Welcome back to the Appalachian Trail portion of the blog. If you're still catching up, click here to jump to the first entry....or...hopefully....you're a regular...and all up to snuff on my blundering through the forest.
I last left off at the Antlers Campsite on Lower Jo-Mary Lake.
The UFO in the shot below....
....yep....mosquito. No surprise whatsoever.
There were quite a few blowdowns in this area of the trail. I'm glad I wasn't around for the storm that took down so many trees.
Side-Story: I was in a particularly wicked storm in the Smoky Mountains in 2002. My buddy Bryan had come out to hike with me and we endured a gnarly storm overnight that took down some hefty trees. I've been through countless storms in tents, on trails, motorcycles, bicycles, etc. and have a few that really stand out. That was one. I'll never forget the crack of splintering trees, the pitch black interrupted by frequent flashes, and the wind that took down giants around our tent. I clearly remember thinking 'I guess this is how it ends...gooshed in a yellow tent.' That was at Birches Campsite just north of Fontana Dam. Thankfully the trees fell around us...and nothing more.
Motoring on towards Abol Bridge.
Just a muddy logging road.
I wasn't able to make it over to White House Landing due to necessary mile busting, but it is supposedly a neat experience! You go out to the edge of the lake and they come across in a boat, pick you up, and take you to a whimsical land full of the above-mentioned food. Hikers can be won over with food veeerrrryyyy easily.
"Thank goodness for this log!" - my feet
My mom loves flower photos. I'm down as well.
So happy to have the bugs all around!!
The next portion of the trail was one of my favorites this year! Nahmakanta Lake was absolutely stunning.
There was a great log on this gravel beach, so I sat on it and had a leisurely lunch, taking in the breeze from across the lake.
The trail left the beach for the woods, then followed the shoreline for a while before climbing up high onto the ridge.
I passed on the swim.
The trail actually went along the beach several different times. It provided a nice break from the trees and let the breeze do some more work.
Heading up towards Nesuntabunt Mountain. Nesuntatatatnanbububunntttt? I couldn't say it but definitely walked alone through the woods trying to....aloud.
Some views across the lake....towards Katahdin.
This moment tugged my heartstrings. Passing the gravel beach on the lake moved me onto another map. The final map.
After 17 years.
The last one.
I spent a bit of time here....absorbing everything....anything.
Later I passed this fun little pond....
....and found Wayne's boat.
Found his buddy's canoe too.
So much great water in Maine!
Camp was at Rainbow Stream Lean-To. Slept in the Taj Mahal as usual.
Rainbow Stream was aptly named; vibrant yet deep, great flow, well-timed. Just...gorgeous.
Across this log bridge and to the left was the best swimming hole in the Hundred. I peeled off the nasties and took full advantage of the deep frigid water. So refreshing....and necessary.
As a bonus...someone turned this old tree stump next to the shelter...into a tiki man. I thought he was awesome.
Thanks for reading.
Closing in on Mt. Katahdin! Stay tuned..
I work with awesome people.
Dilon, Alan, and Geoff are also motorcycle enthusiasts, all-around good dudes, and tolerant of....me. We make a pretty good gang.
Last week, the four of us saddled up between morning and evening band rehearsals to blast around OKC on our motorcycles. We met up at 7-Eleven to fuel up before heading north to Pops, out on Historic Route 66.
Geoff was sitting on his bike....so I took a couple of shots. (And when did my eyes turn that color??)
Taking group selfies....with a helmet on....when it's sunny....is tricker than I thought.
The funny thing about Pops is that it is technically just a gas station...and cafe. What makes Pops so cool and unique...is everything else! They boast over 700 varieties of sodas from all over the world. I didn't stand and count, but I believe it. The restaurant is supposed to be scrumptious, though I've not eaten there myself. On any given weekend, the ample-sized parking lot is filled with classic cars, motorcycles of all variety, and good folks milling about...taking in the sights and checking out the rides. We happened to be there mid-day, and mid-week, on a hot day....so it was starkly quiet. Not a problem though. We all made our soda selections and sat outside to have some serious philosophical conversations about life.
No...actually we just sat and made fun of each other. That's all we ever do. Ever. Someone probably told a fart joke too. They did....I remember it specifically. This is our world.
Dilon and I analyzed the drink cooler....for a while.
Pops also has some cool architecture....
