Day 120 – 29th July (Posted Sat 2nd Aug)

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Started at Katahdin Stream Campground – The Birches Lean-to and campsite – mile 2180.1
Summited Kathadin – mile 2185.3
Finished at The Appalachian Trail Lodge in Millinocket
5.2 miles covered.
Total days hiked 118
18.52 Av miles / days

After falling to sleep at a respectable time for a change I was rudely awoken at 23:30. Surprisingly it was not because of PB’s snoring, but my closest encounter with a thunder storm on the trail. The bolts of lightning were so close I could hear the crackle of the electricity as it built up and then struck. The noise that woke me sounded like a bolt of lightning had hit or a tree had fallen on the shelter. It was awesome if not a little scary and I sat up and watched for a while before falling back to sleep.
Maybe it was Kathadin’s way of saying don’t mess with me?

(more…)

Day 119 – 28th July (Posted Sat 2nd Aug)

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Started at private beech by Rainbow Lake – mile 2160.5
Finished at Katahdin Stream Campground – The Birches Lean-to and campsite – mile 2180.1
19.6 miles covered.
Total days hiked 117
18.63 Av miles / days

Sometimes breaking the rules works out. And stealth camping on the beach on Rainbow Lake was a good example of this.
It was a private beach and I think if we had got caught we probably would have been in trouble. PB said that if this should happen we should just beg for forgiveness and make out we didn’t know. Luckily it didn’t come to this.
I slept with the door of my tent open and it was a stunning view to wake up to. There was also a picnic bench on the beach and my knees appreciated that fact when I made breakfast this morning. I have been sitting on logs and rocks or kneeling down when doing chores like this for the whole trail. It was nice not to have to today.
4 Loons appeared in the bay and bid me farewell as I hiked out. I thought if this is the last place I pitch my tent on this trip then I am a happy man. It was probably my favourite spot and was all down to PB’s suggestion.
This morning started by a 6 mile hike to Hurd Brook Lean-to where I took my first break. The woods were mine apart from a group of day hikers that luckily went off on a side trail. I soaked up the tranquillity and looked at my surroundings like it was the last time.
It’s gonna be very strange not seeing white blazes on trees back home and also finding my way without them. It has been like a giant treasure hunt where clues indicate the directions you have to follow. Landlady permitting I might have to paint a few back home on the jetty leading up to our flat.
After snacking at the shelter I pushed onto Abol Bridge which was another 3 miles away. PB and a group of other hikers were already there. Their names were Bangerang, Radioman and Blitz. I had met Radioman man before when he was heading south on the trail. I assumed he was a day hiker. Instead Radioman and Bangerang had been using a car along the trail. One person would drive north and park the car and hike south. The other would hike north, pick the car up and then drive back to pick the other guy up. Surprisingly this had worked out well on the trail and had given them freedom to visit towns etc. PB had also been given a ride on a number of occasions by these guys and bought their meal today to return the favour.
We ate in the dinner and powered up. I grabbed some snacks from the store including a can of soda and a danish pastry for breakfast tomorrow. Tomorrow we climb Kathadin and I’m gonna need all the energy I can get. This did mean that I had to carry these essential items another 10 miles today, but after shedding a bag of trash and a packet of tortillas I made space.
On entering Baxter Park after leaving Abol Bridge we had to sign a register. I saw that XC had been through yesterday, but there was no sign of James and Lyndsey who I thought were ahead.
We hiked alongside a series of rivers and streams and there were some risky stream crossings to negotiate. I even waited for a PB after crossing one section as the rocks were slick and it was dangerous. He was grateful.
The Mosquitos also decided to make an appearance and at one point I swatted 4 off of my arm. I have learnt that sometimes you have to just accept the situation. I had applied a tonne of Deet, but they were still coming for me. The bites burnt, but calmly repeating this phrase kept me motivated and took my mind off of the itch.
It had started raining real hard mid-way through the afternoon and I was soaked. The trail was in pretty good order though and apart from ankle deep puddles with a million pine needles floating in them, there was little in the way of mud. I just powered on through the puddles. I did find that I ended up with a load of pine needles in my shoes, which wasn’t very comfortable.
Today was pretty easy in comparison to the marathon days we have pulled off over the last couple of days. Rather than a 10-11 hour day I arrived at Katahdin Stream campground and The Birches Lean-to in 8 hours.
There were 2 well maintained shelters that were positioned away from the other lean-to’s and were exclusively for thru hikers. The Kathadin Stream campground (which hosts the Birches) has a series of lean-to’s which are intended for the masses. It is much like holiday park in Yellowstone except you at sleeping in a lean-to and not a cabin. All come complete with a fire grill.
It was nice to get to a shelter early for a change and Bangerang and Radioman had been given beers from a couple of guys that had hiked the trail last year. They had come back to do the climb again and had bought beer for any thru hikers they might see.
Maybe what made the beer taste sweater was that the shelters were well maintained and cosy and it was raining outside and it was our last night on the trail. We were all ready for it!
At the Birches we had to register at the Ranger station. I had been warned that the rangers are not to be messed with and are almost like the police officers of the park. The guy I spoke to was fine and very helpful. I paid up the 10 bucks required to stay at the Birches Lean-to’s and quizzed him on how I will go about leaving Baxter park.
I will need to get a hitch to a town called Millinocket or Medway to get a bus or train to Boston airport. Already I feel the elastic starting to tighten before it catapults me back into reality.
I looked in the register at the ranger station and it also confirmed that XC had summited today. The weather hadn’t exactly been prefect for a final summit and I hope he did ok. Let’s hope it improves for tomorrow. There is meant to be a 50% chance of rain so who knows. For the last few days every time I have got a glimpse of Kathadin it has been shrouded in cloud.
There was no sign of James and Lyndsey in the register again. You only have to sign in if you are staying so maybe they just passed through. If so I hope they smashed it and summited.
On the receipt that the ranger gave me it featured my official finishing position. At Harpers Ferry I was number 323. Today I finished in the top 100 at a respectable 90. Although this is not a fair test of performance as people all start at different times and maybe not everyone signs in. It is however the only official process in place and I am delighted.
XC and J&L (if they did summit today) and a hand full of others are the only guys I know who have finished ahead of me that started at a similar time. Result!
Because it is raining and I don’t want to put up my tent tonight I have taken the risky decision of sharing a shelter with the King of snoring, Mr Problem Bear. I have warned him that he will receive a trekking pole to the ribs if he starts cutting logs. Maybe that’s why he decided to put up his wet tent in the shelter. Despite saying it was to help dry it off. Wish me luck as I need a good night’s sleep for tomorrow.
It is quite a strange to see that we only have 5.2 miles left to complete the trail. The trail does rise in elevation from 1106-5268ft and it’s meant to be at least as hard as the White Mountains. Hence the luxury items for breakfast.
I need an early start tomorrow so I can get back to the ranger station and get a ride into town and finish this thing. I have stripped any excess food items and things I no longer need from my pack to make the last climb easier. You can leave your pack at the ranger station and borrow a smaller day pack, but I’ve carried mine all this way so it’s coming with me whether it likes it or not. Although there is no longer any need for the bear spray or my gas can. Tonight was the last supper!

