Monthly Archives: September 2014

Day 143 – East Carry Pond to US 201 (mile 2034.1, Caratunk, ME)

We left the pond and our nice site around 7:30am today and headed towards Caratunk. The sunrise on the pond was cool.

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Sun coming up over East Carry Pond

The elevation profile on our guide today looked very flat and tame compared to most other days in Maine. The first 6 miles or so to the Pierce Pond lean-to were quite easy and flat (for Maine). We got there and took a long snack break. We knew we had some time to kill because we had to get a ferry to cross the Kennebec River. It runs between 9-11am and 2-4pm and we knew we wouldn’t make the morning ferry. We hung out a bit at the lean-to and then made our way across the wooden dam there. That was kind of weird, who makes a dam out of wood, other than beavers?

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Non-beaver wooden dam on Pierce Pond

The trail after there still looked flat for 4 miles or so, but it went back to standard difficult Maine terrain, with lots of small ups and downs, rocks, and roots to deal with. By that time, it was pretty hot out and it felt like summer again. We got to the river around noon and were first in line for the 2pm ferry. We ate lunch and lounged around by the river waiting. The “ferry” is a guide in a canoe which is the officially sanctioned way to cross the river because it’s too dangerous to ford due to highly variable water depth because of a hydroelectric plant / dam up the river. It certainly looked like it would have been dangerous to ford as the current was clearly powerful.

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Looking across the Kennebec to the trail on the other side

We hopped aboard the canoe with the guide and I helped paddle while Trippy took pictures and sat in the middle. The canoe floor actually even has a white blaze on it.

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Paddling the canoe

After that, we had a short hike to get to the Sterling Inn in Caratunk. A friendly local gave us a ride there to save a bit of road walk. We resupplied and also got a shuttle up to the Northern Outdoors compound a couple miles up the road for drinks and dinner. The compound includes the Kennebec River Pub, which makes some tasty brew.

Tomorrow we are back on the trail and headed towards Monson. We have some bad weather forecasted here, but we are planning to hike through it at this point.

Vital stats for Friday, September 5th :
Miles hiked today – 10.3
Mood – good
Physical state – normal
Smell – aight
Song stuck in my head – Chocolate by The 1975

Day 142 – Safford Notch Campsite to East Carry Pond (mile 2023.8)

We had a pretty nice campsite last night at Safford Notch, but the chipmunks there were insane little beasts. We hung our food bags, but they climbed down the slick rope and gnawed multiple holes in both our bags and ate a little of our chocolate and some trash. If I can catch any of those cute little rodents, they are going in the cook pot as some delicious and cute extra protein.

Anyway, besides the chipmunks, we had a really nice day. We first hiked up the gradual and somewhat tough climb to Little Bigelow Mountain.

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Avery Peak, as seen from Little Bigelow. Flagstaff Lake to right.

Then we descended down to the lean-to (aka shelter) and had a morning snack. The trail got easier as we went down and eventually even resembled an actual recognizable walking path. It’s a strange concept after hiking the Whites and Maine. We crossed East Flagstaff Road and then got flagged down by some older dudes in the parking lot who had a crazy trail magic spread. Score!

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The dudes are all thru-hikers, the lady is a thru-hiker named Red Robin who we've been playing leapfrog with since Virginia

They gave us some breakfast sandwiches (it was brunch-ish or so), drinks, snacks, etc. We hung out long enough that they fired up the grill for lunch and we had some delicious cheeseburgers. Some of them are trail maintainers in Maine now, so that was really cool to here their stories and chat with them.

After we took our leave, we hiked on over fairly easy trail for the afternoon. We went by West Carry Pond, which looked dreamy, but it felt too early to stop. There was more trail magic at the lean-to there. Someone made cereal bars, like rice crispy treats, but with various sugary cereals instead of puffed rice…amazingly good. We pushed on for another 4 miles or so and got to East Carry Pond, which is equally as dreamy as the other directional Carry Pond . We found a fantastic site just off the pond. I really don’t know why they are called ponds though, these things are huge and would certainly be called a lake in Pennsylvania. We waded in the clear water near the sandy beach and relaxed. It was very nice to have a relaxing and pretty easy hiking day.

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Sandy beach at East Carry Pond

I sat quietly by the pond at sunset writing most of this post waiting for a moose to wade in to the water, but no luck there unfortunately. The colors of the sunset were beautiful though.

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Sunset on the pond with the moon

Tomorrow we’ve got about 10 miles or so to hit the tiny town of Caratunk, where we are stopping for a nearo and to resupply for the short push this weekend to Monson, the last town on the trail.

Vital stats for Thursday, September 4th :
Miles hiked today – 16.3
Mood – really good, so nice to have an easier day, get some great trail magic, and find a fantastic camping spot
Physical state – still tired overall, but the easier day helped a lot
Smell – unshowered moose
Song stuck in my head – mash-up of 2 Legit 2 Quit by Hammer (complete with hand motions), The Weight of Living by Bastille, and Burn Pile by Moving Mountains (by far the weirdest mash-up I’ve had on the trail)

Day 141 – mile 1994 to Safford Notch Campsite (mile 2007.5)

We had a lot of rain last night, so everything was super humid this morning. We stayed dry though. We lingered a bit late in the tarp this morning as the wind blew cold, raw air around us. Eventually, we hiked down towards Maine 27, the road that goes to the town of Stratton. It was slow hiking to get there, as the trail was very rooty and slick. We then started the long and challenging climb up to the Bigelow Range. The climb to get up to the range was pretty slow and rocky. We passed this guy near the way up. It was technically about a mile off from where our guide claimed it should be, but whatever, close enough!

