July 10 was the day we were to enter the 100 Mile Wilderness. The trip so far had been
fantastic. We had both been feeling great, with no signs of injury, illness or major aches.
Better still, there was no sign of the anxiety I had the previous year and no nervous
stomach that had me taking Pepto Bismol most mornings in 1999. (Of course MA could
have been keeping her problems to herself, so as not to worry me). If any section was
going to give us problems, however, it was the next 100 miles to Abol Bridge. I must
state right now that we had no health or injury problems in this section..
The only chance of re-supply in the upcoming section would be a stop at The White
House Landing at the 70 mile mark or an expensive arrangement to have things brought
to Jo-Mary road at the 60 mile mark. The former involved taking a side trail and using a
fog horn to summon a boat and Jo-Mary road is a little used road leading to a
campground in the wilderness. The Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC) recommends
bringing 10 days of food through this area but we felt our mileage would get us through
in about 8 or 9 days, so we planned for 8 breakfasts and suppers, and sufficient snacks. If
our timetable was off, we could stop at The White House Landing for supplies, and pizza
and beer, and maybe even a bed and a shower.
A number of us would be driven to the trail this morning and young Shaw said he would
be taking us around 7 AM. We were up early and Mr. Shaw made another great
breakfast, with French Toast instead of pancakes. We would be leaving after everyone
settled their bills with Mr Shaw on the front porch. I had paid the previous evening with a
pile of Travellers cheques. The cost was $130 for the two nights' accommodation, and
our two breakfasts and two suppers.
Young Shaw would be taking 6 of us back up State Route 15 to the trail: MA, PA,
CHAD, NAVIGATOR, and a couple (HEIDE and DOUG) who had driven here the night
before in order to do the Wilderness. They had tented on the lawn across the street and
had made arrangements with the Shaws to leave their car here. Young Shaw would be
coming back for THE WISCONSIN BROTHERS who had decided to slack the first
section of the wilderness because of the injury to one of them. They would be driven into
the wilderness on logging roads and would hike back to the highway.
The two ladies got in front of the truck and the rest of us piled into the back with the
backpacks and poles. At the trail head, NAVIGATOR was the first to be on his way,
heading through up the trail though an opening in the bushes. He and his small pack were
soon out of sight never to be seen again by us. DOUG took CHAD's picture next to the
sign at the trail entrance. The old weathered sign warned hikers that they were entering
the 100 mile wilderness and that the next re-supply was 98 miles away at Abol Bridge. It
warned not to attempt this section without 10 days of food and not to underestimate the
difficulty of this section.
We had noticed the previous night that CHAD knew DOUG and HEIDE (pronounced
High-Duh) and that they would be going through the wilderness together. This would be
tough because he was a speedy thru-hiker and they were just getting on the trail. CHAD
said he would meet them that evening at the third shelter, Long Pond Stream Lean-to, at
the 15 mile mark. The map showed only minor elevation changes, so this would be an
easy day for CHAD.
We were on the trail at 7:25 AM. The trail was great and the walking was easy. It would
be this way for the entire day. It took us 1 hour and 20 minutes to do the 3 miles to
Leeman Brook Lean-to, which we reached immediately after crossing Leeman Brook in a
ravine. The shelter was situated above the small slate ravine. There were two young boys
of around 17 resting in the shelter. They had started a section hike of the Wilderness that
morning and seemed a little tired. We spoke for a while and I suggested that they take
their time, especially for the first few days, and enjoy themselves.
We were soon joined by HEIDE and DOUG. In the course of a conversation we found
out a little about their reason for being here. DOUG is a documentarian and a teacher at
NYU who was making a documentary about thru hiking the AT. They had gone down
south in the Spring and had filmed a number of thru hikers. They had handed out
business cards and asked the hikers to call them further up the trail. CHAD called them
when he got close to New York City, where they lived. They filmed him in New York
State and made arrangements to do the last section with him. Their intent was to film
him going through the wilderness and summitting Katahdin. The difference in speeds
would likely make their task difficult. (There is an article about the making of this
documentary in the April 2003 issue of DV magazine).
An easy hike of 4 miles brought us to Little Wilson Stream, situated at the bottom of a
descent on a soft path through heavily shaded woods. The stream bed was wide and
consisted mostly of one big rock slab stretching across to the other side. There was very
little water flowing so we would be able to cross without getting wet. The water was
flowing across the rock on the other side but this side was dry so we ventured out on the
rock and found a spot to sit and have a break. It was a gorgeous place. In front of us the
water flowed over the rock slab, sliding along downstream to the right and disappearing.
To our left the water cascaded down to our level over the final section of the 60 foot high
Little Wilson Falls.
The falls would certainly be very impressive if the water were high. In 1999, JILEBI tells
of crossing calf high water here and describes the falls as follows:
** " Little Wilson falls was spectacular - the water cascading down slate steps. Adjacent
to the falls were nearly vertical thin beds of slate with some of them collapsing like a row
of dominoes adorned with mosses and ferns. A few cedars and hemlocks gracefully
leaned into the falls." **
While we were having our break, the two young boys passed us. We crossed the stream
and were heading up the soft trail out of the valley when we met a father and son going
south. The young man was a SOBO thru hiker and his father was accompanying him
through the wilderness to Monson. The young man was hoping to do the trail in less than
5 months. The father said his son's speed would certainly increase after Monson. We
wished the young man luck.
After 2.6 miles we found ourselves descending to an old tote road which followed along
Big Wilson Stream. The trail took a sharp left and went upstream along the narrow old
road. Shortly, we had to move aside and let pass a family on ATV's heading downstream.
I have no idea how they got here. We eventually came to a double white blaze indicating
that the trail would be turning and crossing the stream. We looked across and saw a white
blaze on a tree on the other side. It was 12:40 PM.
It was a wide stream but the water did not seem more than ankle deep. The bottom was
rocky with many larger round rocks protruding above the water. We looked up and down
stream to see if there would be some way to get across without getting wet and without
serious rock hopping. I walked a few feet downstream along the boulders lining the
shore, trying to find a good spot. I wasn't too careful and lost my balance, sliding on a
sloped rock and ending with a wet foot and a scraped leg.
I went back to MA and decided to cross where the blazes were located. It appeared that
we could make our way across by aiming for the more shallow sections and by stepping
on some of the dry rocks. So we kept our boots on and started to work our way across.
We soon found the water ankle deep and over our boots. We took our boots off on the
other side and rung out our socks and insoles. We laid them out on the warm rocks to dry.
It would have been faster and smarter to go across in sandals, with our boots tied to our
We took a long lunch break and examined our map. The next shelter (Wilson Valley
Lean-to) was 0.7 miles up the slope behind our back, and the one after that was Long
Stream Pond Stream Lean-to, 5.4 miles away. It was still early and the terrain looked
pretty food so we would be staying with our plan to get to the latter. The only problem
spot could be the ford of Long Pond Stream, not far from the shelter.
