Close Encounter with a Canada Lynx
Bama➡️Baxter Day 165&166
Day 165: 22 miles
This morning we woke up and it was still raining out. We waited a bit for it to lighten up and then got moving. I already knew what was in store for us today! It was looking like it was gonna be a rainy shit show.
Once I was packed up I headed out. I really didn’t want to wait around in the rain and knew we would all regroup at the next shelter down the trail. I was bundled up in my rain jacket because it was raining a whole lot. Luckily though there was very little elevation gain within the next 8 miles of trail. We had the occasional steep portion but not too much for me to over heat in the rain jacket. Plus it was honestly pretty damn cold out.
The terrain was rocky and slippery. I was disappointed how technical it wound up being and how slow we were moving. The only thing worse than walking all day in the rain is doing it slower than usual. That just meant we would be spending more hours than expected hiking in rain.
We were really only going about 2 miles an hour for the entire morning. When I checked Far Out for the first time expecting to be close to the next shelter I was incredibly disappointed. We still had over 3 miles to go, which was easily going to take us an hour and a half because of the rain. I had to take it nice and slow down slippery rock face. And also was constantly navigating around sections of deep mud.
It wound up taking us 3-4 hours to get to the Chairback Gap Lean-to, which was only 7.7 miles from where we started our day. That was much longer than I could have ever imagined it would take. By the time that we got there I was cold, wet, tired, and hungry. I was so looking forward to sitting in the shelter to get a brief break from the heavy rain.
But when we arrived at the shelter there were a bunch of people sprawled out inside who were zeroing there for the day. They were section hikers who woke up to it raining and decided to just spend the whole day in the shelter. That wasn’t the worst part though. It was only about 3 people but they were taking up pretty much the entire 6 person shelter. That was honestly my worst fear when we were hiking up to the shelter and it came true.
When we got there I nicely asked if there was any way that they could consolidate their things a bit. I explained that we would only be here for 20-30 minutes and just wanted to escape the rain for a little bit. I also told them that we were planning to be hiking a big day today in the rain and this would be some of our only relief from it all day.
The people inside the shelter hardly moved at all and clearly didn’t have an appreciation for the situation. So instead I just crammed into a corner and Sweet Pea sat in front of me. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t livid. We were wet and cold and just wanted to take a break for a little while. It’s one thing to spend the day zeroing in a shelter. But when it’s pouring rain you have to know that the shelters are the only place for people to get a break from the weather. Especially people who are actually hiking.
I ate some food in the corner and warmed up a bit. When Boosted arrived you could immediately tell that he was just as disappointed by the situation. We all were. And as we sat there the guys in the shelter made room for one of their friends to squeeze in! It was like a bad joke. A friend of theirs had been tented but broke down their tent to get into the shelter. They made room for them to get in but seriously couldn’t give us a little space to sit for 30 minutes? I’d never experienced anything like that before. They certainly weren’t rude, but their ignorance was unbelievable.
Obviously we didn’t stay long at the shelter. I smoked some pot and then we put our rain gear back on and headed out. It was still raining just as hard. And we knew that the next shelter where we could stop for a break wasn’t for another 10+ miles. What a brutal day. I resented the fair weather section hikers who were interfering with our already difficult day.
I know that everyone has equal rights to be out here enjoying the resources. We don’t deserve anything out here more than anyone else. But I figured there would be a bit of respect for the hikers who are out roughing it rain or shine for months on end. That sure didn’t show today.
It was pretty much all downhill for the next 5 miles or so. That was nice at least. And once we passed by Chairback Mountain the terrain definitely did become a bit less technical. It was still taking us longer than usual, but it seemed like we were moving a bit faster than earlier.
Five miles in we passed the W Branch Pleasant River. It was one of the widest river crossings that we’ve done on trail by far. Though luckily the water wasn’t very deep. It was a bit fast moving but nothing too much. We got right on in and made our way across the river.
From there we had a gradual ascent up to the next shelter along the trail. At one point we passed through a recent construction zone and Sweet Pea who was behind me hollered out. Apparently there were beers hidden like Easter eggs along the side of the trail! There were actually 4 of them all in all! So we all grabbed a beer and wound up drinking them by the side of the road in the pouring rain. It doesn’t get much more hiker trash than that. That might have even been the highlight of the whole day.
We kept on walking after that. I was feeling pretty good and the climb up to the Carl Newhall Lean-to was super gradual. Though it was still taking us a long time because the stretch was 10.5 miles from the previous shelter to the next. By the time that we were getting close I was getting tired and my body was sore. It was such an exhausting day. Walking continuously without the option of stopping is certainly not the best.
We finally arrived at the Carl Newhall Lean-to and weren’t surprised to find it full of people. Though I was happy to see some familiar faces! Lawsuit and Cookie Monster were inside with a few hikers I’d never seen before. Apparently Bambi and Chowder were two of the tents that we passed just before the shelter.
There was no room inside the shelter but everyone made room for us to sit under the over hang. We really appreciated that at least. All of us took a nice break and ate something. I wound up devouring a whole summer sausage, while also sharing a good bit of it with my girl Roxy. We smoked while we were there and I attempted to stretch. But it was hard to do considering the fact that we were just awkwardly sitting under a small overhang to stay out of the rain. It was definitely not ideal.
