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
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.
Date: July 15 2000
Trail Day: 45
Miles Today: 26
Location: Baxter Park Road, 6 miles North of Millinocket
Section Mile: IAT 654
ECT Mile: 654
Rained heavily almost all night. No rain in the morning though. But the skies were very ugly and overcast. There was fog everywhere. I got back into my wet clothes, shoes and socks and started hiking. This part of Rt 11 is very dull and boring. No towns, stores or other interesting land marks. The road parallels the Penabescot river but you get only 2 or 3 glances. The rest is too forested or quite far away.
One advantage of all this rain is that it has driven the bugs away. In New Brunswick my legs were covered with wounds and sores from deer fly bites. Now they are in much better shape. If the rain lets up the bugs come back with renewed vigour. I got to Grindstone. Its just a collection of houses. I knocked on a door to get water. The guy was initially wary but subsequently invited me in, gave me a sandwich, gatorade, apple and chips. He also had a detailed map of Maine. I looked at it and figured out a shorter route directly to Millinocket instead of through Medway. This is the reason I avoid talking to the official types (referring to yesterdays telephone conversation). They are always concerned with covering their own asses and their info is thus skewed. Anyway the guys name is John. He grew up in Medway. He had the interesting habit of describing the location of places with respect to a strip joint in Millinocket. He had 3 little dogs. They kept yelping. One was frightened of me while another one kept licking my leg.
I took the shorter route along the railroad track and got to Millinocket and went to a place called Appalachian Trail Cafe. It is run by a gentleman named Don. A very friendly place for hikers. We talked some and I signed his register. The food was also good.
On the way out of Millinocket I bought some insect repellant. My older one was finished about a week ago and I have suffered from insect attacks quite badly. Now I am armed. Walked towards Baxter Park which is about 20 miles away. The sun had come out and I stopped on the way to dry out all my wet stuff. Then continued till the sun almost went down and set up camp.
Well tomorrow is the day I will be on the big one, the big cheese, the big Kahuna, the big bad boy, the mother of all trails - the AT. I am quite excited. I dont know if I will be able to climb Katahdin tomorrow but I will touch the AT. Also a note on Millinocket. It has a fairly big place in AT lore. South bounders starting and north bounders ending have to go through it. For south bounders this is where they leap into the wilderness from civilization.
Date: July 16 2000
Trail Day: 46
Miles Today: 20
Location: Katahdin Stream Campground
Section Mile: IAT 674
ECT Mile: 674
Got up and headed to Millinocket lake. Very touristy area now. Lots of boating and white water rafters. Had a sandwich and soda. The forests here are quite lush. Continued on to Baxter State Park. I was afraid they would give me a hard time if they found out I was an IAT hiker. No such problems. I did not tell anyone that I had hiked the IAT and kept a low profile.
I could see Baxter peak hidden by the clouds. I was debating whether to climb Baxter today. However, as I approached Katahdin Stream Campground I knew it was too late. It was about 4 pm. I had already done 20 miles and was in no shape to take on a hard climb. The soles of my feet are also hurting. The road walks are now taking their toll.
The ranger gave me accomodation at a lean-to. I cooked and ate some noodles. I am now out of food except for some snacks for tomorrow. I saw a deer grazing by about 30 ft away. Fun to watch wild life up close. A chipmunk started rooting through my stuff. I gave it some cookies. It munched away fully alert.
It has clouded up again and should rain soon. I am also totally drained - physically and psychologically. Perhaps it is the ending of one trail and beginning of another. I dont know.
Tomorrow's plan is to climb Baxter Peak. Everything I have read and heard says its very tough. There are places where you have to pull yourself up by bolts driven in rocks. I will then try to hike to Abol bridge to resupply or go hungry. From Abol bridge its in the "100 mile wilderness" where there are no stores for a hundred miles. I will then emerge in Monson, Maine.
Section Mile: AT 9
Got up early - about 6 AM. Packed up and started hunting for the trail. Took photos of the first AT blazes I saw 1 2 3 4 and a board with distances on them. Went to the ranger station to register and get the weather forecast. It was a class 2 day. 1 is hiking above tree line recommended, 2 - not recommended, 3 - not recommended with some trails closed and 4 - all trails above tree line closed.
I met Buckeye Bob at the station. He is a north bounder just about to finish. We started out together. The trail started off very easy. After about a mile it started climbing in earnest. In some places you had to pull yourself up. There were three places where they have driven bolts into the rock for grips. After a long climb which seemed to last forever we could see a sign. We were happy but it turned out to be an information board. The peak was still 2 miles away. After some more climbing we got to the table lands. My shirt was covered with sweat. From here it was much gentler. We came to Thoreau Springs. We filled our bottles and ate some snacks. Some more climbing and we came to the peak. There were about 6 people there. There were 2 other thru-hikers. One completing and another flip-flopping. We took several photographs 1 2 3 4 5 and had lunch. The views near the top are phenomenal. The clouds were below and you could see several peaks 1 2 3 poking through the clouds. Also met Gray. She volunteers for the AMC.