Day 118 – 27th July (Posted Sat 2nd Aug)

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Started at Antlers campsite – stealth. Mile 2133.5
Finished at private beech by Rainbow Lake – mile 2160.5
27 miles covered.
Total days hiked 116
18.63 Av miles / days

Problem Bear woke me up at 05:00 this morning and I am sure glad he did. He said that there was a good photo opportunity of a sunrise over the lake and he was not wrong. Excluding the winter sun rises I had experienced over the lake at home, this was a beauty. There were rocks jutting out of the lake which added drama to the pictures and I also lobbed a few large stones in to create a ripple effect. I experimented with auto bracketing on my camera to make sure that the exposure was right and am happy with the results.
What a great start to the day. In fact I was on trail earlier than ever at about 07:00. It was a fresh morning and getting up this early really made a difference, despite only having 5 hours sleep.
The first 10 miles of the day were easy and I hiked along sandy beaches that surrounded huge lakes as well as the usual woodland and mountains that I have become all too familiar with.
Just before Nahmakanta campsite I heard something large moving through the river that ran parallel with the trail. I had my headphones on but could still hear something large splashing about. I ducked down to look below the tree line and saw a male moose wading through the river. I must have disturbed his breakfast. He waded across the river and posed for some pictures on the other side. He seemed to be eating the weed off of the bottom of the river.
Hilly Billy had explained to me why there had been so much evidence of moose in the higher elevations. Apparently it’s because it is cooler and the insects are meant to be less concentrated. This moose must have been hungry as I was at a lower elevation.
Whilst I was taking pictures I was joined by an Australian South bounder. He was struggling and clearly not in good condition for the trail. He was wearing tennis shoes and complaining about blisters. He didn’t know whether he could handle much more of this and had only done about 40 miles!
South bounders have it hard as they have to tackle the hardest part of the trail soon after starting, but that’s not really until southern Maine or the Whites. They also have to carry a shit load of food through the 100 mile wilderness from the off.
Starting my hike from Georgia (which was no piece of cake) at least meant that I became conditioned early on. Fingers crossed for this dude but I don’t hold out too much hope.
There were lots of huge boulders dotted around the trail today. Lush moss and vegetation grew on the top of them almost like some form of floral hair piece.
I always find it amazing how these giant lumps of rock have been moved hundreds of miles as a result of the freeze thaw cycle of the glaciers.
Although Problem Bear had set off before me I past him at the Wadleigh Stream Lean-to. I had seen him 5 minutes earlier ambling along the trail as I was passing a lake. The sound of the water lapping against the bank made me stop and check it out. I was hoping for a great picture opportunity, but a couple were sun bathing on the beach which made taking a picture a little awkward.
When I saw PB pull into the shelter I whistled to him and then poked my head round the corner. There were a load of free water mussel shells in the fire pit at the shelter. PB asked me where I was heading and I said the world was my oyster and gave him a cheeky smile.
After lunch there was a 3 mile section that involved some steep climbs. Again my knee felt funny. Almost warm inside and quite painful. I was glad to summit Nesuntabunt Mountain which was a baby at 1520 ft. Although I had started climbing from 684ft. From the summit you could see a clear view of Katahdin, which was only 16 miles away in direct line of sight. Clouds shrouded the peak, but the climb still looked imposing.
I stopped to take a break and had lunch after checking out the view. I also applied some Bengay to my knee and had a few Ibuprofens for medicinal purposes.
PB appeared as I was snacking and stopped for a chat. It was great to know that we had already covered 15.5 miles and it was only 14:00.
On the descent I thought I heard thunder over the tunes I was listening to. It had got very dark. I passed a couple of day hikers and they were very worried about reaching the summit and asked whether it was exposed.
It started raining but this only helped me find another gear and where there were pine needles the trail almost felt bouncy underfoot.
I stopped to fill up my water bottle whilst it was pissing it down. I rock hopped down to the river and leant over placing my bottle in the river. The rain didn’t bother me for one second and I realised that this routine has become second nature. I felt that I had become wild and in tune with my surroundings. It’s gonna be very strange going to a tap for water back home and it will never taste quite as good as this.
In other places the trail turned to mud again and was a mess of roots and black sludge. It made it tough going, almost like running through sand.
My hiking could probably be closely compared to slalom skiing at the moment. The way you have to twist and turn to take the best line past rocks, roots and ankle deep black mud. Sometimes I even use my poles to support my weight as I bank the side of the trail. It feels very matrix.
I stopped at Rainbow Lake campsite after 25.5 miles to consider my options. The dilemma is as follows. You have to call to register at the rangers for a pass to climb Katahdin. This can be done from a place called Abol Bridge. And you can’t start your climb any later than 11:00. If there are places available and the weather is predicted to be good it’s game on. Abol bridge was another 11 miles away. There was also a shelter 8 miles away. If could get to Abol tonight or close, I could possibly cut my hike by a whole day. Where it is only 15 miles from Abol to the end of the trail. Decisions, decisions.
I have been trying to get my average up to a nice even 20 miles/day. After taking a zero and doing a handful of short days it has dropped it to around 18.5. I hoped that if I pushed and made it to Abol bridge I might be in luck. But after double checking it makes about 0.1 difference. I decided it would be stupid to bother and risk an injury. And boy I am glad I did.
PB appeared and we hiked on a mile or so. I didn’t want to stay at Rainbow Lake campsite as there were a load of noisy teenagers there.
We were struggling to find a spot for 2 tents then we came across a side trail. The guide book said it was a private trail that lead to the lake. We decided it would be worth checking out. The trail lead onto a beautiful secluded beach with a picnic bench. As it had been raining the sky was still full of dark moody looking clouds. Their outline etched in red and orange by the setting sun. The contrast was glorious. Probably the best spot of the trail.
Bear and I washed the dirt off of our legs in the aquamarine water and pitched our tents on the sandy beach. The Mosquitos have been bad tonight, but who cares with a spot like this. I have even managed to cook with my stove right next to my tent. This means that I can quickly unzip the bug mesh and tend to it without the bugs getting in. Sorted.
I was able to get a good picture of a Loon today. In case I haven’t explained a Loon is a water bird a bit like cormorant with a white speckled breast. They were all communicating with each other on the lake tonight and finally I have confirmation that what I have been hearing is definitely a Loon.
I can’t wait for the sunrise although I’m not sure anything can compete with this morning. Hopefully I might get a little more sleep tonight though.
And then there were 2 sleeps.

