Day 1 – 30 Aug
We paid Shaw’s to do an early trail drop-off for us as their standard run would have had us on the trail by 9 only, way too late for us as we are going to try to do 26-27km each day.
When Poet dropped us off he recited this to us;
“Drink your deepest now; For the richest stuff settles in the final swig”
We set off and soon got this sign:
The trail was extremely muddy, and rooty, and we had to ford 3 rivers. Trevor slipped and went down into the water during the second crossing, but got back onto his feet quickly before anything in his backpack could get too wet.
This afternoon we had a steep climb which we got to when we were already tired, it was tough going. We were less than half a kilometre into the climb when we saw Platypus ahead of us talking to somebody hiking in the opposite direction. As we got closer I recognise the other person…. Iceman! He was walking south to find us on the trail – his backpack was filled with sodas and crisps which he dished out as the NOBOs came by. I don’t really understand the road network in the wilderness but there are old logging roads which allows one to drive in with a car, which he did and then walked in further. Barb has sent us some of her delicious home made brownies, which we had with our soda and crisps. Then we had to tackle the rest of the hill while Iceman walked back to his car.
The last 2km took us very long, we were carrying 2L water each and we are carrying 6 days’ food, our packs were heavy, we were tired and the hill was steep. We got to our planned stealth camp site, Trevor pitched the tent and I cooked, and we went to have our dinner on the ledges 30m from our campsite. The view was spectacular, without a doubt the best dinner spot of our trip:
Though we had a tough day I feel content in our tent, I always prefer the nights we stealth camp and are all by ourselves. However, we just heard 3 guys arriving and I can hear from the sounds they are staying. I have seen no other flat spots where they can camp so I have no clue what’s going on outside our tent, but for now I am going to not worry about that. Time for sleeping.
Day 2 – 31 Aug
It’s our wedding anniversary. We celebrated by having our favourite flavor Cliff bar (white chocolate macadamia) in bed (sleeping bag) and then got going. We were on the trail by 6am.
I have, for almost 5 months, thought of taking pictures of all the exotic mushrooms we see, but never got around doing it. Taking photos on the trail can be quite disruptive, you have to stop, get phone out, take picture, put phone back – it breaks the rhythm. The mushrooms are something to see though, coming in all shapes and sizes. I have seen white, brown, black, yellow, orange, pink, purple, and red ones. Here is an example:
I fell in the mud today. I stepped on what I thought was a log placed to step on to avoide the mud. But it was actually a dry log floating on a knee deep pool of muddy water (the Americans have a mixture they use in coffee: they call it Half Half, it is Half Milk Half Cream: this was Half Half, Half Water Half Mud). I sank knee deep into Half Half and then toppled forward. I jumped up quick enough to not get my pack damaged but my socks, shoes, hands, legs, and shorts were a muddy mess. Luckily we had to ford a river later so that got rid of some of the stinky mud.
Trevor didn’t laugh untill we were walking again and I said it’s a pity he didn’t have enough time to take a photo as it would have been great for the blog. When he realised I was able to laugh about it he had a good chuckle too.
It was a tough day’s walking. By 10am we have walked for 4 hours and did only 6km, by 11.30 we had done 9km. We were doing the Chairback mountains, there were 4 peaks. These peaks aren’t nearly as high as the 4000 footers, but they have very steep rock scrambles. This, together with a lot of mud on the flat stretches, made for a slow pace. I was extrapolating, thinking we will never make our target for the day.
I was thinking how – over the last 5 weeks in the Whites and Maine – I often relied on roots, trees, branches and other rocks to pull me up or lower me down big rocks. At times 100% of pulling myself up or lowering myself down relied on root/tree/rock. Other times it was just a help, to assist with what my muscles were doing, making it a bit easier. And at times when there was nothing else, it was just a twig/leave I touched – which only helped for balance; I would hold the leave just to get my inner balance kicking in to keep me stable going up or down.
That is a good analogy for friendships and relationships. Sometimes you totally rely on them to get you through some life event. Other times they play a substantial assisting role. And occasionally they merely help you to keep your inner balance. How hard life would have been without those.
Anyway, back to our day. At some stage the terrain eased up and our pace increased. We were on the trail from 6am to 6pm but we managed to do 27km and found a sweet stealth spot to camp for the night.
