Started at stealth camp spot by Eddy pond – mile 1968.5 Finished at camp spot by South Branch Carrabassett river – mile 1988.7
20.2 miles covered.
Total days hiked 108
18.41 Av miles / days
Last night I was woken up by something mooching around my tent. It sounded big and I could feel it walking about as the ground was thudding. Startled I sat bolt upright and said ‘I can hear you out there’ Suddenly it bolted making a hell of a noise as it went. I sat there for a while listening and eventually decided that the only thing I could do was fall back to sleep. I really needed a piss but on this occasion I thought it best to hold off. Sometimes not knowing is best. Thankfully that was the only interruption.
I had one heck of a day today. I climbed 5 peaks.
It started off with Saddleback mountain. A long climb from 2654 to 4120ft. There were several false summits and just when you thought it was over you would find there was another climb. I met a SOBO girl on the way up saddleback. She shouted ‘north bounder’ as I approached and I responded ‘south bounder’ I said that I thought that Maine was like a giant adventure playground what with its rugged terrain and all the ladders, rails, steps and board walks. She laughed and said that she was gonna use that phrase.
When I finally got to the top I found Buffalo and his crew. Once again they had cowboy camped on top of a mountain. They said it was awesome and they had a great view of the Milky Way as well as a cracking sunrise. They also said it was bloody freezing and the morning dew made their sleeping bags damp. Bootburner and his mate Thirsty slept just under cotton sheets and spent the whole night shivering. Man, I was cold enough at Eddy pond 500 ft below. These guys should be named the trail cowboys as their gear is basic and pretty much from the start they have been sleeping out like this.
After descending Saddleback the next climb was The Horn. Followed by Saddleback Junior. The elevation profile in my guidebook looked like a doctor had administered a shot of adrenaline to it. I stopped for a break at Poplar Ridge shelter. I have been very careful to make sure I sterilise my hands before eating as these shelters have been identified as potential noro hotspots. Generally I try and avoid them. Whilst I was at the shelter I quizzed a SOBO hiker. Asking him about the terrain in the remaining 200 miles of Maine. As of today I have 13 days left and at that point I had 209.7 miles left. I wanted to make sure that my finish date was realistic as I want to summit Mt Katahdin (the northern terminus of the AT) on the 1st August. He thought that I should be ok and there are some flatter sections coming up where if needed I can smash out the miles.
I hiked on and made it to Orbeton stream just before the climb up Lone Mountain. It said in the guide that I would need to ford this river, but I managed to rock hop. I stopped for another food break and had lunch. I have been eating a load today mainly due to the fact that I wanted to shed some weight from my pack. I had bought a few luxury items including an apple and banana. The fruit had to be eaten quick as it weighs a tonne. If you get the opportunity I highly recommend trying the dark chocolate nature valley granola bars with a healthy dollop of Nutella. Delicious.
Lone Mountain wasn’t as bad as expected and after a stiff climb up from the river it levelled off for a while. I did hit the wall towards the top after an hour or so and stopped again and had an energy gel. When I reached the summit there was a sign and I whooped out loud in joy.
Several things have been bugging me of late. My neoprene knee supports either slip down my legs when I get hot or randomly pop open when the Velcro is tested. I really should have invested more time researching these as I did every other item of my itinerary and I shouldn’t have been such a cheap arse buying them from the bay.
There have been more fallen trees across the trail in Maine. You have to kinda limbo underneath. With a heavy pack on this puts a lot of stain on my knees. I have found the best way to deal with this is to crawl underneath.
Without question the bugs are getting me down. I was chased by the same black fly for about 3 miles yesterday. They are anything if not persistent. When I hit that threshold of wanting to scream as another Mosquito buzzes around my ears I am forced to don the bug mesh. This works and I am safe from attack, it just makes the uphills harder as I overheat. The mesh works great and the little biters relent when I have it on. However they have an uncanny knack of reappearing the second I take it off.
I have been taking my revenge by swatting or swiping as many of them as possible. It’s great watching them spin out of control like a WW2 Spitfire that’s just been hit. I can imagine the squitos saying ‘Mayday, mayday. Come in base. We have lost an engine. Going down’
Some clips on my pack have been digging into my back which is most uncomfortable. This is easy to sort by tucking the clips in, but somehow they work their way loose as I hike.
I always roll the arms of my t-shirt up when I get hot, tucking them between the shoulder straps of my pack and my shoulder. This never lasts long and requires readjustment.
Apart from these complaints I have had a simply wonderful day.
Just before reaching Spaulding Mountain Lean-to I saw my first moose. It was huge, as big as a horse and dark brown or black in colour and it had a rack (antlers). As it saw me it took off and I could hear and feel in my chest the ground thudding as it ran off into the forest. I think this was definitely the noise I had heard last night. The place I camped last night looked very moosey. It was by a lake and the land that surrounded it was marshy. Case closed.
My watch has proved very useful today. Because of the rugged terrain, roots and steep uphills and descents it has been hard to judge my pace. It varies from 2.5 to 1 mph. Using the altimeter function on my suunto means that I can tell the elevation of my position. The AWOL guide book provides the elevation of all the different waypoints, so I can pretty much accurately tell exactly where I am.
My toes decided to alternate in providing me with some discomfort today. Although they are constantly numb, I can still feel them aching or rubbing. The only thing to do is to take your shoes and socks off for a while. This allows them to breath and seemed to do the trick.
I arrived at Spaulding shelter at 17:15. Although I had done 15 miles, it was too early to stop. The next camp spot highlighted in the guide was 5 miles away and involved a 900ft elevation gain over less than a mile straight off the cuff. I powered up with a hearty snack and hit it. For the first time in days or even weeks, even I felt strong again. I made mincemeat out of the climb and in about 2 hours I covered the 5 miles. Meaning that I managed to smash a 20 mile day in Maine. The final descent down to the river was pretty brutal on my knees. Buffalo and Bootburner are also staying at this camp spot tonight and were also feeling it.
Although this is only approximate. I have calculated that based on taking 1 step / second, on an average day of 10 hours I am doing about 36000 steps / day. Hence my knees hurt.
I spent a sociable hour sitting round the fire with the others. Eating my Mountain house Chilli mac. Bootburner and Thirsty were demonstrating some good bushcraft skills by heating rocks in the fire to act as hot water bottles. They had also rigged up their tarp behind them to reflect any heat from the fire back onto them. They told a story about a hitch into Rangeley yesterday. Some old guy had picked them up in his pick up which had no door at the back. He said for them to jump in the back and hang on. Apparently he was driving at about 70 and the guys and their rucksacks were hanging on for dear life.
Another guy who was hiking with the cowboys called Moose had headed on further tonight to try and catch up with some people he had been hiking with. Or in trail terms the rest of the herd. The word on the street is that they are a group of girls and the term pink blazing has been mentioned. Need I say more.