Trail Journal

Date: July 8 2000
Trail Day: 38
Miles Today: 12.4
Location: Campground at Rock Plaster
Section Mile: IAT 506.7
ECT Mile: 506.7

It rained almost continuosly all night. Middle of the night I realized that my sleeping bag was getting wet in the middle. In the morning, I realized that my tent and sleeping bag were quite wet. I saw two deer about 100 ft from my tent. They seemed curious. I was able to get fairly close to them for a photo before they ran away. I hiked to Oxbow where there was a small store. They had banana splits on their menu and I ordered it immediately. The counter woman was a sour faced, metallic voiced lady - the kind you try to talk as little as possible for fear that she may snap and bite you any minute.

I continued down the road and talked to an old gentleman. He asked where I had walked from and where I was headed to. I told him. Then he asked if it was very expensive. Told him no, because most nights I sleep in my tent. He was about to give me a couple of dollars but I told him I was doing fine.

I got to Plaster Rock and found a camp ground. It had large fiddle heads made of concrete in front. Fiddle heads are fern like plants that take the shape of fiddle handles when they sprout. They are edible although if you are not used to them it can give you the runs. I tried to get a fire going but could not because everything was wet. The couple from the next tent site tried to help me with logs from their fire - still no luck. They then invited me over to their fire. Being wet and cold I gladly accepted.

They are from Germany. The man was an electrical engineer while the woman was a teacher. They were going to tour Canada, US and Mexico for a year. We talked about paddling, hiking and travelling. Also had a good session of US bashing. The themes were - fat people, junk food, over commercialization of everything and ignorance of other cultures and countries.

Later on, some local teenagers set up tent. Some more joined them and soon it was a party. There was alcohol, drugs and sex all around. They were loud and obnoxious and I could get no sleep till early morning. They certainly had no parental supervision or concern. With such parents I can easily see a "Columbine" incident happening. Anyway, the skies cleared up late night and tomorrow should be a better day.

Date: July 9 2000
Trail Day: 39
Miles Today: 21.1
Location: Near Tobique Narrous Dam
Section Mile: IAT 527.8
ECT Mile: 527.8

Could not get much sleep last night due to the morons partying. It was drizzling in the morning. I waited for it to let up and started packing. Said good bye to the German couple - they are very nice people. Had some difficulty finding the trail. First the guy I talked to had no idea of a Sentier NB Trail. Finally, he said he knew of an old railroad bed. I said that was it.

Had lunch at Arthurette. I still havent gotten over how expensive food is here. I am down to about 20 Canadian dollars now. Will have to stretch those dollars. The trail was swarming with ATV's. They are not even allowed on the trail. Not very law abiding. The trail roughly parallel's the Tobique river. At one point it crossed over a river. It was not supposed to cross the Tobique river. There was no way to tell whether it was the Tobique or not. Confused I thought to myself -

"Tobique or not Tobique
That is the question"

Actually it was a smaller river but I just wanted to work the above gem of literature in !

I am aslo slowly beginning to get a smug feeling, a feeling that the world owes me a cushy life, a desire to bitch and moan while sitting on my ass. Wait a minute, let me check my map - Yes, I am nearing the US border. Being in Canada I do get the feeling that I am superior to other colored "third world" countries but tomorrow I shall be superiorer. Sarcasm aside, I shall be entering the US tomorrow noon or so.

Today was somewhat tiring. The railway bed is hard and jarring on the joints. I also need to catch up on my sleep. Today I am camped in an unusual place. A public park sort of a place facing houses in full view of the road. I hope nobody kicks me out in the middle of the night. Tonight I finished a concoction made of rice, dried mashed potatoes and dried refried beans. I have been carrying this since La Gite or Mt. Albert - more than 20 days. I also saw a very strange place on the trail. There was a good shelter with the ground extremely uneven. You couldn't even put a bench there. It was besides a half built and abandoned house. Some of the insulation and construction material is still there. Half the house was underground. You had to climb stairs to get to the first door which was above the level of the house and then a stair case took one down to the house. Quite bizarre. I was thinking of tenting under the shelter as it had just started raining. But then the rain stopped and seeing how uneven the ground was I decided to move on.

Date: July 10 2000
Trail Day: 40
Miles Today: 9.7
Location: Ft. Fairfield
Section Mile: IAT 537.5
ECT Mile: 537.5

It rained again last night. Waited for the rain to stop and got a late start. The trail continued along the abandoned railway bed beside the Tobique river. Tobique river merges with St. John river. The trail follows this river to the town of Perth - Andover where I had lunch. Then it crosses the river and then continues along the river north to a town called Aroostook. Here it uses another abandoned railbed called Timber which runs west into the US border. Then it runs along the US border till Ft. Fairfield. The border is fairly easy to tell. About 50 ft. of the forest has been cleared and there are concrete markers every km or so which says US on one side and Canada on the other. At one point there was a large beaver pond. I got quite disoriented trying to work my way around it and found myself walking in the wrong direction. Off the border some of the places are very dense and it is easy to get lost. Finally found my way back by spotting the electric lines that also run along it part of the way. I also saw a moose with its calf. It did not run away immediately and I was able to get my camera out and get a shot. I also took a shot of me near one of the concrete border markers.

