Wetfoot and Arry, Vol. 4: Days 6-8: Made It to Monson

Day Six: 13.1 Miles

Even though we’ve been hiking for almost a week, today was a day of firsts. First (and second!) snake we’ve seen, first campfire I’ve made this trip, first time I’ve been skinny dipping, and the first day so far we’ve broken ten miles.

This morning started early. Arry rose me just after the sun came up by jumping into my sleeping bag, and we proceeded to run up Pleasant Pond Mountain.  For those of you who haven’t hiked with a dog like Arry, you have two choices in the morning. One: Run behind her trying to catch up, or two: Be pulled by her on leash as she leaps over boulders like a mountain goat.

Pleasant Pond Mountain.

We made it to the summit in record time. I knew the rest of the planned day should be pretty easy. In the spirit of relaxing we stopped on the summit to message family and have a quick chat with the boyfriend. The black flies had other plans. Their disruption, plus Arry’s anticipation for more smells, made the whole event extremely unrelaxing and we left for Bald Mountain Brook Campsite very soon after we arrived.

On our descent we saw our first snake! Arry bumped her nose on a small black and red one, I think she thought it was a stick to smell. She leaped in the air when it wriggled back and I quickly ushered her onward. Regreatably, I was preoccupied at the time and don’t have a picture of it.

We saw four hikers as we descended. That’s a record for us. I couldn’t tell if I had caught up to the SOBOs that skipped Katahdin or if they were simply day hikers out for the weekend.

We made early work of the nine projected miles for the day to Bald Mountain Brook Campsite, arriving at 11 a.m. I took off Arry’s pack, my pack, and put on my Chacos. Man, did it feel good to take off those hiking boots! Chacos are probably my favorite shoes in the whole wide world! My boyfriend hates them because if you don’t wash them they become extremely smelly.  But i can smell all of myself right now so I don’t care.

View from Moxie Bald.

Arry didn’t seem ready to be done for the day.  She looked at me like, “Mom, this is just a break. Right?” After checking my map we decided to hike over Moxie Bald. Just over four more miles, it would allow us to not begin tomorrow running up the mountain like we did today, and it would give me another, hopefully calmer ability to get some cell service on the summit.

After I finished the pancakes from Harrison’s Pierce Pond Camps, and Arry ate about half my beef summer sausage, we were off.

Two minutes into the initial climb I was over it.

I’m so glad we climbed it, though. The climb was gorgeous. And the view from the Bald was amazing. Arry was tired enough she took a nap so I could enjoy the summit in peace without her rushing me. Crazy how something as simple as a phone call requires climbing a mountain out here. “Hi, I wanted to talk to you so I climbed a mountain.”

I’m finally realizing we hike plenty fast and I have plenty of time to pause and enjoy the scenery, instead of always rushing from site to site. So it was nice to have my first actual summit where I didn’t let the black flies win. I sat there and I took in the view, relishing in the beautiful weather and making the most of the people important to me.

View at Moxie Bald Campsite, Bald Mountain Pond.

We got to Moxie Bald Campsite and had the place to ourselves. Surprise, surprise. The campsite itself was gorgeous and right off  Bald Mountain Pond. I figured I still had plenty of time to finish the night chores so I should treat myself to soaking my feet. As you probably guessed I decided to jump on in! The water was cold, but not too chilly, and very refreshing.

The black flies once again were winning as I cooked dinner. Then I had an idea! Why not try to keep them away with the smoke from a campfire. It helps. But not much.

I must be starting to hit the first of the SOBOs who skipped Katahdin hiker bubble (I’m a mostly SOBO) as a SOBO hiker showed up to join us in the campsite. I must say, campfires are great for building camaraderie. His self-given trail name is Pippin but he doesn’t have a good story to go with it. Boo. He says he is a Lord of the Rings fan, but he hasn’t read the books and has only seen the movies once, “awhile ago.” Not a real fan. He needs a new trail name so if anyone has good ideas let me know.