HEIDE and DOUG arrived on the other side and consulted us about the best way to cross.
They did not have sandals, so they decided to cross barefoot. It was a long slow (and
possibly painful) process as they carefully placed their feet between the many rocks as
they made their way across.
They took a break while MA and I got ready to leave. The two young boys appeared on
the other side and we all suggested they would have better luck crossing downstream.
They went far down and we saw them hopping across, staying completely dry. As MA
and I started on our way, the boys angled their way through the woods, back to the trail in
front of us. We crossed the Canadian Pacific Railroad tracks and saw the boys take the
side trail to the shelter. We never saw them again and I wondered if they were following
my advice to take their time and enjoy the trip.
At the top of the hill, we came out of the woods and walked along grassy open ledges,
with a view of Barren Mountain. Here we met THE WISCONSIN BROTHERS slacking
south bound. They were moving quite fast and should have no problem covering the 11.5
miles to the highway before dark. The path was good the rest of the afternoon as it
headed down to Long Pond Stream. At the base of the hill we crossed two brooks and
then came to a rocky road where we saw a car parked on the edge.
Not far past the road, we came to Long Pond Stream. It looked like this was going to be
an interesting crossing. It was ankle to calf deep and the stream bed was littered with
round rocks sticking above the surface. Normally we would have a problem hopping
across from rock to rock with our backpacks on. However, in this spot, there was a thick
cable stretched across the river and tied around trees on each bank. The rocks in the
stream seemed close enough together that we could hang onto the cable as we stretched
from rock to rock. I grabbed onto the cable and started to work my way across.
The plan worked well until I got close to the other side where the bank was much higher.
The cable was tied to a tree at the edge of the far bank, but because of the height of the
bank, the cable began to rise from waist to chest level and then even higher. I soon found
myself about 10 feet from the other side, balancing on a round rock with my arms
stretched high over my head, unable to proceed forward without letting go of the cable
and unable to back up as the last rock was out of reach. My heavy backpack and my
outstretched arms had me wavering from side to side as I held on. I was afraid to let go of
the cable, because I was standing on a small rock and I did not want to lose my balance
and tumble into the calf deep water and against other rocks. I eventually let go with one
hand and made a risky step forward to the next rock, as I released the other hand. I
managed to maintain my balance and then position myself to give MA a helping hand. It
was difficult but we made it across safely.
The trail turned left and went upstream along a wide path. We immediately met two
young girls and a young man in their late teens or early twenties. They asked about the
trail ahead and we described the terrain to the next shelter and on to the Highway. It was
still early and they should have no problem getting to the next shelter. On the other hand
they did not seem very experienced. They seemed a little confused and/or out-of-it
(drugs?) and it did not seem possible that they had come all the way through the
It was a 0.8 mile hike from the stream crossing to the shelter. As it climbed up along the
stream, the path moved slowly away from the water and started climbing faster than the
stream. But we could still hear the fast moving water far below to our left as it tumbled
and splashed over boulders and through narrow gorges. Finally the path made a sharp
right turn through the woods away from the stream. Around that spot, we came to the 150
yard side trail on our left leading to the shelter.
Long Pond Stream Lean-to was set back maybe 50 feet from the steep wooded slope
above the noisy stream. We could not see the stream but we could still hear it far below.
When we got to the front of the lean-to, we found CHAD, as usual, curled up in his
sleeping bag against the right wall. He roused as we greeted another hiker who was
sorting through his own stuff hung on the left outside wall of the shelter. It was 5:00PM
and we had done the 15.1 miles in 9.5 hours. CHAD said he had been here since around
The bugs were bad so we decided to tent. I went up the trail on the right side of the
shelter with the other person, a quiet SOBO named AUTUMN LEAVE. I checked the
possibilities up the little slope behind the shelter. It was a light wooded area with many
little depressions and lots of low vegetation. We would be close to the privy back here
but there was no actual tent spot, although the tent could have been put in many places.
Actually, it took us some time to find the privy. It was some distance up the path and to
the right; it was lightly stained green, and blended in with the woods.
MA and I finally chose a spot on bare ground under young trees a stone throw to the left
front of the shelter. We put the tent up and MA prepared everything inside for the night.
She inflated the sleeping pads and opened up the sleeping bags. At our heads, she placed
the plastic resource bag (containing maps, books, other resource material and a small
book for our journal notes), the small first aid bag, the lids of our packs (which
contained head lamps, pills, and other small items) and the small water bottles for
drinking at night.
I inquired about water, and AUTUMN LEAVE said he had made his way down to Long
Pond stream to get his water. I was reluctant to go such a long distance and I recalled the
map showed a symbol for a water source, so I went behind the shelter to the far left
where after some scouting around, I found a small brook in a depression. We then sat on
the front of the shelter and socialised as we made our supper.
Now is a good time to describe AUTUMN LEAVE.
As we cleaned up after our meal, we watched as AUTUMN LEAVE prepared his supper
on the fire ring out front. He did not have a stove and I can't remember exactly how he
cooked but I recall it as follows. He had a metal can with both ends removed and with
holes punched strategically on the sides near the bottom. He placed twigs and dry leaves
inside it and lit it. It was soon smoking and producing heat and he somehow cooked on
top of that. He seemed to be a back-to-basics kind of person. This was borne out by my
earlier discussion with him and in later conversations.
AUTUMN LEAVE was a tall, slim, very quiet person in his late forties or early fifties. I
seem to recall that he was a teacher from Nashville who taught either woodworking or
some metal-working type courses. When we first arrived he was wearing a thin pair of
sneakers (or was it canvas shoes) without socks. He said he usually hiked barefoot but the
rocky terrain on Barren Mountain had forced him to put his shoes on. As well as not
having boots or a stove, he also did not have a tent or a sleeping pad. That night he was
set up in a little depression some distance behind the shelter. He had piled dead leaves
and boughs in the depression and placed his sleeping bag over that. His shelter was a tarp
which was tied to a small tree at his head, and stretched down over his sleeping bag. His
back pack was more of a ruck sack. The pack did not have the rigid stays and fancy
support systems of the modern backpacks. Like I said, he was more of a back-to-basics
kind of person. A very nice and interesting person.
HEIDE and DOUG arrived a little more than an hour after us. This was their first day on
the trail, so they had done very good. As we sat on the edge of the shelter, they opened up
their food bags and sorted through a number of small bags and pouches, spreading them
out across the floor of the shelter. They followed the same routine for most of their
meals. I will describe the routine because it was different than other hikers on the trail.
