Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Day 164- An Epic Day

Sept 12, 2015
Potaywadjo Spring Lean-to(2140.9) to Hurd Brook Lean-to(2170.9) 30 Miles

Laces, Click, and I woke up early this morning and we were ready to rock and roll. We had a very ambitious plan layed out. We wanted to finish the 100-mile wilderness and hike all the way to Abol Bridge, 32.6 miles away. The terrain was supposed to be pretty creamy(hiker slang for easy), so we gave it a go. Laces kept telling people we were "trying" to hike 32.6 miles, I kept telling her, "Do or do not, there is no try". 

We left camp a little later than I would have liked, 7:00. I wanted to get going by 6:00, but with the shorter days that wasn't possible. We knew that there was a very high probability that we would have to hike in the dark, but we didn't really care. I haven't night hiked yet and I really wanted to give it a go. If we could pull this off, I would have hiked my longest day yet and finally gotten a chance to night hike. I've been focused on hiking 31.1 miles for a while. 31.1 miles is an ultra marathon, or 50K. I've hiked a 5K, 10K, 15K, half marathon, and a marathon. What better way to end my last full day of hiking than by completing an ultra. 

The day started out as advertised, very creamy. Shortly after leaving camp we passed by, Pemadumcook Lake. From the shore of the lake we had a great view of Katahdin. 
Mt. Katahdin. The Northern terminus of the AT

Seeing Katahdin really spurred us on. We cranked out the next few miles pretty easily. We expected to have to ford Tumbledown Dick Stream, but it was just a rock hop. We have been really lucky lately with the stream fords. Even with the rain the last few days we have been able to rock hop across instead of losing time fording. Fording takes forever. You have to take off your socks and shoes, put your sandals on, cross the water, dry your feet off, and then out your socks and shoes back on. The novelty of river fords has quickly gone away. The far bank of Tumbledown Dick stream was very steep and eroded, so the MATC installed a ladder to help us make it up. 
Thanks, MATC

Laces and I continued our brisk pace for a few more miles, we were making great time. We were definitely on schedule to meet our goal until the unexpected happened. We hit trail magic!!! It was very unexpected because we were still in the 100- mile wilderness. There are roads in the wilderness, but most of them are gravel or forest service roads. Scrambles, a former AT thru-hiker had a very nice setup. He was right next to Nahmakanta Lake, where he was serving up Starbucks coffee, scrambled eggs, fruit, and an assortment of snacks. We caught up with Lean to, who I hadn't seen since the beginning of the Whites. Scrambles had been there since the day before and had already fed over fifty hungry hikers. Laces, Click, and I seem to be in between two big bubbles right now, which is pretty nice. For the last few days there have been too many hikers around. I haven't been around so many other thru-hikers since Georgia. It makes it difficult to camp at night when we are all fighting for camping spots. 
Trail magic. Laces, Lean to, Click, and Scrambles

We lost a little of our momentum by stopping at the trail magic, but there was no way we weren't going to stop. Laces and I chugged down a fair amount of coffee and we were all jacked up, which was a good thing because the trail quickly turned from creamy into chunky. Saying that I'm completely over mud, rocks, and roots would be an understatement. I've learned to deal with the rocks and roots, but I'll never get used to the mud. It gets old really quick dealing with wet feet all day. Unlike yesterday, we had a few mountains to climb today. Nesuntabunt Mountain wasn't very tall, but it was pretty steep. Laces and I decided that we needed music to help us up the climb. Luckily it was a short climb, only 800' over .9 miles. From the top we had a great view of Katahdin. From our vantage point it was only 16 miles ahead. This was our first sight of her up close and personal. It was a little intimidating. Katahdin looked really steep, but also very majestic. 
Mt. Katahdin

Although we were only sixteen miles from Katahdin at this point, it would take us another 28 trail miles before we would reach the summit. The trail bobbed and weaved around the 100-Mile wilderness for the rest of the day. We had several PUDs throughout the day, which was very frustrating. We were so close, but yet so far away. With the end in sight though, our spirits were renewed. We were more than halfway through our epic day and our legs still felt pretty fresh. The only problem was the rapidly decreasing daylight. 