I then tried to get a lift from the border to the town of Ft. Fairfield about 4 km away. No luck, had to walk the whole way. The post office was open, so I got my mail drop from Vivek. There is a Potato Festival here. I tried to find a hotel/motel or bed and breakfast. There is only a B+B with the owners absent. Folks around here aren't sure if they are still operating the B+B. The door to the porch is open so I decided to wait there. I think I will wait here and if no one shows up, sleep here in my sleeping bag. I have no other choice.

Customs was no problem. Looks like every customs officer has a sour puss and I always get him. He almost regretfully told me that my documents were fine and that I could proceed.

Wrote too soon. Around 10 PM a couple came in. I think they were taking care of the B+B in the owner's absence. They told me that there was no B+B anymore. They wouldn't even let me put a tent in a nearby lawn that belonged to the post office. I started walking out of town back to the trail. On the way I saw a little pond with some mowed areas. It was quite out of town and near the border. I put my tent up. As soon as I got comfortable in my sleeping bag it started pouring. I was lucky. It has been raining here a lot. I think I have had about 10 days of rain in the past 12.

Also a note on the trail quide description for New Brunswick. Almost all the stated mileages are under estimates. It says Mt. Carlton to Plaster Rock is 67 kms, its actually 81. Plaster Rock to Perth Andover it says is 25. Its actually 41. Road mileages are easy to obtain and therefore there is no excuse for them not to be accurate. This needs to be corrected.

Date: July 11 2000
Trail Day: 41
Miles Today: 18
Location: Top of Mars Hill
Section Mile: IAT 555.5
ECT Mile: 555.5

Frogs croaked all night at the pond. The rain let up at morning. I packed up and started hiking. The trail continues along the US - Canada border for another 12 miles. The beginning was rough. It was very over grown and there were several bogs. In one I got my foot stuck about a foot deep and had a hard time pulling it out. Later on, the border cleared area was also used by ATV's, so it was much easier. I think the GORETEX in my shoes have failed. My socks get soaked when I walk on wet grass. This did not happen before.

It drizzled a little during the day. It also became cold and windy. I could see Mars Hill in the distance almost as soon as I started hiking today morning. At first it was a faint blurry hill. Then all of a sudden it was the next hill. The trail up the hill is a good one. It runs through lush forests. Absolutely no water though. I did not drink any water today because I was not thirsty on the border which had lots of water. Once the trail left the border and went up the hill, I got a little thirsty but no water. I am also totally out of food. I was planning on having breakfast and buy some food at Ft. Fairfield but since I got kicked out I did not get a chance to. Anyway, I will be in Mars Hill by about 11 AM tomorrow.

Saw a wonderful lean-to (shelter) at the US border built by IAT. Had I known it was there I would have got out of Ft. Fairfiled earlier and slept there. There is another lean-to here on top of Mars Hill. But it is very cold due to the wind. I may have to put on my thermal underwear - unbelievable in mid July ! I think I can also see Mt. Katahdin though I am not sure.

Incidentally, yesterday was an important day as I crossed over to the US. One country down, one more to go. Two states down, sixteen to go.

A grassy trail

Katahdin sighted 1.

Katahdin sighted 2.

Date: July 12 2000
Trail Day: 42
Miles Today: 25
Location: Littleton
Section Mile: IAT 580.5
ECT Mile: 580.5

Last night was cold. I had to zip up my sleeping bag fully - haven't done this in 20 or 30 days. Also had to keep my face fully covered to let my breath warm the bag up. I talked to a guy later during the day and he said there was frost. The day however was bright and shining. A good change from the past several days.

Started down Mars Hill. It follows a service road but uses several back tracks to cut out the steep portions. These trails are also good. The climb down was surprisingly quick. It also used the ski slope at the very bottom. Saw my favourite part of the ski slope - the bunny hill. This is the only place I can ski without breaking my neck. Got out of the parking lot and on to the road to the town of Mars Hill. As I kept walking it looked as though the town had nothing - no stores, restaurants or gas stations. But then it took a turn and all of a sudden everything.

I had breakfast at Al's diner served by a beautiful but spaced out girl. Had a large breakfast and two milk shakes - Uhmmm. Sent a roll of film to Suriyan and my travel documents to Vivek. I am now well inside the border and won't be needing them anymore. The people at the post office were quite interested when I told them I was headed to the AT. They wished me well.

Note on geographic awareness : Looks like there are some places where geographic awareness of an area changes quickly. In all of Quebec people knew Park Forillion and Cap de Gaspe. Also true for New Brunswick till Kedgwick. Then when I entered Riley Brook they had no idea where it was. But they knew Gaspesie - the general area. Then when I entered the US no one knew Gaspesie. So I now have to say I started from Quebec.

