Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Appalachian Trail Symphony: Days 61-67 (Mozart in the Woods)

Sunrise on South Pond
Day 61 - (8/10/16) 3.9 miles (South Pond to Piazza Rock Lean-to)

Piazza Rock or Pride Rock?
I woke up at 5:30am and heard sounds nearby that had to be a moose: breaking of branches and a big splash in the pond, but never saw it.  I hope I do get to see another before this hike is through.  I made it into Rangeley early and got my grocery shopping out of the way.  I hear this is the last real supermarket near the trail, so I hope I can find enough vegan food to survive.  Luckily I didn't buy too much food this time.  Rangeley is a small town but much more touristy than I expected, with people everywhere walking around wearing bright orange shirts that say "Moosing in Maine" but really shout "I'm a tourist".  The library was nice, except the computers had no slot for my camera's storage card, so I couldn't upload photos to the blog this time.  I then ate lunch at an Asian place and got a pretty decent tofu curry for being way the heck out here in Maine.  Rangeley is halfway between the North Pole and the Equator, 3107 miles from each.  I got back to the trail and I'm thankful I only have 2 more towns to go into and neither is super far from the trail like Rangeley is at 9 miles away.  It's a pain to figure out getting in and out of town.  The weather looks like tomorrow's fine, but then 3 days of thunderstorms and rain, which is good for the area because the summer has been very dry, but bad for me and keeping pace to finish on the 26th.  I'm going to try to wake up early and pull a big day tomorrow and then take it from there.  Near the shelter here, I visited Piazza Rock, which reminds me of the rock in the Lion King that baby Simba is held up over, and "The Caves", a twisty trail up, under, and through boulders, but neither was anything to write home about.  The privy here has two seats with a cribbage board in between, but I have no one that intimate with here to play with.

Summit of Saddleback Mtn

Day 62 - (8/11/16) 16.9 miles (Piazza Rock Lean-to to Spaulding Mountain Lean-to)
Sometimes the trail is a messy tangle of roots...

I got up early and was on the trail by 6:30am.  I ended up hiking just about 12 hours, finishing around 6:30pm.  I went over Saddleback Mountain and its Horn, plus Saddleback Junior.  Just about 200 miles left on the trail.  For fun, I'm going to go through the guidebook and count how many mountains I've summitted on this hike.  It was a pretty ordinary day on the trail today.

Day 63 - (8/12/16) 15.3 miles (Spaulding Mountain Lean-to to Cranberry Stream Campsite)

I woke up from a dream around 4am this morning.  I wanted to get another early start anyways because there were supposed to be storms coming, so I decided to get up and pack up camp then.  I hit the trail at about 5am or so and had to use my headlamp for about 20 minutes before it was light enough to see without it.  I'd met a hiker yesterday who wakes up at 2am and finishes each day around 11am because he doesn't like the hot sun and afternoon thunderstorms, so perhaps he inspired me a bit.  The rain did come around 8:30am, and luckily I was down off the mountain by then.  The nearest shelter was 15 miles away, so I got completely soaked.  I did take brief shelter in a privy at a campsite, which felt quite weird.  Luckily it was just rain and no lightning, so I decided to keep hiking and make it up both the South and North Crocker Mtns and by the time I made it to the second it had finally stopped raining and was just mist.  I was completely soaked by then, though.  I decided to skip going into the town of Stratton, as I still have several days worth of food and hope that can last me until Monson.  I also didn't want to deal with figuring out how to get into and out of town and also I'd probably have to spend the night in town because I got to the road later in the day.  I'm trying to do this whole trip while staying vegan, not doing any mail drops (sending supplies and food ahead of time in a box to a post office where I could pick it up myself), and not paying to stay in town.  I'm so close, I don't want to break any of those streaks.  Some of my things I had at the bottom of my pack got soaked: my pillow and two pairs of socks, plus the bottom of my sleeping bag.  I hope they can dry, although it looks like tomorrow may be rainy too.  I think I may be sleeping by 8pm tonight.  My sleep schedule is so different out here on the trail and I'm becoming a temporary morning person.
...and other times it's full of rocks...

