Sunday, August 19, 2012

It's the Final Countdown

Wow, it has been a crazy week full of ups and downs. The Maine rain continued for most of the week, but when it didn't, I got to see just how amazing this state really is. I also got to reunite with some family, as my dad and cousin Ryan have come up to explore New England and bring me home when I finish.

As you are reading this, I am almost to the finish line. I caught my first glimpse of Katahdin from Moxie Bald and it really dawned on me how far I have come, even more so than crossing the 2000 mile mark this week. I remember dreaming of the time I would be getting to this point. It just seemed like it was so far away and now it's a little more than 100 miles away. I am not ready to get all emotional and nostalgic yet, though. This hike has always been more about the journey than the destination. It's about every person I have met, every experience I have had, taking a huge risk and following a dream, and being a voice to those in Africa who don't have one. The destination is the journey and this journey has been one heck of a ride. All that's left to do is to walk- walk hard!

Day 154 (8/12) - South Arm Road to Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to (17 mi)
It's official- Maine hates me! I don't know what I did to it, but it has been taking out its fury on me. The old saying is "no pain, no rain, no Maine." I would go even further and say that Maine is rain and pain. It was supposed to be nice out today and it started out that way. The trail was still wet and muddy and that took its vengeance by making me slip and fall and bust my other hip. When I got within 3 miles of the shelter, a storm just opened up on top of me and just soaked me head to toe. The trail became a stream and I ended up stepping ankle deep into a mud bog. I hate to admit that I could have probably filled up two swear jars full of quarters today. I don't know why Maine has it out for me. But obviously it didn't get the memo on how stubborn I am. None of the other 13 states could stop me (and they tried), so what makes you think you are so special Maine?

Day 155 (8/13) - Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to to Piazza Rock Lean-to (11.2 mi)
Wow, a day of good terrain and sunshine. I guess I shouldn't get too used to it because another storm system is moving in. I was able to regain my pace this morning and got 9.5 miles in in 4.5 hours. After a hitch into Rangely, I resupplied, ate lunch, and dried out stuff. I also walked down to the outfitter and switched out my Darn Tough socks. They have a great lifetime warranty on their socks and since mine had holes in them, I got a new pair. I felt bad for the girl who switched them out because these were the socks I was wearing last night when I got soaked and muddy. I spent way more time than I planned on in town, so I wasn't even going to attempt to climb the next few mountains, so I just hiked about another 2 miles to the next lean-to. This is home to the two-seater privy with a cribbage board. If I could remember how to play, I would definitely get in on a group poop!

Day 156 (8/14) - Piazza Rock Lean-to to Spaulding Mountain Lean-to (16.9 mi)
I was a man on a mission today. There were 4 mountains I had to tackle and 3 were right from the start- Saddleback, Horn, and Saddleback, Jr. I actually made it up and over the first too pretty easily. I started feeling pretty hungry after the Horn, so I broke for a quick lunch and then tackled Jr. There were some great views and you could really see just how vast the wilderness is in Maine. I was trekking along until I started hitting a wall as I was climbing Lone Mtn. This was the smallest and easiest mountain to tackle and I was struggling. Once I got up and over, I was only a mile from my destination and I booked it. The Flash was ready for his Ramen! Dinner entertainment came in the form of a trashy romance novel left in the shelter and Miss Maggie reading us excerpts from it. I thought I was going to have noodles come out my nose.

Day 157 (8/15) - Spaulding Mountain Lean-to to Stratton, ME (13.5 mi)
Well it decided to rain again. I was still able to make it up and over Spaulding with no problem. Then came the Crockers. No problem. The mountains seem to be getting a little easier, and after the Bigelows tomorrow, it's going to start flattening out a bit. The sun finally came out and the sky was blue and I was just rocking down the trail. I got down to the highway and decided to hitch a ride into Stratton. Once I got there, it decided to pour down rain again. That made it a lot easier to make the decision to get a room in town for the night. I just need to push hard these next 4 days to get to Monson and meet up with my dad and cousin.

