Wilderness

Widerness part 1

Katahdin

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We drove up from PA to ME on the Fourth of July stopping at a hotel in Connecticut for the night and then in Millinucket the night before we’d hike the mountain.  It was a fun family ride and we discovered that the McDonald’s in Maine have lobster rolls.  On the morning of the sixth we woke up at 3 am (we were aiming for 4 but I guess we were overly excited).  Drove and waited for the parks gait to open.  6 am rolled around and we were driving through Baxter State park.  It looked like a promising day ahead of us with the sun peaking out.  We got our slack packs together and then headed up the hill towards the alluring peak.  A stream was flowing near by, moss was everywhere, evergreens rising tall, and the smell of balsam lurked in the air.  We crossed a stream and I used the last privy available on the trail.  There was Katahdin waterfalls to glance at and then the trail became a bit steeper and a bit rocky but we were still making good time.  My dad and I stopped to get water at a spring very happy we’d done 2 miles in an hour feeling pretty optimistic about getting to the top before eleven.  Then the terrain got a bit trickier and there were mini boulders to climb here and there and many more rocks.  We caught up to my mom where there was a line of girls climbing up through some rocks.  Things started to get a little more technical with questions coming up like to how to I climb up this?  We lost the trail for a bit and made a new friend Linda who decided she’d like to stick with us for the rest of the climb up.  Then there was a bar jutting out of a rock and I stood there awhile starting to doubt my abilities of getting up.  I was stumped and I’m not going to lie, my dad gave me a bit of a push up.  We were above the tree line now and the scrambles were becoming harder.  Also, what had promised to be a sunny day was now clouding up fast and when we looked ahead on the trail we saw we’d be walking into the clouds away from the views.  We got to a flat bit and looked up as a line of white blazes dotted up the “trail” of boulders.  This was fun but after sometime I became exhausted and was not happy until we reached what is known as the table top.  We had about two miles left and the one mile section we had just done had taken around two hours.  I caught my stride again with the finish line close.  There were steps going up but when I saw the crowd around the sign i got a big boost and I was finally on top of Baxter Peak.  I got my classic shot with the sign and hung out until my parents arrived and we could eat lunch.  The clouds stirred around and small glances of ponds below appeared.  We headed down.  It wasn’t bad until we got back to the Boulder section.  We took turns navigating our way down.  It was fun and I wasn’t hurting that much on the boulders but when we got below the tree line the downhill started to get to me.  It felt like we were in the forest forever and at points we questioned if we were on the right trail.  Eventually, my mother and I caught up with my dad and the last two miles were much less painful.  When we got back to camp we ate a butt load of spaghetti.  I couldn’t of been more thrilled that my parents and I had climbed Katahdin together and had a blast doing it.
Abol bridge
The next day my legs were so stiff it was a struggle trying to squat or walk downhill.  It was going to rain but we had all our stuff packed up before it started.  Our plan was to get to Abol bridge, grab our packs from mom, and head to the first shelter.  My mother hiked for a bit until the rain started coming down harder and turned back.  We saw two waterfalls on our way but the rain started to really come down. It let down for a bit and we were able to consume lunch but then it came back with a fury.  Thankfully all the terrain was flat and when we saw the car we were over joyed to be out of the rain.  My father and I agreed that neither of us wanted to hike anymore so we got a cabin at Abol bridge for the night.   There we were able to peel off all our wet things, take hot showers, and wear blue jeans.  Mom cooked some dinner and I limped around (still sore).  We heard lunes on the river.  At dark it was time for mom to leave and go back to her set up tent at the other campsite.  We said goodbye to her and our comfy town cloths and then went to bed.