Day 64 - (8/13/16) 3.3 miles (Cranberry Stream Campsite to Horns Pond Lean-tos)

It rained all night and was still raining when I woke up, so I decided to sleep in and hope the rain would stop.  It didn't, but I really didn't want to figure out how to pack up camp while it was raining, and half my stuff was already wet, so I decided to just lay there and waste time and hope my little sanctuary from the rain would hold.  It did, but barely, as water began to pool beneath the tent so that it felt like I was nearly sleeping on a water bed.  By noon, I decided I needed to try to pack up and at least make it to the next shelter 3 miles away and not have a "zero" day.  Luckily, the rain let up for the most part and it was difficult but I did get all my stuff in my pack while I was in the tent and my pack in the vestibule (and this in a 1-person tent where I can't sit up without hitting my head on the top.)  It was only lightly drizzling for the hike, but when I made it to the shelter it started up again and another hiker told me it is supposed to rain through the night and then again for most of tomorrow.  This may be setting my plans back, and unfortunately still no phone reception (AT&T is just horrible up here), so I'm worried about confirming plans for Diane to come pick me up at the end.  Plus Monson, the last town, the guide says the library is only open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, so I'd have to make sure I got to town on one of those days to email her.  Plus, I'm now worried about running out of food before getting to Monson, and might have to get food in Caratunk (pop. 69), which doesn't seem to have much in it at all.  But I suppose I was due to deal with rain like this, as it has been a very dry hike in general and yesterday was only my second day of hiking in the rain and first time setting up or taking down my tent in the rain.  It is frustrating, as I feel unproductive sitting here not hiking because of the rain, but I suppose I have to accept it as one of the ways this whole experience has helped me to slow down my life.
...but sometimes it's actually flat ground!

Day 65 - (8/14/16) 17.9 miles (Horns Pond Lean-tos to West Carry Pond Lean-to)

Avery Peak in the Bigelow Mtns
I woke up early and it was still lightly raining and very foggy, and got on the trail by 7am.  The Bigelow peaks were very windy, so much that I nearly was getting blown over and off the mountain, I'd say maybe 50mph wind gusts, and it was hiking through clouds with no view.  The clouds finally started to part on my way down and luckily stopped raining and cleared up over the course of the day.  Those Bigelow peaks are the last big mountains until the end and Mt Katahdin, and for that I'm very thankful.  I've got about 150 miles of pretty flat terrain left and the hardest stuff behind me, and I'm really starting to hit my stride and do a lot of miles.  I did nearly 18 today, and the last 3.5 I did in about 1.5 hours.  There was an unnamed hill that rose maybe 800ft in just under 2 miles and I was dreading it as it was the final thing on a tiring day, but I got in a zone and made it all the way up in about half an hour without any breaks at all.  Tomorrow I'll hit the Kennebec River, which has a free ferry service because it is too dangerous to ford, but it ends at 2pm.  I'm going to try and make the ferry tomorrow even though it's more than 13 miles away, but it's very flat terrain at least, so if I leave by 6am I think I'll make it.  Plus, other hikers said the weather should be nice tomorrow, and I'm so thankful the rain stopped today.  The shelter here is on the West Carry Pond, and all these ponds here in Maine are just beautiful places.  Just 165 miles left, and I've now completed 115 in Maine already, the hardest part of the trail in this state.  Let's just hope that the weather will cooperate; at least no more climbing mountains in the rain and worrying about thunderstorms above treeline.
West Carry Pond

Day 66 - (8/15/16) 25.9 miles (West Carry Pond Lean-to to Moxie Pond, South End)

