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Week Twenty Five: The hundred mile wilderness, intestinal distress, and finally Baxter State Park!

Sunday September 25th, 1983
I felt so great today that I pulled out a nineteen miler with Pete to Chairback Gap Lean-To. Pete and I happened to be ready at the same time so we walked away from the Falls together. Even though I felt great, I did another stupid thing today. Luckily, Pete as not there to witness,I had pulled away from him not long after departing from the Falls. I came to a stream early in the day that required a fording so I decided to ford barefoot to have dry boots afterwards. I threw the first boot across to the other side with no problem. I aimed perfectly and the distance was not too great. Then came the second boot. The laces caught around my arm as I released, causing the boot to lose velocity much to rapidly and landing directly in the middle of the stream. There I stood in horror, barefooted on shore, watching my boot float downstream. Quickly snapping into action, I bolted into the ice cold water and began wading downstream after the thing while watching it submerge and disappear below the surface. I continued to wade well downstream while frantically fishing for it. Well, after almost giving up, it suddenly came floating down the stream toward me so I snatched it up, kissed it, and walked it to the other shore. Once I put my one dry, and one wet boot back on, I heard some talking over a small rise. Upon investigation, I discovered a staging area for horseback riders on the other side of the ford. I was alone at the time, no one saw me, so still no witnesses to my blunder. You would think that after a couple thousand miles I wouldn’t be doing such stupid things, but there it is.

Following that unforgettable incident, the rest of the day was uneventful, but picturesque. The trail passed through several boggy areas, one known to have carnivorous plants! The Pitcher Plants in the bogs and this area were interesting, and the area felt like nymphs and fairies lived here. Throughout all of Maine and especially in the rugged Chairback Range I had to hike with my eyes focused on my feet. There were many roots to trip and slip on, and a smattering of stones between them. There were some areas that seemed perpetually wet and dank with moss everywhere.

I caught up with Tracy, Curt and Albie Pokrob & company. It's like grand central station here at Chairback Gap Lean-to tonight. Albie was the topic of conversation. He had been a hutmaster in various AMC huts and tent platforms in the Whites for many years. He also ran The Perch, which is an RMC cabin around Mt. Washington. One conversation was about the legendary thru-hiker appetite and how he had brought a few thru hikers to his home to sleep there for the night. His mother had always made plenty of food for her family, but she did not know just how much thru-hikers could eat. Even her generous helpings were nothing compared to what a hiker could eat, and the thru-hikers devoured everything in sight. After dinner Albie took them out to a restaurant for them to fill up.

(Long Pond from Barren Cliffs) (Pete headdon on Barren Cliffs) (Chairback Mtns in the distance from from Barren Cliffs)

(View Northwest from Barren Mtn)

Monday September 26th, 1983
We caught a glimpse of the big "K" today from one of the peaks, and even forty miles away, as the crow flies, it was impressive. I knew that there would be better shots of Katahdin as I got closer, so refrained from photographing it.

Pete and I are planning to arrive at Abol Bridge by early Friday morning. Apple turnovers and coke are on my mind.

Today we once again crossed a river requiring a ford. I t was the Pleasant River. As before, I took my shoes off just like the crossing yesterday, but did not try to toss the boots across. I took off my boots because by now they leaked when walking through anything more than a thimbleful of water. As I was sitting on the south shore taking my boots off, there were two southbounders that were walking through the final bit of water on my side of Pleasant River with their boots on. Looking over at their feet I saw that the water was beading up and rolling off their boots. I asked one if his feet were wet. He laughed, and said "no". His boots kept him perfectly dry. Intrigued, I asked who made the boots because I saw no manufacturer logos on the leather, and he told me that they were custom made by a man named Peter Limmer who owned a shoe shop in Interval, NH. near the White Mountains. (Years later I would find this man and make a special trip to Intervale to have a pair custom built for me. My parents bought them for me as congratulation present for completing the AT.)

Shortly after the river crossing I decided to make camp. I am staying at The Hermitage, a patch of virgin forest, after a very short day even though I am wired for The Big "K". The Hermitage was an idyllic place to stay - with flat ground, water and much to see, plus to me this was the quintessential adventure experience that I had been looking for from my first steps in Georgia. This place held me beyond all other considerations. It was a place that in an earlier time I would have wanted to homestead. I believe that I stayed here alone. Tracy took the picture of me Near the junction of the Gulf Hagas Trail.

(Curt "The Runt" Anderson and A.T. fording the Pleasant River) (Marcel at the junction with the Gulf Hagas Trail)

Tuesday September 27th, 1983
I woke up feeling lousy. I feel weak, tired and I developed a case of the shits. I don’t know what had happened to my GI tract, but it was just like the trouble that I had down south. I don’t recall seeing anyone else on this day, and unfortunately may not see my friends who hiked on farther yesterday. I did a "big" eleven mile day over easy terrain, and almost died. I am staying at Logan Brook Lean-To for the night, and hoping to recuperate. DAMN!!!!!

