I was surprised, too! This has gotta be the worst estimate of my predicted
time to finish a section of the AT since this adventure run began. Thank
goodness I over-estimated, not under-estimated, my time for the first 18.5 miles
of this section, the original distance I was going to run/hike.
And thank goodness Jim and I have ESP (extra-sensory perception). Not that I
necessarily believe in ESP, but what are the odds that we'd meet at the
appointed place at the same time - almost three hours early??
If you read yesterday's entry, you know I was worried about whether several
creeks and rivers in this section would be flooded today. I even lost sleep last night over
Dear man that Jim is, he said he'd come in on the Trail at least to the last
river crossing, four-tenths of a mile from the end, to see if I needed any help.
He planned to run after dropping me off this morning at Moxie Pond, move the
camper about sixty miles up the road, and go to the grocery - so he didn't know
if he'd have time to come in any farther on the Trail.
Although much of the Trail was a mess today (lotsa mud, rocks, and roots),
there was enough of it that I could run to make a significant dent in my
predicted time. I found myself slowing down a bit when I couldn't reach Jim by
cell phone to ask him to pick me up earlier. If I couldn't reach him, I'd just
have to wait and wait and wait. I didn't want to leave a note at the trail head,
go on ahead, and risk him not seeing my note.
What I really wanted to do was to add another three to six miles onto the
eighteen-plus I'd planned for today. There were no roads in that first 18.5 miles, but
two other places I could stop after that. I had the time and energy today to go
farther, the weather was decent, and it would shorten tomorrow's run in the
I was frustrated when I finally got a phone signal a couple miles from our
rendezvous point, but Jim's phone wouldn't ring. So I sent out some very strong
"signals" to him saying, "Please come early and run in to me." I told myself
nothing would make me more happy today than to see Jim at that river crossing
when I got there - almost three hours early.
Now what were the odds of that, considering the busy day Jim had planned??
Now I'm not much of a believer in ESP, but sometimes it's uncanny how closely
Jim and I think. And for some reason we were both thinking about the same thing
After I left him this morning, Jim decided not to run on Moxie Pond
Road. He felt he just didn't have time. He was concerned about moving the
camper, and decided to run in on the Trail instead.
Imagine my total surprise and delight when I got to the river (East Branch of
the Piscataquis) and discovered 1) it was only calf to knee deep, not flooded,
and 2) that Cody was on the other side, with Jim running down the hill toward
Jim was even more shocked to see me there so early! After all, he
hadn't been imagining this scenario the last hour like I had been. We hugged and
that's when Jim started teasing me about "hitching a ride" to get there so soon.
(Yeah, in the middle of the wilderness in Maine.)
Jim's learned a lot about flexibility and adaptability this summer, crewing
for me. He was immediately agreeable to returning to the truck on
Shirley-Blanchard Road with me to look at the AT map to see just how far the
next two roads were. The six miles of Trail that I'd just run and hiked would
have made a great run for him, along the other branch of the Piscataquis River,
but he chose to bag it and try again tomorrow. (It also says something about how
motivated he is to get this thing done and go home!)
It was only 1:45 PM, giving me plenty of time to hike another 6.3 miles to
Hwy. 15 north of Monson. It looked like there were several streams and a lake,
so Jim suggested I take Cody with me. He had a ball in the mud and creeks and I
was glad to have him for a distraction because I disliked that little section with a
passion. Running was impossible.
This is an example of one of many mud pits I went through today (it was
difficult to go around them without destroying plant life):
I also had to contend with very slippery slate rocks (no matter what form
they were in, they were slick as ice), wet roots that are as treacherous as
slick rocks, about forty little creeks (remember, it rained all day yesterday),
and the usual swamp and bog boards that are often missing, canted to one side,
slippery when wet, or so deteriorated as to be useless.
Oh, and there was this "trail" across the end of one swamp. This is a
beaver dam, for Pete's sake!
At least there were the two rivers and numerous creeks to get the mud off my
shoes each time I went in, up to my ankles. (Oh, and the rivers weren't any
deeper than just above my knees, so I didn't fall or get swept downstream . . .)
Yep, I'm havin' me some fun in Maine!
MAINE HAS MORE MOXIE
My two favorite parts of this section were Moxie Bald and the nine miles
along Bald Mountain Stream and the West Branch of the Piscataquis River.
I considered taking the bad-weather by-pass around the exposed, rocky peak of
Moxie Bald as I worked my way up the 1,659-foot ascent to the summit. It was
foggy and the foliage was so wet, it felt like it was raining. I didn't think
I'd get to see the advertised great views, so why bother?
But as I climbed higher I got above the clouds and could look down on them
from the rocky summit. I always love views with mountains poking above white
clouds in the valleys. Once again, I'm glad I followed the white blazes.