After a while we decided to just continue along. We were about 17-18 miles into the day and still had 5-6 to go. I don’t want to leave ourselves with too much mileage to do tomorrow morning before our food drop from Shaw’s. I just don’t think that it would be a wise choice.
We’ve already spent the entire day walking in the pissing rain, so why stop now? The next stretch of trail it stopped raining briefly. That was such incredible relief. We had literally been walking in rain since the moment we woke up. The trail climbed up Gulf Hagas Mountain next. And it was cold enough that I was able to keep my rain gear on even for the climb.
Then we descended briefly before beginning to climb up West Peak. And the pattern continued from there. We would go up and down and then up and down. After West Peak we descended a bit and then climbed up Hay Mountain. Around this area the trail was a literal ocean. It was absolutely hilarious. There were so many places today where the trail was consistently knee deep water or higher. But this was the first time all day that I actually questioned if I was even on trail. I slugged through deep water in the last light of the day. Then eventually I had to put my headlamp on because it was getting too hard to see what was in the water in front of me.
After Hay Mountain the trail descended one final time to the junction for the white Brook trail. This was just before White Cap Mountain, which is the last notable climb before we will summit Katahdin. Our plan initially was to get up and over white cap this evening. But it began to rain again when we were coming off of Hay Mountain. The guys said that they wanted to stop off early and not do White Cap tonight.
I’ll be honest, I was a bit annoyed. The last couple days it seems like we set goals for the day and then are never achieving them. We’re always falling short by a mile or two. I like to set a goal and stick to it. But if they both really wanted to stop then I was ok with that. Because of the long day in the rain I could appreciate the desire to just be done. I was wet, cold, and tired, too. I just didn’t want to leave myself with a lot of mileage to have to rush to do tomorrow morning.
We wound up setting up camp right by the junction up to White Cap. I got my tent up just as it began to rain heavier. Then I hid inside for the rest of the night. It felt so good to strip off my soaking wet clothes and put on my warm and dry sleep clothes. In this moment I certainly had no regret about carrying the weight of sleep clothing. Then I ate some snacks in my tent, did my stretching, and called it a night. Tomorrow I’m going to be up super early because we still have to do 11 miles to our food drop tomorrow morning. Today we averaged 2 miles an hour for most of the day. So I don’t want to risk not giving ourselves enough time god forbid we go just as slow tomorrow.
Day 166: 28.3 miles
This morning I woke up at 5am and packed up super quick. I didn’t want to feel rushed hiking the 11 miles to the road for our food drop from Shaw’s so I wanted to get an early start.
The morning began with the climb up White Cap which was pretty easy going. The climb was steep but it wasn’t technical. Though as I expected it did slow me down a bit. I definitely wasn’t going 3 miles an hour like usual. So I was glad that I started early. Up top it was pretty bogged in so I didn’t get any views unfortunately. It was rocky and slow going as I crossed over the top and began the descent. But over time the trail leveled out a bit and became easier.
A few miles in I came to the Logan Brook Lean-to and stopped off at the privy. Then I continued along. The guys weren’t even out of their tents when I left camp this morning so I wasn’t sure when I would see them next. I just hoped that they didn’t wait around too long.
The next 4 miles were fantastic. The terrain was super cruisy and easy to walk. I was making fantastic time and was way ahead of schedule. That was my goal all along! I wanted to plan ahead so that I wouldn’t be late. But my hope was that I was be nice and early so that I had plenty of time to take a break or two before getting to the food drop.
When I arrived at the East Branch Lean-to I checked the time and remaining mileage. I knew that I was way ahead of time and could afford to take a quick break to stretch and snack on something. I wound up sitting there for a while and after maybe 30 minutes Sweet Pea caught up to me. He was making great time and really sending it because he had gotten a later start. But I was relieved to see that the guys weren’t too far behind after all.
Just past the shelter we arrived at the East Branch Pleasant River. I hadn’t checked Far Out and was completely caught off guard by what we walked up on. The river was flowing like crazy and seemed pretty sketchy. Sweet Pea headed right out and attempted to rock hop across. But when he got about half way he stuck a trekking pole down and realized just how deep the water really was. Then he had to attempt to turn around and come back to the shore. It was not safe to cross right where the trail passed through.
There were some guys on the other side that yelled over to us. They let us know that they had crossed further up stream. Apparently it was still sketchy but doable. When we got up there the water was really fast moving. If you attempted to lift up a foot to move it you lost complete control of the leg because of the speed of the water. I wound up getting into the water and bracing myself on the large rocks that went across. As long as I had a big boulder in front of me I could brace myself and slowly move across through the water. But walking across with nothing to hold onto would have been horrifying, if not impossible.
When we got close to the other side one of the guys we had seen came to meet us and help. There was a portion of the river that was chest deep but slower moving. He recommended that I throw him my backpack and then jump and he would grab my arm and pull me across. That way I didn’t have to submerge myself in the chest deep water.
