Started at stealth camp spot by East Carry Pond – mile 2024.3 Finished at stealth camp spot by stream – mile 2045.6
21.3 miles covered.
Total days hiked 111
18.43 Av miles / days
Man, what a long day!
I left both vestibule doors open on the front of my tent last night and woke to the sun breaking through the surrounding trees. It was a good start to the day. I wanted to get ahead of the herd that had camped about 0.5 mile away. I set off at 0730 and already could hear the noise from the wilder beast hikers migrating down the trail towards me. I find it really annoying to be in earshot of other people on the trail unless I am hiking with them. It kinda breaks up the tranquillity and feels like an invasion on my hike.
Despite my speed it wasn’t long before Thirsty caught me. He was almost running down the trail. Today we had to cross the Kennebec river which involved a ferry. I hadn’t checked my guide properly last night and Thirsty informed me that it ran between 9-11 and 2-4. It was about 9.5 miles from where I started. Because the terrain had been hard I figured that I would never make it. Despite this I still hiked fast as I could but could still hear Legs and her booming voice echoing down the trail behind me. They caught up with me before retiring to Pearce Pond Lean-to. Legs boasted that she could make the ferry if she wanted to, but didn’t want to rush. Yeah right!
I stopped not long after that and had a quick power up. I checked my guide book and approximated that I had 3.5 miles left to cover in 1 hour 10 minutes. I took this as a personal challenge as I really didn’t want to waste time waiting about for the ferry. Bootburner caught me and we both pushed. In the end he asked if he could overtake and said that he would hold the ferry for me. It was a bit stupid really rushing and risking an injury at this stage of the game. I arrived at the river crossing at 11.01 and just saw Bootburner and Thirsty getting off the canoe on the other side of the river. I should point out at this stage that the ferry was in fact a manned canoe. It could fit only 2 passengers at a time.
There was another hiker sitting by the bank looking despondent. I waved my arms at the guy that manned the canoe as he was pulling it up onto the bank on the other side. Then suddenly he about turned and started paddling back over the river. The despondent section hiker said that if it wasn’t for me he would have been waiting for another 3 hours. I couldn’t thank the ferry man enough. He said that Thirsty had said that I had come all the way from England and he took pity on me. We donned our life jackets and set sail. Well almost. The ferry man had awful teeth that were really badly decayed. I took his picture and said smile. As I did this he awkwardly closed his mouth. Oops. I asked the ferry man whether people had swam across before. He replied that last year one big strong guy tried to swim across and the cold got to him so much that he started cramping. Apparently he nearly drowned.
Once over the other side ferry man (aka Gap toothed gypsy) offered us a lift to Northern Outdoors. It was a bar restaurant with a swimming pool and hot tub. I said that I had a food resupply box at the Stirling Inn which was in the other direction. Gap tooth said that all I had to do was just call up the Stirling and they would come drop the box off. Sorted. One of the great things about America is that once you buy a soda you can have your glass topped up as often as you wish. I went through about 4 different varieties before my thirst was quenched. The bar lady even made me a doctor pepper from Coke and Grenadine. Give it a try it’s surprisingly similar.
We ordered food and sat at the bar. I ate the standard issue burger with a side dish of chilli and tzatsiki. If you haven’t tried adding chilli to a burger I suggest you do! Once I had eaten I went to take a shower down stairs. This place was awesome. It was modern, clean and well run and had an element of cool about it. It was very different from some of the other places I have stopped at. I nearly fell asleep in the shower. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve had one.
The man from the Sterling arrived at 1330 and presented me with my box of goodies. I wanted to get back to the trail ASAP as it was roasting hot and I thought I could put some distance between me and the herd. I really just should have bounced this box ahead to Monson. The last town before the 100 mile wilderness. The Stirling dude offered to take me back to the trail. What a great service and I didn’t have to pay a dime.
He dropped me off at the trailhead and I then went about reorganising my pack. I had far too much food. Then the gap toothed gipsy pulled in as it was approaching 2pm. He got out of his pickup and said I looked like I was ‘well outfitted’ I gave him a packet of tortillas and a block of Parmesan cheese. He was very grateful and said he would have it for supper this evening. One good turn and all that. My pack still felt heavier than ever. The climb up to Pleasant Pond Mountain looked reasonable, but despite my calorie loading I was nowhere. My back hurt and my left knee was playing up again and I was lacking. Little by little I made it to Pleasant Pond Lean-to a further 5.7 miles away. Sometimes you just had to accept the situation and I was trying my best here.
When I got to the shelter I had planned to strip my food bag of any excess. Monson is only 31 miles away and worst case I can just buy more food for the 100 mile wilderness there. There is absolutely no point lugging around excess food! I was surprised to find a guy called Moose lying in the shelter. People had been asking about him as he was last seen napping under a tree and hadn’t been seen for days. He informed me that he had been really sick. I promptly stepped away from the shelter. He said he was all good now, but had a 24hr sickness noro thing.
I had been wary of this dude since I first met him and I know XC had also questioned his integrity. I said to Moose that he had done well to catch up. To which he said nothing. Then some of his herd buddies arrived and he openly admitted to them that he had flagged a ride. Just the other day he was condemning a group of girls for yellow blazing and yet it is ok for him to do so. His mates replied that ‘don’t worry about it man, you can always come back and do those miles, not’.
It pisses me off when people make out they are thru hikers and yet they are pulling these kind of stunts. I feel guilty even if I enter a shelter and don’t exit the same way that I have entered, so not to miss a white blaze. I have done this only once. Moose also showed no concern about hitching a ride when sick and boasted about how the family that picked him up are probably now sick. What a douche!
I left a load of excess food hanging up in the shelter and hit the road. Instantly my pack felt better.
Pleasant Pond Mountain was no picnic and the trail had been re-routed in one part. Once I reached the summit I sat there and took it all in. I could hear voices of other hikers approaching the summit. It was Moose and company. I decided to wait 5 minutes and let them get ahead enough so I had the trail to myself. A southbound section hiker informed me that the blueberries were out in force in about 4 miles. This is something I have been looking forward to for the whole trail. Apparently you can just pick handful upon handful of them as you hike. Fruit is back on the menu.
The descent from Pleasant Pond Mountain was long. A south bounder had reliably informed me that he had found there to be lots of false summits. I can confirm this even though I hit the summit first as I was travelling north. The mountain was tiered like a wedding cake and just as I thought I must be on the descent, there was another up. 3 hours after leaving the shelter I arrived at a stream that I had been aiming for. It was already getting dark. It took me ages to find a flat spot and I have barely managed to squeeze my tent in. Setting up a tent under the light of a head torch only attracts more Mosquitos. The whole process of setting up, cooking and eating was painful tonight. I didn’t even bother to get changed into my evening clothes. I just put on my bite proof waterproof jacket, head net and insect repellent and sweated and got bitten. It was torture!
I opted for tortillas with cheese and pepperoni as it is quick and by the time I had finished my hot chocolate I was sweltering. Despite the frustration I somehow managed to keep my cool. You have to keep checking any exposed body parts, sock lines etc. It’s almost becoming an OCD. I was so glad to be in my tent and finished. I stripped off and lay on my sleeping pad for a few minutes to cool off before attempting any form of blogging. I find typing this on my iPhone hard enough. Being hot and bothered as well is a recipe for disaster or an iPhone being launched out of a tent at speed. On a positive note 139.7 miles left.com. I can almost see the light.. I just hope my knee holds up as it has been hurting every day since my slip in the Mahoosuc notch.