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.