Day 158 (8/16) - Stratton, ME to Horns Pond Lean-to (5.1 mi)
Today was a wash- literally. It poured rain all night and morning. We were actually under a flash flood warning. After waiting as long as I could for the rain to die down (and before I would get charged for a second day in the motel room), I hitched back to the trail. The first 2 miles weren't that bad and the rain was starting to quit, but then it all changed. Before I knew it, the trail was looking like a rushing stream. There was no more chance of keeping my feet dry and the possibility of reaching the 15 mile lean-to was washed away like the trail. The best I could do was make it to the first shelter and call it an early day...a very early day. This is so frustrating because it now puts me another day behind schedule. The only ray of sunshine for this day was that I crossed the 2000 mile mark. That's kind of a big deal. I just wish that the weather would cooperate for the rest of the miles.

Day 159 (8/17) - Horns Pond Lean-to to West Carry Pond Lean-to (17.9 mi)
Today was the last of the big mountains until Katahdin. Surprising enough, they were all pretty easy to get up and over, especially considering the nonstop rain from yesterday. The Bigelows provided amazing views of a huge lake and back at Sugarloaf Mountain and the Saddlebacks from a few days ago. What made this day even more exciting was that I got to see my dad and cousin, who were providing a little trail magic for us. There is nothing like an iced cold Ale-8 when you have been hiking over 2000 miles and its been months since you have had one. I got to hang out for a little over an hour and then had to get back to the hike. The last 3.5 miles were quick, but draining at the same time. And just like Maine, it started to pour down rain again. It's getting old Maine! I barely got my tent up in time. The terrain tomorrow looks pretty flat, but with all this rain and the typical Maine roots, rocks, and mud, I am sure it will be anything but easy and quick.

Day 160 (8/18) - West Carry Pond Lean-to to Pleasant Pond Lean-to (19.7 mi)
Sometimes there are days where the stars are lined up perfectly, prayers are being answered, and God looks down and smiles. Today was that day. Even Maine couldn't ruin today. It rained most of last night so the morning started out wet with endless mud and water puddles. But as the day went on, the sun was shining and the trail stayed pretty flat. I was in a groove and nothing was stopping me. I got to the first shelter which was 10 miles away thinking it was noon and lunchtime. When I checked my phone, it was only 11. I hiked a 2.5 mph pace for the first time in a very long time. This was the Pierce Pond lean-to which holds a memorial to Parkside- a hiker who drowned in the pond this year. He had finished up a 20 mile hike and went for a swim and cramped up bad and just couldn't recover. It's a pretty sad story and it seems every hiker has paid their respects one way or another through the shelter journal. From there it was a quick 3 mile hike to the Kennebec River. You have to cross this river to continue the trail, but the problem is that there isn't a bridge. It's too dangerous to ford as well so they offer a ferry in the form of a guy named David and his canoe. This is the official way to do this section of trail (it's also official by the white blaze painted on the floor of his canoe). This put us to the town of Caratunk, which pretty much has nothing in it. There was, however, an adventure base camp that had a microbrewery and restaurant and hot tub, pool, and showers, so about 8 of us hitched over and ate. While i was there, i ran into a hiker I haven't seen since Hiawassee- General Custard. He was a very encouraging guy that helped me push through a lot of early pain. He couldn't believe it when he saw me. He probably couldn't believe I was still on the trail and he definitely couldn't believe how different I looked from the last time he saw me. We had a great visit and my ego got fed a little. We all spent way too long hanging out, especially knowing that we still had 6 miles to hike. It was fun to just relax and enjoy life at a different pace today, especially after dealing with all of the frustration due to deadlines and weather. I did have to do some night hiking to get to the shelter, but that was ok. I made it just fine and got set up. I have had 2 good mileage days in a row and am going for some more big miles tomorrow (weather permitting).

Day 161 (8/19) - Pleasant Pond Lean-to to Shirley-Blanchard Rd (24.7 mi)
Wow, what an incredible day. First off, this was day two in a row that it didn't rain. Secondly, I put in some huge miles. After hiking 6 miles, I met up with my dad and cousin and they hooked me up to slack pack. From there it was smooth sailing. The highlight of the day came from sitting on top of Moxie Bald just enjoying the views of the surrounding wilderness. There were no roads or towns, just lakes, ponds, and vast wilderness. The sky was crystal clear and on my way down the mountain, I caught my first glimpse of Katahdin. I have to say I had to hold back some tears. It really put all the miles I have hiked into perspective and made me realize how close to the end I really am. After several river crossings and constantly wet feet, I met back up with my dad and cousin and we went out for dinner. A great end to a great day. Tomorrow will be a short 6 mile day to Monson, and then some rest and relaxing before I enter the 100 Mile Wilderness and then summit Katahdin.


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