First of all, their meal time seemed longer than most hikers and was certainly more
elaborate. They were both vegetarian and liked ethnic foods. Their meals always
consisted in more than one course, and often started with a soup. As they proceeded
though a meal, they would sort though the pouches on the floor and discuss the pros and
cons for the next portion of the meal, and what they should be keeping for future meals.
Other than the soups, which seemed to be fancy powdered envelopes, their meals were
not the packaged pasta and rice dishes. DOUG would cook up a basic item, and then add
one or two things to it and then add spices. Their meals often included ethnic type items
that we were not familiar with. Everything sounded and smelled great.
Part of our conversation at the shelter that evening involved the destination for the next
day (July 11) and CHAD's schedule for the rest of the Wilderness. His girl friend was
going to climb Katahdin with him on July 17, so he planned to do the remaining 84 miles
to the end of the Wilderness in 5 days and then hike to the base of Katahdin on the
following day. CHAD could easily do the Wilderness a lot faster than that but he had to
think about DOUG and HEIDE who would be following him. We wondered if the other
two could keep up with him especially when one of the planned days was 24 miles. Our
plan was going to take us 2 days more than CHAD, however, we would likely be together
again the next night, as his plan was to do 11 miles to the next most logical shelter.
There was space near our tent, so DOUG and HEIDE set up there. We turned in early and
were on our way by 7:15 the next morning. As soon as we were back on the trail we
started climbing Barren Mountain. In the first mile, we climbed 1000 feet up to Barren
Ledges where the trail flattened out for about 0.5 miles, and we got some great views of
the surrounding terrain. The next 1.5 miles was a less steep ascent of 550 feet, the rest of
the way up Barren Mountain.
We met an older couple going south bound. They had spent the night at Cloud Pond
Lean-to on top of the mountain, and were carrying very light packs. They were
proceeding very slowly down the mountain and the man in particular was having
problems. They had been section hiking the trail for more than 30 years. Their advice
was if you do the trail over a number of years, don't save the Wilderness for last. Their
only remaining section was the Wilderness which they were also doing in sections. This
was quite a challenge because of its remoteness, the difficulty to get into the trail by
vehicle and because of their age. I believe it was their small car that we saw on the road
the day before. We found out that night from DOUG that they were CONNIE and MAC
and were 74 years old.
A mile after reaching the top, we walked past the side trail to Cloud Pond Lean-to. The
rest of the day was a series of ups and down on top of this mountain range called the
Mountain, with Long Pond in the valley below and the White Cap Range, which we will
reach the next day, in the distance behind her on the far left.
Early in the afternoon, while walking though a dip between two peaks, we found
ourselves following a large group of girls walking single file along a puncheon over a wet
section of trail. They were out for a few days doing a section of the Wilderness. We
chatted a little with the last person in the line, who we assumed was one of the leaders of
this group of 13 and 14 year olds. When we got to a dry section she suggested that they
all move aside to let us go by. It turned out she was not one of the leaders but was the
ridgerunner for the southern half of the Wilderness.
Seasoned hikers that we were, we soon put a little distance between us and them. We
really couldn't get too smug about out abilities, however, because we shortly came to
another short steep climb up to another peak and the group began gaining on us. Trying
to stay ahead had me out of breath, so I found a level spot next to the trail to take off our
packs and take a break. As I sat there watching them go by, I pretended that this was a
planned stop. We passed them again when they took a break in the woods on top of the
That same afternoon, we met a lady in her fifties coming towards us. She had a large
camera case and a water bottle on a belt around her waist. She had no other equipment.
She was not from around here but was staying with someone in a cabin down on a road
below the mountain. She had received instructions on how to get up here to take pictures.
Close examination of our maps gives us no idea of where she was heading that afternoon,
and how she could have found a road after leaving us.
At the end of a long steep wooded descent, we spotted a privy to our left in the woods.
We went passed the privy side trail and descended a steep rocky section of trail. Within a
few minutes we found ourselves in front of Chairback Lean-to which was situated right
on the trail, about 10 feet from the edge of a steep drop. It was 3:15 PM and we had done
CHAD was here huddled in his bag on the right side of the shelter. We took off our packs
and went exploring the woods behind the shelter for a spot but found nothing to our
liking. Also the girls coming along behind us would likely be camping back here. We
hung our sweaty clothes to dry on the outside wall of the shelter, and put our boots and
socks on the rocks out front. MA spread out our sleeping pads and bags on the left side of
the shelter, and we sprawled out on top to relax. The group of girls arrived soon after
and headed out back to set up. The Ridgerunner stopped to chat for some time. She spent
a bit of time talking thru hiking with CHAD. She was a young lady of about 20 who had
thru hiked the previous year. I had a lot of respect for her. It would not be easy for a
young girl to be a ridgerunner but to do it in this remote area would be even tougher. She
then went and set up with the girls.
DOUG and HEIDE arrived an hour or so after us and appropriated the middle portion of
the shelter. Mealtime was much like the night before. We had Ramen and Lipton, while
DOUG and HEIDE went through their mealtime ritual. After supper I went for water.
The sign for water pointed further along the AT. About 10 feet passed the shelter, the AT
dropped practically straight down. I held on to a small tree and lowered myself down the
slate rock descent, reaching for the next tree or branch. It took a couple of minutes to
drop down the 20 feet or so to the next level where there was a side trail following a
stream to the right. I walked a few feet where I found a man in his forties filtering water.
I detected a French accent and asked him where he was from. He was from Gatineau
Quebec, so I immediately switched to French. He was a SOBO named PAPILLON. He
was a nurse who had secured employment in North Carolina and he had decided to walk
to his new job. In the course of our conversation, he mentioned that he was tenting
behind the shelter. It was strange that we had not seen him arrive. We talked about
AUTUMN LEAVE who he referred to as the barefoot hiker and called him by his
Christian name. I was having a real problem filtering water. The filter was now clogged
more than ever and I was building muscles trying to force water through it.
PAPILLON left and I told him to say hi to Marielle (MA) when he got up to the shelter.
He said hi to her in French as he climbed the hill but she was not expecting to hear
French and did not understand. When I got to the top, the three of us got involved in a
French conversation, and DOUG rushed over with his camera to film us and insisted that
we all keep speaking in French. We then had to sign waivers to allow him to use the
footage. Papillon said he was going to place his trail journal in French at
trailjournals.com, but the last time I checked he only had one entry. I do not know if he
ended up walking all the way to his job.