Day 117 – 26th July (Posted Sat 2nd Aug)

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Started at Carl A. Newhall Lean-to – mile 2106.7
Finished at Antlers campsite – stealth. Mile 2133.5
26.8 miles covered.
Total days hiked 115
18.55 Av miles / days

Gonna keep this short tonight, or at least try.
I’m glad I set my tent up last night as Problem Bear shook the rafters of the shelter with his snoring. HB had to vacate.
We all got up early this morning and had breakfast together. A squirrel took a shine to Hill Billy’s bagel and I just caught it in time. The red squirrels out here are fearless.
The first 8 miles of the day involved some steep climbs. Although the trail was well maintained and hats off to the trail crew. There were even stone steps that had been painstakingly set into the side of the mountain.
However this is meant to be a true stretch of wilderness and it is far too manicured for that. We have even come up across a handful of dirt roads running through the mountains.
I stopped after 2 hours for a break at Hay Mountain. There was a sign with the elevation and somebody had written one of my phrases ‘none too shabby’. Using the Hay to make up the word shabbhay, I laughed and thought that maybe this was a sign.
HB caught up with me and we hiked together for a couple of hours. Finally we reached the final summit of White Cap Mountain and just after that we had our first glimpse of Katahdin. It was hazy but you could just make out the beast of a mountain amongst many others 71.9 trail miles away.
We hiked down to Logan Brook Lean-to and then I left Hill Billy to it. The trail was smooth and flat and I flew. I stopped at Mountain View pond and then Problem Bear hiked past confused how I had got ahead. He had left earlier than the rest of us, but had stopped at another shelter as I had rocketed past.
It was a game of cat and mouse between PB and I for the rest of the day. He was due to pick up his food bucket that he had arranged to be dropped half way into the wilderness. He was a little concerned about the safety of his food. I should have made more of this and wound him up a little after his jokes yesterday.
It turned out good though. I met him at Jo-Mary road as he was walking back down to the trail, food bucket in hand. He had way too much food and was very generous in giving a load of it to me. He gave me 3 Heath bars which are a little like Dime bars. And half of his Gatorade which is like gold dust out here. And not forgetting some Oreos.
I even managed to get rid of a load of trash which was awesome as I only have 2 plastic carrier bags and one of them was full and has a split in it. It must have contained about 1lb of smelly trash, so I was glad of the weight saving.
My knee, back and shoulders have been hurting again today. I really can’t sinch my hip belt up tight enough. I tried to pack it out by putting a spare pair of socks between my waist and my hip belt and that seemed to help. PB gave me a couple of vitamin I to help with the pain.
We had hatched a plan to push on today to stay ahead of herd. At Katahdin they only let a certain number of hikers up at any one time. So we planned to do a marathon today and tomorrow, which would then be followed by a 20 mile day. That would just leave us the 5 mile climb to summit Katahdin.
It was a gruelling last 4.2 miles to finish the day. Luckily the vitamin I had kicked in. We didn’t arrive to the Antler camp spot until 21:00 by the cover of our head torches. We found a stealth spot right by the lake and between PB’s snoring episodes I can hear the Loons calling again.
I can’t believe I am nearly onto my last 2 pages of my AT guide and that I only have 3 more sleeps left.

Day 116 – 25th July (Posted Sat 2nd Aug)

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Started at Long Pond Stream Lean-to – mile 2085.9
Finished at Carl A. Newhall Lean-to – mile 2106.7
20.8 miles covered.
Total days hiked 114
18.48 Av miles / days

