Okay everyone, I’m really sorry about all the radio silence. I’m bulk uploading my last updates now. I needed some time after I finished (and yes, I did finish!) to get through all those post-hike feelings. Here we go!
Day 156: West Carry Pond Lean-to to Pierce Pond Lean-to
Ten easy, easy, beautiful miles today. Tuck and I both woke up last night to rain, but it was breezy enough that our tents were almost completely dry in the morning. And I did get to hear loons last night. They have such haunting cries.
Lil Grizz and Dusty both stayed in the shelter last night, and after Tuck and I packed up we walked around the corner to get our food bags, and found Grizz up and packing, but Dusty was still tucked in his sleeping bag, drinking hot coffee in the cold morning air and looking like he was taking a relaxing Sunday morning at home. It looked very comfortable as we shivered in the morning chill.
Today never really cheered up, it just stayed gray and damp all day. But like I said, the miles today were easy. No mountains, no rock climbing, just ten miles of strolling. It felt like a novelty. The only real difficulty arose from areas of the trail where there were so many fallen leaves, I couldn’t see whether there were roots or rocks hiding underneath.
There was also unexpected trail magic! I had assumed that it was probably too late in the season, so imagine my delight when I walked up next to a red cooler from a trail angel named May Ellen, full of candy bars and trail mix and fresh apples(!) and chocolate chip cookies the size of my face(!!!) Tuck caught up to me as I was writing a thank you note, half a giant cookie hanging from my mouth. It was a great moment on a blustery cold day.
There were several boardwalks today, and the trail hugged the beach of East Carry Pond for a while, so I spent a fair amount of time ambling along, watching loons diving in the pond and peering around hoping to spot a moose (I’m obsessed, I know). Nothing all day, though.
Even slowing down to moose hunt, and taking several breaks, I had the miles knocked out by lunch time. It’s nice to be able to do that again, instead of scratching out eight miles in an entire day. Pierce Pond Lean-to is right on the water, and there was a group of five locals having lunch there, having come across the pond in their boat. They bombarded me with questions and were so funny: I loved talking to them! They also secretly left me trail magic, another apple and a chocolate granola bar. Really nice folks.
Tuck showed up about fifteen minutes after I did, and we gathered firewood, made hot tea, and sat around in our sleeping bags in the shelter chatting for a few hours (I think we took our cue from Dusty this morning). A bunch of others showed up tonight: everyone was pushing to make the last free day for the ferry across the Kennebec tomorrow morning, I think.
AND! As the sun was setting, Dusty, who was getting water from the pond, called up, “Hey, anybody want to see a moose?” Tuck and I looked at each other and broke land speed records scrambling out of our sleeping bags. Sure enough, on the far side a cow was drinking from the water while a bull stood on the shore, staring across the water at us. It was too far to get a good photo, but I got to see my first moose! Today was the best day. Tomorrow, 3.5 miles to the river to catch the ferry around 9:00, and then into Caratunk for a resupply. I haven’t had service for the last two nights, so I don’t know yet if my friends are coming or not. Either way, lunch will be at the tavern there, and I’m looking forward to a hot meal that didn’t come out of a bag.
Day 157: Pierce Pond Lean-to to Caratunk, ME
Wow, last night was cold. The wind blew in to camp all night off the pond, and when I got up in the middle of the night (no more tea right before bed!) I felt frozen solid well before I made it back to the warmth of my sleeping bag.
When I woke up in the morning, I laid in my bag for half an hour before I was able to face the cold morning air, and then I scrambled through breakfast and packed up in record time just so I could get hiking quickly and get warm.
I whipped through the 3.5 miles to Kennebec River, and arrived at the bank at 9:00 on the dot. No ferry (the free service runs from 9-11am. After today it costs $50.00 to cross). I huddled on the shore under my sleeping bag for warmth with Jess, who I haven’t seen since just past Mountain Crossings in Georgia. She finally got a trail name, 1800, at the 1800 mile mark when some other hikers discovered she still didn’t have one yet. When the ferry finally showed up at 9:45, everyone waiting heaved a sigh of relief. There was a good crowd at that point: Tuck and I, 1800 and Slim, Wander and Chicago, Dusty and Lil Grizz were all waiting, as well as a young man named Louis.