We were on our way by 6 AM the next morning. Our plan for the day was to do 9.9 easy
miles to Carl A Newhall Lean-to and the following day do 7.2 tougher miles up and over
a number of peaks to Logan Brook Lean-to. CHAD was aiming to go all the way to
Logan Brook today. MA and I decided to play it by ear, based on the time it took to get to
the first shelter. If we continued on and ran into problems, we would have the option of
staying at a tentsite 2 miles beyond the first shelter, in a depression between mountain
Upon leaving the shelter, we had a short but relatively easy climb to the summit of
Chairback Mountain where we had a view of the Pleasant River Valley and beyond that
the White Cap Range, our climb for later in the day. The descent off the summit was
vertical. It is described by JILEBI and the maps as a steep talus slope. I am not sure what
that means, but I would say it was a 250 foot almost vertical drop down a jumble of giant
rock slabs which seemed to have been dropped like pick-up-sticks on the slope of the
mountain. We had to work our way over, around and between this pile of rocks, as we
went from blaze to blaze. Finally I spotted a blaze on a tree at the edge of the woods on
our left. I saw CHAD coming down the rocks as we entered the woods and he soon
passed us. The rest of the descent was a pleasant meander down a path through a soft and
hardwood forest with a long level section part way down.
At the 3.9 mile mark we came to a main logging road at the base of the mountain. We
crossed the road onto a wide path heading towards the West Branch of the Pleasant
River, 0.5 miles further on. We met a small group of young teenagers and their two
young leaders. They were from a summer camp here in Maine and were doing the entire
Wilderness. They were tired but in good spirits.
We soon came to the wide river where CHAD was waiting for DOUG and HEIDE who
wanted to film him fording the river. He had been here at least half an hour and was
getting restless. It was a very wide river but seemed very shallow so as usual we decided
to make our way across with our boots on. We were soon on a log on the other side
wringing out our socks. Finally CHAD put on his water moccasins and made his way
across. We chatted and shared a granola bar with him. Finally we decided to leave but
CHAD waited a little longer.
We followed the path, which seemed almost a road, away from the river. We then came
to a T in the trail, and went left, following the river upstream. The trail to the right lead to
the Hermitage with its stand of 130 foot high pine trees. It was a beautiful walk up river
along the wide sandy trail. At first there was a large grassy area which looked almost as
if it was mowed on a regular basis. CHAD went by and commented on the beauty of the
surroundings. Later on, the trail narrowed a little and we were in a more heavily wooded
area on a soft path criss crossed with large roots. As we continued on, we ended up
following Gulf Hagas Brook upstream. We came to the side trail on the left into the Gulf
Hagas, a three mile long slate canyon with spectacular falls and rapids. We made a sharp
right turn and continued on the AT as it gradually climbed along the brook up Gulf Hagas
Mountain, the first peak of the White Cap Range.
Around 11:30 AM, after a very pleasant 5 mile walk from the river crossing, we finally
crossed the small brook. At the top of the bank, the AT made a sharp right, but we made
a turn to the left along a short side trail to Carl A. Newhall Lean-to. The shelter was at
the edge of a large clearing. We sat in the hot sun on the edge of the south-facing shelter
and removed our socks and boots. We relaxed in our sandals and had a leisurely lunch
consisting of a soft tortilla smothered with peanut butter and rolled into a tube. I finished
off with a bar and some candies. We still had some water so we decided to wait to filter
at the campsite 2 miles away where there was a spring.
We were joined by two south bound hikers and chatted a little. We used the privy, way
up a long steep path behind the shelter, and then got ready to leave. We were back on the
trail by 12:15 PM. The remaining 1 mile of the climb up Gulf Hagas Mountain soon got
much steeper, but we easily made it to the top. The next mile was a walk along the flat
summit and a dip between peaks, where we came to Sidney Tappan Campsite at
1:25 PM. MA stayed with our packs while I took a side trail to the spring for our water.
After a 20 minute break we were on our way.
Over the next 4 miles we climbed 3 more peaks of the White Cap Range. Each of the
peaks was higher than the previous one and was followed by a little dip. Late in the
afternoon, we came to the rocky summit of the last peak, White Cap Mountain. We took
a break on a log that seemed to be placed there for that purpose. It was hazy out, but we
could see a mountain range next to us. The documentation indicated that we could get a
view of Katahdin from here, but there were bushes blocking our view in that direction.
When we were on our way, we contoured the bushes, but there was too much haze to see
that far. Our goal for the day was 1.4 miles away. The steep descent began on a rocky
exposed path leading off the summit and eventually went into woods and continued
dropping until we saw a privy through the woods on our right. We continued down
coming to a level area where the AT veered to the right. We could see the shelter (Logan
Brook Lean-to) a few feet down a short trail to the left. It was 5:30 PM and the end of a
17.1 mile, 11.5 hour day.
The side trail brought us to the front of the shelter which CHAD was sharing with a few
young SOBO's. The terrain in front of the shelter was hard and rocky and sloped gently
down to a stream about 40 feet away. MA was in a hurry to use the privy so I sent her
back up the trail we had come down, because that is where I had seen it. Unfortunately,
the side trail up to the privy is further north on the AT, so MA had to use the woods. One
of the SOBO's gave us proper directions when she returned.
We found a small place for our tent in a flat spot in front and to the left of the shelter.
Filtering water was such a hassle and so time consuming with the clogged filter that I
decided to use the water remaining in our water bags to cook our Ramen and make our
I unscrewed the long plastic hoses from the hard plastic Platypus water bags, emptied the
water into our pot and started up the stove. While we relaxed enjoying our meal on the
front of the shelter, a young couple arrived and began setting up their orange Mountain
Hardware tent on the slope to the right of the trail to the water. I heard them talking in
French as they put up the tent. They were pretty busy so we did not disturb them. After
supper I passed out Fig Newton's to CHAD and the SOBO's in the shelter. I had bought a
large package for this section because I had read that they were cheap, high in calories,
kept well and were good for you.
A little later, I had to get water as I had used up all we had for our meal. I went down to
the stream and sat next to the young Quebec girl. She was surprised to hear me speak
French. We had a hiking related conversation while I filtered water from a little pool at
the base of a small waterfall and she washed out a pot, downstream from me. During our
stay at this shelter we had a couple of conversations with the couple and found out they
were only out for the summer. They were south bound, having started at Katahdin a few
days before. They had not managed to climb to the summit of Katahdin because it was
foggy and rainy on the day of their attempt and she had found the rocks slick and the
My filter was still very hard to pump so it was a long and difficult process to filter 6 litres
of water into our black dromedary bag. This would have to be enough for the night and
for the first part of the next day. After filling the bottles, I placed the dromedary next to
the tent. I normally would fill the water bags, but this time I decided to wait until
morning. I also placed the empty water bags and the curled up drinking hoses next to the
tent in a white kitchen catcher bag.
Why did we have a kitchen catcher bag? Well, we always carried a few plastic garbage
bags and smaller kitchen bags in the lids of our packs, to replace the ones we used to
keep our clothes and sleeping bags dry. They could also be handy in emergency
situations. A week or so before, my Platypus bag had sprung a tiny leak in the hard seam
at the top next to where the hose screwed on to it. I had duct taped the hole and wrapped
the bag in the kitchen catcher bag in order to avoid having the water soak the contents of
my backpack. Our Platypus bag were always at the top of our backpacks in order that
gravity would help water flow into the hose.