Into the wild

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It wasn’t raining the next day and my mother surprised us by showing up for breakfast!  My legs were still not working normally.  I was having trouble going down the one step outside the cabin and was slightly concerned I was entering the 100 mile wilderness in this state.  We ate the breakfast that was provided and felt full of energy.  Then we walked across the bridge and into the forest.  Dad said goodbye for me while I read the big sign announcing that I better have 10 days of supplies because I was entering the 100 mile wilderness.  As soon as we passed the sign, roots and rocks appeared and our 2 mile per hour pace was lost.  We stopped by the first shelter to check it out and then continued up our first hill which included several steps and a few rock hops.  We were supposed to see Katahdin but instead we saw cool white moss.  We enjoyed our lunch on top and then moved ahead through the muddy puddles and trippy roots.  We started following rainbow lake and it became very rooty, mossy, and fairy like.  The terrain got a bit better before a proposed campsite.  When we arrived however a large circle of kids were formed at the trail and when we said hi they replied, “we can move some of our stuff if it’s in your way but we are about to have a ceremony that will last 20 to 30 minutes.”   Weirded out, we tried to find some flat spots and only found one.  My dad said he wanted to leave so after using the privy I found him 50 yards ahead on the trail saying he had a very bad vibe about those folks.  We passed 2 more groups of 12 (which would make 6 for that day).  My dad found an area that we could make work and when we got to a stream we filled up and carried the water back to the spot.  I got a flattish area and my dad stayed in a ditch.  We were happy we’d found anything at all and smoked out cigars and drank whiskey to celebrate the first 13 miles of wilderness being completed.
Rough walking
The next morning two groups passed us without noticing us (I guess we’re stealthy).  The walking was slow again through slippery rocks and roots while a slight drizzle came down.  We got to the first shelter and met an interesting man named Squirt who’s best advice was to not hike in the rain.  He was finishing the trail in four months and may of admitted to some yellow blazing but it seemed he was having a pretty good time.  We continued down the trail which followed a lovely stream for a few miles.  The trail then became a steep uphill in a jumble of roots and we ate lunch overlooking a gorge on some cliffs. We overindulged and had trouble moving afterwards but made it to the top of a mountain over looking a large lake but the promised view of Katahdin was hidden in the clouds.  The downhill was steep and slippery and when we got to the shelter two large camp groups were there so we camped up the trail a little.  We’d had a shorter day then the last but it had taken us almost the same amount of time.  The terrain had been tough and I was beginning to learn I would hike longer days and get less miles while I was in Maine.  A NOBO dude camped with us and told us his favorite state of the trail was Maine and I was impressed with all the people already finishing their thru hikes when I was only half way.  It wasn’t even dark when we turned in but we wanted to get an early start the next day to get to White House landing.
White House Landing
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We had a really early start the next day and packed up quick since it was raining.  There were some rocks and roots for a bit but the walking became easier as we got to closer to our destination.  It got exceptionally flat and the trail was in fantastic shape.  The rain kept us moving so we got to the doc before noon and made the call to get picked up.  The host came to pick us up in his boat and bring us across the lake to White House Landing where my mother had just arrived.  We got in our cabin and noticed there was no electric or heat.  I shivered for sometime and then tried to hang my bear line to dry out some of my belongings.  There wasn’t a rule against doing so and it was still drizzling outside.  The guy host didn’t say anything when he came in but a few minutes later I saw his wife for the first time knocking on the door.  We greeted her and she responded with ” uh uh, uh uh, take that down, it will drip over the furniture, that’s rude, my wrist is broken”, and then she walked out.  What a nice first impression.  I understand why she didn’t want me to do it but I didn’t feel I was being rude and I felt that was an unacceptable way to talk to your paying guests (even if you have an injury).  It kind of made me uncomfortable in her presence the rest of my stay even though she seemed extra friendly afterwards (my mom apologized but the lady never did).  After getting over the fact, I enjoyed hanging out  with my parents.  My mother and I went swimming in the lake and my dad helped me organize my food for the rest of the journey.  We got burgers for dinner and then hung by a fire till it got late.  The next day would be my last with them and then I would be on my own for the rest of my journey.

Joe Mary
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I just slept in a tad the next morning and after a filling breakfast we all took the boat ride back across the lake.  We said goodbye to mom and then my father and I began our 10 mile slack pack.  It was the first beautiful day we’d had since Katahdin (which had been cloudy on top).  The terrain was great and within two miles we had a gorgeous view at a lake of Katahdin standing alone in the distance.  We continued on a little and right of the trail there was a pristine beach on Joe Mary lake.  It almost looked like we were at the ocean.  My dad and I went for a swim and then dried off in the sun.  We stopped at a campground a few miles later overlooking the same lake and had lunch there.  The privy there was super nice too!  We passed a pond and then were greeted by my mother walking towards us.  We had made fabulous time.  I stopped by the car to pack my pack (I brought some cherries and beer for the first night).  My parents walked with me for a bit and then we said goodbye.  For once, I did not cry.  I’d had a fabulous time with them and it would be a few months but then I’d see them again.  I walked three miles to the shelter where only one other guy was.  He was a finishing NOBO and gave me some good advice for Maine.  I drank my beer with my dinner and went to sleep filled with happiness.
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Comments 3

  • Avatar
    Hans Schmitthenner : Jul 28th

    You write wonderfully well ! Love reading these…

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Paul Boulay : Jul 29th

    I did it SOBO in ’78, right after college. I love reading your and all the other AT blogs of their thru-hiked as I re-live my own. Maybe I can do it again in 6 years when I can retire. Maine and the Bald Mtn range were my favorite sections. Keep blogging – onward.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Joan Potenza : Jul 30th

    Great posts Hillary! Makes me feel like I an there, too. Admire your effort! Our local paper published a story about a guy who made me think of you. Maybe you overlapped with him? Dont know if you can see it but here is the link. https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2016/07/28/ur-grad-hikes-6600-miles-foot-13-months/87653720/

    Reply

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