The beauty of Maine begins to shine through as I hike across the mighty Bigelows and take time to swim in several refreshing ponds.
In my latest video I finally enter Maine, my 14th and final state on the Appalachian Trail!
Despite going to bed at 1am after my night hike, I woke up at 6am. It wasn’t a good night’s rest. I’d slept on my sleeping pad without my sleeping bag or liner. It had been so hot I just laid there naked tossing and turning all night. Of course it was raining in the morning.
I packed up as the rain stopped. Apparently someone else had camped on the same drainage area before me since I found a battery and a tent stake. The latter was actually an exact match for my tent so now I’ve got an extra stake, should I need it.
It was a short walk to the road that led to Stratton. I tried hitching but there were mostly just logging trucks and then it began to pour. I walked away from the road to a covered info board about the nearby trails. I called the hostel in Stratton and was told a shuttle would be there shortly. For once I actually had phone service.
In Stratton I went to the grocery store but it didn’t have exactly what I wanted. I ended up walking out with donuts, muffins, bagels, nutter butters, Chex mix, Oreos, and peanut butter. Not very healthy. I hung around the hostel for an hour until they were ready to shuttle hikers back to the trail. There were so many SOBO hikers and they all had so much energy and enthusiasm.
Luckily the rain stopped when I hit the trail. I ran into 2-Clicks and we hiked for a bit together. We had been following each other on Instagram but hadn’t met until now. My pace slowed as we hiked up Bigelow Mountain and I let 2-Clicks go on ahead. I probably wouldn’t see him again since he wants to finish a day before me.
Bigelow Mountain was the last collection of peaks over 4,000 feet until Katahdin. A cool front had come through and it was only a high of 66 so I was hiking faster and in a much better mood. The trail was wet from the rain storm but the terrain wasn’t difficult.
I stopped at a shelter for lunch. I met Jurassic II, a hiker from Switzerland who’d been hiking the AT in three or four sections over the last few years. He was finally finishing it soon. There was a large pond nearby but it was too cold to swim. Why couldn’t I have come across the pond on a 90° day instead?
From the pond I scaled the Horn, a shorter peak before Bigelow. Then came Bigelow which wasn’t a hard climb until I was above tree line. The wind was gusting at 30mph and it kept trying to knock me over. The view was spectacular. I could see huge lakes below and many of the mountains I hiked the days before.
From Bigelow I dipped down into the trees before going right back up to Avery Peak which I think is a bit taller than Bigelow. More amazing views and crazy wind. I felt so happy and alive. This was what my hike was about. I really needed the cool, clear weather and the amazing views to lift my spirits from the past week. I would have stayed longer admiring the views but the wind was chilling me and it also kept threatening to blow me off the mountain.
The rest of the day was an easy decent into the woods and then a very gradual climb up to Little Bigelow Mountain. I followed the ridge until once again descending down to the Little Bigelow Lean-To. They call the shelters lean-tos in Maine.
There were a lot of weekend hikers around. I pitched my tent and was excited for the nighttime low of 46°. Maybe I’d finally catch up on sleep. I’d been in a good mood all day. Maybe junk food was to blame. Eleven days left.
Day’s Mileage: 15.5
Total Miles Hiked: 2,026.8
Remaining Miles: 172.9
I slept hard from not getting much sleep the past few nights. It was good to catch up on rest. The cold night helped. I packed up and hiked off with temperatures in the high 60s. It felt so good and it was nice and breezy.
The terrain was easy with only some small hills. There was some annoyingly muddy areas but overall I was cruising. I stopped for lunch at West Carry Pond Lean-To. They call many of the lakes here in Maine ponds. And I learned that carry ponds are named as such because they were used for portaging. It was too windy and cool to swim at this pond.
After West Carry Pond I naturally cane across East Carry Pond. This one had a small sandy beach. Several other hikers were swimming and relaxing and I joined in. It felt good to get wet and rinse off. The wind had died down and it was warm enough for a dip. I didn’t swim too long because someone had mentioned seeing a leech in the water. I spotted one after I got out but none on my person!
The rest of the day was pretty flat but there were many areas of rocks and mud where mosquitoes and black flies abound. At last I reached the Pierce Pond Lean-To. Trademark was here and a bunch of weekenders. It was barely 6pm. This was so early for me to be setting up camp. I hung out by the pond and was going to swim but it was cooling off with a breeze and I decided against it. One swim was enough for the day. I made dinner on the rocky shore and enjoyed it until the black flies showed up to ruin the party. Nevertheless I got to spend a good hour relaxing by the water.
It had been a nice and easy day. Hopefully most of the remaining days will be as such. My knees, feet, and blisters needed the recovery time. My infected toenail was not looking great. I’m not sure if swimming helps or hurts its healing. I fell asleep with the stars shining through the pines above and the sounds of a loon across the lake.
Day’s Mileage: 17.7
Total Miles Hiked: 2,044.5
Remaining Miles: 155.2
It was a bright sunny morning. I slept pretty well once again. I could’ve slept all morning but I wanted to get a move on. The trail was very easy for the four miles to the Kennebec River.
The Kennebec is a 400-foot wide river with swift currents that vary due to multiple hydroelectric dams upstream that release water periodically without warning. It isn’t a deep river but to ford it is very dangerous. Hikers have drowned trying to ford the river; in fact, a hiker drowned this May trying to cross in high water.
Therefore, a free canoe ferry is provided from 9am to 2pm. I arrived around 9am and five other hikers were waiting to cross: Trademark, Snuggs, No Shoes, and two others. It didn’t take long for the canoeist to get us all across, two at a time. The canoeist told me the water is six feet deep and it was moving fast. I was glad for the ride. A woman near the riverbank gave me some M&Ms. Gotta love trail magic.
I walked into the town of Caratunk which consisted of a few houses, a post office, and a B&B hostel. The latter is where I headed. They had WiFi, outlets, resupply, and a friendly staff. I ordered two pork sandwiches and two chocolate milkshakes.
It was nice to sit on the porch out of the sun on a rocker. I hadn’t had cell service in a long time so I was finally able to catch up on my blog and get some things done. I talked with Dr. Stephanie and sent her a picture of my infected toenail. She told me to keep soaking it in the ponds and lakes. Hopefully I would live to see Katahdin.
Honey Bear and Relentless showed up and then I was surprised to see Transformer. I thought I would never see him again. He had changed his plans of slowing down and decided to speed up. I guess I’d be seeing more of him. We all hung out on the porch for hours before heading out around 3pm.
We didn’t get far when we ran into a hippyish woman named Tamborine who hiked in 2007 and was giving out trail magic. She gave me a Coke and some pastries while we chatted about the trail. She and her crew had a dog named Bernie. It was a blue heeler they’d picked up at a hostel down in the south. Someone had found the dog on the trail and taken it to the hostel. Turns out it was the same blue heeler I’d met down south on the trail and was tempted to take with me! Talk about running into people/dogs you think you’d never see again; how crazy life can be!
It was an easy five or so miles to the next shelter but the bugs were getting bad. I had some big bumps from the day before and the bug repellent I’d put on in the morning had worn off. Near the shelter was a pond/lake. Relentless, Transformer, Honey Bear, and I went swimming.
Afterward a NOBO named Aleve showed up and two SOBOs. We all ate dinner and talked. It was nice to have so much time at the end of a day for once. I hoped there would be more swimming and relaxing in the final days to come.
Day’s Mileage: 9.7
Total Miles Hiked: 2,054.2
Remaining Miles: 145.5
Daily Average: 15.6
THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES
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