We retired for the night a little before dark. Around 8:30 PM, DOUG and HEIDE arrived
and began setting up their tent next to us. They were very tired, but had taken a break to
have supper on the summit of White Cap before coming down to the shelter. Doug was
having problems and asked if we had some Ibuprofen. We still had a good supply so MA
passed him 10 caplets.
After breakfast the next morning, we got our tent down and our bags packed very
quickly. Well, anyway, it was fast compared to the Quebec couple who did not have their
morning routine as well established as us. Before putting the food bags away, MA made
the Gatorade for our small bottles that we carried on our hip belts. I then divided the rest
of the water between our two Platypus water bags and screwed the drinking hoses to
them. We then placed the water bags at the top of our backpacks, put the lids over top,
and tied all the straps securely, so the contents of the backpack would not shift.
The long drinking hoses hung down from under the pack lids and we secured them with
little clamps to the front straps of the backpacks. We put on our backpacks, adjusted the
hip belt and sternum straps to make sure the pack would not move while we hiked. I
brought the end of the clear plastic drinking hose to my mouth and bit on the blue bite
valve. This valve was a piece of soft plastic with a slit in it that opened and squirted
water into your mouth when you bit it.
Well that is what it was supposed to do. This morning, nothing happened when I bit. I bit
again and sucked as I did so. Still no water. This sometimes happened when there was a
kink in the tube or if it was trapped between something, so I removed my pack to
examine the situation. I took the water bag out of the pack and everything seemed OK. I
held the bag high to let the water flow down the tube, and bit again. Still no luck. I
sucked hard but without success. I sucked hard again, still nothing. The bag and tube
were both clear plastic and there was no visible reason why the water was not coming
out. I held the bag high over my head, and squeezed the bite valve between to open the
slot and let the water flow but nothing happened. I then noticed something brown
sticking out of the slot of the bite valve. I disgustingly pulled the valve off the end of the
tube, causing water to pour out of the tube, and then removed a slug from the bite valve,
all the while spitting to remove any part that may be in my mouth from my sucking
The hose had not been screwed to the bag during the night which allowed the slug to get
in the open end and to slither all the way up the small tube to the bite valve. It had then
been stuck there. I rinsed the bite valve as best I could and tried cleaning it with Purell
hand disinfectant, hoping to remove and disinfect it. I rinsed it and put it back on the
hose. I bit down a couple of times and spit out the water.
MA still laughs about the hike that morning. I was concerned about the effect of having
sucked on the slug and was reluctant to drink my water. It also tasted kind of strange
which was partly my imagination and likely partly the Purell. I drank mostly Gatorade
and once or twice I stopped MA and drank from her hose. I spent most of the morning
wondering if there would be side effects and if slugs were poisonous
This would be a pretty easy 11.7 mile day, mostly flat with one little bump of a mountain.
We had spent the first 3 nights in the Wilderness with CHAD, HEIDE and DOUG, and
were comfortable with that arrangement. It did not mean that it would continue but MA
had consulted with CHAD about his plans and they had both made adjustments in their
itineraries. CHAD was still aiming for Katahdin on the 17th but made changes that
would make it easier on the other two, including doing the same easy miles as us today.
In our case, we were two days ahead of schedule so we realized we could likely do bigger
miles than planned and could perhaps stay with them after today, although it would mean
doing 40 miles over the following 2 days. It is interesting to note that before Monson, we
had stuck exactly to MA's itinerary.
The morning walk was mostly on a path. It was flat soft ground starting in hardwood
forest then in softwoods with lots of moss around. Early on we crossed an old logging
road and a number of streams. At one spot, I lost my balance and fell partly into the
water as I was going down a slippery rock to get to a log that had been placed
precariously on top of rocks partially damming a stream. The climbs were strenuous but
Sometime after noon we crossed Kokadjo-B Pond Road near the base of Little
Boardman mountain. As were heading along the narrow wooded path away from the
road, we heard vehicles on the road and looked back to see two identical green half ton
trucks come to a stop at the spot we entered the woods. Likely lumber company trucks,
but we did not wait to find out. Instead we followed the trail up a little rise as it veered to
the left and out of view of the road. We stopped and removed our pack for a lunch break,
and heard the trucks pull away. We sat and relaxed on the soft earth above the trail
enjoying glimpses through the trees of Crawford Lake far below us at the bottom of a
After break, the path wandered down to the lake and we came to a few beautiful sandy
beaches. No camping was allowed here. The walking was so good in this section that we
did the 3 miles from break to our destination at Cooper Brook Falls Lean-to in 1 hour and
10 minutes. The last portion was a narrow path in the middle of a wide cut through the
woods, likely the remains of an old road. Once in awhile the terrain would be muddy and
we would walk on puncheons. Through the woods and down a slope to our right we
could hear Cooper Brook. Not long before arriving we met a SOBO looking for a friend,
We had not seen anyone and he figured that he had likely passed him at the shelter which
was not far from here.
The trail made a sharp left turn. Through the trees below the trail we could see the back
of the shelter and the brook. The shelter was situated about 20 feet back form the brook,
up against the hill. CHAD was set up on the right side of the shelter and a teenage boy
and girl of around 15 or 16 were sitting on the other side. It was still early afternoon and
we would get a good chance to rest here. We took off our packs and went down on the
left towards the water to sit on the rocks at the water's edge.
What a gorgeous spot. We were located in front of a wide section of the fast moving
down to the water's edge for a cigarette and we found out that they were brother and
sister. Their parents were fishing in the area and had let them off with their backpacks
earlier in the day at Jo Mary Road. They were on their way to Crawford Lake where they
would camp for the night and be picked up the next day at Kokadjo-B Pond road. CHAD
A little further to the left of the shelter, down near the water, was a long bare spot under
the trees where someone had set up a tent. We walked by the front of the tent and set up
our tent just passed it. We could not see in the tent but we spoke briefly with the man
inside. We did not see him at all during our stay here.
The easy hike had allowed DOUG and HEIDE to arrive earlier than on previous days.
They would be glad of the rest. DOUG was still on Ibuprofen, having also obtained a
large number from CHAD that morning. They came down to the water where we took
They then went and set up just past our tent.
Later in the afternoon, I sat on the left edge of the shelter talking with a couple in their
early fifties who were section hiking south bound. His name was ENERGIZER and she
was PATIENCE . As I recall the story from PATIENCE, her husband had been section
hiking the trail for a number of years but had developed a major medical problem
involving his legs. He hoped the problem was corrected and had decided to come out
here with some kind of contraption on his leg. She had decided to come and hike with
him this year. He was having a few problems with his leg but they were not discouraged.