That was the hardest 20 mile day I have done since the whites. I am officially cream crackered.
It was an early start. Well at least I woke up at 05:30. J&L (the early birds) had already hit the trail and Hill Billy a section hiker I met last night at the shelter was packing up.
Hill billy is from Tennessee and has my favourite type of American accent in close completion with an Alabama accent. He is 60 years old has been hiking the trail for 20 years on and off. This is his last 700 mile stint and he is done.
He set off before me, but it wasn’t long before I caught him up. We hiked together pretty much all day and it was an absolute pleasure. He told me stories about the trail and how doing this kind of thing is something he is keen to pursue in his retirement. Back in the real world he keeps himself busy investing money in stocks and shares from the comfort of his arm chair. What a great thing to keep your finger on the pulse regarding modern affairs, technology and the market and to make money from it.
The terrain was brutal from the start and there were 14 miles of steep climbs and descents. I started well, although my pack started to remind me that I was carrying a shit load of food after not too long. My back has been aching today.
Before I left I visited a chiropractor as I was suffering with back pain.
He promised that this would go away on the trail. Where I would no longer be spending my life in an office chair. I think the extra weight isn’t helping, but in a couple more days I will be light again as my supplies are already going down fast.
Mid-way through the morning we bumped into another hiker called Problem Bear. J&L had talked about this trail legend before, but this was the first time I had met him. Rather than just doing the AT, this crazy cat had started in Florida on the 1st January. He had reached Springer Mountain (AT start point) by the 1st April. Funnily enough we hadn’t met before. At the age of 59 this is impressive and rather than finishing at Katahdin he is gonna carry on until the Canadian border. At this point in time he has walked over 4000 miles. And there’s me complaining about my aches and pains.
He had a very dry sense of humour and carrying an 11 lb pack (as he was almost out of food) he joked that he hadn’t even bothered to attach his hip belt strap today as his pack was so light.
Rubbing salt into the wounds as I was struggling along the trail with a wardrobe and larder attached to my back.
The three of us hiked together for the rest of the day. Problem Bear had also hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and part of the Continental Divide trail. Conversation was rich and it was real interesting (said in my best Tennessee accent).
I had a nasty ankle rolling incident this afternoon. I was distracted talking to Hill Billy and crunch. I walked it off, but I think it’ll remind me of my lapse in concentration tomorrow.
Whilst crossing a river I came across an English couple sitting by the side of the river. What a random place to meet some fellow Brits.
The last 5 miles were tough and I was in pain. Hill Billy had joked earlier that he really fancied an ice cold soda and that there would be no chance of that in the wilderness. Then right on schedule I spotted a sign saying trail magic 50 yards. We excitedly walked down to the river to find about 25 cans sitting in the river. It couldn’t have come at a more perfectly timed moment. As we returned to our packs Problem Bear was talking to the kind girl that left them for us. She had also done other big hikes and knew how much hikers would appreciate such a gesture. She worked at a lodge close by and even offered us work for stay. We opted to push on as I had too much food in my pack and was keen to lighten the load by eating like a king.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that there might be more trail magic like this. Highly unlikely, but the trail has always provided so far. It really made the last 3.7 miles much easier. Suddenly I had energy again! Soda is the hiker’s equivalent to rocket fuel.
Hill Billy told us some interesting stories about camping in the Smokey Mountains in winter when he was younger. Him as his brother camped there in temperatures as low as -22 degrees C. Apparently ice crystals formed from his breath and he spent the whole night shivering in his sleeping bag. He said it had snowed and then the temperature dropped. The moon was full and it was beautiful. I replied that sometimes the most beautiful scenery and experiences like this come at a cost. Nothing is this world is FOC.
Some of his other tales involved dodgy people turning up to shelters back in the 70′s and 80′s.
The first one happened to a friend of his. His buddy was all set up in the shelter when a dude turned up with a high calibre pistol attached to his hip belt. Apparently he was complaining that he just wanted to be left alone and how he disliked hikers. Fortunately for Hill Billy’s friend the dodgy guy walked out into rain and left him in peace.
The second story happened to a guy that did the trail in the 70′s and wrote a book about it. Same scenario of a hiker in a shelter. Then 2 guys and a woman turned up. They had been drinking and called the hiker a pussy. Then one of the guys started having sex with the woman. Once he was finished he said to the woman now it’s his turn, pointing to his friend. She refused and the guy slapped her round the face and bloodied her nose. Once guy no2 was done she was offered to the hiker to take his turn. He refused and thankfully they left. Fortunately things have improved since then.
HB had a close call when he was camped a way off the road in the woods one time. He claims he didn’t have a fire and that his head torch was off. A car pulled up and the driver got out and fired 3 shots above his tent. Then drove off. To this day he doesn’t know if the driver had seen him or if it was a random event. A close call none the less.
A more recent story that made us all laugh involved the bar lady at the Lakeshore. HB had been having food and was sitting with some guys at the bar. They kept ordering margarita. One of the guys said to HB ‘I don’t even like margarita, but I sure enjoy watching the barmaid shaking that cocktail shaker’. She was top heavy in case you don’t follow.
We finished up at Carl A. Newhall Lean-to all exhausted. Straight away we all started cooking. That is all except Problem Bear who doesn’t have a stove. He has been eating cold tuna, candy and Danishes since January 1st.
I made up a rice and pasta side and added a whole packet of chicken. Simple, but on this occasion delicious and I scrapped out every last piece.
There was another hiker called Sky at the shelter who had leaped frogged us throughout the day. He offered me a shot of whiskey and I replied ‘I haven’t been drinking much on the trail but after a day like that’ you know what I did next.
We were all surprised that J&L weren’t at the shelter. Surely they hadn’t pushed on to do the 28 miles we had discussed last night. I know they were keen to finish, but another 8 miles would have finished me off.
It was a nice evening chatting around the shelter just the 4 of us. Sky was concerned that it was all coming to an end and soon the curtains would close on his adventure.
He remarked that how on the trail nothing really matters. Whether it be class, how much money you earn, what you do for a living, or what car you drive. None of that shit matters. Most people even have a trail name. We all agreed that it has been a good experience to be stripped down to the bare bones of our personalities. I concluded that maybe he should just look at this as the start of things to come rather than the end.
In hiking the trail we have all had the common goal of finishing in mind. Once it is over I think it’ll be important to have something else in the pipe line or another goal. Apparently the post trail blues are not uncommon and I will need to make sure that I don’t put on a tonne of weight as my metabolism will still be ridiculous.
The way HB had done the trail in 20 years has meant he has been able to keep the love affair alive for all this time. Even he said that it is gonna be weird finishing, as something that has occupied his soul for so long will finally be over.
I have a new appreciation for section hikers. It must be tough having to keep restarting something like this. After a month or so you have finally got your trail legs. Breaking the trail down into short sections never really lets your body achieve this and it must be tough. Plus it allows you to keep the fascination / obsession with the trail alive.
I have always liked travelling, but this has been like travelling with a purpose. It’s more of a project. I don’t know if simply going to another country sight-seeing will cut the mustard anymore.
Everyone laughed when I said that it’s gonna be really strange not hearing American voices all the time. Strangely enough I have grown a tolerance to them (joke).
It is really weird to look in my AT guide book and see that there is only 78.6 miles left. It’s a paradox in that I really want to stretch this out for another 4 days. Although it’s hard not to rush, as the quicker I get it done the quicker I get this heavy pack off of my back.
The elevation also flattens out in another 11 miles. That is until I hit Katahdin and then things go up rapidly!
Once again the Mosquitos today have almost been non-existent. Particularly at the shelter. It’s like they are on vacation or a whistle had been blown and they have all returned to their evil master. Either way I am ecstatic about this. Camping has been fun again this evening.
Problem Bear and Hill Billy have opted to sleep in the shelter, whereas I set up my tent on a bed of pine needles. There is a pile of moose poop not too far away from my tent. Because one of my food bags has a split in it, I am sleeping with it in my tent tonight. Let’s hope I don’t get any interruptions as there’s not enough room in here for me and a moose.

