Days 15-18: Monson to Nahmakanta Stream Lean To

Day 15: Shaw’s to Long Pond Stream Lean To

Shaw’s has a great breakfast. Blueberry pancakes, eggs, bacon (which I skipped), and home fries. They even made FD vegan pancakes! Coffee, water, and OJ rounded it out. I ate too much.

We had a lot of errands to take care of in the morning. I wanted a new water filter (I am very cavalier about filtering water — I usually don’t — but the sheer amount of moose poop in Maine has me convinced all water is contaminated now). I also needed a pair of socks to replace my lost socks, some fuel for my stove, and we needed to schedule our food drop. As well as settle up on the hostel stay. Luckily, poets gear emporium had everything we needed.

We hopped in the car to drive to the trail head. Gandalf decided to take a zero, so we likely won’t see him again. At the trail head, poet gave us a rousing speech. I cried. We set off into the hundred mile and not even 30 seconds in, it just hit me. Here I was. In the hundred mile wilderness. The last section before Katahdin. You hear about it all the time. I’ve been hearing stories about running out of food, getting helicoptered out with a broken leg, swimming at every pond, running in to friends you haven’t seen in hundreds of miles…. and I was finally hiking it.

It’s not a wilderness. The smokies are probably more remote. We ran into day hikers and Girl Scout troops and lacrosse bros out for a weekend. But it does feel different.

We stopped for lunch at these falls. I laid back on the rock, my feet in the water, slowly eating peanut butter off my spoon. To think that after three and a half years of hiking, I’m so, so close to the end. It boggles the mind, really.

At the falls we spied Beetle and Friendly Ghost heading our way. We’d said goodbye to them at Hostel of Maine (they arrived a day after us with cheerleader). They came over and told us they’d yellow blazed (ie, ridden in a car) from Carratunk to Monson to give themselves more time to enjoy the hike before they had to go back to Denmark. I was so happy to see them. They’re so fun to talk to!

Beetle and Friendly Ghost headed on, and we followed eventually. We forded a river, just like in Oregon Trail.

I wasn’t feeling well, so we took it slow. We took it REALLY slow when we came to this detour.

The entire trail has been rerouted because some BEAVERS had constructed a massive dam.

Honestly I thought it had been logged.

We happened to catch the three beavers swimming around their incredible mansion/pond.

As an engineer, I admire the beavers for their ability to keep to a tight schedule and still construct such a well-made dam. Alabama Power, hire these beavers!

To drive this home, there was no beaver pond in 2017. It was likely only built this winter, judging by the duct tape detour sign and hastily flagged new trail.

I dont think I’ll ever get over that.

Anyways, we ended up at the shelter, nabbed the last tent site, and I went to bed early.

Miles: 15.1

MVP: beavers

LVP: my entire body

*****

Day 16: long pond stream Lean To to tent site

We slept late. I had no regrets, because I was exhausted.

We knew today was going to be rough. Today was all of the chairback mountains.

We sat at the top of the first mountain (barren mountain, not even a chairback!) and were soon joined by Beetle and Friendly Ghost (below, you’ll see FD, Beetle standing up, Friendly Ghost in front with his head turned). It was a real party soon, with a bunch of other NOBOs showing up. Eventually we even saw Just B, whom we hadn’t seen since we slack packed the bigelowes. We figured he was way ahead of us, but it turned out he was slacking with a couple he had been hiking with — the wife broke her arm on trail so they were trying to finish.

One of the things I love most about hiking is how present you are in nature. When we need a break, we find a log or a stone or a tent site with a tree and sit on the ground. We lay in the sun, we stop to enjoy a breeze, we watch the bugs flying around our heads. Our (temporary) home is in the woods, and our furniture is whatever we find.

My Achilles was getting really painful, so we stopped to try to fix that. It got a little better, but I’m looking forward to a few days of not hiking through pain. Whenever that may happen.

We started looking for tent sites and happened to find Beetle and Friendly Ghost already set up in their tent. We nabbed some flat space nearby and gulped down dinner. My feet are still aching, but my favorite bird is in a tree near me, singing. I’ve never seen this bird, but its call is so beautiful! This is a good way to fall asleep for sure.

Miles: 15

MVP: dinner

LVP: my decrepit body

*****

Day 17: tent site to Little Boardman Mountain

We meant to wake up early but that didn’t happen. Whatever, I slept great.