I had always worried about developing a medical problem out in the Wilderness, far from
help, and here was someone who had come out here with an existing situation. It
certainly made my own concerns seem petty.
For the last couple of days, PATIENCE and ENERGIZER had been with a young thru
hiking couple named WIZ KID and BUZZ. The four of them had set up their tents in the
tenting spot at the top of the hill. BUZZ, the young lady, never came down to the shelter.
In the early evening, I sat out front of the shelter listening to WIZ KID tell how he and
BUZZ had met. It is a great trail related story.
He had been thinking of doing the AT and was consulting trailplace.com, WINGFOOT's
website, for information. He happened to see an item on the message board from a
person in his state (Georgia, I believe) who had a few questions. As they were from the
same state, he decided to take down the email address and contact the person. They
exchanged a few trail related emails and he finally decided to suggest that they meet to
discuss in person. He drove a few hours to meet her in a restaurant, sight unseen.
I will never forget the next part of the story. He described meeting her and finding her
"drop dead gorgeous". (He repeated this term a number of times in telling the story). He
was so smitten that he put caution to the wind, and immediately asked her if she had a
boyfriend. Fortunately she had just broken up. To make a long story short, they waited a
few months till she graduated, and then got married two weeks ago. They spent their
honeymoon being pampered on a cruise and then headed immediately to the trail. He said
it was quite a contrast from one week to the other.
When MA and I went up across the AT to the privy and to do our evening hygiene, I took
a detour back along the AT to the campsite and met BUZZ, a very nice quiet and pretty
young lady. One final point to this story: WIZ KID was lucky to have met her because
WINGFOOT closed down his website around the time this occurred.
We were up early the next day, our fifth day in the Wilderness. We had breakfast down by the water and were ready to leave by 6 AM. Before leaving, we took a picture of
would be following streams and contouring lakes and ponds for a good part of the day.
The terrain would be mostly level so we were hoping to make good time. CHAD and
company were heading for Wadleigh Stream Lean-to at the 21.5 mile mark, and would be
making a side trip to the White House Landing at the 14 mile mark where DOUG and
HEIDE had a mail drop waiting. We were hoping to get to the same shelter but there
were a number of other options on the way, if things did not work out.
We started out the way we finished the previous night, on a soft path in a middle of wide
area that was likely once a road. When the trail got muddy, there were puncheons. I
took the picture. We had brought ample film but had not thought about batteries. But not
to worry, trail magic will intervene. The trail dipped gently and then levelled out, as
CHAD passed us. We reached Jo-Mary road in 1 1/2 hours; not bad for 3.7 miles.
As we approached and contoured lakes and ponds, the trail got a little rockier, with round
rocks sticking out of the path, . We came to Antlers Campsite situated in a beautiful pine
grove on the shore of Lower Jo-Mary Lake. We took a short break, used the privy and
then contoured the north end of the lake. After a little bump over Potaywadjo Ridge, we
arrived at Potaywadjo Spring Lean-to situated on a side trail at the 11 mile mark; it was
only 11 AM.
It was extremely hot out as we sat on the exposed front of the south facing shelter. We
were joined for a short time by a SOBO named MOHICAN who bragged a little about
the mileage he was doing. We were low on water, so MA waited at the shelter while I
went further along the side trail to the spring. The trail went to the edge of the clearing
and along light woods where there were a few campsites. I met two young section hikers
who praised the water here. It is a 15 foot diameter bubbling spring with a floating
walkway over the out flow. I sat on the walkway and forced water through my filter.
Back at the shelter I filled the bags and bottles and enjoyed the taste of this cold fresh
We then continued along the side trail, past the spring, to the AT. Within 0.5 miles we
spotted Pemadumcook Lake on our right through the trees. We took a 75 foot side trail
leading to the rocky water's edge from where we got our first view of Mount Katahdin
which we were hoping to climb in three days. We were just about at the extreme north
end of this large lake. I looked to see if there was any activity on the water as The White
House Landing was situated somewhere on this lake, and we would be reaching their
access trail in 2 miles. There was nothing on the water and no signs of civilization along
South Bounders (SOBO's) in the Wilderness
Back on the trail, we met a young SOBO who had just come from The White House
Landing. He told us a little about his stay there and we had a conversation about the bugs
in the Wilderness. The hiker told us that he had walked the access trail to the lake and
had sounded the fog horn which summons Bill Ware from the White House Landing to
come across the lake in his boat pick up hikers. The bugs were really bad while he waited
so he sprayed himself with DEET, which kept them away, but when he put his shirt on,
they literally turned the shirt black.
He said that he found out from Bill Ware that many SOBO's quit their hike at that spot
this year. At that point they would be 45 miles into their hike and 30 miles into the
Wilderness. It seems that many of them started their thru-hike without protection from
black flies and mosquitoes which are really bad this time of year, especially in this wet
terrain. The bug situation is also likely more frustrating for SOBO's because they are just
starting their hike and are not going too fast. Bill Ware tried to convince them that DEET
would get them through the rest of the Wilderness but many were covered in bites and
just wanted to go home.
I must add that I don't think I would want to thru hike the trail south bound. South
bounders start their trip by climbing Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, the most
difficult climb of the trip. The next day, they usually hike 13 miles to get out of the park
where they can only stay one night. Obviously a tough way to start a hike. Southbounders
usually have to wait until late May to start because of the snow on Katahdin and in the
Maine woods. When they do start, they are in prime blackfly season. If they wait a little,
they will be in mosquito season. As I said, they are going slow so the problems are even
worse for them.
White House Landing
Even though a stop was tempting, we decided not to go to the White House Landing
because we had sufficient supplies and also did not want to take that big a chunk out of
our day. But here is a little background information about the place. It is operated by Bill
Ware (son of POOPA JACK, a fellow 1999 thru hiker) and his wife Linda. When it
opened a few years before, some trail purists were against it, because it offered a break
from the traditional 100 Mile Wilderness hike. It was pointed out however, that it cannot
be seen from the trail, is only accessible by boat from the trail, that nobody is forced to
go there and that it was a perhaps a big help especially for SOBO's. It has food
including, breakfast, hamburgs, pizza, Ben & Jerry's, beer and short term re-supply. They
also have lodging, a bunkhouse, showers, and accept maildrops. There is a charge for all
services, which is understandable, considering that they are in the Wilderness, miles from
the nearest highway or town. Many slow SOBO's count on it for a maildrop.
Immediately after the White House Landing access trail, the AT made a sharp left,
dropped down for an easy ford of Tumbledown Dick Stream where it entered
Nahwakanta Stream. The trail would stay close to the latter stream for the next 4.5 miles.
We stopped and took a break, sitting on our packs, enjoying the sound and view of the
rushing water. It began to sprinkle so we put on our rain jackets, covered our packs.and
were on our way.