Anyway, I bought some trail food and headed out of the town of Mars Hill by an abandoned railroad converted to an ATV trail. Got to Bridgewater and followed US 1 to Montriello where I had lunch and talked to the old gentleman who ran the store. He worked in the jewelery business for 50 years and is now 78 - doesn't look it at all. Continued on the railroad track to Littleton. There was a store nearby. So I bought a half gallon of lemonade and sandwiches. I have eaten quite well today. I guess, to make up for yesterday.

I have also decided to use the southern approach to Katahdin. It is a lot more road. I don't have a choice. It looks like the Baxter Park employees are being hostile to IAT hikers. I had asked Suriyan to make reservations for the northern approach for tenting. But it looks like I will be there much sooner. The idiots there need about a month in advance applications. With that it is impossible to time the IAT hike.

Date: July 13 2000
Trail Day: 43
Miles Today: 27
Location: Lake Pleasant Birch Point Campground
Section Mile: IAT 607.5
ECT Mile: 607.5

My longest day - 27 miles and I was totally worn out. Started out a little late in the morning and continued down the tracks. Then there were signs to follow another ATV trail to get back to US 1. This was actually a decent trail. Went up and down some small hills and through severeal bogs. Then I lost the trail near a factory looking place. I made some guesses and headed towards US 1. I finally walked through a U-Haul ground and onto US 1. In another mile it was I-95 and the town of Houlton. Houlton is where I-95 begins and is almost on the Canadian border. Had breakfast at McDonald's and called Vivek. Continued towards downtown. Went to the library and checked my email and web page. Headed out on Rte 2A. Had lunch at a diner. I have also been wondering what a little apple looking fruit was. There were places where they grew in abundance. The guy at the diner said it was crab apple and edible. This is good, nothing like fresh fruit on a hike.

Continued on 2A to a town called Linnens and took South Oakfield Road West. I am using the maps that Trickster had given me. They are very useful and have a lot more detail than my other street maps. Thanks Trickster. Towards evening I came by an old cemetry. Most of the people had been buried in the late 1800's and very early 1900's. Many of them died young but some lived to be quite old. I saw one who was 92 another 78. The 92 year old guy was born in 1800. Also came across a grave of an 8 year old boy with the inscription "Our boy will live a man". I thought of the sadness his parents must have felt when they buried him on this spot a 100 years ago. A pause for thought.

About a mile down I came to a good looking house with the sign - Dew Drop Inn. I thought of getting some food there. It is actually not an inn, just a home of a retired guy. His yard is open for travellers and visitors to stop by. There was a playground for children, a fire place and a shelter. The guy gave me some water and 7 up. His name is Buddy Whitney and he retired in 1986. He bought 75 acres here. He is a nature lover and does not hunt or fish - quite unusual here. While we were talking several rabbits were hopping about in the yard. He showed me an old humming bird's nest. He also told me there used to be an old big plantation in that area. The people in the cemetry were from there. The town was then moved when the railroad came in. Buddy does not have any electricity because it is too remote. Everything is gas run.

Continued on to Lake Pleasant and got a tenting spot at Birch spot. 20$ - highway robbery. I was thinking of just passing it but I badly needed a shower and laundry, so decided to cough up the money. My sleeping bag is somewhat dirty and also needs to be washed but it needs one of those front loading washers. Went to bed quite sore.

Ate my fill at their little restaurant. Also talked to a woman about my hike and her life. She seemed a little lost in spirit. Katahdin in the distance.

Date: July 14 2000
Trail Day: 44
Miles Today: 20.5
Location: Stacyville
Section Mile: IAT 628
ECT Mile: 628

Some rain last night. Today's hike was to continue on the Oakhill Road to US 2, then on unnamed road 5 miles south of Island Falls, then Rte 11. A very round about way of approaching Baxter Park. But I don't have a choice. Had breakfast at Island Falls. Very filling. There was a farm with "Pick your own strawberries" on the way. Stopped by and ate some. The guy there said that the first year they just take the blossoms off and the second year is when you get the fruit.

I could see Mt. Katahdin off and on. Took a shot of it. Towards noon Katahdin disappeared behind clouds. An hour later it started pouring. I got soaked. I saw one other nut out in the streets, a little girl about 8 years old in her swimming suit was enjoying the rain. Two local girls stopped their car and offered me a ride. I declined politely. They must think I'm really wacko.

Got to Sherman. Had a banana split and BLT at a eat-in/take out place. Fantastic banana split. I could have gone for one more but decided to be civil. The rain had let up by this time. I asked the store owners if they knew of a short-cut from Grindstone to Millinocket. This would save me about 10 miles. At this point the road goes all the the way out to I-95 and comes back in, in a sharp "V". The owners did not know of any. They got one of the information people on the phone. I talked to them. No luck. Rte 11 it is.

I continued towards Stacyville. It started raining again. I had planned on going a little further but decided to set up camp to avoid getting wet. But by the time I could find a good spot and get out the tent it was pouring. My tent got all wet while I was setting it up. Then I threw my sleeping bag in not realizing there was water inside. The bag acted like a sponge and absorbed all the water. So went to sleep in a wet bag and wet tent. It wasn't bad though. It rained very heavily over night but my bag and tent dried out somewhat by morning.

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