We headed out of camp before Beetle and Friendly Ghost. We took a quick detour to hike .2 to a parking area with privies. They were very clean and even had TP and hand san! I stocked up.

We started up the first climb and ran into Just B and his slackpack tramily. Beetle and Friendly Ghost caught up and we hiked with them for a bit.

Today was the Whitecap range. It would be our last big climb before Katahdin and would also give me my first view of the northern terminus, however distant.

The climbs weren’t too bad, actually. The last day or two I feel like I’ve really started to get my trail legs. It takes longer for my legs to tire. My feet are willing to hike further. I recover faster in the morning. It’s amazing, being out here long enough to notice that change. I rarely get that, as a section hiker.

We spent quite a while at the top of Whitecap. It snuck up on us, actually. I figured we had another 4 miles to go, but no. There it was, just 1.1 ahead.

We hopped down the mountain and stopped in at East Branch Lean To to have dinner and say goodbye to Beetle and Friendly Ghost. Tomorrow we would start our hard drive to Baxter, and we would arrive a full day earlier than Beetle and Friendly Ghost. We made dinner, chatted, and I secured promises from them to show me a great Danish when I eventually visit Denmark.

FD and I hiked on. We wanted to get to this mountain tonight, as that would only leave us 8.4 easy miles before our 10am food drop. We scouted out a little stealth spot on the summit and settled in.

It’s hard to believe that I’m still hiking. Or that my trip is winding down. I am rapidly approaching Katahdin! What an incredible feeling.

Miles: 20ish

MVP: dunno, just a fun day I guess!

LVP: black flies

*****

Day 18: little boardman mountain to Nahmakanta Stream Lean To

It’s a good thing FD set his alarm as well, because I would have slept through mine. It went off. I heard it. I didn’t even press snooze. I just went back to sleep.

Anyways, we were up and hiking by 5:30am. That’s insane. More insane: it was fully light out the whole time we were packing up.

The trail was easy, and we almost floated down to Jo Mary Road to our food drop. We got there an hour early. DayGlo and another NOBO whose name I can never remember (edit: No Break) were already there, also waiting for their food.

We sat by the road and did what we do best — took a break.

Shaw’s came with our food and a cold coke for us. We gobbled it up and packed food away. While that was in process, MuddyFeets came in to the road with a cloud of mosquitos behind him. He’s supporting his wife’s hike; he drives the car a few days away, hikes south until he meets her, then hikes north with her to the car. We’d eaten breakfast with MuddyFeets, his wife Safety Chute, and her hiking friend at Shaw’s a few days before.

After an exchange of bug spray for peppermint soap, I got to wash the front part of my hair. It felt amazing.

We hiked on, nabbing some trail magic from boy scouts (candy!!).

The trail was boring. Honestly this part of the trail could be in literally any state.

We found a series of notes left for one hiker by another. They were a source of constant amusement and curiosity. I am happy to report that I was able to confirm that they WERE left by the hiker I thought they were left by.

We stopped for a quick swim in a cold lake with a gorgeous view of Katahdin.

And then a few quick miles later and we were at the shelter. MuddyFeets and co were already here with a raging fire. When FD and I went to get water we ran into Friendly Ghost and Beetle! They’d had a long 24 mile day to the shelter, but we were excited to get another night with our friends.

We had a long, luxurious night by the fire. I tried to convince Beetle to eat peanut butter by the spoonful (she remains unconvinced). We talked trail and Denmark and accents and just had a great time with a bunch of friends. I’ll miss this.

Tomorrow is our last big day. And then Friday we’ll have an easy hike into Abol Bridge and Katahdin Stream, and then Saturday the hike up Katahdin. And then Sunday I’ll be home!! It’s hard to believe it’s almost over. It’s amazing how much my hiking has changed these last few days. I’ve started to get trail legs just as I’m about to finish the trail. C’est la vie d’une section hiker.

Miles: 20.6

MVP: drink flavors. I got to hand those out like Oprah handing out cars. Friendly Ghost is not a fan of Fruit Punch, but Orange Crush was a hit.

LVP: SO MANY MOSQUITOES AND THEY FOLLOW YOU LIKE A CLOUD OF DRONES

*****

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