The wilderness isn’t as remote as we expected. During today’s walk we walked in an area with original pine trees (never been cut down) – there is a trail around the area and we must have seen 30 people on the trail – there is an untarred road and parking lot close to the trail giving access to the “Gulf Hagas” : the trail we found all the activity on.
Day 3 – 1 Sep
Today was going to be our last day negotiating mountains, after today the topography is apparently flat untill we reach Mt Katahdin.
The ascend for today, as for the previous 2 days, were around 1400m, but today it was basically one long (11km) walk up to the top of White Cap Mountain. There were 4 smaller peaks you went over on the way up, but we walked all the way to the top, and then walked down the other side, I was always walking upright. Different to the previous 2 days where I often had to use my upper body to pull myself up spots, or bum-slide down rocks. At the top of White Cap we had our first view of Mt Katahdin:
Trevor had a bad fall today. He has all the complaints going with a rib injury. But he is soldiering on.
As yesterday, there were quite a few day hikers on the route.
We had a very weak signal at the top, enough to receive a text from Iceman to say he will be doing trail magic from noon onwards at a road crossing the trail close to a lake. This was still 17km away, but we arrived there just before 5pm. Iceman was cooking sausage and hot dogs and while we were there, he fed dinner to 9 people. After dinner I wanted to take one of the Twinkies he had on the table, but he said there is special desert for me and Trevor, and out came 2 zip log bag with Barb’s famous brownies. Made my day!
We (as the other hikers) sat around there for an hour or so, but it was getting cold and we didn’t know how far we would need to walk before finding a stealth spot. Iceman told us where he will meet us tomorrow (he is going to be around here untill we summit) and we left.
We only walked about half a kilometre before finding a camp spot next to the pond.
I had enough to eat at Iceman’s trail magic but Trevor always says trail magic is a bonus and you still should eat the calories you carried for the day. Also: tomorrow is going to be cold and rainy so whatever calories we can cram into our bodies will help tomorrow. I cooked Ramen noodles and used the flavoring sachets (which I never do) – it was disgusting! I felt like a child being told she can’t get up from the dinner table before she has eaten her brussels sprouts. The chicken flavoured Ramen tasted worse than brussels sprouts!
We are just over halfway through the 100miles, but we are done with the tougher part. The next part is easier, but the rain is predicted to start at 4am tomorrow – wet and muddy 😩.
Day 4 – 2 Sep
The rain was predicted for 4am and it gently knocked on the door at 3h40. We pretended to not be at home so it left. By 5.10am, just as we finished our breakfast and started the morning ritual of getting ready, it was back.
We walked in the rain. It would have been nice to have our first easy day of the wilderness in sunny weather, but we also felt it appropriate that one of our last days on the trail should be a rainy day. The trail threw many things at us over the last few months and it’s okay for it to give us a little nudge saying “do you remember walking in the rain” – no hard feelings as long as we can have sunshine for the next 3 days….
We ALWAYS step off the trail to let people coming from the opposite side through. We never wait for them to step aside for us. It has been our thing right from the start. Today three women were coming down the trail so we stepped aside as we normally do. The one said, with a big, friendly smile: “no, I insist you come through, you are too close, I don’t want to be between you and your goal”. Later on we stepped off the trail to let another guy through, as he walked by he smiled and said “congratulations”. I’m not sure how these people know we are not weekend hikers but they do – maybe it’s because of how we smell….
Iceman met us on a road crossing. We told him we were going to try to jam the next three and a half days’ hiking into three days. It saves a full day if you can make the 15km in Baxter State Park (the park Katahdin is in) part of the last day on the wilderness as you can’t summit Kathadin on the day you do the 15km – unless you are really fast because they don’t allow you to start going up Katahdin after 10am.
If we can summit a day earlier there will be 2 benefits. It will be on our 5 month trail anniversary. And Iceman can start his drive home a day earlier. He plans to stay here for our summit day but he and Barb are leaving for an overseas trip on Sunday, so getting him home a day earlier will be our gift to Barb.
For lunch we pulled into a shelter. We had our protein bar and meat stick, then Trevor took out one of his snacks meant for the afternoon. I asked him if he wasn’t full. He looked at me in disbelief – how can I even ask that, what is the chance of him being full after one bar and one meat stick!!!!! Well we used to share the protein bar so I was quite surprised that he was still hungry after having a full bar. I suppose the rain and cold weather make it worse.