Wednesday September 28th, 1983
Another eleven mile day, and even at that almost didn't make it the last three miles. I'm staying at Cooper Brook Lean-To tonight. Unexpectedly, I caught up with Curt and Tracy. Concerned, they asked if I wanted them to stay in the shelter with me that night, but I told them to continue on their schedule. In the back of my mind I knew that I had left Monson with several others staying on, so I knew that the others were close behind and I had back up. I expect Damien and Rich to be pulling in later on today.

I had gotten in around midafternoon, and once into camp I slept for the most part. I was alone that night which I preferred. When I am ill my body just wants to be left alone and quiet to recuperate.

I am having serious doubts about getting to Katahdin Campground by October second, or if I can even climb "K" in this condition. I was feeling depressed and stressed. Up until this time I had several instances that I had scheduled rendezvous and had padded enough time into all of them to successfully make those meetings. This would be the first and most important and I was concerned that I possibly would miss it. I could see my mother calling in multiple search and rescue teams along with all law enforcement personnel on the eastern seaboard to find me. Fear began to creep in. Why couldn’t this go well? Crap!! All I could do was push on.

I must average fourteen miles per day to be able to get to Katahdin Campground on Saturday.

Thursday September 29th, 1983
Ya-hoo!! I felt great today and knocked off 19 miles. Don’t know what was wrong with me and could only speculate. I really don't care, it is over and That makes me happy. I spotted a bear at Nahmakanta Stream, but unfortunately he bolted off the second he saw me. Katahdin showed its face twice today. My God what a monster!!

When I got to the overlook in the middle of the deep wilderness and saw a very expensive looking camera sitting on a rock and at first I didn’t know what to do. I yelled to see if anyone was within earshot and was surprised when none answered. I dropped my pack and pulled out my knife thinking that this might have been a scuffle with a bear or a moose. The odd thing about it was that the camera was clearly placed on a rock outcropping and not thrown so the likelihood that an animal had chased someone or that it had dropped off of a pack seemed slim. Once I had determined that there was nobody in sight and there were no signs of a scuffle what to do with the camera and who did it belong to? I was tempted to bring it with me to Abol Bridge but what if the person that owned it came in from other trail that I did not know existed? Abol Bridge was a long way away so what are the chances that they would go there to look for it? What if they went back to retrieve it and found it missing? My good deed would have negative unintended consequences so I chose to leave it there and made a mental note as to where I had found it.

Sometime later that day I ran into Albie hiking south and he asked me if I had seen a camera. I answered in the affirmative and told him exactly where he had left it. He was relieved that it was there but of course was irritated that he had forgotten it. I felt stupid for not have picked it up for it would have saved him some miles.

Damien, Rich and Alan caught up with me, and will be staying at the same shelter tonight. Albie forgot his camera when he left a particular overlook so he decided to backtrack to retrieve it, but will be staying at Rainbow Stream Lean-To as well once he returns.

It was a beautiful day. Only one small letdown: I remember a camp with a road going to it. The road and the camp made this wilderness trip seem less of a wilderness. Then, near one of the Ponds I came across Old Antlers Camp, a small log camp that was all beat up and falling down. Parts of the camp were located right next to the trail near the pond. Wilderness at your doorstep.

I reached the rocky shores of Pemadumcook Lake in the early morning. It was shrouded in fog that clung tenaciously above the surface and the quiet calmed my pace. I lingered there for a while wishing that I could make my home there in the wilderness beside the quiet. This place was quite different from The Hermitage yet they both shared the same tranquility and remoteness. Reality intervened and my mind realized that if I could live here, so could others, and that in itself would ruin that which I would seek.

While taking a break at Wadleigh Stream Shelter, I noticed a shelf fungus with the writing on it as a decoration for the place, but can’t remember what it said on it.

One of the last "serious" climbs before Katahdin, Nesuntabunt Mountain was a special place. While standing on the bluff, the hand of man was not to be seen. Miles of forest, lakes and streams lie before me in unspoiled magnificence.

Now at Rainbow Steams Shelter, I must say that this is a nice shelter in a nice setting. I am baffled by the the light switch screwed to a nearby tree and wonder what that is all about, but definitely know it is surreal in this setting.

(Katahdin from Pemadumcook Lake) (Fog on Pemadumcook Lake) (Katahdin Range from Nesuntabunt Mtn)

(Nahmakanta Lake from Nesuntabunt Mountain) (Cascade along Rainbow Stream)

Friday September 30th, 1983
An easy fourtenn miles brought me to Abol Bridge where I am camping tonight. When I came out onto the road at Abol Bridge I looked back on the old worn 100 mile wilderness warning sign almost identical to the one we passed just outside of Monson, and knew that I had passed the test that began in Monson. The thought struck me that it wasn’t that difficult. I could have dug deeper if I had to. Funny how once out of the fray optimism trumps pessimism - in my mind at least. This section was one of my favourites. Vermont and New Hampshire were beautiful, but they lacked the solitude that only the primitive, unsullied vast forests of Maine can offer.