Day 115 – 24th July (Posted Sat 2nd August)

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Day 115 – 24th July
Started in Monson – mile 2070.8
Finished at Long Pond Stream Lean-to – mile 2085.9
15.1 miles covered.
Total days hiked 113
18.46 Av miles / days

It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep and some decent food can do. I woke up feeling ready for the final push.
I joined James and Lyndsey for breakfast at a place called Pete’s, next door to Lakeshore. It also doubled up as a decent place to resupply and even had things like oatmeal and hot chocolate broken down into individual sachets. The breakfast was awesome. I highly recommend adding maple syrup to your shopping lists to have with bacon. It works really well and gives you loads of energy.
After breakfast I ventured over to the gas station to check on what delights they had on offer. On the way there I thought I was gonna get bitten by another dog. Where an angry looking mutt followed me across the road barking a warning. The owner shouted after the blood thirsty hound and it retreated.
Satisfied with the selection at the gas station I went back to my room and checked exactly what I had in my food bag and wrote a list of what I needed.
Between Pete’s and the gas station I got all I needed for the next 5-6 days. The guy in the gas station commented on the amount of family sized packs of Skittles I had bought and said ‘you’ll definitely taste the rainbow with that lot’
James had spoken with the owner of Lakeshore and she agreed to give us a ride back to the trail at 10:00.
I had decided to abandon ship on getting a food bucket sent into the wilderness. I didn’t want to risk losing my valuable food to a bear or a hunger unscrupulous hiker. Turns out that there was a problem just yesterday where a girl couldn’t find where the guys at Lakeshore had left the bucket. She was lucky to have phone reception and a crisis was averted. I didn’t want to take that risk. So reluctantly I squeezed all of my food goodies into my pack and groaned as I lifted it. This is gonna be a tough couple of days!
Whilst I had been getting ready this morning I looked at myself in the mirror in the bathroom. My hair is nearly back to its normal length. I have lost a lot of weight though. I used to be a 30-32 waist and now my 30 inch waist shorts are way too big for me. My pelvis and hip bones are showing badly and I look skinnier than ever. Back home people have said that I look like a racing snake, or a streak of piss. To quote one of Sarah’s phrases I now look like a matchstick with the wood scrapped off.
Whilst waiting for our ride I talked with Lyndsey and was surprised that she didn’t actually like camping or hiking for that matter. It has always been about the challenge and the fact that it was something James always wanted to do. So for all of you anti campers out there there’s no excuse.
On the way back to the trail Rebecca (Lakeshore owner) apologised for the broken bed in my room and said the room used to be occupied by the old caretaker and his partner. Apparently they had an abusive violent relationship. Rebecca joked the bed breaking incident was probably the result of some violent make up if you catch my drift.
She seemed quite a character and touched my left knee briefly to give me good Zen. In a strictly professional capacity I must stress! I informed her that I had been suffering with that knee so was thankful of any help I could get.
At the trailhead we said goodbye to Rebecca and she commented that James had a bit of a Chuck Norris thing going on. I hadn’t noticed it before but she was bang on.
James and Lyndsey hit the trail whilst I went back to the cooler box I discovered last night to grab another can of soda. It was now or never as there will be no soda in the 100 mile wilderness.
Just as I was finishing my can James reappeared from the woods. He had left his flip flops in Rebecca’s car. I left them to it and got a head start.
Entering the wilderness I came up against a sign that read ‘Do no underestimate the 100 mile wilderness. Pack in at least 10 days’ worth of food’ I had 5-6, but a zip lock bag of skittles that you could sink a ship with.
Straight away the trail was rugged and the granite and slate rocks very wet and slippery. I hiked through woodland past beautiful looking lakes with islands. The light sparkled on the water’s surface producing hundreds of lens flares.
I felt pumped and the first 3 hours went really well. I stopped at Little Wilson falls for a break and sat by the waterfall. J&L caught up and stopped briefly. James was saying how good he was feeling too. Everyone had been pretty beaten up and tired since the White Mountains and Maine. Today it was like the mist had finally lifted. Maybe it was adrenaline as we were finally in the last stretch, or maybe it was our hearty breakfast. I said to James that all we need to do is smash out 23 miles each day and in 5 sweet days our work here will be done. I let out a roar! He replied that he was so pumped that he was thinking about doing a 50 mile day today and laughed.
That feeling didn’t last long unfortunately and the novelty of being back on the trail started to fade. Although we didn’t start until about 11:00 by late afternoon I was knackered and my pack weight started to register.
Funnily enough apart from the deer and black flies chasing me at every opportunity the Mosquitos haven’t been too bad today. In fact this evening I hardly noticed any when cleaning my teeth outside of my tent. They’re meant to be as big as hummingbirds and in force in the wilderness, but so far so good.
There were 3 river crossings today and 1 of them had a dead moose right beside the trail. J&L were putting on their shoes after crossing and taking a snack break right next to the rotten carcass. I said to Lyndsey what a nice place to take a break and pushed on.
Our initial plans to do big miles soon fizzled out. We all pulled into Long Pond Stream Lean-to. There was another shelter another 3 miles away, but it was 0.4 off trail. Excluding this detour to this shelter there is no water for the next 10 miles. That was another reason to stop. I don’t need the extra weight of carrying more than 1 litre of water at the moment. This would have been necessary if I moved on as water is required for cooking this evening and for breakfast. So a decision was made and after all Rome wasn’t built in a day. Tomorrow we are taking about trying to do a 28 mile day to get past the last of the big mountains before Katahdin. This sounds ambitious, but apparently you can see the northern terminus from this point on.

