There's a saying that ultra marathoners like to toss around, especially
during 100-milers: It never always gets worse.
Ha! They've never done the entire Appalachian Trail from the south to the
north. I'm convinced this Trail is just going to get harder and harder until I
reach that sign at the top of Katahdin in (ta, da!!) fewer than two hundred
Who are these trail-routing masochists, anyway? Why do they keep
sending us through the worst boulder fields, rock slides, and rivers with no
I'm happy to report I lived through today's section. I wasn't so sure on the
way down Sugarloaf Mountain through a steep, harrowing quarter mile of boulders,
one of the toughest descents I've ever encountered. And I could hear the
boisterous river from over a thousand feet up the mountain, knowing I was going
to have to ford it soon. That was nerve-racking.
But you know, it was kinda fun to climb down those boulders and hop from one
boulder to another across the river since I wasn't in a big rush today. And it
felt soooo good to be done with both "obstacles" in today's run/hike. I worry
The Maine AT Club is right about this section and yesterday's being
difficult. Yeah, they threw in some easier miles, but the rest of it makes
everything south of New Hampshire look easy.
If you're bored with the trails in your neck of the woods, come spend your
next two-week vacation on the AT in Maine or New Hampshire.
The weather held up beautifully for another day. It's getting chillier,
though: only 46 degrees this morning when I started up Spaulding
Mountain. There was light wind all day in the mountains and valleys. Fall is
We wouldn't want to be around here in the winter. Yesterday Jim found out
this area receives thirty feet of snow annually. I imagine it's more on the
mountains. You can't miss the huge woodpiles in everyone's yards. Brrrr. It's
interesting to see how close we are to Canada when we're watching the weather
reports on TV each night.
Quiz of the day: we hear the term "Mainers" a lot on TV and radio to
describe the folks who live here. While we were in New Hampshire, we didn't hear
what those folks call themselves: New Hampshirians? New Hampshirites? New
Hampshirese? New Hampshirers?
This section includes five mountains but summits only three of them - Lone
Mountain and the north and south peaks of Crocker Mountain (elev. 4,228 feet,
today's highest). There are side trails to the tops of Sugarloaf (Maine's
second-highest mountain) and Spaulding.
Considering the fact that I've been following white blazes up and over, what,
at least a thousand? mountains the last four months, I wasn't particularly
interested in doing bonus mileage up these two mountains. Yes, the views would
have been scenic. In the interest of saving time and preserving my knees,
declined and continued following white blazes farther down the mountains (still
between 3,750 and 4,000 feet high).
As usual in Maine, some climbs and descents were gradual to moderate and some
were super steep. The largest gains were 1,750 feet up Spaulding over four miles
and 1,820 feet up South Crocker in two-point-five miles. Total gain was about
The longest drops were from Sugarloaf down to the South Branch of the
Carrabassett River (1,700 feet in two miles) and the north peak of Crocker
Mountain down to Hwy. 27 (2,750 feet over five miles). Total loss was 6,100
That's a total elevation change of 11,000 feet in about seventeen miles. No
wonder I'm tired! It'd be different if the trail surface was smooth and
runnable, like many trails out West. There you don't usually have to pick your feet up so high
to get over all the rocks and roots. That's what makes the AT so tough in New
England: the rugged trail surfaces, not so much the elevation gain and
The woods were mostly very peaceful and pretty today. There weren't many
views; the summits were treed but the MATC has cut away some trees in a couple
spots so you can see the surrounding mountains and valleys.
This section doesn't have any ponds or lakes. The river is the main water
feature. If that's your goal, it's only one-tenth of a mile from dirt Caribou
Valley Road - a much simpler way to arrive than going down Sugarloaf's boulder
One interesting feature in this section is the bronze plaque on Spaulding
Mountain that commemorates the construction of the final two miles of the AT
back in 1937 by the CCC.
ASK A STUPID QUESTION . . .
So, I've just successfully (i.e., safely) completed one of the top ten
toughest AT descents through boulders coming down Sugarloaf Mountain and
rock-hopped across a potentially dangerous river. I'm more than relieved to be
done with that, and feeling a little cocky that I actually enjoyed the
In a tenth of a mile I come to Caribou Valley Road. Two men and a woman are
standing beside their car, day packs on. The 40-something woman looks at me and
asks, "Are you coming or going?"
Huh? Two smart-alecky responses immediately flash through my brain:
2. Some days I'm not so sure myself!
I have no clue what information this woman is seeking. I laugh, and she
thinks I'm either rude or nuts. I joke that I'm not sure some days, but right
now I'm reasonably sure I'm heading north on the Appalachian Trail.
Just what information did she want? The direction to go to the river.
Well, silly woman, why didn't you just say that?? There are
interesting features in both directions. How was I to know?
Guess you had to be there. I laughed about her question the rest of the day.
Since it was a sunny Saturday most of the hikers I saw were just out for the
day. The only thru-hiker I saw was "Patch," who I first found napping on rocks
in the river. He heard me jumping from boulder to boulder and asked if I'd seen
"The Honeymooners," who were ahead of us. Nope. Never did catch them, either.
Close to the river I saw two young couples with several small children, who
were having lots of fun in the rocks. It's great to see parents out like this
with their kids, enjoying nature. Near the end of my run/hike I talked with a
couple about my age who are section-hiking for a week. Christine and Bill are
from Pennsylvania. Bill has hiked over 1,000 miles of the AT, Christine a bit
less. I was in a hurry to run on down the mountain to meet Jim so didn't talk
with them too long.
Jim had a more relaxed day than yesterday - no major adventures or
After dropping me off at the trail head he got the truck's steering linkage
straightened out at an auto shop in a local town. The mechanic didn't have a new
part in stock but this temporary fix will work until we get home for a permanent
Next he went to the library to download e-mail, upload a couple journal
entries, and complete other critical internet tasks. He learned all the high
schools and libraries in Maine have Wi-Fi connections, which may help us keep
current with the journal. Cell phone coverage is spotty here and we are unable
to get on line when we have "extended service."
Jim also did laundry and a myriad of other tasks around the camper before
coming to pick me up.
He saw a flyer about a community celebration today in the nearby town of
Avon. The barbeque-and-hamburger lunch sounded appealing, so he drove over there
for a while. This is a photo he took of several women who comprise the SAD 58
Steel Drum Band, which was giving a concert during lunch:
Jim didn't stick around for the baby crawling race, men's
log-throwing contest, pickled egg eating contest, women's weed whacker throwing
contest, or red neck horseshoes (using toilet seats).
Just Avon's way of "saying good-bye to summer and feeling
fortunate to live where we do."
Tomorrow I pass the 2,000-mile mark on my journey to Katahdin. Jim had an
interesting observation recently, as he pointed out how far I've gone on the
long AT wall map in our camper (it's about four feet long). It's even more
graphic than the little map on each journal page.
Sometimes I think I'm dreaming. What, me walk and run 2,000 miles?