My first campfire of the hike.

As we were talking he pointed out the second snake of the trip. A little yellow and black thing. Again I don’t have a picture, so I’m sorry but all you snake nerds can guess as to what they were.

He made friends with Arry, too. Said something about needing to lighten his pack, so she got to help eat up his salami.

Today was a good day. After leaving the summit of Pleasant Pond Mountain so quickly I was upset at myself initially for not allowing myself time to just appreciate nature, especially after we arrived at the campsite so early. But that’s the beauty of this journey, I suppose. You make a choice on where to hike and what to see. And if you think it was a good day, then that’s all that matters.

Day Seven: 8.9 Miles

Usually mornings are cool and bug-free for a few hours. This morning was hot and the black flies were out with a vengeance.

This hike is a good routine for Arry. Even after our relatively long and arduous day yesterday,  she was raring to go first thing. In part I think she wanted to get away from the bugs, but she really does love the trail.

The nine-ish miles we traversed today felt like we were in the jungle. It was extremely warm and humid.  Every part of me was covered except my hands and I think they got bit 20 plus times by mosquitoes. It was almost too hot to wear the bug head net. I kept feeling overheated, so I’d take it off, my face would get attacked, I’d put it back on, repeat for nine miles. I definitely have been seeing more and more mosquitoes recently. I’m not sure if it is the weather or season or the fact that today seemed to always be around water.

Fording rivers.

I do think the herbal essence stuff Chris gave us is helping Arry. Not completely,  but I’m sure these bugs breed resistance to all forms of repellent. Putting it on two times a day is now part of our routine, combined with Musher’s Secret applications and multiple checks for ticks, scrapes, bumps, anything unusual.

Today was full of many water crossings and two decent fords. Two miles in we hit the Bald Mountain Stream to ford. Good thing I usually make sure to unclip Arry so we don’t pull each other in, because I slipped and ended up sitting in the water. I was angry for a few moments, but with the hot sun today I was sure the gear would dry out, and the cool leggings felt nice to walk in.

I don’t think there are enough vegetables in my diet right now. I always bring baby food for hikes, easy to digest for energy but also a good way to spruce up one’s diet with fruits and veggies. Today I had carrot, zucchini and pear. And I must say it was the most delicious and satisfying food of the day. Probably the best baby food I’ve ever had. That or I just need more veggies.

We passed four SOBO hikers today; one had a friendly German shepherd named Bella. Her partner said Bella wanted to play, but Arry ignored her and faced onward toward the trail. Sorry Bella, Arry wants to hike.

Hiking next to the Piscataquis River.

The fourth hiker we passed was putting his boots back on after a water crossing in his camp shoes. If a crossing looks deep, some hikers, maybe most, take off their shoes and socks to wear Chacos or whatever fast-drying camp shoes they have. Once they ford, they’ll dry off their feet and put their dry socks and boots back on.

We soon came to a very small creek. I laughed to myself.  I’m not putting on my Chacos for this, I thought, silly hiker. A little later on the trail we had to ford Piscataquis River. Ahh, silly me, this is what he was talking about. But alas, my shoes were already wet from the previous big ford I fell into, so Arry and I crossed without hesitation.

About a quarter mile from camp Arry deemed it was break time.  She picked a good spot. Shady, and not many bugs. At first I wanted to tell her we were almost there, a quarter mile to the campsite. But then, what’s the hurry? We would get there well before noon anyway. So I took out some turkey sticks for her, and some gorp for me (basically a homemade trail mix. Thank my boyfriend for making sure mine has plenty of nuts for long-term energy), and we just sat for some time, enjoying the river below and each other’s presence.

We got to camp early, again. Again no cell service. But I used some time to plan the upcoming 100-Mile Wilderness portion of the trail, and to dry out my socks and boots in the hot sun.