The shortest way to Moxie Bald is to follow the AT five miles east (north) from
Moxie Pond Road. This includes an immediate ford of Baker Stream, which had my
nerves on edge at 6:30 this morning. Jim watched as I v-e-r-y
c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y moved from boulder to boulder across this wide creek at the
south end of Moxie Pond. I finally gave up and just got in the water before I
fell into it!
BEAUTIFUL RIVER WALK/RUN
About a mile north of the Moxie Bald Lean-to I started following Bald
Mountain Stream. Within three miles it flowed noisily into the West Branch of
the Piscataquis River. At that point the Piscataquis was split by an island.
The white blazes pointed me toward that island, requiring me to ford the river's
two channels. Fortunately, the water was clear and I could see the rocks on the
bottom. Two trekking poles helped me retain my balance on the very slick rocks
under the water. The most challenging part of the river crossing was getting up
the very steep, eroded far bank.
Then the AT follows the Piscataquis for about six miles east. Sometimes the
Trail is close to the river and sometimes it roller-coasters up and down a
little farther back. At all times you can hear the river as it cascades downhill
and rushes through beautiful slate gorges. It ranks right up there with the
Pierce Pond Stream that I loved so much two days ago.
To access the six-mile river walk (where you can run quite a bit), go
west/south on the AT from paved Shirley-Blanchard Road and cross the east branch
of the river. The west branch will be on your left for about six miles. It is
beautiful whether it's flowing slowly in flatter areas or shooting through rock
walls where it's steeper. There are tent sites along the river and a lean-to
about halfway in at Horseshoe Canyon.
"Steady Eddie" rode with us to Moxie Pond Road this morning so "Charlie
Brown" could save some miles and take their crew car to Hwy. 15 near Monson. Ed
started a few minutes before me and I saw him only once (after Moxie Bald)
during the day. I saw Charlie hiking south around noon and was pleased I
covered the distance it took him five hours to do in 4:15 hours. (I was at an
advantage; he had on his full pack today.)
On the other side of the second-deepest water crossing today, the outlet of
Bald Mountain Pond, I finally ran into "Goat" and "Buffet" again. They are a
couple about our age that I first met in Virginia. Jim has seen them several
times recently, but it's taken me over two months to catch up to them again.
They were changing back into their hiking boots after crossing the outlet in the
plastic shoes hikers like to wear around camp. They said they wanted to keep
their boots dry today.
Every time I crossed a creek or river today, and got all muddy in the mud
pits, I thought of the futility of Goat and Buffet trying to keep their boots
dry. It's just not possible in this section, and probably for the rest of Maine!
Score one for quick-drying trail shoes. I wore my Montrail Highlines today.
Jim washed them thoroughly when we got home.
Right at the end of the six-mile section I added today, I caught up to
"Vision Quest," a young woman who Jim has seen several times. I've never seen
her before. We gave her a ride to the P.O. in Monson so she could get her drop.
Earlier in the afternoon, Jim also drove "The Laugh Factory" ("Giggles" and
"Box o' Fun") from the Shirley-Blanchard trail head to Monson so they could get
their mail. They were debating whether to do some more miles, or hang out at
Monson's popular hostel, run by the "Pie Lady." Monson is the last stop for
backpackers' supplies until they reach the end of the Hundred-Mile Wilderness.
The only other hiker I talked to was the woman who is crewing for two
northbound thru-hikers, "Kokomo" and "Bigfoot," guys about
my age, while they are in Maine. They were carrying full packs until recently. We saw their RV at Moxie Pond this morning but I didn't
men and they never caught up to me today. The crew person ("Stumblefoot") was going back on the
Trail to find them this afternoon. She didn't understand how I'd stayed ahead of
them all day . . .
NO RAIN, NO PAIN, NO MAINE
OK, it's gonna rain tonight. And probably all day tomorrow, according to the
weather prognosticators. Not only is a storm heading toward Maine from the west,
but the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia are hitting from the southeast.
Thunderstorms are likely. Whether I get up and run/hike depends on how much rain
falls during the night. Tomorrow's fourteen-plus miles are at low elevation.
They include some ledges, canyons, and two rivers that can be dangerous when
flooded - rivers that Regis Shivers had serious trouble with two years ago when
they were flooded.
I'm ready to enter the so-called "Hundred-Mile Wilderness," a rugged area with minimal road
access and no towns for hikers to re-supply. Backpackers usually take eight to ten
days to traverse this section of Trail right before Katahdin. Jim has the
roads figured out for me to do it faster - in six segments. If the trails are
easier than I expect and we have road access, I might do it in five sections.
How many days it takes to reach Katahdin mostly depends on the weather