Day 114 – 23rd July (Posted Thursday 24th July)

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

Started at stealth camp spot by stream – mile 2045.6 Finished in Monson – mile 2070.8
25.6 miles covered.
Total days hiked 112
18.48 Av miles / days

My plan today was to try and get into Monson. And as you might of guessed it was mission accomplished. It’s been a while since I smoked a marathon day like this. There was one big climb to Moxie Bald mountain after about 5 miles and then the terrain looked flatter than a whole load of pancakes with maple syrup. I understand how AWOL has worked out the elevation by presumably drawing a line of travel through the isolines on a map. This then allows him to plot a heart beat elevation profile. It was way off today or the scale needs to be revisited.

Today was also a day for river crossings. In fact I forded 3 rivers in total. 2 of which had ropes running across the river so you had something to hold onto. There were even warnings about crossing them after heavy rain and it warned against it. As I crossed Bald mountain stream a group of kids were filling up on water on the other side. It was knee deep in places and I just went straight through it. One kid watched as I emerged like an amphibious vehicle and his jaw dropped when he saw that I still had my trail runners on.

There is so much water up in Maine that it would be too much of a ball ache to have to keep changing into my crocs. Trail runners dry pretty quickly anyway. Moose and 2 other guys passed me as I was taking a break. One of the guys has a dirty Sanchez stash and the other a trail mohawk. I decided to smoke another cigarette to give enough time for them to get ahead. It didn’t go to plan as there was yet another river crossing round the next corner and I soon caught up. A guy was sitting by the river having lunch and I got him to do a movie of me crossing. Until Sarah is back I’m afraid that no pictures will be uploaded. I also have a load of movies that Dropbox won’t allow me to upload. So keep posted when I return as there will be some good material coming.

I quizzed the boys about their destination for this evening. And as to the whereabouts of the rest of the herd. They replied they weren’t doing big miles as the wanted to wait for the others to catch up. Great news I thought. If I could just get to Monson by this evening then I could get all ship shape with charging, laundry and calorie loading and head out tomorrow before they arrive. It’s a bit of a logistical nightmare trying to make sure you arrive at a town at the right time of day and mileage. My external battery pack needs 8 hours to charge. So it’s best to do this overnight. At least Monson will be the last town stop.

There are a number of companies in Monson that also do food drops into the 100 mile wilderness. That way you don’t have to carry a full 5 days worth of food. This is something I am keen to look into. Although I’m not sure about how secure a box of food will be with hungry bears and hikers about. The humidity this afternoon was stifling. I really hit the wall at one stage and was really struggling with the up hills that AWOL hadn’t pointed out. There was this one stretch which ran though a canyon. The trail kept sending you up 100 feet and then straight back down again. Again and again.

A girl I met this morning had said it was meant to rain. And for once my barometer on my watch was showing a strong drop in pressure. Then came the thunder. And then came the rain. I think they should rename Monson to monsoon. It poured for the last 9 miles of the day. Being British this was like water off of a ducks back. The temperature dropped and I was back in the game. I hiked fast and came to a side trail to Monson. It was a blue blaze trail of 2 miles. Whereas if I continued along the AT I could get to a highway and hitch in. This meant that I wouldn’t have to retrace my steps along the blue blaze tomorrow and waste 4 off trail miles (2 into Monson and 2 back to the trail). It was another 3.3 miles to ME15 and I booked it. I made it in 1 hour 10 minutes and a lot of it was up hill with slippery muddy conditions. When I arrived at the highway there was even a cooler box with Pepsi and Moxie soda drinks inside. It was meant to be.

Getting a ride into Monsoon turned out to be a little tricky. It took about 20 minutes and in the end I started walking the 3.6 miles. Finally a 4×4 pulled in. Hitching in the rain with dirty wet clothing and trainers is never a recipe for success. But I was surprised by this family. They just said jump in and didn’t even mind that I was dripping wet and filthy. They dropped me off at the Lakeshore House and Lodging Pub and it was bustling. James and Lyndsey and a few other familiar faces were there to match. After 2000 miles finally we all had a beer together. They said that they didn’t think they would have seen me again. I replied that they should never underestimate me.

The lady that ran the place was a strict Dutch woman with black hair. I enquired about a room. After leaving me hanging for a while she said there was an attic room that was not normally used, but it was mine for 45 bucks. The room is stifling hot even with the AC on full pelt. At least my wet pack will dry out though. The bed has also seen better days and the foot board collapses when I sit on the bed. It’s gonna be like sleeping on a slope in my tent, but at least I am out of the rain.

After showering I ventured to the restaurant. I ate scallops wrapped in bacon with maple syrup to start. Followed by a steak and cheese baguette with fries. My mood improved and the world was a good place again. It’s funny what a full belly and a few beers can do. Just my itching insect bites left to sort and a dodgy knee and I am good to go. Tomorrow I venture into the 100 mile wilderness. Although technically there are still 114.5 miles left to complete. Radio communication will be down from this point until after I had climbed Katahdin.

