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

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

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!