Kennebec River
Well, the Whites and Southern Maine must have gotten me in shape, because somehow on this flatter ground I hiked 25.9 miles today.  Just 140 left, halfway through Maine now.  I wanted to wake up early and be on the trail by 6am so I could make sure I caught the ferry over the river which ends at 2pm (it's the only river with no bridge nearby, is wider and the current is unpredictable due to a dam upstream, and the ferry is just a guy with a canoe who gives you a 2 minute ride to the other side) and it was more than 13 miles away.  But I was woken even earlier, at 3:15am, by a mouse who had made it into my tent!  I had left the tent zipper open just maybe an inch or two and he must have gotten through that way as there were no holes in my tent.  I didn't even have any food in the tent, although on the rainy day 2 days ago I did eat in the tent for the first time.  I got out of the tent, opened the door as wide as possible, but the mouse couldn't find the exit.  I had to wait until he got on my sleeping pad and then quickly pulled it out of the tent with him on it.  Not the way I wanted to wake up!  But I figured I was already wide awake so I'd get an even earlier start then I'd planned.  I hit the trail just before 5am and had to hike with a headlamp for the first 30 minutes.  But I was flying through this flat ground.  I remember some hikers talking about "10 by 10": hiking 10 miles before 10am, and I remember thinking that was crazy and nearly impossible.  Well, I did it this morning.  I got to the ferry at 11am and then went into the tiny town of Caratunk to get some food to hold me over until Monson.  The town is tiny, tiny, with half the homes abandoned, rundown, for sale, or all three.  There was a hiker hostel there and the guy was very nice and let me use the phone.  The selection of food wasn't great, but I it will get me to Monson at least.  I finished hiking at 7pm, nearly did the length of a marathon!  I can hardly believe it myself!  I probably won't do another day this long.  All to get into Monson on Wednesday to use the computer at the library.  Yesterday, I had my first experience running into a hiker I'd met way earlier on the trail.  He was at a shelter, Tom Leonard I think, back in Massachusetts with me.  He took 2.5 weeks off from the trail, and then he caught up to me again here.  Then today I saw two guys who arrived at the hostel when I was there, who I saw (but never talked to) on my very first day on the trail at Ten Mile River Shelter in Connecticut!  Strange how that can happen.

Day 67 - (8/16/16) 15.8 miles (Moxie Pond, South End to Horseshoe Canyon Lean-to)

It was a pretty chilly night, dropped down into the high 50s, so I hiked hard in the morning, starting around 6:45am, until I heated up.  I went up Moxie Bald Mtn in the morning (it always seems like a day out here is not complete without summitting at least one mountain) and the rest of the day was pretty flat.  I wanted to see how close I could get to Monson today, especially as I heard rain was coming around 4-5pm, but after lunch the terrain turned into lots of tiny hills, up and down over and over, and my body, tired from yesterday, was not feeling well.  So instead of going past the shelter and tenting and risking setting up and taking down camp in the rain like I did the last time, I decided to stay in the last shelter, about 8 miles from town, to give my body time to rest, to stay dry (even if I have to hike in the rain in the morning, at least all my stuff will be packed up dry) and try to leave by 6am tomorrow morning.  The terrain looks flat anyways tomorrow into town.  It's 7pm now and it has hardly sprinkled though.  I actually hope it rains more tonight, but not the morning, so my decision to sleep in the shelter (for only the second time on the trail) is vindicated.  I'm over 600 miles hiked now.  Monson is the last town near the trail, then it's into the 100-mile wilderness and ending with climbing up Katahdin, Maine's highest mountain.  I'm excited to be near the end, although I'm not excited to try to find 7-8 days worth of food in a tiny town without a supermarket and then carry that food in my pack and probably still have to limit how much I'll eat per day, because I certainly have "Hiker's Hunger" these days and can easily eat a lot.  But this trip is full of challenges and this is just one more of them.  I've conquered all that have come my way and I'm not about to back down now.  I counted that by the end of this trip I will have summitted 102 mountains and peaks, including 1 over 6000ft, 6 over 5000ft, 28 over 4000ft, 55 over 3000ft, 87 over 2000ft, and all over 1000ft, plus another 14 near summits.  It's been a lot of ups and downs!  

A morning view over the mountains of Southern Maine

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