....and a sweet bottle.
Typically I grab a peach Nehi when I'm at Pops. My dad used to buy them for me when I was really little. We'd bounce around the oil field in his tank truck, him shifting through gears, and me holding tightly to my drink...trying to stay put in the passenger seat. Sometimes nostalgia...is a good thing.
On this particular day, I was dragging a bit, so I opted for a bit of caffeine. Nothing crazy....just a little bump.
Left to right (above):
BMW R1150R Rockster - Byron
Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster - Geoff
Yamaha V-Star 1300 - Dilon
Harley Davidson 883 Sportster - Alan
And a sweet booty shot below...
The crew. Me, Geoff, Alan, Dilon.
Geoff is the KING of Harley Davidson shirts. I will hear no opposing arguments. Thank you.
One of the greatest things about riding a motorcycle...is the motorcycle wave. It seems mundane. As motorcyclists pass one another, you'll notice a hang of the left hand, typically down low, as the machines zip in opposite directions.
It's universal. Cruisers wave to sport bikes, who wave to euros, who wave to choppers, who wave to tourers, who wave to classics, who wave to scooters, who wave to trikes.....and the list reciprocates.
We wave because there is an understanding of what life on two wheels entails: freedom, danger, heat, cold, rain, shine, fun, and most importantly....mutual respect. I've dropped the hand....clad in full touring gear....to a shirtless sport-bike rider more than once....and received the same in return. It's just about, "Hey...you're riding, I'm riding...we're both here....it's all good."
How cool would it be if we could give the motorcycle wave to all we encounter? Race, religion, gender, poverty, orientation, disability, opportunity?
Isn't life about freedom, danger, heat, cold, rain, shine, fun....and mutual respect?
Maybe we can all drop the left hand a little more often....
Welcome back for the third installment of this year's Appalachian Trail hike in Maine. If you're not up to speed yet, please click here for the start of the hike thread, then click right here for chapter two! Otherwise...cruise down this page to continue the journey through the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine.
We last left off on the summit of White Cap Mountain, taking in the grandeur of Mt. Katahdin lurking in the distance. The end was actually a reality.
Camp for the night was at Logan Brook Lean-To. I tucked my tent into this small alcove, then proceeded through my evening routine (bear line, fill water, change clothes, cook, eat, eat again, and then eat some more before crawling in the tent.) Logan Brook tumbled through the rocks nearby, providing an idyllic evening of reading and writing. The moose like this area as well; directly behind my tent was a massive pile of....evidence. This is Maine.
A rocky pitch, but it worked. My Therm-A-Rest is really a life saver in these situations.
A gravel road through the Hundred. As I mentioned before, there are actually some roads in the Wilderness, just no paved roads (highways, improved county, etc.) The gravel roads were well maintained, though I saw zero traffic, only a couple of parked vehicles.
Making my way further and further from Monson....
...and passing one stunning view after another.
As I plodded my way north, consuming both gorgeous views...and relentless bugs....one of the most incredibly cool and shockingly circumstantial turn of events of my entire AT journey....began to play out.
Rewind to my second night on the trail. I was camped behind Chairback Lean-To. I had just situated my tent, then joined about ten other hikers around the shelter to cook dinner, eat, and jackjaw about hiker life, as is the norm. We went through all the usual small talk regarding the trail, who's eating what flavor of mush for dinner, the agreed general horror of the bug situation, where the good water sources were located in both directions, whose feet were wrecked, and...most importantly (and my favorite)....the inquiry of, "Where y'all from?" For whatever reason....posing this question, with my slight Beverly Hillbillies lilt, usually draws other hikers in pretty quickly.
One guy at the shelter said he lived in east Tennessee, but grew up in Oklahoma. Tahlequah to be exact. Obviously I found this interesting...and then I asked about his time in Tennessee. It turned out that he now lives in Lenoir City, which is very close to Knoxville...where I have family and my mom grew up!
But it gets better.
"Hey, there's another hiker from Oklahoma right behind us," he told me. "She's southbound so you should pass her....I think she's from Oklahoma City as well." He told me her hair was dyed...and I couldn't miss her. I made a note to keep my eyes peeled.
It gets better still.