The afternoon's hike was on a level path with the stream on our right. We went past the
Nahwakanta Stream Campsite and continued on. The rain stopped and we removed our
jackets. The trail eventually left the stream and for a short distance it followed a wide
path which crossed a gravel road and continued for about 100 feet to the southern end of
Nahwakanta Lake. At the road we met a friendly ranger who showed us a campsite and
the privy. He said this spot was used by people to launch their boats. The campsite was
not shown on our map or listed in our material, likely because it was next to the road and
was probably used by people who were car camping.
It was not yet 4 PM, so we knew we could easily make it to Wadleigh Stream Lean-to,
2.5 miles further on. But first we wanted to take a break at the beach. We hung our wet
things on branches, put on our sandals and walked into the water on this shallow beach. I
walked some distance out, before I was able to duck under water. We were at the
southern end of a narrow 6 mile long lake. There was nobody else here and the only signs
of civilization were a couple of canoes on beaches, further along the shore. It was a very
quiet restful place. CHAD appeared and joined me in the water. He was behind us
because he had spent time at the White House Landing. He said that DOUG and HEIDE
had arrived there not long before he left.
MA and I spent an hour at the beach, and left not long after CHAD. The swim had
drained me so I had a couple of Pop Tarts before leaving. I am not sure if we were aware
as we left that this was an important milestone. The remaining 40.8 miles to the top of
Katahdin were on Maine Map 1, the last of the 42 maps of the entire Appalachian Trail.
It took roughly an hour to get to Wadleigh Stream Lean-to. For the first 2 miles, the level
wooded path mostly hugged the left side of the lake, where we saw a few canoes up on
gravel beaches. After passing a side trail to a sandy beach, the path moved a little away
from the water and we were soon walking along the back of the shelter. It had taken less
than 12 hours to do the 21.5 miles, including an hour swim stop.
The shelter was in a small high canopied clearing. About 30 feet in front was a small
shallow stream. We picked a soft spot out front over to the left of the shelter and set up
our tent. CHAD was set up in the shelter along the left side wall. A young married couple
named TRISH and CHRIS arrived with another young hiker called STRANGE BIRD.
They were all SOBO thru hikers and asked about the trail a little further on. CHRIS and
TRISH seemed interested in swimming and asked about the sandy beach about half a
mile ahead. We also told them about the campsite at the end of the lake, 2.6 miles away.
The latter spot did not seem to interest them. It became clear later on that they were
going at too slow a pace to get there today. In any event, STRANGE BIRD was soon on
his way but the other two took quite a bit of time before deciding to stay.
I built more muscles filtering water down by the stream, where I chatted with TRISH.
This is one of the shelters with a low outside wall along the front of the shelter. I sat on
the left side and cooked supper. DOUG and HEIDE arrived and took over the left side of
the shelter to cook another one of their elaborate meals. CHRIS and TRISH cooked
their meal on the ground in front of the shelter. When they decided to stay the night here,
they had to patiently wait for the meal cleanup to be finished at the shelter.
CHAD (standing between the outside wall and the sleeping platform), TRISH (sitting on
outside wall), DOUG (with recording everything with his video camera), PA, and MA
(sitting on a long log out front of the shelter). A little later, I began one of my trail stories,
and DOUG stopped me and made me start over so he could record it. He had done this at
least one other time in the past. I mentioned, that I didn't care if all our footage ended up
on the cutting room floor, but I would love to see what he taped of us. He said MA and I
were trail characters. I don't know if that is a good thing.
DOUG and HEIDE set up their tent next to us, and we had a very quiet night, except for a
the sound of thunder close by and a very light sprinkling of rain. The forest ranger had
informed us that there was a severe thunderstorm warning for the area, but luckily it did
not materialize here.
CHRIS and TRISH
I mentioned that CHRIS and TRISH were going slow. This was the couple's 6th day on
the trail including their summitting of Katahdin. They were taking their time, enjoying
the trip, swimming wherever possible and hoping to build up their strength in order to do
more mileage later. Katahdin had been hard on them, especially on TRISH who had
injured her knee, but they were determined to do this. When we got home, I checked out
clearly enjoying the scenery, the outdoors and especially the people, but the trail was
having a toll on her body.
Her journal shows that they took a 0 mile day here the next day and went to White House
Landing the following day to re-supply and pick up a maildrop. It was lucky they did,
because it took them another 12 days after that to get out of the Wilderness. By then
TRISH was having serious ankle problems but bravely kept on going, taking 8 days to do
the 36.7 miles between Monson and Caratunk. Her ankle problems got worse after
Caratunk and she had to arrange a ride to Gorham NH where she waited 12 days for
CHRIS to hike there. Her journal then indicates that she was getting back on the trail, but
there are no further entries. It seems that they soon left the trail.
Despite all their problems, I get the clear impression that the AT had a profound positive
effect on both of them. Thinking back I wonder if their slow speed and TRISH's injuries
were partly as a result of their pack weight. They were strong young people but like most
people beginning their thru hike, they seemed to be carrying a lot. For example the
Coleman cartridge, while good for short backpacking trips, may have been heavy for a
thru hike. Also, TRISH had a few skin care products with her; As she said, it was not
make-up but I think they likely added quite a bit of weight to her pack. She said it was a
concession that CHRIS made for her. All of their gear is listed and shown at their
The next morning CHAD was gone early. We stayed and talked for a while. TRISH says
that PA offered lots of advice. I hope it was good advice. The other four were still
chatting when we left at 7:30, aiming for Hurd Brook Lean-to,19.6 miles away.
CHRIS had said that we would have a tough climb first thing in the morning and the map
showed that the steep ascent began a mile after leaving. It was the last steep climb before
Katahdin and it gave us no problems. The trail rose 750 feet over a distance of less than
a mile but it was mostly on a soft path with a number of switchbacks. We were in deep
woods with lots of vegetation. I worked up a little sweat but we found the walking pretty
easy. There were a few boulders at the top but we were still in woods. We contoured
around the left side of the summit and then headed down the other side.
The descent was less steep and we remained on a path in lush green woods. It was dark
and moist in the woods because of the canopy, the vegetation and the overcast sky. It
sprinkled on and off and we kept thinking it was going to stop. It continued to sprinkle as
we crossed a logging road and contoured a small pond. Then the skies opened up and the
rain just poured down. The rest of the morning is just a blur of walking in a heavy
thunderstorm. We came to a logging road and followed it a short distance, crossing a
stream on a bridge.