The walking was quite easy. We targeted 30km for the day and even in the rain (and in spite of mud, slippery boardwalks and rocks and roots) we were at the shelter where we are tenting just after 3. The slippery boardwalks can be blamed for Trevor’s fall today but no new injury.
Day 5 – 3 Sep
We normally start our morning ritual at 5. Trevor found great joy in waking me at 5.07 this morning to say I have over slept. Think it was the first time on the trip. He loves telling how I sit up straight in the tent at 5 and start my routine, I am sure you will get to hear the story from him.
We still managed to get away at 6. To make our plan to summit a day earlier work, we had to do 34km today and we did. Our ascend was just under 1000m, easier than the first 3 days in the wilderness but not quite a walk in the park.
Today the trail gave us a bit of almost everything we have had on this trip – other than ledge walking (which we are getting early tomorrow morning). We had lush green forests, we had eerie pine forest with pine needles covering the trail, we walked next to cascading rivers, rock hopped over streams, had moss covered boulders around us, frogs of all sizes jumping across the trail, nosy squirrels, an array of mushrooms, roots tripping us, mud puddles an Isuzu will get stuck in, beautiful lakes, gentle ups and downs, steeper ups and downs, even a small mountain to go over. Everything but moose.
Iceman dedicated today to us, he met us wherever he could get to the trail – at 7am, at 10am and around lunch time. For lunch he cooked us boerie-rolls, and when I asked Trevor afterwards whether he was full he said yes thanks 😀.
Tonight is our last night camping out here on the trail – tomorrow night we will be camping at one of the Baxter State Park camp sites. I am glad that our last trail night camp is a stealth camping site, all by ourselves, just above one of the lakes. I cooked one of our favourite (freeze dried) meals, We are now lying in the tent and the loons are calling.
Unfortunately we will walk in rain again tomorrow – but so be it. It is our last day on the trail. Climbing Katahdin is – though a tough +/- 10hr job to get up and down again – more like going to your graduation ceremony than it is to go to lectures.
Day 6 – 4 Sep
It should have been a joyful day. We finished the 100 mile wilderness and walked into Baxter State Park. We are sleeping at the Birches. We completed our thru-hike today, all that is left is climbing to the summit of Mt Katahdin tomorrow to claim our prize – a picture at the majestic mountain’s humble summit sign.
But our mood is sombre. I had a bad fall 8km before the end of today. Crossing a river I slipped and fell hard on a rock. I am very sore – again the rib area. I can stand and walk upright without any pain but bending, sitting down, breathing deeply and coughing hurt badly. Twisting, pulling myself up, squatting down, bum slide position: impossible.
When arriving at the ranger’s hut I almost died of pain when twisting my body to take off my backpack. I realised in what a bad state I was, having stopped walking and cooling down I suddenly couldnt move without being in 10 out of 10 pain. Trevor told me to “act normally” – he was nervous that the ranger would withhold the permit needed to go up the mountain if i appear injured. I realised he had absolutely no idea how sore I was, “acting normal” was impossible!
Luckily Iceman waited for us at the end and I got some Ibuferin from him. I took 2 and after 30mins I could feel it kick in. I have more to take tomorrow.
Mt Katahdin is quite a climb – ascending from 300m to 1600m (more than the ascend from Centenary hut to top of Judge’s pass in the Drakensberg) on the Hunt trail (there are several trails but NOBOs must go up Hunt) and called “technical” – that means not walking up but the hands over foot type scrambling up and down. How I am going to handle it with the state I am in we will have to see. I was considering not going up, to not spoil Trevor’s chances of making it, but I’m going to give it a try: I can always turn around after an hour if I am not coping.
We (mainly me) have decided to come down Abol trail (I have heard it’s the easiest) and Iceman (who is sleeping in Millinocket tonight, almost an hour’s drive from here) was going to meet us there tomorrow afternoon. He just arrived at our campsite. After driving from here to Millinocket he heard somebody who just summited and came down Abol said that Abol is quite difficult and may not be the best down option. He then got in his car to drive all the way back here to tell us and to ask if we are sure we want to do Abol. There are so many opinions it’s hard to make a call, but I am just stunned by the energy and effort Iceman put into supporting us: nothing is too much trouble.
I will only have signal to post this when we get to Millinocket tomorrow evening. You will therefore get this post at the same time as the post telling you whether I made it to the top.