The crossing itself was quick and fun, paddling a canoe through the current to the far shore, and all told it took about two minutes to cross. A huge thanks to Greg for offering that service to hikers! I was glad not to have to wade through that very cold water on such a chilly day.
From the north side of the Kennebec it’s a quick hitch into Northern Crossings, where Tuck and I wanted lunch, and we had heard there was resupply there (it’s a lie. The resupply is at Sterling Inn). Wander and Chicago were thinking about getting a room, and if the four of us split the cost, it was the least expensive option for a shower and laundry for the rest of the trip, so we ended up staying at Northern Crossings for the night. The next time I get to be clean is after this whole crazy adventure is over…hard to believe it’s almost done.
Day 158: Caratunk, ME to Bald Mountain Brook Lean-to
I was pretty excited to leave Caratunk this morning. It was our last town overnight! Nothing but woods from here to the end. Tuck and I got a hitch from Northern Crossings to Sterling Inn to grab our resupply and hit the trail, and the morning was beautiful. It was sunny, and the air was clear, and it felt so pleasant to be out there again. I’m really, really enjoying October in Maine. Yeah, sure, I’m running late, as pretty much every single person I meet kindly informs me, but no one who finished in September or early October got to see what I’m seeing now. It’s breathtaking.
I chugged along pretty well for the first 4.5 miles, before running into Chicago and Wander getting underway at a gravel road, definitely not where they got off the trail, hmmmm… No shame though! I teased them about it and they shrugged and said a guy offered them a ride up here and they said, hey, why not! They got to meet someone new and can take a little more time to enjoy the rest of the day. I can’t argue with that logic. I carried on past them and took a break at Pleasant Pond Lean-to. There were a father and son there, talking in thick Maine accents about L.L. Bean…I smiled a little because that’s such a huge stereotype and here they were, in the flesh. We didn’t talk much but they seemed nice. From there it was a little over a mile to the top of Pleasant Pond Mountain and then a jagged descent down over another five miles. It’s such a beautiful day, have I mentioned that? Seriously, this is one of those days where my heart just feels too big for my chest, because I’m having so much fun and I’m so happy out here. You guys gotta try this drug.
After the descent from Pleasant Pond Mountain, it was a very easy stroll down a little bit of road, across a stream, and under some powerlines, and from there is a gentle two miles to the next shelter. The terrain at the end is exactly the kind of place I would expect to see another moose (I can hear you groaning, stop it) and don’t think I didn’t look, hard. No joy though, and I got to Bald Mountain Brook Lean-to, set up my tent, and scouted out the water situation. Things are dry but there was still plenty of water to be had in puddles. Thank goodness for Sawyer filters.
Day 159: Bald Mountain Brook Lean-to to Stealth Site outside of Monson, ME
I took so many photos today. Prepare yourselves. It was a little gray in the morning, and pretty windy. Tuck and I had both been joking about the fact that the first mountain of the day (well, the only mountain of the day) had a summit bypass trail, and oh I don’t know, maybe we just might take it to make things a little easier on ourselves. Well, I got up to the junction, and looked down the bypass trail, and saw that it was half a mile shorter than climbing over the summit, and you know what? I did hesitate. But it wasn’t raining, and my ankle felt mostly fine, so I turned right and up to the summit I went, because why do things the easy way if you don’t have to?
And it was worth it. The top of Moxie Bald Mountain is so cool! The weather was clearing up when I got there and while it was still super cold and windy, I stayed for a while, because honestly look at this place.
Anyway, finally I couldn’t ignore my shivering anymore and made a beeline for the sheltered descent. As usual, I am not fast on the downhills, and towards the bottom I stopped to rest my ankle and take a snack break. Wander had passed me a while ago, and Chicago caught up to me while I was stopped. I watched her just hopping effortlessly down these big rocks and oh my god I was so jealous. I used to be able to do that! Stupid broken ankle.