We then went back into the woods and followed noisy Rainbow Stream upstream. At this
point I felt soaked and uncomfortable. I think it was warm but when I am wet or humid I
often have a problem knowing if I am cold. The driving rain had plastered our rain gear
to our bodies and the water had run down into my boots. The stream was very narrow,
and the fast moving water on our right was rushing and crashing though gorges and at
one point over a flume. I kept walking on, soaked, feeling a slight concern as lightning
was flashing and the terrain underfoot was mostly rocky. We were surrounded by sounds:
the thunder banging nearby, the roar and crashing of the stream, the sound of the rain on
the canopy and vegetation, the splashing in the puddles around us, and the rain on the
thin hood of my rain jacket.
We knew there was a shelter at the 8.1 mile mark but we had no idea of our speed and
how soon we would get to it. Finally the rain abated a little and we came to Rainbow
Stream Lean-to. It was 11:30 AM, so we had done a very respectable 2 miles per hour
that morning. I went into the back of the shelter, stripped down and put my long
underwear on, so that I would have something dry against my body, and put on my fleece.
We had our peanut butter on tortilla lunch and I laid down to rest on the hard shelter
floor. The skies began to clear and the sun came out, so we hung our wet things in the
open and sat absorbing the warmth on the edge of the shelter.
During the morning storm, we had discussed whether we wanted to stay at this shelter,
but the clearing skies convinced us that we should go on. However, there was a slight
problem. When we would leave the shelter, we would have to cross the stream in front
of the shelter. From where we sat, we could see that we would have to cross on two
narrow 20 foot long logs placed side by side. One log was flat but the other was round
and they were both wet. The logs were about 5 or 6 feet above the water and rocks
below. There was no other way to cross as the banks were too steep. This would be very
tricky and dangerous, especially carrying backpacks. MA was very worried. I said I
would carry her pack across for her but I knew it would not be easy.
We were joined by a young SOBO couple who appeared on the other side of the stream
and easily crossed over. We had a trail discussion and found out they were from the
Adirondacks region in upper New York State. She was starting her thru hike and he was
accompanying her for the first 30 days. She was the first hiker that we had ever seen
carrying a bear box. The bear proof container for hanging food was strapped to the
outside of her pack.
We were here nearly 2 hours when we finally left, after putting our wet clothes back on.
The young man happily volunteered to carry MA's backpack across the logs for her.
Then she gingerly made her way to the other side. I slowly inched my way across with
my pack untied, in case I had problems and wanted to drop it. I was so busy
concentrating, that I did not see DOUG and HEIDE behind me coming up the trail to the
shelter. MA gave them a hand signal so they would not call out and distract me. I made
it safely and we waved goodbye.
Most of the trail for the next 4 miles to Rainbow Spring Campsite was flat and wet.
There was so much water that there was often little point in trying to avoid it. As we
walked I noticed that we seemed to be in a gully with the land being a little higher on
both sides. The water had nowhere to go. The mound to our left blocked our view of the
Rainbow Deadwaters at the end of Rainbow Lake, and later blocked our view of the lake,
although we did get to see it once in a while. After 2 hours, the trail rose a little and we
arrived at the side trail to the campsite. We took a break, had a snack, splashed on more
DEET, and I filtered water at the spring. It was around 3 PM and we still had 7.5 miles
to the shelter. Based on our current speed we would have no problem getting there.
The trail followed the lake for another 3 miles. There were still many wet spots but we
now often came close to the water. We met a couple about our age camped next to the
lake. They had been soaked by the rain and decided to set up here. They had found a
small spot right next to the water for their tent. Clothes and equipment were draped on
branches and trees all around them. They were section hiking south bound and were in
very good humour.
At the end of the lake, the trail started to gently climb up the Rainbow Ledges. The climb
was not difficult but we had been hearing thunder for a little while and wanted to get
over the top before it got closer. The top part of the climb was sloping exposed
weathered rock. We hurried with the sound of thunder in the distance. After the last
bump, we were soon in woods and met a couple section hiking south bound. I am not
sure where they were headed but it was around 5:30 PM and they were two miles past the
The descent through dark woods was pretty easy but it had been a long day and we were
getting tired. The woods got thicker and darker as we descended and, without warning,
we found ourselves going down into a gully to the edge of a narrow shallow brook that
we could easily cross on large flat rock slabs. We glanced up the other side of the gully,
and saw the shelter. It was only 6:30 PM but my recollection is of everything being dark.
It was overcast and there was a thick canopy overhead. It was dark and sombre in the
gully and the shelter seemed dark.
This had been a 19.6 mile day and we had a little over 3 miles to the end of the
Wilderness. Our original plan had us here at the end of 9 days in the Wilderness but
following CHAD, got us here in 6 days. Two ladies were set up on the left side of the
shelter, a flip-flopping thru hiker named TOM IN THE WOODS was set up on the right,
and CHAD occupied the space in the middle.
We were told that there was very little place for a tent, but we decided to look around. I
explored a wide area out front and behind the shelter and found that they were right, The
terrain was very lumpy and was littered with big rocks and boulders . There was a small
spot behind the shelter but it was too narrow for our tent. So CHAD moved over towards
the ladies, and we squeezed in. MA next to CHAD and I next to TOM. The 6 person
shelter was now full.
MA set up our stuff while I filtered water for supper. We met our new neighbours while
we sat on the front of the shelter cooking our meal on the low front wall. TOM IN THE
WOODS was about our age. He had started a north bound thru hike but had flipped up to
Katahdin to head south, when he realized he would not have enough time to hike all the
way north before October. This is called a flip flop and the individuals are still
considered thru hikers. The interesting thing is that he would get to meet many people
who had passed him when he was going north. (In 1999 we had met TOEJAM and
HAIRY STRAWBERRY after they had flipped.) I am not sure how TOM got up north
but he said that he had been hitchhiking when he got to Maine. Somehow he was let off
on Interstate 95 on which hitchhiking is illegal. A state trooper stopped but instead of
arresting him, drove him to Medway from where he had easy access to Katahdin.
The two ladies had hiked the 3 miles here from Abol Bridge, at the end of the
Wilderness, and were here for a day or two, before heading back. They were likely in
their late thirties or early forties and appeared a little out of shape. They had an annual
backpacking trip with one or two friends but this year only the two of them could make
it. Between the two of them, they seemed to have a great deal of supplies. When they
found out about our camera situation, one of them gave us a disposable camera. She said
she had 3 more of them. What they seemed to have most of were the two liter Nalgene
water bottles. Rather than have a couple of bottles that they could fill as needed, they had
10 or 12 full bottles lined up on the ledge above them along the left hand wall and the
back wall. They said they drank a lot.
DOUG and HEIDE arrived around 8:30 and quickly began looking for a tent site before it
got too dark. I mentioned that the spot behind the shelter could accomodate their
narrower tent and it did. I slept very well that night, feeling contented for our
accomplishment and maybe relieved to be finishing the 100 Mile Wilderness.
In two days we would be climbing Mount Katahdin.