Day 152: The Way Life Should Be
Sometimes You Gotta Flex
My original itinerary had me hiking a 22-mile day from E. Flagstaff Road to Caratunk today, followed by a 12-mile day to Moxie Pond Road. But our new tramily planned to hike 16.7 miles to the Harrison’s Pierce Pond Hunting Camp today, and then 15.7 miles to Moxie Pond Road tomorrow, a better distribution of miles. Plus, on my original itinerary, I’d need to get to mile 19 before 2:00 pm today to catch the Kennebec River ferry.
My plan wouldn’t have been impossible given the relatively flat terrain, by Maine standards, but I would have needed to start at first light, hike like a cryptid was chasing me, and line up some knee transplants before tomorrow’s hike. I chose the shorter hike.
Gus and I got out early, while everyone else slept off last night’s trail magic feast. We’d be hiking through miles of low-lying bogs and lakes, so we hoped to catch a moose. Check that. I hoped to see a moose. Gus hoped to catch one. Ever since I made him give up on his porcupine, he’s been spoiling for a fight.
We set out through ghostly mists that spilled off the lakes into the woods, shrouding the trail with wisps of fog. For the second day in a row, the deep morning chill made me pull on my fleece until I’d hiked enough to get my internal furnace burning. Fall temperatures have arrived in Maine. Even though we’re still waiting on the full display of Fall color, parts of the trail smell like Fall. Why do rotting leaves smell so good and the rotting vegetables in the fridge smell so bad?
Fall may be the thing I miss most since moving to Arizona. True Arizonan’s proudly claim that we have Fall. But while yellow aspens on our northern mountains in November and yellow cottonwoods in January along the few still-flowing rivers are lovely, they can’t compare to the patchwork quilted landscapes blanketing all of New England’s deciduous forests.
A Dog’s Life
I didn’t think Gus would make it out of bed this morning. After yesterday’s long climb over the Bigelows, he walked into camp last night and put himself to bed. He barely stopped to beg food at our feast. This morning, he slept through all my breakfast and packing up noise. But when I picked up my trekking poles, he jumped up, ready to go. Good dog.
Serendipity or Providence?
Northstar happened to meet a local police chief the other night. He’d stopped by the trail magic on ME 27 and asked about our itinerary. When he heard we’d be heading to Harrison’s Pierce Pond Camp, he gave her and Alex the low down on the roads they’d need to travel. Good thing, because the GoogleMap and FarOut routes would have taken them down dead ends and closed roads.
Even with the right route, they arrived with stories of deep water-filled potholes, low van-crunching trees, and a bridge that had more gaps than road surface. Alex spent a half hour trying to put pieces of the broken boards back in place before she carefully directed Northstar as she drove across the fragile structure.
PBJ and Just Try had booked a stay at Harrison’s Pierce Pond Hostel, so we hoped to boondock in their parking lot or somewhere else on the property. But when Northstar and Alex finally pulled into the long, winding, tree-lined driveway, Mr. Harrison ran out and yelled at them to leave. They tried to explain that their friends were staying there, but Harrison wouldn’t hear it.
He wouldn’t even let them turn around, telling them to back down to the main road. Alex boldly ignored him and pulled through the turn around. Northstar, the child of strict Calvinist parents, tried to obey. One look at the dented and wrinkled side of our van should have alerted crabby Harrison that making her back down his twisty access road was a bad idea, especially with an agitated man glaring at her.
Northstar bravely did her best, but after a few failed attempts, Mr. Grumpy yelled at her again, and then made her get out so he could do it himself. Let’s just say I was somewhat displeased when I heard her story and I wished him all the bad karma he deserves. Or forgiveness. Yeah, we’ll go with forgiveness as my official story.
But we won’t be disappointed if a little karma happens. It would have been worth the towing charge to have her wedge the van between two trees and block his driveway for a few days. That night, I checked the comments about Harrison’s Camp and discovered he’s got some anger issues. Consider yourself warned.
Walking Alone in Fall in Maine with My Dog
I love Maine. I’ve forgiven it for trying to kill me on its New Hampshire-like trail near their border. I’ve forgotten the rain and cloudy summits during the first two weeks of my visit. And I’ll overlook the mud, roots, rotting planks, and other idiosyncrasies because she’s so beautiful. It’s how Northstar must see me – difficult, but pretty.
Today, Gus and I stopped at a wooden dock on a remote, unpeopled pond for a little fetch time. He liked launching off the deck. I liked sitting above the (formerly) placid water, taking in the sun and Fall color, and soaking up all the peace Maine offered. What could be better than a cool, sunny day in a moss-blanketed pine and birch forest with the best dog ever? Life is good.
Maine Drivers Are Different than New Yorkers
Since Crabby Harrison had kicked us out, we pulled out onto the public forest road to hunt for a parking spot for the night near enough to pick up PBJ’s and Just Try’s gear tomorrow morning. Just as we headed north, a pickup truck approached, so we pulled over to make room on the narrow dirt road. The driver stopped, rolled down his window, and asked how we were doing.
We sat there in the road for at least ten minutes, listening to his recommended day hikes for Northstar and Alex, best places to see Moose, and nice places to camp. He left with a wave and a promised we’d see each other tomorrow morning when he came back with his dogs to kill a bear. We are definitely not in New York.
But his advice on campsites was spot on. We picked out one just up the road that had plenty of space, some sun to charge the solar batteries and dry out my sweaty clothes and wet socks, and a nice little fire ring for an evening campfire.
Yes, I do love Maine.
I passed a father-daughter duo at mid-day. The daughter looked to be no more than 10 years old and had hiked all the way from Springer Mountain. Then came Slow and Steady, who looked tired but cheerful. And then Iron Mike and Bluebird, but unfortunately not the same Bluebird I’d met in North Carolina.
- Start: East Flagstaff Rd (Mile 2,026.6)
- End: Harrison’s Pierce Pond Camp (Mile 2,043.3)
- Weather: Morning mists, cool, sunny.
- Earworm: It’s all right, once you get past the pain
- Meditation: Jn. 14:12-14
- Plant of the Day: Colored leaves on the trail
- Best Thing: The smell of Fall
- Worst Thing: Crabby Harrison
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