”Once more into the fray
Into the last good fight I’ll ever know
Live and die on this day
Live and die on this day”

Prize awarded to anyone who knows where this poem comes from. And don’t panic mum it’s just a poem form a film I really liked. The guy that wrote it claims its meant to mean that you should put everything into each day, like it’s your last. And that’s exactly what I need to do to get through this final stretch.

Wish me luck!

Day 113 – 22nd July (Posted Thursday 24th July)

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

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.

Day 112 – 21st July (Posted Thursday 24th July)

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

Started at Avery Memorial campsite – mile 2005.2 Finished at stealth camp spot by East Carry Pond – mile 2024.3
19.1 miles covered.
Total days hiked 110
18.4 Av miles / days

I was expecting today to be easy based on the elevation profile. There was one sharp climb to Avery peak before a descent. Then what looked like a gradual climb to Little Bigelow Mountain. There were sections that were anything but gradual. This was followed by 2 more climbs which on paper looked easy. The humidity and heat was against me though and I should have known that any climb in Maine is gonna be tough.

I started the day with no water as the spring was 0.2 further along the trail. I felt dehydrated and my piss was dark yellow. Not a good sign. I made do with 2 oatmeal cookies in substitute for my normal oatmeal. A snickers bar and 2 fig rolls. I thought I could do without my hot chocolate coffee combo. Whether it was psychological, but I felt sluggish. On the start of Little Bigelow I walked among some huge boulders. I could swear that I could smell chocolate. I rounded a corner to find a hiker making a hot chocolate and it felt like a kick in the balls.

My smartwool socks have lasted pretty well considering the miles I have done in them. Although one pair was starting to develop holes in the big toe. I improvised with some dental floss and sewed the hole back together. It worked a treat. I have been walking with Buffalo and a girl he was with called Mira posa today. We leaped frogged for the morning and stopped for a few breaks together and chatted. Mira posa liked to put on her best English accent and commented on my use of certain words. They say movies instead of cinema and truck instead of lorry. Don’t ask me why we were talking about these subjects. It was all pretty random. Mira posa said she had been suffering from pain in her hands from using her trekking poles. Finally I have found someone else that has the same problem as me. I was getting worried and thought that my hand pain might be something to do with all those hours of smashing the CAD back in the real world. If I do anything like this again I will try out the anti shock trekking poles as this is meant to help with this problem.

I stopped at Little Bigelow Lean-to and found 2 more of the herd. A girl by the name of Violet and I presume her partner West. There were swimming holes in the river and they had both just been in for a dip. They tried to persuade me that it was a good idea, but the mixed messages I was getting from both of them suggested it was fun but bloody freezing. I decided against it.

My bag of skittles were like gold dust and after one person asked if they could have some it opened up the flood gates. I was generous, but made sure they only took a few each. I didn’t like the way Mira posa put her hand in the ziplock bag I keep them in after cleaning the dirt out of her finger nails with a tooth pick. Everyone knows that you pour food you intend to share from the bag rather than putting your grubby mitts inside.

West told me a funny story about a guy called moose. He thought he had lymes disease as he had the bullseye pattern on his foot after being bitten. He went into a town and there was no doctors surgery. Instead he went to a vets and asked them to take a look. They insisted that they were a vets and only deal with animal cases. He said his trail name was moose and finally they agreed to examine him. Turned out he had ringworm.

I left them to it as we had only done 7.2 miles and it was about 1300. The next section of trail was relatively flat before the final 2 spikes of the day. I caught up with a girl called Jules and we hiked for a bit. She seemed nice enough and is planning to move to Utah after the trail to do a job in wilderness behavioural therapy. Basically taking problem kids out into the wild to help them get over problems. I said that she would have some good experience under her belt after doing the trail. I enquired what it has been like hiking in the herd and whether there had been any conflicts of interest or other problems. Most of them hike on their own for parts of the day and meet up in the evening. She said occasionally it gets annoying when you have to wait around for people. Otherwise it has been a positive experience by the sounds of it.

We pulled into West Carry Pond Lean-to where 2 of Jules friends had been waiting for her. They were called Canary and Legs. Canary got her name as she keeps signing and Legs because she has bigger more muscley legs than most football players. She was the loud alpha female I talked about yesterday. Apparently Texaco and Legs have got together on the trail, hairy legs and all.

I decided to have a hearty snack and they moved out. Everyone was heading to a beach at East Carry Pond. I passed some south bounders and they said it was a nice spot. When I arrived at the camp site it was by a huge lake that was somehow mistakenly called a pond. The campsite looked busy. Thirsty said there was little room for a tent, but I was welcome to cowboy camp with them. I pushed on as although I like the idea of sleeping out under the stars it was crowded and to be honest I wanted my own space.

I walked on about 0.5 mile and eventually found a private little spot right by the lake. I sat on a rock and dangled my filthy legs into the warm water and had my first proper clean in days. The others had all gone swimming, but being on my own I didn’t fancy that. Apparently the lakes in Maine can have very cold pockets of water (I think they are called thermoclines) and it can be dangerous if you just jump in straight after hiking.

Every night when I find a spot on my own I always try and hang my food bag. If there are others close by sometimes I don’t bother and I sleep with it in my tent. Safety in numbers.
The problem with hanging your food is you need to find a rock or something heavy to put in a little bag. You then have to attach the bag to a line and throw it around a branch. The amount of time I have spent finding stones under the light of my head torch you wouldn’t believe. You might say just carry one or pick one up before you are going to camp. But you never quite know when and where you might find a spot , plus I don’t need any extra weight. I have resorted to using a snickers bar to act as a weight. When I do this you know I must be really tired and things have got serous!

As I was waiting for my water to boil for my ramen tonight I was swarmed by Mosquitos. Last night I was able to have my tent mesh door open whilst I cooked. I think the difference was it was bloody freezing last night and I wasn’t right by water. I must have had about 10 Mosquitos inside my tent. After a series claps and swipes that number soon reduced. Payback!