I can't believe that it is Fall - it's 75 Degrees out!. The bugs are back as a result and are driving me crazy!

I saw two moose early this morning, one bull on the trail, and one cow feeding in a small pond. Now I feel complete. Moose and bear are animals everyone hopes to see during their journey. I was hiking alone when I rounded a corner and stopped dead in my tracks. It was in a part of the forest that had many saplings only a few inches in diameter. When I rounded the corner four of the saplings moved in a very unnatural way each bending at one point rather than swaying. My eyes followed the saplings up where they terminated into a massive brown aggregation of flesh - a bull moose. I was about twenty five feet away and he was massive with a huge rack. I froze for a moment that seemed like an eternity. We stared at each other. I had never seen a wild animal that big or that close, and I had no way to protect myself if he decided to stomp on me. It was his house and I was an unwanted guest. He broke the stare and began lazily feeding on branches that I couldn’t begin to reach. I wanted to keep going but it was his house and he wasn’t giving ground. There he stood in the middle of the trail. He browsed, paying little attention to me. Several minutes went by yet he made no attempt to move off the trail so I would need to take the initiative. To my right was a hill and I thought that going uphill would make it harder for him to attack me should he decide that I was a threat. I slabbed the side of the hill crashing through the brush and scratching myself all over. Once I had successfully circled around his position I dropped down on the trail to his north. Scratched, bleeding and out of breath I looked one final time back at him and satisfied that he had asserted his dominance he meandered off the trail and disappeared into the bush. It was only a short time later that I saw another male feeding in a nearby pond.

Now that I am out of it and reflecting upon it, I must say that the the lakes region of Maine sure was pretty. Even though it's warm, the trees colored in yellow, orange and deep crimson continue to shed their leaves onto the waiting forest floor. Sure hate to leave this beauty.

It's only ten miles to Katahdin Stream Campground where I will meet everybody from home tomorrow.

There are no other campers at Abol Bridge besides us thru-hikers. We stayed at the AB campsite and bought a few things from the store.

(Moose in un-named pond) (Sign on Rainbow Ledges) (Warning sign for Southbound hikers going into 100 mile wilderness near Abol Bridge)

Saturday October 1st, 1983
Last night the bugs stopped bothering me after dusk, and allowed me to almost have a good night's sleep. It's too bad that the Raccoons and Mr. Skunk didn't have the same consideration; they raised hell all night.

This morning we had a breakfast of Sugar Crisps, and pancakes with syrup. I don’t remember if we ate in the store, or on the picnic tables at our campsite. Eating a big breakfast was unusual for me. Usually I ate a granola bar and would camel up on water before I would tear into the trail ahead. Being near the store and only having an easy ten mile slack pack I decided to award myself a full breakfast preceding the short ten mile stroll.

After breakfast we slowly meandered into Baxter State Park toward Katahdin Stream Campground. I figured that the people from home would not be in until around 4:00pm so we hung out at Big Niagara Falls for a while, and then hiked to Daicey Pond Campground. The plan had been to meet at Katahdin Stream Campground, but somehow they ended up at Daicey Pond Campground. I believe that the park rangers told that I would pass by there first on the way to Katahdin Stream Campground, so they took a chance and we met there first. Just as I was ready to leave for Katahdin Stream Campground, Dia ran up and gave me a welcome home kiss and hug. Mom and Dad followed close behind. From Daicey Pond, we flew the next two miles in twenty minutes. Wow!!! As Damien hiked the last half mile, which happened to be a road walk, his mom and brother drove up to greet him. Alan and I kept going to Katahdin Stream Campground.

We are all chipping in to rent a log cabin just outside of the park this evening. When we got to the cabin, Harry (My brother) and Sonny (My Cousin) were there waiting. Mom made a batch of "dynamite" which is more or less an amped up sloppy joe, and all eleven of us had a great time eating and talking. Trail tales were bandied about - and of course plans were made for the morrow.

The people that stayed at the cabin included hikers Paul (Damien) Nichols, Alan Savage, Rich Kozon, and me. Others included Dia Black, Harry (Harold) Montville (my brother), Eugene (Sonny) Berubemy cousin, (who got me into hiking long ago), Francis Montville (Dad), Simone Montville (Mom), and Paul’s mother and brother (I don’t remember their names). Another surprise was, and I don’t know how they knew where we were, but Tracy and Curt stopped by and said that they had summited the day before.

Tomorrow is the big "K".

(Baxter Park Tote Road) (Little Niagara Falls inside Baxter State Park) (Alan Savage at Little Niagara Falls)

(Marcel sunning near the falls) (Marcel contemplating the completion of his journey) (Katahdin from Daisey Pond)

(Katahdin from Perimeter Road) (Richard Kozon fording Katahdin Stream)


Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983