Anyway, the rest of the day was fun. I saw this little guy on the trail, and took about a thousand photos because he let me stand right next to him. What funny birds. Either they don’t care about you at all or they wait until they’re practically on top of you and then explode into flight and give you a thousand heart attacks.
There were also some pretty abrupt changes to the forest around me. Take these two photos. They’re the same spot. One is looking ahead of me on the trail, and one is looking behind me. It…it doesn’t change much faster than that.
Tuck and I walked together for the final few miles of the day. We weren’t exactly sure where the stealth site was, but Tuck uses Guthook and that brought us right to it, a little fire ring and plenty of flat spaces for tents. I didn’t much like the look of that ring, to be honest, and we didn’t use it…clearly not set up in a good spot, near a lot of tree roots. I wouldn’t trust it. We closed in on the site as dusk was falling, ate dinner, and called it a night. For whatever reason, today was pretty tiring, even with only one mountain in it.
Day 160: Stealth site outside of Monson to campsite at Little Wilson Stream
Tuck and I are irritated that we stayed in Caratunk instead of Monson. We would have spent less money here, but I’d also rather spend my money in a small town than a tourist trap, any day of the week. Anyway, we got up and had a leisurely two-mile stroll into town after eating most of the odds and ends left in our food bags. It was fun to look at all the cabins on the lake as we walked, and we weren’t in a hurry so we didn’t even bother sticking out thumbs for the one or two cars that passed us. We had a quick second breakfast at Pete’s Place (HIGHLY recommend, future hikers) and assessed our resupply options. Basically, everything in Monson is a bit too expensive, but what choice do you have? You could mail yourself a box, but you still end up paying for the shipping as well as the food.
Resupplying took stops at both Shaw’s Hiker Hostel and Pete’s Place, but I’ve got enough food for the last nine days, now. The pack is pretty heavy again, it reminds me of back in the beginning, when I was still carrying pounds of extra weight because of Noah’s dog food, but I’m stronger now so it’s not so bad. Poet, one of the hikers who runs Shaw’s, got a phone call while we were there. Apparently the resupply store at Abol Bridge was robbed by a hiker yesterday. I hope that hiker is super ashamed of himself. Get out of my community of awesome people. Your individual action gives all of us a bad name, not just this year, but in future years as well. Get. Out.
Anyway! Tuck and I went back to Pete’s Place one last time for a grilled cheese which we have been craving for days now, and then we headed out, aiming for the campsite near the falls before the impending rain hit. In my head I told myself, “If I make it to the campsite before six, I won’t get rained on.” Now, as pretty much every person ever knows…this is not how weather works. You don’t get to make a deal with yourself and expect the weather to honor it. It started raining at 5:30.
I should mention here that the trail after Monson is the start of the Hundred Mile Wilderness, the last stretch of the trail before Katahdin in Baxter State Park. It is rugged trail in that there are lots of roots and big slate rocks all over everything, and as soon as they get wet, the trail gets unfriendly in a big hurry. I forded the stream under the falls in near-darkness, and it was about the slipperiest four minutes I’ve ever lived through. I would make a step, and then stand there in the rain for ten seconds inching my foot around until I found a piece of slate that didn’t feel like it was coated in oil before shifting my weight forward veeeerrrry carefully and starting again. And when I got to the north side, I found that all the established tent sites were, in fact, south of the stream. Well, I wasn’t going to recross, so I found a flattish spot without too many roots and called it good. I was soaking wet so my first order of business was changing after I got my tent set up, and now I’m fed, happy, and cozy inside my sleeping bag, listening to rain hitting my tent. It’s one of the greatest feelings, having something in between you and the rain. I have simple pleasures, and being dry while the rest of the world is wet is one of them.
…I’m pretty sure there is a mouse nosing around the outside of my tent, now. If it chews a hole I am going to be so annoyed. But for now, I’m doing great. I’m in the home stretch, and while I feel very conflicted about the hike being almost over, the achievement feels huge. Today is a good day.
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