Falling into a Pond on the International Appalachian Trail

ECT Day 170&171

IAT Day 1&2

Day 170: 19.7 miles

This morning we slept in a bit at the room and then got packed up. Sweet Pea’s dad Scott drove us over to McDonald’s to grab breakfast and then we began to drive to the Bernard mountain trailhead where the international Appalachian trail starts.

Though that was the beginning of some serious chaos with the directions. The google maps wound up taking us to Baxter state park. But because the trailhead is technically in the Katahdin woods and water national monument we weren’t able to enter through Baxter. So we had to turn around and backtrack 45 minutes. Then drive through another town nearby and enter the Katahdin woods and water national monument from an entirely different area. I felt so damn bad to waste Scott’s time like that and have him drive around so much.

Then the icing on the cake was that once we got closer to the trailhead it was all dirt back roads. So the last 10-15 miles took absolutely forever. You couldn’t drive much faster than 15MPH on the roads.

We had left super early and I didn’t wind up getting dropped off until close to 11:30am. That sucked away at hours of the day which I’m sure Scott didn’t want to spend driving aimlessly through dirt back roads in Maine. I gave him some gas money because I felt like such an ass. But he was so nice about the whole thing.

When we got to the trailhead I grabbed my things and got out. Then I said goodbye to Sweet Pea. We hiked together for 2100 miles on the Appalachian trail. We’ve been walking together for the last 4 months, every single day, day in and day out. It felt so weird to finally say goodbye.

Saying goodbye to Sweet Pea after hiking together for 2100 miles.

Starting the IAT!

Then in a flash it was just me once again. I was walking alone along a dirt road in the woods in Maine. It’s crazy how quickly things change. The IAT followed dirt roads for a while before an actual trail picked up. It was pretty over grown but easy enough to follow the trail. Only a few miles into the day I had to trudge through some mud and get my feet wet. Then I had to ford a river shortly after that. Fortunately it wasn’t that deep but it was a very wide river.

An IAT marker and sign for a river ford.

The wide river I had to ford this thing today.

Adorable little mushrooms along the trail.

After that I had to hike over and around a beaver bog. There was a thigh deep pond that you couldn’t avoid so I began to walk through that. And when I was climbing down into the pond I slipped and fell almost entirely in. It was so damn hilarious. I was soaked! All I could think was that someone with a worse attitude might have quit right then and there. But I thought it was so funny. Here I was, alone in northern Maine on an entirely new trail. A trail with hardly anyone on it. And within the first couple of hours I fell into a pond.

About 7 miles into the day I passed an old game warden cabin that was completely destroyed. It was very cool to look at. Then I began a mile or so climb up to a fire tower. I knew that it was one of the only climbs that I’d have to do in the next 300 miles. That made it much easier.

The old game warden cabin.

Up at the top of the climb I was 9 miles into the day and decided to stop for a break at the fire tower. There was a register inside and I saw Lil Buddha, Out and About, and Trucker’s named signed inside. All those guys are also doing the ECT and are up ahead here in Maine or further along into Canada. I sat inside and had a snack. I also had service there so I checked the weather. The radar showed that it was going to rain around 4:30pm. It was 3pm at the time and I still had one more climb to do for the day. So I decided to cut my break short and head out. That way I could get up to the top of the next climb and descend to a shelter hopefully before the rain began.

The fire tower.

Deasey mountain fire tower.

That next climb was short and sweet and then I began descending. The trail was pretty over grown and much less well trafficked than the AT. There was also moose poop literally all over the trail. I kept expecting to see a big moose at any moment.

A big moose hoof print.

When I got to the shelter it was around 4:30pm and I was 11.5 miles into the day. It was tempting to try and wait out the weather but I didn’t want to do such a short day. So once it got around 4:45pm and hadn’t started to rain I decided to keep going.

The shelter where I took my break around 4:30pm.

Those next 6 miles were entirely bushwhacking. The trail was completely over grown and I had to smack my way through branches. Though it was still easy enough to follow the trail. Surprisingly too the bushwhacking didn’t slow me down at all. I was making fantastic time all day.

The trail.

The international Appalachian trail. I’m sure not on the AT anymore!

Around 5:30pm it began to rain lightly so I put my rain gear on. I knew I’d get wet because I was crawling through overgrown trees and bushes constantly. But I was still honestly having a really good time. I was enjoying being alone and singing to myself. It was such a new feeling knowing that the closest other hiker on trail was 6 days ahead. It was just me out there.

Around 6:30pm the mosquitos came out and they were some of the worst I’d ever experienced. I waited so long to put my rain pants on for some reason. But I really should have done it sooner. I was getting eaten alive. I wound up getting to a junction for a private campground area and decided to camp nearby. There I managed to find the perfect stealth site for one tent. Then I got set up and hid from the mosquitos inside.

I crossed over this bridge to check out the private campground. But no one was around!

Later on I ate some dinner and chilled out. I did my stretching. Then I had a super early night. Even starting around 11:40am today I still managed a 20 mile day! I sure can’t complain about that. I can only imagine what kind of mileage I’ll be able to get in in the days to come.

The river right by where I tented for the night.

Day 171: 32 miles

This morning I woke up feeling so refreshed! I slept amazing last night. Then I was up and hiking by 6:40am. The mosquitos were horrendous so I wound up wearing full rain gear and my head net all morning long.

Covered up in rain gear and a bug net for 10 miles. Thanks mosquitos!

