Moose were on the minds of a lot of folks on the Trail today.
Jim and I were fortunate to see not one but two moose early this
morning on our way to the Maine 4 trail head. The one pictured at left was just
up the road a few hundred yards from our camp site at the AT parking area on
Maine 17. She was right next to the road and Jim got this shot of her before she
loped off into the woods. We saw another one on the road near Rangeley Lake
State Park a few minutes later.
As I ran and hiked southbound on the Trail today several northbound hikers
asked me if I'd seen any moose. No, not on the Trail. But we all saw plenty of
tracks in the mud and droppings on the side of the Trail. Despite passing
through perfect moose environments next to bogs and ponds, I couldn't spot any
of the critters while hiking.
Backpackers have an advantage in this regard, since they are more likely to
see moose near their campsites early in the morning or at dinnertime, when I'm
usually off the Trail. The Sabbath Day Pond lean-to is very close to water so
I'm not surprised the campers there saw a moose last night.
"Road" moose are fun to spot but it's more special to encounter "trail"
moose! Jim and I have each seen one on the Trail recently and hope to find
more. (We often saw them in the Beartooth Mountains and other places we've run in
Montana, Wyoming, and Oregon.)
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE
Although I didn't find this section of Trail to be as "easy" as other hikers
have reported (only "easier" than most of what I've walked the last couple
weeks), I loved all the lakes and ponds today. The Trail goes right next to
Moxie Pond, Long Pond (which is a large lake), Sabbath Day Pond, Little Swift
River Pond, and South Pond. At each pond/lake there was a cooling breeze that
offset the warmer-than-normal temperature today.
This is a picture of one of the canoes available to hikers at the Little
Swift River campsite:
There weren't any big creeks to cross today, but plenty of water and mud in
the Trail because of all the bogs in the area. Some of the bog boards and logs
were so deteriorated it was impossible to use them. Many more could have been
employed. This section would be even more of a mess after a good rainfall.
Several miles into the run I passed the outlet of an extensive boreal bog. It
looked more like a meadow than a swamp but there is plenty of water underneath
those plants that you can't see. Marshes and swamps are more nutrient-rich than
these highly acidic bogs, which preserve the floating mat of Sphagnum mosses and
sedges on top of the water.
An interesting note about the peat bogs at the higher elevations in the
Mahoosuc Range, where I hiked last week: the peat is such a good
insulator that in some places the frozen layers underneath never thaw out.
Sounds like Alaska, not 4,000 feet high in New England!
I'm fascinated by the bits of information like this that I've learned during
this adventure run/hike.
The Trail surface in this section ranged from fairly smooth, soft pine-needle
covered paths to gnarly rooty, rocky, or muddy spots.
It was difficult to run more than a hundred yards at a time, if that. Bates
Ledge was the hardest place to walk, with sharp, slick slate rock instead of the
more prevalent granite I've gotten used to.
My time was much faster than
yesterday for nearly the same distance: 5:50 hours. At the end, I did a
half-mile bonus down to the camper again.
APPEARANCES ARE DECEIVING
There was much less elevation change than I've had recently. I ended up with
a net gain by going south today. I went up about 2,600 feet total and down
about 2,200 feet. Most of the climbs and descents were gradual but a few were
Each AT map set (eleven in all) uses a different scale. Maine's has
increments of 250 feet instead of 500 feet, which is probably more visually
accurate as to the steepness of some hills than the other maps.
Still, I think they should put a sticker on these maps (like on vehicle
passenger mirrors) saying, "Hills on these maps are steeper than they appear."
Maybe it's just my increasing fatigue . . .
I saw two gray-green snakes about 18 inches long today. I saw a similar one
last week. What's interesting is that these are the first snakes I've seen since
the rattler in Pennsylvania. There are also a lot of little brown frogs on the
trails in New England, usually in fairly dry areas. Seems like they'd prefer wet
I saw only four thru-hikers today: "Giggles," "Box 'o Fun," and "The
Honeymooners" ("Birdie" and "Muskrat") were hiking together. In the afternoon
Jim saw "Giggles" and "Fun" in the town of Rangeley, where they picked up their
boxes of mail. He was going to offer them a ride back to the trail head when he
got done with his errands but they were gone by then.
There were another dozen folks hiking for three days to two weeks. Seven of
them looked older than me, which always inspires me. I wonder if they realize
what positive role models they are for younger folks on the Trail?
I rarely use the privies along the Trail because it's so easy to, um, pee,
when I'm wearing running shorts that I just step off the Trail and do it in a
few seconds. (When I wear my zip-leg pants, however, it's a real pain to have to drop my
drawers.) Today I used the privy at the Little Swift River campsite because it
was two feet off the Trail - how convenient!
Inside was this cute sign (notice the "bites" in the corner):
I hope to have an even better one for you tomorrow from the Piazza Rock
lean-to's privy (unless it's been changed from two years ago).
A TOUCH OF FALL
It was another warm, sunny day with thick white fog in the valleys in the
morning, as in Jim's photo at the top of this page. It was 57 degrees at 7:30 AM
when I hit the Trail. Temperatures have been in the 80s recently, about ten
degrees above normal. It's been great hiking weather.
Forecasters predict good leaf color in New England this fall, with the peak
the first week in October in northern Maine, the second week in mid-Maine, and
the third week in southern Maine. We saw several bright red and orange maple
trees along the roads and Trail today but most deciduous trees and shrubs are
still bright green.
Rain is expected in the mountains tonight, which will bring in cooler weather
for a couple of days. As I write this, the weatherman at one of the TV stations
in Portland says hard rain and hail are falling right now at Rangeley Lakes
State Park, about ten miles from our boon-docking site at the AT parking lot off
Maine 17. It isn't raining here yet. Jim hooked up the camper to the truck while
it's dry so he can drop me off in the morning and continue on to our next
I hope there isn't much rain in the mountains tonight. I'm concerned enough
about the difficult section I have tomorrow in the Saddleback Range. There are
numerous bogs, streams to cross, and boulders to climb. Worrying sometimes
prevents me from sleeping well the night before!
WORLD'S BEST CREW
Jim spent several hours today negotiating numerous logging roads trying to
find the "unimproved road" he found on Topo software where he can pick me up
tomorrow to break up a difficult 32-mile section of trail that the AT guide says
is the worst in Maine. (I thought the Mahoosuc section was supposed to be the
All Jim could find today was a road that gets to within 1½ miles of the
AT. Even with our high-clearance four-wheel drive truck the road became too
rough and narrow for him to drive all the way to the Trail. He took Cody and
Tater with him while he hiked the rest of the way to the AT and back to make
sure the trails connected.
He's going to hunt some more tomorrow and come up on the Trail to guide me to
whatever he finds - hopefully the passable road a couple miles farther north
that Topo says crosses the AT - so I don't have to do any bonus mileage tomorrow
Isn't he just the best crew person around?? I am so grateful for all he does
for me to help me realize my dream.