Sunday, June 24, 2007

On the AT - Grafton Notch to East B Hill Road, Andover, ME

June 24, 2007 | Miles: 10.3
Start: Rt. 26, Grafton Notch
End: East B Hill Road, Andover
A gorgeous day to be out! The air was crisp, the sky was blue and there was a nice cool breeze to keep away the bugs. Perfect! We had done the climb up and over the Baldpates before, but it was long ago, and we hadn’t remembered it being such a nice hike! The section from the West Baldpate summit down into the col where beautiful mountain laurel was blooming, as well as this cool grass with little puff ball tops blowing in the wind, and then back up to East Baldpate was gorgeous but breezy! The descent off East was steep, and we stopped in the notch for lunch, then headed up and over Surplus Mountain and wandered down through the woods on the other side to the road… the woods were nice and green with wood sorrel, ladyslippers, blue bead lilies, star flowers, Canada mayflower along the trail. It was a good 5-hour hike, and we enjoyed it!

Today rocked. We felt great. The trail was nice. Most of all the weather was perfect and the views were amazing. The Baldpates are one of the most beautiful stretches we’ve hiked yet. It was too bad we were only out for the day. A little more than ten miles in about five hours. Good stuff. And our extremely random and haphazard section hike rolls on.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

On the AT - East B Hill Road to South Arm Road, Andover, ME

June 10, 2007 | Miles: 10.1
Start: East B Hill Road, Andover
End: South Arm Road
Bright and sunny, a bit humid
Aided once again by our friend Earl at the Cabin shuttling us from South Arm to the AT crossing on East B Hill Road, we were on our way by 9:15. The ascent to Surplus Pond was pretty mellow, and the woods were full of white and pink lady slippers, gold thread, bunchberry, blue bead lilies and Indian poke. A few trout lilies and trillium holding on too, but mostly their season is over. Anyway, as always, the spring woods are vsery pretty. At the pond, which is accessible by a dirt road, a large group had set up camp right on the trail, although friendly. From there we climbed up Wyman Mountain, wandering through pine forest and taking in a few nice views along the way. There were a few pesky blowdowns after the summit on our descent to Hall Mountain Lean-to, where we stopped to have our lunch, and then the trail went down, down, down into Sawyer Notch. Pesky notches! Sawyer Brook was running high, but we managed to get across without getting too wet! Thank goodness for goretex ;-) Then up, up, up Moody Mountain, with numerous ladders and scrambles along the way. We were surprised to see some moose droppings on the way up. It seems moose will go anywhere, even if very steep! The climb seemed to go on forever, but eventually we hit the high point with a nice scenic vista. We didn’t stay long as the long grass and brambles had irritated my legs and I was looking forward to getting down to Black Brook to wash off my legs… Silly sensitive skin! Luckily, the descent was much gentler and soon enough we were at the brook. As we pondered whether we could get across without getting our feet wet, a kingfisher flew by. Neat! Eventually we decided to just wade on through and I had fun splashing around in the water. It felt good on a warm day! All in all, a good 6-hour hike, and another 10 miles done ;-)

Earl said it best: “A great day to be out in the woods.” That pretty much sums it up. Another shuttle from Earl from the Cabin in Andover, and we were on our way. 6 miles of mellow climbing to Hall Mtn. Lean-to, then 4 miles of 1400 feet down, 1000 feet up and another 1000 feet down. Kinda hard, but not impossible. Not much to report from the day other than another beautiful section of Maine.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

On the AT - Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to to Rt. 4, Rangeley, ME

June 5, 2007 | Miles: 9.4
Start: Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to
End: Rt. 4, Rangeley
It poured overnight, but we awoke to what looked like clearing skies, which was nice. As we were packing up to leave, a grey jay came in to check us out. Ryan took a few peanuts from our GORP and held them out in his hand; the bird swooped right in, scooped them up, and then kind of cocked his head as if looking for more… We also saw a hummingbird fly by! And down by the pond, a snowshoe hare hopped by. Later we scared up a hairy woodpecker; also saw a hermit thrush and a black-throated blue warbler. Still no moose, but again, lots of droppings and hoofprints. The terrain was relatively mellow today, although with the additional rain last night, it was the wettest day yet! And of course, I managed to slip off almost every root or rock that I used to get through the water on the trail. Finally in frustration, I stomped in a puddle and felt a bit better! I think the trail would have been better described today as a combination stream/bog/pond with a few small patches of dry ground thrown in… I don’t think we’ve ever been on a wetter trail. At the final stream crossing, with really no good way across, we simply stomped right through, which was a nice change to attempting to keep dry by hopping around the water! All in all, a good, if wet and rough, three days of hiking. And better yet, the skies cleared and we had blue skies for the last few hours!