I think I heard my first Loon tonight calling across the lake. It’s a haunting noise but awesome at the same time.

Day 111 – 20th July (Posted Thursday 24th July)

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

Started at camp spot by South Branch Carrabassett river – mile 1988.7 Finished at Avery Memorial campsite – mile 2005.2
16.5 miles covered.
Total days hiked 109
18.4 Av miles / days

Straight off the cuff it was nearly a 2000ft climb to South Crocker Mountain. I stopped at a view point at the summit after 1 hour 20. I was joined by a couple of middle aged hikers. The guy had thru hiked the AT some time ago and asked how I felt to be so close to the end. I replied that it was bitter sweet.
Last night I sat in my tent after finishing my blog entry and realised that in 12 days this adventure will be over. That is if all goes to plan and my body holds out. I am looking forward to going home although I will miss the trail. The smell of the forest. The routine of hiking shift patterns throughout the day and the sanctity of my tent. It’s gonna be very strange readjusting. Back in my normal life I sometimes even find the noise of the checkout in Sainsbury’s painful. What’s it gonna be like having to go to a busy airport on my way home!

If you haven’t got the album or watched the film ‘Into the Wild’ please do. There is a track called Society that is relevant. The book by John Krakauer is also very good and goes way beyond the romantic idea behind the film. It looks at what drove Chris Mccandles and others like him to pursue a life in the wild and ultimately what lead to their downfall.

After 8 miles of hiking I reached the ME17. A main road that lead to Stratton. After the success in gaining super powers from my trip into Rangeley. I decided it would be a good idea to try and hitch again. I think I was very lucky getting a ride into Rangeley as it took ages today. I stood by the side of the road wearing my heavy pack to look convincing. I even positioned myself just before a pull in to give any drivers a safe opportunity to pull in. Nothing. I walked over the brow of the hill as I thought that might help them see me earlier. After waiting for 15 minutes I said to myself ‘just 5 more minutes’ On the 5th minute a 4 wheel drive vehicle went passed me. I turned feeling despondent only to find that they had pulled in. The lady that stopped was from Portland in Maine and was on vacation. She needed to get some supplies and said ‘jump in’.

Stratton was smaller than I expected and consisted of just a few shops and restaurants along the main street running through it. I stocked up on yet more luxury items from the food market. On leaving the store I found buffalo and a group of other hikers I hadn’t met. The group mostly consisted of girls who had been hiking together from the start. They all seemed pretty die hard with hairy legs and pits. The alpha female was loud and acted more like a dude, burping and shouting about. Team America, hell yeah!

Buffalo had also resupplied and had opted to scratch being lightweight and had bought a whole pineapple. I left buffalo to it and headed to the White Wolf Inn. I had wanted to try some lobster as this is meant to be a Maine delicacy. I ordered a lobster roll which came with fries. For desert I had some apple oatmeal combination with ice cream.

I called my parents as I haven’t had phone reception since being in Maine. I was very impressed with my mum and that she had been researching Maine and the 100 mile wilderness and seemed to know quite a bit about it. She was concerned about some of the river crossings ahead.

I took me a while to hitch back to the trail. Finally a guy called Ron and his wife stopped. He said jump in the back and he would try not to go too fast. I thought back to what Bootburner had told me and hoped it wasn’t the same guy.

Back on the trail it had started raining. I had only covered 8 miles and still had a big day ahead of me. At least I felt like I had the calories behind me. I was into the Bigelow mountain range and went past the 2000 mile marker. The climbs were savage and long. I went from an elevation of 1250 to 4145ft and there were several peaks.

I reached Horn Pond Lean-to and campsite about 1800. I did think that it would be a good idea stopping early, but I had only done 13 miles and it wasn’t stealthy enough. So I pushed on. The views from the South Horn were stunning and I could see alpine lakes below that looked more like puddles. There is a bit of dirt or dust stuck between the lense and outer lense of my camera. When taking a shot directly into the sun you get an annoying lens flare effect appear on the picture. Gutted. But I still managed to get some good pics.

I carried on, head down and pushing. I rounded a corner and was startled by a huge moose just off of the trail. It was also startled but didn’t move far. I crept further along the trail hoping to get a better angle. And that I did. It was about 20-25ft away from me. I was so close that I could see a swap of bugs flying around her. I sympathised. I took plenty of snaps and then a calve appeared from out of the trees. I think the reason he moose hadn’t bolted properly was because it was with calve. Nervously I watched the calve attempt to suckle from it mother. She was on the alert and I was well aware that moose with calves can be dangerous. I talked calmly to her and watched as her ears rotated like satellite dishes, as if she was trying to pick up my radio frequency. I took a few more pics and thanked her for the opportunity and then got the hell out of there.

The last climb of the day was Bigelow Mountain West peak. The sun was setting as I reached the top. The sky was red and it was stunning. I watched the sun drop down behind the sea of mountains all around me. The different peaks all at varying heights and distances do appear like waves of the sea and kinda do something funny to your eyes. The wind on top of the west peak was strong and it was getting dark by now. This was a new experience hiking into the night over really exposed mountains like these. Fortunately this didn’t last long and I was soon descending to the campsite below.

Buffalo and the ‘herd’ were all sitting round a fire and invited me to join them. I stopped briefly, but it was 2100 and I was more interested in finding a spot for my tent. Everyone seemed friendly enough, but these guys have been together from the start and to be honest I couldn’t be bothered trying to break into a new group of people. I was exhausted.

There were a number of wooden tent platforms at this site, but not really any normal tent spots. Although I had bought wood screws for this very purpose I haven’t had to use them as yet. And tonight was no exception. Eventually I managed to find a little spot behind a padlocked caretaker hut. Not super stealthy or picturesque but I was too tired to care. It has been so cold this evening that I ate my Mountain House Chicken & Noodles whilst in my sleeping bag. I can see my breath and think I will be sleeping fully clothes again tonight.

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