The Bigelows to The Base Of Katahdin
After a lunch break at the pond we ascended to the highest peaks of Bigelow Mountain. We really lucked out with the weather in Maine and had incredible 360 views from the peaks. Nothing but lakes, mountains, and green as far as you could see. A small plaque on Avery Peak paid tribute to Mr. Myron Avery. Without him, the Appalachian Trail would not have been possible. Thank you Mr. Avery!
The Kennebec River
The next day we had to high tail it 14 miles to the Kennebec River. Since it is a dammed river, the swift moving water levels can be unpredictable and dangerous. In the past, people who have tried to walk across have been swept away. The only (recommended) way to get across is by a canoe manned by "Hillbilly Dave". The canoe even has a white blaze on the bottom to make it an official part of the trail. Although, since it is a manned operation there were only certain hours of the day that the ferry operated. We set out from the shelter around 7:30 in the morning and were able to reach the riverside by 2:00. Not too shabby for a bunch of hikers that are never on a schedule! Cyclops and I went across the river first. On the way across Hillybilly Dave told us stories of all the hikers that he had already to save this year because they were too stubborn to take the ferry. He dropped us off on the other side and then ferried Trail Mom and Squeeze across. In the time it took Hillbilly Dave to go back and forth, the water had already risen a good 3-4 up the river bank. They really were not joking about how fast the water could rise!
From Caratunk the trail leveled out a bit, big mountains were replaced by slippery rocks and roots, river fords, and my favorite, mud pits. We stopped at Pleasant Pond for lunch and the water was perfectly clear so I went swimming. Later in the day, I spotted an otter swimming around in a small pond. He had no idea that I was there; so, I sat and watched him for about 15 minutes before Trail Mom walked up. We all found a campsite not too far from the otter pond and set up camp. The next day we had our first couple of real fords (no canoes provided). I was able to rock hop the first one, but Cyclops took a spill and got soaked. The river we had to ford afterwards offered no rocks to hop across so we waded through with the help of a strung up rope. The shaky rope seemed to keep me off balance though so I just shuffled over the slick rocks with my trekking poles as support.
The next day, we hiked into Monson, ME and stayed at The Shaws (which is a must stay). The place was very comfortable and the other hikers there were great company. Famous trail angel/8 time thru-hiker "Baltimore Jack" was also there to share some of his hilarious trail stories. From Monson we would be trekking through the 100 Mile Wilderness which can take anywhere from 4-10 days, and crosses only private logging roads. The Shaws offers a food drop for the 100 Mile Wilderness so we spent most of our zero day figuring out logistics and setting up our resupply. The 100 Mile Wilderness would be our last stretch before Mount Katahdin. Everyone was starting to have mixed feelings because the end was so near. This grand adventure that we were on was coming to a close, but we wanted it to keep going.
The 100 Mile Wilderness
The 100 Mile Wilderness is another one of those areas that you hear about way back in Georgia. Nothing but rocks, roots, and mud pits is what we were told. We definitely got some of those, but not as much as I was anticipating. The 100 Mile Wilderness was one of my favorite areas, a true experience in the wilderness.
We set out from Monson and were immediately welcomed into the 100 Mile by a sign warning us that we were about to be in the woods... go figure. The trail immediately became just a mass of roots with pockets of mud in between as we hiked past places with names like "Mud Pond". Still, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking as the trail meandered by pond after pond. We only had two sections of any real elevation gain before the trail really flattened out. The second day into the wilderness we traversed over Barren Mountain and a few others that just had numbers assigned to their names. They were quick but rugged up and downs.
When I reached the top of White Cap I noticed a small painted "K" on the ground with an arrow pointing out into the distance. Our first view of Katahdin! It was absolutely surreal to finally see the physical thing. All this time it had just been some far off goal that we were trying to reach, and now it was an actual tangible thing. It was pretty emotional to finally see it, and to think back about what it had taken to even get to this spot. I sat there and stared at the mountain while I ate lunch and waited for the others for a good three hours.
The next day we picked up our resupply box that The Shaws Hostel dropped off for us on one of the private logging roads. They even through in some Ben & Jerry's ice cream for us. Nothing better than some ice cream in the woods. After the sugar fest, we meandered over to Crawford Pond to relax and go for a swim. From here on out the trail really leveled out and most of the rocks and roots disappeared. It was really just auto-pilot mode hiking. It was nice to not have to look at your feet the entire time and be able to enjoy the scenery around you. We stopped at Antler's Campsite for the night which was situated on a peninsula that jutted out into a lake. Definitely one of my favorite campsites. The following day, the trail meandered along old logging roads and brought us along the shores of Rainbow Lake and countless ponds and streams.. It was like the Appalachian Trail was rolling out the red carpet for us as we made our way to Katahdin.
The the trail exits 100 Mile Wilderness right at Abol Bridge. There is a camp store and another stunning view of Katahdin. We had some breakfast sandwiches before we pressed on our last 5 miles to the base of Katahdin. When we entered Baxter State Park, a forest ranger radioed ahead to the campground for us and reserved us a campsite. There has been a lot of talk about thru-hikers, Baxter State Park, and the park officials wanting to move the terminus away from Katahdin because of rowdy hikers. My personal experience within the park was phenomenal. The rangers were some of the nicest people I met along the trail, and one of them even told Trail Mom and I stories of Pamola (the fabled spirit of Katahdin). When we reached our camp spot, we checked in at the ranger station for our official thru-hiker finishing number. I would be the 703rd thru-hiker to come through that year. We setup camp and enjoyed a beautiful sunset that lit up Katahdin. I started our last fire and we did our last session of Highs and Hopes before heading off to sleep for our last day on trail.