But even figuring out a way to take my backpack off and throw it to him was almost impossible. Then getting the courage to try and make the jump over to him was gut wrenching. But this legend named Will grabbed me and pulled me onto a rock. It was such a relief to be on the other side. Sweet Pea didn’t have to take his pack off but also jumped and grabbed this guys arm to get pulled across. It was such a wild scene.
It brought me back to the horrifying river crossings in the Sierra on the PCT in 2017. There were times when I truly wouldn’t have made it across if it wasn’t for a kind soul lending me an arm or a hand. I was incredibly grateful that this guy Will stuck around to help us across. Even though initially we really didn’t think that we would need help.
Once we were safely on the other side we immediately had the realization about Boosted and Roxy. How in the hell was he going to get across with the dog? And now we were actually on a bit of a time crunch. Because the crossing took way longer than we ever expected. And Boosted was no where in sight. We knew that we couldn’t continue without him. If he came up to the river he might make the mistake of thinking that we crossed right in the center where the trail goes. But that section would be way too dangerous for him even without Roxy. So we sat down and waited.
After almost 30 minutes he arrived and Sweet Pea tried to guide him along an alternate route across. But when Boosted first gave it a go he turned back because he said it was way too dangerous. It did not look good. After a while Sweet Pea told me to go ahead to meet the food drop. God forbid it took Boosted a while to get across, at least one of us would be there to intercept the food drop. I just hoped that he found a way across safely. The whole situation was super sketchy.
The trail from there to road we pretty easy. We had a brief one mile climb up to the top of Little Boardman Mountain. While I was up toward the top Sweet Pea caught up to me which was a very good sign! He said the Boosted eventually managed to get across but it was definitely scary to watch. I was just glad that he did.
Once we descended that last mountain it was easy going to Johnson Pond Road. Our food drop was scheduled for 12pm but we arrived right at 11am. And just as we dropped our packs and went to sit down Long Shot arrived! I was really hoping that he would be the one to do our food drop. He was a super cool dude and I enjoyed talking to him at Shaw’s.
He brought our buckets of food out and gave us each a nice cold drink. I was so happy to see that he had brought my brand me thermarest. It’s gonna be so nice not to be sleeping on the ground anymore! I gave him some cash and he said that he would mail my current thermarest home for me which was awesome. That way I don’t have to carry two air pads all the way to Katahdin.
The biggest surprise of the day was that he also brought us a whole large cheese pizza with the food drop! What an absolute legend. So the guys and I dove in to a huge delicious pizza that we weren’t expecting. We hadn’t stopped much this morning in the last 11 miles so I was damn hungry. The pizza really hit the spot. Because we were early we got to hang out and talk with Long Shot for a while which was cool. He hiked the AT a couple years ago and is a super nice guy.
Then I got my food bag all sorted through and we said goodbye to Long Shot. He said that we may see him again because they drive around the area doing food drops at other roads. I was hoping that we would! The guys and I decided to hang out there for a while after that. We were ahead of schedule. The sun came out a little so we decided to dry our things out. It felt nice to relax along the side of the road after never resting all day yesterday.
After a while we continued along. And the next stretch of trail was super flat and easy. A few miles in I was walking ahead of the guys and heard a loud noise just in front of me. And right as I looked up I saw a Canada Lynx directly on the trail maybe 5-10 feet ahead of me. When it heard me approaching it hopped right off the trail. But it didn’t run away. It just got off the trail and then stood there next to the trail. I slowly continued to walk and got to watch the Lynx slowly walk off into the woods. I had never experienced anything like that before!
You so rarely get to encounter larger animals like that in nature. Especially close up. That felt like a once in a lifetime moment for sure. I was so excited after that and also a bit unnerved. While I may realize that animals like that are out in the woods it’s a whole other thing to see one up close and personal. It just makes you realize that they are truly out and possibly around you all the time.
The next handful of miles after that really flew by. And before we knew it we were at the Jo-Mary road which was over 7 miles from the previous road. We took a nice long break there and hung out. It feels great to be making good time and be able to enjoy long breaks again. We hung out there for a while and it was lovely.
The next big chunk of miles past Jo-Mary road was also incredibly flat and easy going. We were moving even faster than 3 miles an hour and I was loving it. After another big chunk of miles we passed by a lake where you can apparently get views of Katahdin! So we stopped off there for a bit to see. You could definitely see part of Katahdin off in the distance which was super cool. At the lake we filled up water and then continued along.
I had to put my head lamp on because it was beginning to get dark. But we wanted to make it a bit further before calling it a night. We wound up stopping at the Mahar Tote Road which was just before the Mahar Landing Campsite. The campsite was down a spur trail which we didn’t want to do. So we just wound up camping by the road, which was really just a grassy field.
I set up my tent and then got situated. Then I made myself a peak meal for dinner and hung out. The tent site that I chose was so perfect and flat! I couldn’t remember the last time that I set up my tent on such a great site. Later on I hung out with the guys for a bit. Then we all called it a night. It was a long day today but a good one for sure. The feeling of doing an almost 30 mile day was truly unmatched! It’s been a while, man. I missed this. Nothing feels as good as curling up in your tent after a big mile day.
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