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We've hiked a couple miles this summer

There were some nice views of Horns Pond and the North and South Horn peaks from the ridge.

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The Horns - Pond, North, and South. Sadly, no Bill and Bridget

We climbed South Horn, which was a steep rocky half mile.

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View from South Horn

Then we descended and climbed back up to the open ridge of Bigelow West Peak. The views were outstanding.

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Trippy climbing Bigelow West with the Horns in the background

Next up was a brief descent and climb right back up to the Bigelow Avery Peak, which had even more amazing views.

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Flagstaff Lake from Avery Peak

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Little Bigelow Mountain on left in foreground. Other endless mountains from Avery Peak

The weather was fantastic and the scenery was spectacular. We took a long snack break just sitting and marvelling at these views from Avery Peak. It’s very challenging here in Maine, but the reward for the hard work is awesome.

We then climbed down the steep 2 mile descent to the giant boulders down in Safford Notch. We hiked the extra 3/10 of a mile to the campsite here and called it a day around 5pm. Tomorrow we climb off the Bigelow Range. We also have no major mountains tomorrow, which is actually a nice break since these last 3 days have been tough.

Vital stats for Wednesday, September 3rd :
Milestone – we are officially 2000 milers
Mountains remaining – 5
Miles hiked today – 13.5
Mood – great
Physical state – same – tired, but ok
Smell – huge, terrible moose
Song stuck in my head – Dear Avery by The Decemberists

Day 140 – Sluice Brook to mile 1994

We headed out this morning and almost immediately began our first climb. We hiked up to Lone Mountain. It was a pretty steep climb, but the trail wasn’t too bad. I think we almost went up too fast and tired ourselves out a bit because the tread was pretty smooth compared to the normal crazy rock and root party that Maine throws. We got to the top, but the actual summit and viewpoint was another 150 yards up a pretty nasty looking chute of rocks, so we skipped it. We were trying to get over the 4000 footers before all the thunderstorms that were predicted hit us by late afternoon, also. We hiked along and then had our second big climb up and over the northwest corner of Spaulding Mountain. It was another pretty tough one. Then the descent down off this ridge was wickedly steep. It took quite a while to get down to the South Branch Carrabassett River at the bottom. There were a few hawks sailing seemingly around our heads as we climbed down the precarious rocks.

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Hawk sailing around

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Valley between Sugarloaf and Crockers

This river was the 3rd one that can require a ford, but all of them have been low enough that we could rock hop across without getting wet so far. I think there are a few farther north that we won’t be able to avoid fording, however. After we ate lunch by the river, we started the long 2000+ feet, 2+ mile climb up to the Crocker Range. The climb started pretty easily, but then after a campsite junction it got intensely steep. It levelled a bit off after a half mile or so, but the remaining half mile seemed to just go on forever. Once we hit the summit, the clouds had overtaken all the views, too. A storm seemed imminent, but it held out and then actually got nice and sunny later in the day. We climbed over North Crocker and then down off the ridge. We found an established campsite on the way down and grabbed it.

It was another really tough day here in Maine. Our legs are just super beat after all the constant elevation change since we hit the Whites. Tomorrow looks to be another pretty tough day with the Bigelow Range looming, but after that we should have a bit of an easier stretch as we head towards the town of Caratunk later this week.

Vital stats for Tuesday, September 2nd :
Milestone – less than 200 miles to Katahdin
Mountains remaining – 6
Miles hiked today – 14.9
Mood – feeling excited about having less than 200 miles left
Physical state – tired, but good otherwise
Smell – the moose are avoiding me now (come on you moose, I just want to see one of you!!)
Song stuck in my head РGo Do by Jónsi

Day 139 – ME 4 to Sluice Brook (mile 1979.1)

We decided it was finally time to depart Rangeley this morning after breakfast. We quickly got a hitch out of town from a nice local guy who was really into all the various hunting seasons they have up here, including the lottery-based moose hunt. We were hiking a little before 9am. We had some pretty big mountain climbs today going over Saddleback, The Horn, and Saddleback Junior. The climb to Saddleback was very root-filled and slow until we got up above treeline. Once we got up there, we had multiple false summits, but it was pretty nice hiking so we didn’t mind.

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One of the false summits of Saddleback (that area on top is not the summit)

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Rangeley Lake off in the distance from Saddleback summit

We then hiked down some steep and slick trail and then back up to The Horn. We grabbed some lunch and chatted with some other thru-hikers up there. We got a bit of rain shortly after that as we descended The Horn and ascended the last of the 3 peaks on this range, Saddleback Junior. By the time we summited, the rain had blown out and it was sunny again. The clouds were blowing through fast all day.

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Clouds covering Saddleback and The Horn as seen from Saddleback Junior

A lot of the trail was tricky today, with loads of wet roots and rocks to contend with.

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Typical gnarly Maine trail

We hiked down off that ridge and then briefly back up the next ridge and then found a little stealth spot off the Sluice Brook. Tomorrow we have the fairly large Spaulding/Sugarloaf/Crocker range to tackle.

Vital stats for Monday, September 1st :
Mountains remaining – 9
Miles hiked today – 14.2
Mood – good, glad to be back on the trail and heading towards the goal again
Physical state – improved after 2 days off, but still tired from another tough Maine day
Smell – sweaty moose
Song stuck in my head – Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town by Pearl Jam