It rained pretty hard last night making everything wetter. The Trail today was underwater. Pretty much everywhere. It’s our third and final day and I’m feeling pretty good. My body has felt great, and I’ve yet to mention my new pack. I just purchased a Six Moons Designs, Starlite. It’s awesome, get one. It maxes out at carrying 35 pounds, which is about as heavy as I want to go. My base weight is just under 15 pounds, so add food and water, and I’m in good shape. It carries great and these three days were a great test. It hasn’t quite reached legendary status like my sleeping bag, Western Mountaineering Ultralite, but it’s pretty sweet. Oh yeah, we hiked today. My body felt really good. No pain in the knees at all. I think I was moving a little better than Danielle at the end of the hike, which is rare. Then again, she was carrying about 10 pounds of water in each boot after falling into pretty much every stream today. And, by stream, I mean trail. The trail was pretty much all water. There were a number of bog bridges, but we literally could have used about 7 miles of them. Water everywhere. It was a bit ridiculous, but that’s late spring in Maine. Hopefully, our boots will dry in time for next weekend. At least the sun came out today. It was nice to not be getting wet from above, even if we were being saturated from below. All in all, it was a great trip, and out first foray onto the AT in Maine. We’re slowly piecing it together, and it’s always nice to be in the woods.

Monday, June 4, 2007

On the AT - Bemis Mtn Lean-to to Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to, ME

June 4, 2007 | Miles: 8.3
Start: Bemis Mountain Lean-to
End: Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to
After a night of snoring, we woke up to a chilly, wet morning. Ryan’s watch was reading 46 degrees in the shelter. So on with the raingear, and off we went, heading out at 7:45, last to leave, as usual… the hike up over Bemis Peaks 1 and 2 was up and over some rocky ridgeline, the blooming rhodora were nice purple highlights amidst the green and grey that dominated the rest of the landscape. However, the rocky ledges continued as we descended, and boy were they slick! We had a rough go of it, and it took us forever to navigate the slippery rocks. Ryan was not amused, and wanted to stop hiking once we reached Rt. 17. However, we finally got down off the Bemis peaks, and hit what Wingnut called a “ford.” We were relieved to find that the river was crossable on a nice log and with a few rock hops—much better than a ford on a cold day! That perked Ryan up a bit, as did the rest of the hike, which was much more mellow, winding along through some nice forest, adding Indian poke and wild oat to our list of flora seen on the way. We even had a bit of trail magic! Along one of the ponds, there was a small stream with orange sodas and a few PBRs left by a 2006 thru-hiker. We picked up a PBR to enjoy with dinner. Nothing like a cold PBR on a cold, rainy day :-) Toward the end of our hike, we hugged the shoreline of Long Pond, which had a nice beach, and then ended up at Sabbath Day Pond, with the shelter a bit removed from the pond’s edge. It was pretty early, but with no other shelters along the route, we decided to call it a day and hang out for the afternoon. Stickman and Faithful joined us, and we had another evening together, once again happy to be in the shelter and out of the rain, which picked up significantly overnight!

Well, another soggy day on the trail. In fact, the trail is underwater. Everything is soaked. It hasn’t really brought a full tilt rain, but the mist to almost rain has been constant. We started the day continuing along the Bemis Ridge, then with a thousand-foot descent to Bemis Stream. It sucked, and I was not a happy camper. I was sucking my thumb and wanted to be home with my woobie. Plus, I was dreading the advertised ford of Bemis Stream. I hate, hate, hate cold water. Needless to say, I was not a fun person to be around. Once again, Danielle put up with my whining, and convinced me we shouldn’t just pack it in at Route 17, which was a mile or so away. Anyway, we made it off the ridge and we reached the stream. Stickman and Faithful, after starting out from the shelter before us, were already there. Referring to the ridge, Stickman said very matter-of-factly, “That was kinda tough.” This guy’s attitude was light years ahead of mine. So, after an hour of pouting, I smacked myself around and got it together. Plus, the ford was super easy. One nicely placed downed tree and a simple rock hop later, we were on the other side. Actually, on many parts of the trail we got a lot wetter than on this ford. I was planning to have to take off the rain pant and don the Crocs, but it was really easy. Then we had the steep climb up to Route 17, and I was feeling good. I like climbing. I’m sick. The rest of the way was pretty mellow, but wet, wet, wet. June in Maine is very soggy. We passed a couple beautiful ponds, which I love hiking past. Really some of my favorite scenery. Best of all, we found cold beer in a stream left by a past thruhiker. PBR with dinner? Absolutely. I’ll definitely tote a beer to the shelter. I turned it into a mousehanger for the shelter. It’s nice to give back. We had a couple walking snacks since it was so rainy, and were eating lunch in the shelter by about 1:00. Then it was into the bag for a relaxing but chilly afternoon. Stickman and Faithful showed up about 2 hours after us, and we spent the night chatting about the Trail. I tried to convince Stickman to keep his wet t-shirt on. “Just throw a warm layer over it, and then sleep in it. It will be dry by morning. It works great. I’m doing it right now.” He wasn’t buying it.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

