I woke up a little sad on the last day of my trip. From my camp at Bigelow Col, there was just an 8 mile hike down to Maine Rt 27 and then I would be done. I spent a lot of this day hiking with The Mayor. He finished the AT a month or so ago, but he missed a good 50 mile section. He sat at home for a month feeling guilty and then decided to come back out and finish it. He just wasn’t feeling it though, and needed a lot of encouragement. I talked with him most of the day, then dropped him off in town.
I woke up in a gray, colorless world. True, my tent is gray and this should seem normal – but its not. People say dyneema fabric is see though. It isn’t transparent, but it is translucent. That means you can see light, dark, and color, but not forms. Usually in the morning the walls are showing a brilliant golden hew on the sunward side and a pale blue on the other side. Today there was no color. I peeked outside and saw nothing but cloud. So much for the weather service’s “120 mile visibility.”
My Tarptent Stratospire is a trekking pole tent. Like all trekking pole tents, it needs to be staked out to stand up. That’s pretty tricky on a platform; at least it was before I found these little piton like hooks. They’re brilliant! You can get a bag of 10 of them for $11.99 at Amazon.
I had no view most of the day. On days like this, I usually notice the ground a lot more. Across much of New Hampsire and Maine, the ground looks like this: a thick mat of moss, lichen, and hardy plants. Its very spongy – if you stuck your trekking pole in here, at least a foot of it would just disappear before finding solid ground. Year after year, bits of this stuff die and fall to the bottom, along with a mix of needles and debris from above. The decomposition forms new soil and the plants grow higher, getting thicker and thicker each year. Trampling on this stuff or setting up your tent on it breaks the cycle. If these plants die, the ground basically dies. The rain will wash away soil, leaving behind nothing but rock.
Everyday, more color fills in at the tops of the mountains. Here I approach the open but view-less summit of West Peak. When the air is full of moisture like this, it is easy to catch a chill. A thin wind blocking layer will help while you’re moving, but it is nice to have a thin fleece as well for breaks or downhill stretches.
Here I am at my final 4000 footer for the week. There’s 14 of them in Maine. Ten are in this section, one down in the Mahoosuc range, and three up in Baxter State Park. I just need to climb two more in Baxter to be done. But done with Maine? That’s absurd I don’t think I could ever get bored of trips to Maine.
Sitting at Avery Peak the night before, I sent a photo to my friend Kremlin. She immediately recognized the place and said to look out for her friend Logjam, who was ridge-running in the area. (Ridgerunners are ATC employees who patrol the trail doing maintenance work and assisting hikers.) I thought “sure, find one person in all these woods.” The next day, as soon as I walked into The Horns Camp, I see this guy hanging out and realize its Logjam. What a small world!
By the time I reached ME 27 around 1:30 pm, the clouds had cleared and the sun was shining. Here’s some more early fall color against the now crisp sky. You might get the impression from my photos or my lack of comments on the trail itself that this was an easy day hike. It was not. There were a lot of sketchy descents down slick rock faces, as well as a few bolder fields. I tend to forget this sections because I don’t take photos of them.
After dropping off The Mayor, Granite, and Blue in Stratton, I return to The Hostel of Maine. I had wanted to go get some pizza and beer and go do some trail magic, but I ended up hanging here most of the afternoon and evening. Guess I got lazy and it was nice to just relax and talk with other hikers. I would really recommend the Hostel of Maine if you’re ever in the area. It is far cleaner and more comfortable than most hostels I’ve stayed at.
I did get out for a bit to eat at The Rack, a BBQ place near the Sugarloaf Mountain base area. My dinner was good, but as per Maine tradition the service was dreadfully slow. Maine IS NOT a place to go if you’re in a hurry. From my table outside I saw these trees, which appear to be hugging. — at The Rack BBQ.
That’s the end of this series. I hope you enjoyed taking the slow route with me through this beautiful section of Maine on the Appalachian Trail. I will be writing a single-post summary of this trip for those who want more of the hiking and logistical details.