Day 161 – “I Love That You Get Cold When It’s 71 Degrees Out”

I woke up to sunlight bathing my tent near my pond-side location. It was a suboptimal site for tenting and roots permitted sleeping in only a couple tolerable positions. I got up and ate breakfast near the pond. It was 7 something and mist was rising off the surface of the pond in the early morning. Desperate for a moose sighting, I sat and watched a few ducks float nearby before giving up to pack.

I was the on the trail by 8. By all accounts it was the cruise-iest of days. The first 12 miles had barely 1000 feet in elevation gain. Along the way were countless streams, rivers, and ponds. The trail continued to meander and flip from bogs, to mud, to dry trail. Shoes now dry, several days removed from any fords that required them to be worn in the water. Sandals have sufficed for all water crossings since day 2 in the hundred mile wilderness.

Keeping my shoes dry however, required some fancy footwork. Rock hops, balancing on gnarled roots, and using trek poles to vault across puddles and mud pits were all employed techniques. My arches bore the brunt. The right arch in particular had a knot in it for the better part of the day. I dug my thumb into the tight band of muscle during a break to get it to relax. I’ve been rationing my Ibuprofen and Tylenol as well so it lasts until Katahdin. It’s going to be close.

Purple Pioneer and I reached Nahmakanta Beach around noon and were both starving. We had said it would be a great place to camp the night before, but there was zero chance we would have made it there without night hiking. I made a joke from the movie Office Space trying to pronounce ‘Nahmakanta.’ “Lake Nah….Nahma….Nahma gonna make it there tonight.”

We had heard rumors of trail magic and were hoping to stuff our faces. We did in fact find trail magic (twice in the hundred mile wilderness is wild!) A 2017 thru-hiker named ‘Mountain Doctor’ (we’re kindred spirits) was cooking up meatball sandwich’s near the water. We each had one, although we could have eaten at least 3 more. We felt bad asking for more food. He did offer us some fruit however, which we accepted (we would have accepted anything edible TBH). Some day-hikers who were remarking on how much extra food they had, also gave us some tuna packets and a dehydrated Cuban rice meal (it was fire).

We set off after that up Nesuntabunt Mountain. It’s a small mountain with the first close view of Katahdin. I hiked alone listening to ‘The Maine Woods’ by Thoreau. I found it as dry as the first time I attempted to read it, although it had less of a propensity to put me to sleep. It’s a detailed account of river crossings, and a catalog of trees and foliage seen along his travels. I suppose it’s not too different than this blog, although I like to think my pictures, satire, and character development of other hikers add something Thoreau lacks.

Atop Nesuntabunt, I stopped for a snack break and to admire my first good view of Katahdin. It’s a rather flat topped mountain and today it was completely devoid of clouds at the peak, a rarity for it. I couldn’t help but think to myself that, with any luck, I might summit on a day with such good weather.

After a quick descent, Purple Pioneer and I were determined to hike to near sunset, although no views were in site. 3 miles beyond the peak, we came to a much better stealth site than we’d seen in a while. We happened upon a flat spot, sheltered by trees, with a fire pit. It was too good to pass up. I quickly set up my tent and gathered wood for a fire.

We ate a hearty dinner, supplemented by the food we were gifted by the day-hikers. Since Vermont, I’ve been a big fan of eating blocks of cheese on trail. You can find blocks of Vermont cheddar cheese almost anywhere in the northeast, although I’m partial to pepper jack when I can find it. Given the calorie density and protein content, I wish I’d of discovered it earlier on trail. It’s well worth the additional pack weight.

The excitement continues to build each and every day now. There’s a buzz in the air and I’m certain everyone it. Every glimpse of Katahdin or mention of it brings a lift to the spirits. I’m still hiking 17+ mile days, and there’s still work left to do. But even when the trail conditions are unpleasant, I know the culmination of all this hard work is just 48 hours away. It’s like going into finals week knowing you can bomb the test, and still pass the class.

I’ve allowed myself to day dream at different times on trail of what summiting Katahdin will feel like. As far back as Virginia, the idea has floated into my mind. I don’t try to think too hard on it, but you can’t help it sometimes.

I’m fairly in tune with my emotions and am not really a big crier, but I have a feeling this one is going to get me. Like when I watch “7 pounds” or the end of “When Harry Met Sally”, the thoughts of what summiting will be like, end with me tearing up (it’s happening now). And then I push the idea out of my head. In the spirit of not dwelling on it, I’m off to bed. Tomorrow I’ll be in Baxter State Park, home to “Mama K!”

Until then, stow away in my pack for Day 162 on the Appalachian Trail

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Comments 5

  • Chris : Oct 1st

    I read your blog to wake me up in the morning, not fall asleep,.. I’m going to have some major adjusting to do when you’re done. Post Blog Blues is what I’m gonna call it.

  • Aric : Oct 1st

    Please let us know if you noticed any Rabbit tracks on Katahdin.

  • Desiree L : Oct 1st

    I’ve followed you since very close to the beginning of your journey. I have truly enjoyed following along and the photos have been a real treat. I’m sad to see it end but I know it will be a huge moment for you. I’m hoping to follow on your next journey. Best wishes to you. As soon as it’s cool enough I’ll be day hiking the Ozarks Highland Trail nearby.

  • CB : Oct 1st

    Is there something you want to share with the rest of the class, Derek? Hmmmm? If you’re not ready that’s fine.
    Excellent pic of Katahdin, btw.

  • David Groce : Oct 2nd

    Dr. D- I’ve been following you everyday since Georgia. You’ve done an excellent job with the blog. I wouldn’t miss a day of it for anything. Again, thank you so much for the extra energy and investment the blog has required. We don’t know each other and I’m not sure I deserve to use the word, but I am so “proud” of you for your perseverance, your humor and your humanity, and your keen sense of insight. You may not be the only one crying when you get to the top of Mount K!!


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