9/24/15

Mile 2189.2

As expected, New Hampshire and Maine are the hardest and most beautiful sections of the AT, by quite a bit, I think.  Lots of the sections looked familiar, and I remember my dad and I slogging up some of those ridiculously steep rocky trails with 40-50 lb packs when I was a teenager.  My pack was much lighter, but still the terrain seemed just as hard. Probably because I got used to being able to hike at 3 mph doing 20-25 miles/day. I felt like we were moving at a snail's pace, which didn't really matter except for the psychological component of progressing slower.

The weather was a total surprise.  The cool weather that arrived when we were in VT turned out to be a tease.  I started carrying some additional warm clothes, and instead of cold we got temps in the upper 80s, high humidity, and mosquitoes once we hit the100 Mile Wilderness.  Rain was hit and miss, mostly miss, but got us just before and after the Presidential Mts, and then cleared up from the Bigelows to Katahdin, with a nasty thunderstorm arriving  just as we got off Katahdin.

Doug, Effie's dad, made a couple appearances, with Luna and his new camper, so we got some additional company and pampering, including a couple days of slack packing and  good food & beer.  I have mixed feelings about slack packing, as others do.  It does feel a bit like cheating, but it seems silly to be carrying stuff when you know you don't need to, or if you just need a rest.  What bothers me the most about it is that the assistance requires driving and use of fossil fuels, but then again so do our trips to the grocery store.  Since our packs are on the light side it doesn't seem to make too much of a difference physically anyhow. The noticeable difference came when I was carrying no pack at all, just some water and a snack in my pocket.  Then I felt like I could run.

Effie's parents met us at the summit of Katahdin, an impressive feat as it is one of the most difficult climbs on the AT, and then brought us camping at a magical spot in the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness just south of Baxter State Park.  Camping might not sound like what you'd want to do after a thru-hike, but it was a great way to relax and ease back into the world off the trail. My parents drove up the last night and we all stopped in for breakfast at the AT Cafe in Millinocket before my dad and I got on our bikes to ride back to CT.

The ride back was my dad's first bike tour, and a successful one, with great weather and only one flat tire.  Dad surprised himself by how much riding he was able to do and we did the ride faster than expected.  I introduced him to Warmshowers and we had a number of wonderful hosts and had a good visit with Effie and family in Portland.  I was worried dealing with the traffic on my bike would be a bit of a shock after being on the trail, but the ride was a good transition and made me realize how much easier, and efficient, travelling by bike is.

A summary with a map and numbers to follow.

Here is the picture summary of the final stretch:
The welcome to the White Mountains.Moosilauke the first big peak in the Whites, has a relatively gradual climb up heading north on the AT, but a steep descent along a cascading brook.

Steep and rocky up the Kinsmans. The first taste of a good White Mt. climb. Suddenly we were moving much slower.
Lonesome Lake, looking not so lonesome. Heat and humidity returned making for good swimming. Section hikers and college orientation groups everywhere. We did our first work for food (dishes and sweeping) at the AMC Lonesome Lake Hut. Good deal. AMC huts give thru-hikers left over food for free or light work, and offer limited # of work for stay opportunities.

Going down is slower than going up.
A slab of turkey on the pack of fellow hiker, Icarus, which we were given by the folks at the AMC Guyot shelter.

On South Twin Mt. with Effie, Icarus and another hiker whose name I forgot.

Rainy weather hiking into the Presidentials so we did a work for stay at the Mitzpah Hut. The next day the weather cleared for our hike through the Presidentials. Here is the morning view from Mt Eisenhower.

Mt Washington in the clouds, with Lake of the Clouds below.

There are so many people on Mt. Washington there is actually a line to get a picture with the summit sign. Or you can just get a picture with the line and the sign.

Looking back at Washington from Adams/Jefferson area ridge.

Long descent from Mt Madison interrupted by a Spruce Grouse.

Climbing up the Wildcats from Pinkham Notch. That was about as clear as the weather got through Carter Notch. Misty and cloudy until Maine.

Welcome to Maine. The hard hiking not over!

Mahoosuc notch, supposedly the hardest mile on the trail, is a notch of jumbled rocks and boulders. Several of which require removing your pack and squeezing through.

The clouds starting to break up going up Mahoosuc Arm, to Old Speck Mt.

The morning descent from Old Speck with the sun rising in the clouds.

Moose drinking at Surplus Pond.

Blueberries on Bemis Mt., the best blueberry picking I found on the trail. The kind of picking done by the handful.

Camping on Mooselookmeguntic Lake, with friends and family of Effie (Steph, Niko, Taj, Luna and her dad).
Mud happens in Maine.
Clouds and a whipping wind for our hike over Saddleback Mt.
The Bigelows, the last big climbing before Katahdin.
Clear swimming lakes galore in Maine! It was plenty hot for swimming with temps in the upper 80s.
You have to hike all the way to Maine before they start making you take your shoes off to cross streams/rivers. There are a number of bridge-less rivers to cross, including the Kennebec, which is done with the assistance of a canoe.
Luna rejoins us for some hiking, while we slack packed a couple days, courtesy of Effie’s Dad, and his new camper.
White Cap Mt., and our first view of Katahdin in the haze.

The 100 Mile Wilderness is wonderful. There are endless swimming opportunities, beautiful hiking, and the terrain is relatively easy.
Kathadin from the Abol Bridge crossing the Penobscot River.

After 125 days from leaving Spring, summit day on September 9, in the clouds. The last 5 mile climb is a good one!

Effie and her Mom descending Katahdin. Effie’s parents climbed up to meet us at the summit. An impressive feat!

Effie’s parents have been going to a beach in the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area just south of Baxter for many years. To celebrate we all camped out at their favorite spot for a few days, in luxurious camping style: canoes, over-sized tents, picnic table, tarp, fire, good food, poker chips, and lots of champagne, beer, and wine. Not an easy spot to get to, but very much worth the effort. Looking forward to the next camping trip already.

AT Cafe breakfast in Millinocket.
 
A new high visibility t-shirt from Tractor Supply and we are ready to ride.

Nancy and Paul, our first hosts in Browville, ME, showing my Dad and I what Warmshowers hospitality is all about with a fresh from the garden dinner.
Warmshowers hosts, Brian and Marsha, in Winterport , ME packing up for a ride on their Co-Motion Tandem as we set out for the day.
Visiting the Drew family in Portland. Lobster and beer!
Warmshowers host, Karen, in Kittery, ME with her Bike Friday. She has got me thinking I need one of those.
Warmshowers dinner in Hollis, NH with hosts Millie and Maxine, and surprise guests, Jennifer, Brew and Charley. Jennifer had the fastest hike on the AT before Scott Jurek took the record this year by about 3 hours. Millie and her met on the trail in 2005. Millie has since hiked the Long Trail 9 times (6 year old Maxine tells me), and she has me thinking I should do that before winter arrives. A wonderful Warmshowers surprise.

Lots of company upon arriving home!.Madeline and Lily were as excited to see me as I was to see them, and Effie and her dad were passing through CT on their way to Colorado so they stopped for the night.

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