On the AT - South Arm Road to Bemis Mtn Lean-to, ME

June 3, 2007 | Miles: 8.7
Start: South Arm Road
End: Bemis Mountain Lean-to
We had planned to do the Franconia Ridge this 3-day weekend, but due to forecasts for thunder, lightening, wind and rain, we thought another option might be best… So, we thought that this Maine section would be a good one. We called Earl at the Cabin in Andover on Saturday night, and arranged for him to shuttle us from our end point at Rt. 4, Rangeley back to the start at South Arm Road. During the whole 1 1/2 hour ride, Earl kept us amused with stories of hiking and hikers, as well as little bits of trivia. We also saw some white lady slippers on the back roads. Cool! We started off at 10am, and although we had a few views on the steep climb up Old Blue, things quickly clouded over and we were in the fog and mist for the rest of the afternoon. The woods had a Tolkien quality to them, very rugged, old and moss covered. And things were very wet and slippery, with the wet rocks and roots making for some rough, slow going. Thrown in were a few blowdowns to make life interesting too, of course :-) And lots of moose poop! We finally made it to Bemis Mountain Lean-to after 6 hours, to find three guys holed up there out of the mist and rain. Bookworm was on a NOBO hike, but he started in October! Now that’s a different way to do a thru! And Stickman and Faithful had just started out there hike, heading north to Katahdin and then flopping back south from Andover. Inexperienced, but seem to have good energy. We’ll be thinking of them as they head along the trail! It was an early night in the bag for us, as it was pretty chilly!
We saw lots of spring flowers on the way- trillium, goldthread, trout lilies, blue bead lilies, violets, starflowers, wild sasparilla and bunchberries.

Earl is the man. Who’s Earl. Earl owns and runs the Cabin in Andover, ME, and he agreed to shuttle us from our car at the end in Rangeley to the start of our hike on South Arm Road. (Oh yeah, we planned to hike from Franconia Notch to Crawford Notch, but forecast of rain, lightning, death and destruction changed our plans.) Earl told us stories the whole time, and it was great. Then we climb up Old Blue. Old Blue flat out brings it. Steep climb. And, we were climbing into the clouds. It never really rained on us, but it was very wet, soggy and misty all day long. Earl warned us about blowdowns, but we saw very few until we saw a lot. From Elephant Mountain (or near it, anyway) to the Bemis Stream Trail, the blowdowns were crazy. Up, over, around, through. You name it. We climbed Mt. Bemis, but didn’t bother with the viewpoint…since we were in a cloud. Maybe there were other views. No idea. See aforementioned cloud. We rolled into Bemis Mountain Lean-to at about 4:00, and there were already 3 in-residence. Bookworm, an ’06-’07 thruhiker who started in October of ’06, took two months off, and now is only a couple weeks from Katahdin. Good stuff. The other two, Stickman and Faithful, who are ’07 southbounders who are doing a northbound section to start just to get rolling. They’re going from Andover to Katahdin, and then they’ll head south. Stickman just turned 50 and has been dreaming of hiking the AT since he first heard of it at age 15. Faithful just turned 21 and is very, very quiet, but he did try to set the shelter on fire. He wasn’t quite sure how to use his stove. They are very green, but happy to be on the trail We talked to them a ton about our AT experience, and we wish them all the best. Hopefully, they’ll take some of our advice, especially since, like most new hikers, they are carrying way, way, way too much stuff. All in all, a great day on the trail, but I must admit, I was pretty tired by the time we got to the shelter. It was nice to curl up in the bag.