The next morning found me up and out of camp quite early. I think I was hiking a little after 6:00am. About two hours into the morning, I passed two tents set up in one of the gaps. Nothing was stirring in camp, and not wanting to wake anyone who may have hiked late, I sashayed up the trail, business as usual. I figured my fellow Oklahoman was snoozed out. "Too bad," I thought..."that would have been really cool." I motored on, eventually landing at Logan Brook Lean-To, as you've previously read.
During the day...I cruised up and over Little Boardman.
True to form, the Maine mosquitoes were out in full force between Little Boardman and Lower Jo-Mary Lake.
I continued my way north, head buried, churning out miles and avoiding eye-contact with the mosquito orgy that existed all around. I hadn't passed another hiker for a while, so I was deep in my thoughts, contemplating how Maine needs a serious spike in its bat population.
As I descended a small hill, another hiker approached, headed south. As many in the Hundred had resorted to, this hiker had donned a rain jacket, and had the hood cinched snugly around her face...sealing out as many blood-vacuums as possible. We exchanged abbreviated subtleties as we approached, each seemingly not interested to stop and feed the bugs any more than necessary.
I eased right to facilitate a smooth passage, and took a quick glance left as we met. At that moment, the smallest amount of brightly-colored hair somehow peeked out from the hood.
"You have crazy hair!" I exclaimed, pointing (rude, I know...but reactionary...) as I stopped cold in my tracks. She, of course, froze solid. I might have well had said, "Hey, hold on a sec while I get out my machete."
"You're from Oklahoma!" I blurted out next. Remember....she had NO REASON to be expecting this exchange....on the Appalachian Trail....in the Maine woods....in the most remote stretch of its entirety. "I'm from Oklahoma too!" (finally I said something that didn't sound like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre script). Thankfully she had not maced me and turned tail.
I had found another real-life, in-person, AT hiker....from Oklahoma!
Julia (she'd fittingly soon become 'Rainbow' to her fellow hikers) and I stood and talked for nearly half an hour, swatting mosquitoes together, and being generally dumbfounded to be staring at one another....in the Hundred Mile Wilderness.
It gets better...
"I'm not actually from Oklahoma City," she said. "I'm from Moore." (now...I actually have an Oklahoma City address, but live and work in the Moore School District. OKC is VERY spread out...so saying you live here can geographically land you in a broad area).
It turns out, Julia and I live about five miles from one another! She was roughly a week into her southbound thru-hike, meaning she had flown to Maine only a few days before I had, made her way up through Millinocket, summited Katahdin, and was now jamming south.
We were both so surprised to run into one another...neither had the wherewithal to think to take a pic together...so I had to rob a couple from her online trail journal (which you should read because it is awesome!).
As I write this blog, Rainbow is in the heart of New Hampshire's famed White Mountains. She has kept me up to speed on her hike thus far, so between that and her journal entries...I kind of feel like I'm still hiking. And that...is a good thing.
So much water in Maine.
Back into the woods after the lake....I spotted....this.
Who painted this on a tree in the Hundred Mile Wilderness??
The irony between my disappointment....
....and my juvenile sense of humor.
And....back into the bugs!!
If you look closely, you can actually see some spots on my headnet. Those are mosquitos.
Approaching Lower Jo-Mary Lake, and Antlers Campsite...my residence for the evening.
Not a bad situation.
Lower Jo-Mary Lake from the shore at Antlers Campsite.
You'd better BELIEVE that I swam in that sucker!
'Lowgiene' is a practice I subscribe to on the AT. It's a term I learned from my friend Gordon when we used to rock climb like monkeys in the Wichita Mountains, Avery Drive in Tulsa, and all points in between. It is the opposite of 'hygiene'....just enough to get the job done....and is very fitting.
Another interesting twist to the day - I camped at Antlers with several folks, one of whom, Drew, mentioned he had recently quit his job to journey out for a southbound thru-hike, and his wife, a teacher, was out with him for a few weeks here at the start. He casually mentioned that he was....a band director!
"No way," I shot back in disbelief. "Where?"
"Berryville, Arkansas...we live in Fayetteville."
Today felt like the world was shrinking down to a mutual strip of dirt through the black-fly-infested backwoods of Maine. We talked at length of mutual acquaintances, shared experiences of band director life, and the general pros and cons associated.
What a crazy day.
A washed-out shot looking out from the castle during the evening's reading and writing. The lake is just beyond the shrubs at center.
How could one complain? More importantly....why would you?
Stay tuned! Another entry will land shortly.