 15, which leads to Monson and the end of the 100-Mile Wilderness.

Long Pond Stream just before I turned back from it to return to Long Pond Stream Lean-to
Long Pond Stream just before I turned back from it to return to Long Pond Stream Lean-to; it looks shallower than it was

June 19

(15.1; 114.5 total, 2059.5 to go; +0.1 from pace, -50.5 overall)

If yesterday started slow, today was worse. At that lean-to I mentioned as a target yesterday, after hiking some very overgrown sections of trail (usable if you look at your feet, invisible if you look at eye level), I stop and cook two of the three remaining dinners I have and just sit there and eat. Without trail mix or a good breakfast (I don’t remember what I had, but it wasn’t more than an oatmeal or two), I’m dead. After the two dinners I feel much better, and I keep walking.

Remember that ford I attempted yesterday? With some people watching and helping, I make it across. The water’s maybe five inches shallower, thankfully, but still way above the level at which it’s really safe. I get the help of a hiking pole and continue on, changing shoes for the ford. However, more fords follow — and where I’d made a habit of changing shoes for fords before, I decided I’d had it — no more changing shoes for fords. (This clip from Network about sums up my attitude at that point; don’t ask me anything else about the movie, because I’ve never seen it before and have only seen that part via YouTube.) No more two-stepping around mud puddles, no more gingerly care around standing water, no nothing — just tromp right through (waring only roots, mud since it gets in boots, and unexposed stones that can turn an ankle). It was great fun! The remaining fords were pretty nice too, particularly once I got the hint that a good walking stick (plenty left on the shores) is essential for any non-trivial ford.

There are no places to obtain supplies or get help until Abol Bridge 100 miles north.  Do not attempt this section unless you have a minimum of 10 days supplies and are fully equipped.  This is the longest wilderness section of the entire A.T. and its difficulty should not be underestimated.  Good hiking!  MATC
The sign at the southern end of the 100 Mile Wilderness; mutatis mutandis, it's the same words as the one at the north end, but it's much newer and more readable than the northern one.

A bit more walking and I hit Maine 15; it’s 3.5 miles east to Monson, and since it’s raining, I figure if I start walking someone will stop and pick me up. (If I had a cell phone I could have called for someone at my destination in town, but I maintain that cell phones are a menace to society.) I don’t walk far before I encounter success; after a shower, I head over to the local gas station to pick up two sandwiches and a half-gallon of ice cream to eat (the sandwiches actually make a large enough dent that the ice cream doesn’t all disappear that night), after which point I kick up my feet and relax at Shaw’s Lodging in Monson. I plan to take a zero day here (no miles) to give the body time to recover a bit; also, it’s been so rainy that several rivers south of us are unfordably (and in one case un-ferryably!) high.

So far, if there’s been one word I’d use to describe Maine right now, it’s “swamp”. As I said mostly seriously to the ranger at the river crossing, there’s water about every hundred feet practically through here. On that last day I think I finally got over it, and from now on I think I’ve learned to live with wet boots.

I’m writing this in Stratton now; I could add another week’s worth of entries here, but I should get some sleep, and there’s no rush on these anyway. The big thing is to get images off my camera, which has anemic storage capacity; two-thirds of my hike so far I’ve been choosing which picture to punt every time I want to take a shot. They’re off now, but I don’t feel like spending the time to insert them here [edit: some images inserted, some left to go]; see either the archive of the images (I assume the images include dates for correlation with actual events but haven’t checked) or wait for me to insert them in this post; I’ll mention it in a future post when I’ve updated this one with pictures. And now all the pictures for this section are inserted, finally!


Hello Planet!

Tags: , , — Jeff @ 23:48

Whee! I’ve “just” been added to p.m.o now, so the peoples of the Mozilla worlds should now be getting my posts. Even better, for those of you who hate having to subscribe both to a planet and to a personal feed to read all their posts, fear not! Every glorious word I write is delivered in full to planet, so no need to waste time on duplicated entries. You’ll be reading my every word in raw, uncensored form. For everyone else, I recommend the “next” or “delete” key in your feed reader.

(Aside: I’ve idly wondered whether or if Atom includes a globally unique id field which could be used to consolidate duplicate entries; it seems like an obvious addition if it’s not there already.)

Long-term, I’ll be posting about lots of things: Mozilla, politics, economics, law, and whatever else happens to strike my fancy. In the short term, relatively speaking, I’ll primarily be posting about my progress along the Appalachian Trail. Since graduating MIT a few weeks ago, I’ve been thru-hiking the trail from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. I expect posts will, through October, primarily consist of trail updates as I pass through towns along the way. (This will also affect comments, which I currently moderate if you’ve not posted before.)

Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough by way of an introductory post — we now return to your regularly-scheduled Mozilla postings.


The rumors of this blog’s death have been greatly exaggerated

Tags: — Jeff @ 16:11

Wow, it’s been quite a while since I posted anything here. Since the last post I’ve been busy at work at MIT. I’ve taken classes in topics ranging from compilers to cryptography and security to the precisely-defined subject of software engineering. I’ve spent a couple summers doing internships with Mozilla, hacking on Firefox and the code within it (and continued to do so throughout the year as much as [and often more than] time permitted). I’ve written a web server in JavaScript. I’ve played intramural frisbeeultimate with Random Hall, my dorm, in the spring; I’ve played Scrabble with the nascent MIT Scrabble club and gone to a few Scrabble tournaments (although none of late, unfortunately). Posting here is one of few things I can think of that I haven’t done recently.

Starting now, I’m going to make an effort to change that.

Why now? First, hopefully I’ll have more time to actually post updates now that I’m not bogged down with classes, projects, assignments, &c. (Sort of. See reason the third.) Second, it can serve as a megaphone for my thoughts when I might want to disseminate them more broadly than conversation alone allows — a bully pulpit in the tradition of the better Roosevelt president. Third, in a few days I’ll start hiking the Appalachian Trail, and I know more than a few people interested in following my progress; I can think of no better way to allow that than by posting here as my hiking allows.

Anyway, with that, it begins anew. Expect likely-erratic posts, punctuated by my sharp sense of humor, on a variety of topics, pulling no punches in my opinions or topic choices. Before this blog and I were twain, but now we shall be one. We’ll see how things go.

P.S. — Find the pun in this post!


« NewerOlder »