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.