We started back down. The climb down was slightly easier than the one up. Took a short break at Katahdin Stream falls. Got back to the ranger station. Bob gave me all his left over food. Very good, because I am all out. I also gave him some journal pages to mail to Suriyan. We then said our good byes.
I continued down the trail and decided to stay at Daisy Pond Shelter. I asked for directions to the Lean-to, took the wrong turn and ended up on the trail again. I decided to continue on and set up camp further down.
Today I completed the IAT and started the AT. Also a short mileage day but quite strenuous. I cooked the noodles Bob gave me. I added some of my own spices to the already "Hot" noodles. I had tears running down my eyes. But they felt so good. After hikes you always feel like eating spicy foods because of the loss of salts through sweat.
Date: July 18 2000
Trail Day: 48
Miles Today: 22
Location: Rainbow Stream Lean-to
Section Mile: AT 31
ECT Mile: 711
Started early today. Hiked to Abol bridge. This is the last store stop before the 100 mile wilderness. Bought food for about 7 days. My pack is now quite heavy. Had two sandwiches and two chocolate drinks. The trail was fairly easy. I also came across maintenance people from Baxter park who were repairing a bridge.
Met several hikers and thru-hikers today. Thru-hikers were Acrobat and Captain. Very nice guys. Brothers. I asked them a bunch of questions about the trail.
Later in the afternoon it started raining heavily. I got drenched and finally reached the lean-to. Downhill and Dodger were there. Dodger is headed south to Monson, while Downhill is completing. Downhill is also from W. Palmbeach and we have seen each other at the Big "o" hike around Lake Okeechobee. A really small world.
Today is my first day at a Lean-To. Will have to see if the rat tales are true. It is now drizzling and I am ready to sleep.
Date: July 19 2000
Trail Day: 49
Miles Today: 17
Location: Potaywadjo Stream Lean-to
Section Mile: AT 48
ECT Mile: 728
The shelter did not seem to have any mice. I didn't know whether to be disappointed or happy. Mosquitoes are a problem in the lean-to. They bite your face and shoulder. It was also a very dark night. Downhill was the the first to leave. He was going to do a 23 mile day and make it into Daisy Pond. I talked with Dodger. He lives in New York city. His parents have a cabin near Bangor and he camps over there a few times a year to help maintain. He has done the 100 mile wilderness before. Dodger then left. I left shortly after him.
Today's hike was a little tougher than yesterdays - more ups and downs. I was hoping to make it to Antlers campsite about 4 miles away but had to stop here. I met 3 older gentlemen. One of them was called Motelman. He was section hiking the AT. He was about 80 % done and was concentrating on Maine this summer. He said he was trying to refine section hiking to the point where he did not have to camp. Also met a northbounder called Sea Otter. He is doing an amazing speed and will be done in 92 days. Simply amazing !
Today's section ran besides lakes, streams and one part went up Merantabunt mountain. Nice view. Also a lot of boys today.
Well, I'm now almost 50 days into my hike. How does it feel ? For starters I have completely adapted to this life. I do not think or crave the city life. I have no muscle or joint aches. The soles of my feet and toes sometimes hurt towards the end of the day. In a day's hike, the beginning portion always seems slow but after about an hour or so I go into a trance like state where the hours and miles fly by. Then towards the end of the day as I fix my ending point it seems slow because I'm looking forward to it. Food cravings - ice cream, pizza and beer. I haven't had beer in a while. At present, I don't even stink as bad because the rain has washed it away.
How is the AT ? It is extremely popular and therefore busy. On average I see 20 hikers a day and this is supposed to be the hundred mile wilderness - one of the most remote sections. It is also very well maintained and has numerous shelters and tent sites. It is almost impossible to get lost on the AT. About half the hikers are boy scouts.
What are thru-hikers like ? The most common phrase that has popped into my mind on meeting them is - very nice guys. Of course, there is the odd exception. It is also fairly easy to tell if someone is a thru-hiker - they have beards and have a certain look in their eyes - a peaceful inward look. I think even I am getting to look like a thru-hiker because they immediately ask me if I am doing a flip-flop (finished Georgia to somewhere and now doing Maine to that somewhere).
My review of the IAT. Its a young trail. The organization and volunteers have done a tremendous job in 5 short years. Completing a 700 mile trail is no small task. However from the hiker's point of view :