Four miles into the day I went by a canoe camp. It had a really nice 3 wall shelter and one of the cleanest and nicest privys that I’d seen in ages. From there I went another 6.5 miles to a campground store. I was over 10 miles into the day and it was just not 10am. I can’t even remember the last time that I did a 10 by 10!

Leaving the Katahdin woods and waters national monument.

A beautiful river that I passed by near the canoe camp.

At the camp store I got some drinks and ordered a steak and cheese sub. The guy running the place was super nice to me. I sat outside to eat and dried some of my things out from yesterday. Then I packed up and hit the road. I had 14.7 miles of road walking from there to the next campground store. This time it wasn’t dirt road walking, it was main road walking.

The first camp store that I came across today.

The delicious steak and cheese sub that I got at the camp store.

I listened to music and jammed out. The road wasn’t too busy which was great. Plus for the first time all day the mosquitos weren’t killing me. About 8 miles into the road walk I stopped off to eat the other half of my steak and cheese sub. It was still so damn good. I stretched a bit and rested my body. Then I kept on moving.

Drinking a Pepsi while I walked the road.

Eating the other half of my steak and cheese sub on the side of the road.

It was only 7 miles from there to the next camp store. And it was pretty much all flat. Though at one point the road did have a gradual incline to a few miles. Which somehow felt so damn hard even though it was only a few hundred feet. The sun was out in full force and it was hot on the asphalt.

My shadow!

I got to the next camp store around 3:20pm. Inside I grabbed some drinks and got a grape nut ice cream cone. Is that an old lady flavor? Yeah. Do I like it? Hell yeah. I charged my stuff on the porch and talked to two really cool bike packers named Mat and Ali. They’re doing the bike packing version of what I’m doing pretty much, but heading south. It was really nice to talk to someone for the first time in a day or so.

Getting to my second camp store of the day.

I was at the camp store for a while charging up and mowing down on some goodies. While I was there on WiFi I got a message from a hiker named Sparkle. She was asking if I was doing the IAT and where I was. Apparently it was the same Sparkle that Trucker had told me about! She was getting close to summiting Katahdin and contemplating jumping up to meet me at the Canadian border around this weekend. That would be so damn cool. We’ll see what happens!

Grape nut ice cream, baby!

Then I headed out of the camp store and continued along around 4:30pm. The rest of the day the trail followed along ATV roads which were nice and easy to walk on. While I walked I had to move out of the way a few times for people riding by but it wasn’t too bad. Then I wound up getting service at the end of the day which was great so I could talk to my family. I asked my dad if he could call and put a reservation down for me at a motel I’ll be at in a day. I’d really like to nero in tomorrow and then take a zero the next day because I haven’t zeroed in 25 days. I didn’t want to risk showing up and them being booked out.

Walking the ATV road for the last 7 miles of the day.

I got to a trailhead parking area around 6pm or so and found a great place to pitch my tent. Then I hung out inside and made a knorr for dinner. I packed out a coke so I drank that. And then I did a bit of writing before bed. It was such a perfect way to end a 32 mile day. I love that I can now do 30+ mile days in 12 hours! I missed this so damn much. What an amazing feeling. Today was lovely and I think tomorrow is going to be just as great.

Drinking a coke and making a knorr side dish for dinner.

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Comments 11

  • Michael Furlong : Sep 4th

    Congrats PegLeg. I was sorry to see Roxy and the guys part way. Be careful and I am rooting you on!

  • hickory : Sep 5th

    Congrats on finishing the AT. You’ve brought back some great memories! Looking forward to your entries. Good luck and happy traiils ! hickory

  • Lish : Sep 5th

    Holy crap the ride/hike blog continues! My morning/month/heart is full now! Thanks and super good juju to you!

  • Richard E. Smith : Sep 5th

    I enjoy reading about your journey through your writing. If I was younger I’d love to do the AT. As I read about your journey, I feel like I’m there. Keep up the great trek. 👍

    • Ash : Sep 6th

      The algorithm fed this journal to me this morning for some reason, and I’m so happy it did. I’m turning 50 and contemplating a small journey into the woods to sleep alone for 3 days. I’m so scared! Reading this story made me feel the joy you are experiencing and gave me a little confidence. Thank you. Your story sounds amazing!

  • Momatad : Sep 5th

    Last I checked, the Appalachian trail was wholly within the USA. International it is not.

    • Ash : Sep 6th

      The title of this post mentions the “International Appalachian trail”, and when I googled that it immediately showed a trail that extends past the United States into Canada.

  • John Rutkowski : Sep 8th

    Been a pause in the posts, I can’t wait to read about further adventures

    Keep on trucken.

    • Michael P Shorter : Sep 13th

      Hope u carrying bear spray as u head north. Continue checking weather daily. Stay safe. Enjoyed reading your post.

  • Josh : Sep 10th

    Hi PL, I started reading your blog a few weeks ago and now I’m going back and reading what I missed. Kudos on the completion of ‘Bama to Baxter and Katahdin… awesome accomplishments!!! You truly inspire – your athletic drive, dedication, joyful spirit, seemingly intuitive sense for nature trekking adventure fun and your creative writing style are a joy to read and follow. Enjoy your journey on into Canada and the Eastern Provinces – I hope you find a mate to trek with at least part of the rest of the way (!)… wising you excellent weather and Godspeed!!!

  • Maya : Sep 12th

    You can access the IAT from the north side of Baxter State Park. You just drive out of the park to the logging road you write about – it’s maybe 15 minutes headed in the direction of Patten.


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