A hiker named Carrie came to take a break at the site before pushing on to the next campsite for the night. Her spirit seemed low and she seemed set on ending her hike when she gets to Caratunk. She is from England, and so is her boyfriend, who is working via Wi-Fi at towns out of his pickup, with a tent in the back, as she is hiking the AT.  I guess he did the AT and PCT a few years back.  She was coming from Monson and wasn’t enjoying the  trail, despite enjoying day hikes and camping.

Arry lay down next to her; I think she wanted some of her M&Ms. I let them be as she petted her.

I wish her the best, and can only hope she finds something she enjoys to do with the rest of her visa, and that her boyfriend is supportive. Hopefully, between Arry and me, she left a little more cheerful and hopeful than when she arrived.

Tomorrow we will hit Monson. ‘Im ready for a salad, shower, and to wash these clothes! This will be the final stop before 100 miles (ish) of wilderness.

Day Eight: 9 Miles

Last night I lay down to sleep,  and four hikers coming southbound woke me as they joined the campsite.  Groggily I greeted them.  I shared my gummy bears,  and they shared the blueberry pancakes they had hiked out from Monson.

Since no one had an update on the weather,  specifically what time it was supposed to rain tomorrow, simply “all day,” I decided Arry and I should get an early start and make the most of our in town experience.

I woke up at 4:30 a.m., just as the sun started to rise. It was spitting rain. By 6 a.m. we were packed up and on the move. I knew we had another river to ford and I was hoping to cross it before it got too boisterous.  My motivation for Arry was simple. “Arry, the faster we get there, the sooner you can lay on a warm soft bed.”

We took off sprinting.

Such green foliage in the rain.

As we walked, everything smelled fresh. The forest smelled of Christmastime, with all the pine aromatics. It also looked extremely lush, and green. Not green-green like the southern growth explosions, but more the northern green-yellow of spring.

I erroneously thought that I wouldn’t need my bug net, as the chill and rain would keep them away. I was wrong. About two miles in I had to stop and get the bug net out.

We came to the river and it looked beautiful.  Thankfully it wasn’t too high or rushing. Literally as soon as we crossed the rain picked up. It continued to gradually increase intensity as we walked, I mean ran.

My glasses kept fogging up. I’m not sure why I didn’t put contacts in. I do know why, actually. Because I was lazy and glasses are easy to throw on in the mornings.  But I could only partly see as the heat that radiated off my head, confined inside the bug net, met the cool air falling from the sky.

The lookout on Buck Hill, well, you couldn’t see much.

Buck Hill scenic view.

But we finally made it to Monson! A little wet, but very happy inside. These nine miles, while not overly strenuous, were mentally tough. The difficulty came from knowing these miles were all that was between being wet, and being dry, being on the trail, and relaxing in town.  Today was by far the earliest we’ve finished so far. But I wanted it all, I wanted to hike a day’s worth of miles, while getting to spend all day in town. What did I do in town after I showered? I ate, and used the Wi-Fi. And it wouldn’t have made one iota of difference if we’d gotten in an hour or so later.

We spent the remainder of the day at Shaw’s Hiker Hostel and the local area. They are a dog-friendly hostel run by a family that thru-hiked the AT. They also have a killer AYCE blueberry pancake breakfast. But I’ll be the judge of that tomorrow!

Poet, one of the owners, helped me set up a food drop for the 100-Mile Wilderness. Right now I’m trying to keep the miles about ten or so a day still. But I don’t want to carry ten days of food, so I filled up a bucket and they’ll come deliver a resupply to me.  While it is still the wilderness, there are logging roads that run through it, semi-difficult to traverse, but it is possible.

Welcome to Shaw’s.

We checked off all the typical hiker in town things… shower, laundry, eat too much food, charge all the things, update everything on social media, lay on all the soft things, etc.

And tomorrow, after a nice rest on a warm and soft bed, we start the 100 miles!

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