We cruised along for several more miles before reaching, Pollywog Stream. As luck would have it, instead of rock hopping or fording the stream, we were able to cross on a logging road with a proper bridge. We were both stoked to have a bridge to walk across. 
Laces showing her excitement to have a proper bridge

At this point in our journey any little thing to make our lives easier is very much appreciated. A short time later we walked by, Murphy Pond. We would have liked to stop and go for a swim, but with 12.3 miles remaining that was not possible. 
Murphy Pond

For the remainder of the day we kept coming across nice ponds or lakes that cried out for us to stop at. Unfortunately, that just wasn't in the cards. The most tempting spot was, Rainbow Lake. When we hit that point we were exhausted and we ran into several of out friends camping there. 8 Paws, Pony Puncher, and Food Truck greeted us as we walked by. They tried to convince us to stay and we were so tired that we almost agreed. Instead we settled for an extended break so we could catch up with one another. Blade and Clarity were there as well, which was very unexpected. They should have been twenty miles behind us, but due to a complicated yellow blaze, that I'm not sure I really understand, they had gotten ahead of us. We chatted for way too long, made plans to summit with one another, and convinced Blade to hike out with us. At this point, Laces and I, were moving pretty slow and our dreams of a 32.6 mile day were quickly evaporating. Time was not on our side, we had 2.5 hrs to hike almost eight miles. The thought of night hiking no longer excited us. We covered another two miles relatively quickly before deciding to cut our day short. The new plan was to hike up, Rainbow Ledges, which was a 600' climb and to end our day at the Hurd Brook Lean-to. We would still have to night hike 2.5 miles and we would still hit 30 miles for the day. We wouldn't hit our goal, but we would both have hiked our longest day yet. I was perfectly ok with that. 

As we climbed up, Rainbow Ledges, Blade discovered that his headlamp wasn't working very well. Laces and I paused to take in one last look at Katahdin, while Blade hurried on. It was starting to get dark and he needed to cover more ground before that happened. 
Best view of Katahdin yet

As we hiked down, Rainbow Ledges, it got dark really quickly. I rapidly discovered that I do not care for night hiking. The rocks, roots, and mud puddles were unavoidable and I was paranoid about hurting myself this close to the end. Our pace seemed to slow to a crawl, but we actually made pretty decent time considering. We made it to the lean-to at 8:30. Setting up in the dark was a new challenge, but I made due. The three of us camped next to each other. While I was setting up, they cooked dinner and ate. When I finished setting up, I skipped cooking and made due with the rest of the snacks in my food bag. Although I didn't hike a 50k, I was pleased to hike 30 miles. I had set that goal for myself before the hike started and it was fitting to have reached that goal on my last full day of hiking. 

Tomorrow will be a nero into, Abol Bridge, also known as the first sign of civilization after finishing the 100-mile wilderness. It also marks the entrance into Baxter State Park and the gateway to Katahdin. As this trip comes to an end I am extremely grateful for the time I have gotten to spend with my friends lately. Although I started this hike alone, I have never truely been alone. 

"I try to live my life where I end up at a point where I have no regrets. So I try to choose the road that I have the most passion on because then you can never really blame yourself for making the wrong choices. You can always say you're following your passion."
-Darren Aronofsky


  1. Happy to read about the 30 mile day. Well done for you and Laces plus Trail Magic & time to do some visiting with trail friends. You are so OK with what the trail provides.

  2. I don't even like driving 30 miles. It's amazing to me that you hiked it. I knew you had to be booking it toward the end when we didn't hear from you for a few days. I bet that day will stand out in your memory as one of the highlights! I hope you're totally resting and enjoying the family and beach. And dadgum it, I bet you look awesome in a bathing suit. Well, maybe not your feet. Lol.

  3. I loved that you made friends and food a priority while still reaching a goal...WIN/WIN!!!
    Amazing to have trail magic on the 100 Mile. Thank you for telling us not only about the trail magic, but about the angels who do many were former Thru Hikers... also I have enjoyed your photos of the trail magic. You had me jumping with joy when you would find a cooler w/ a scribbled note in the middle of nowhere.

    I hope you are enjoying time on the beach with your parents and the time to reflect on what you have just accomplished.
    And SERIOUSLY, if you ever make this blog into a book I want to buy a signed copy....I have read several AT books and this blog has been my favorite AT read.
    Chris Nashville

  4. I got my first glimpse of My Katahdin in late May 1972 as my two friends and I drove in from Millonocket. We shared the road with huge Euclid logging trucks that had tires taller than my 6 feet. Just as we crested a slight rise, there it was, the Lonely Mountain, or at least that is what I thought of it sitting all by itself just as JRR Tolkien described it. We camped at the bottom of the Abol trail and fought off the black flies until it was time to hike to the summit. To say Abol trail kicked our butts would be an under statement. I went back to Katahdin four more times using the Roaring Brook trail. On my last accent, my buddy and I got caught in a thunderstorm while traversing the "Plain" coming down from the summit and we had to bail down Abol. When we got to the bottom, we had at least a 15 mike hike in the pouring rain to get back to our campground lean-to.

    Congratulation on your accomplishment!! I've followed your entire adventure and enjoyed hiking thru your eyes.

    Bob Clark
    (Kingston, NY & Riverview, Fl)