8/17 – Stratton – ME 27 to Safford Notch campsite [Bigelows]
8/18 – Safford Notch to West Carry Pond
8/19 – West Carry Pond to Pierce Pond
8/20 – Pierce Pond to Caratunk
8/21 – Caratunk to Bald Mountain Brook Lean-to
8/22 – Bald Mountain Brook to Horseshoe Canyon Lean-to
8/23 – Horseshoe Canyon to Monson
8/24 – Monson zero day
This “week” is an 8-day week that highlights completion of all of Maine (except the 100-mile wilderness, Baxter State Park and Mt. Katahdin) and preparation for the final push and the final week on the trail. When I joined Recon and Gbolt, I said (probably too often) “If I can get to Monson, I can finish this hike.” As I’ve tried to convey, while it has been (among many things) an adventure this thru-hike has been difficult. I always thought (and said) it would be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. About that, I was spot on, except it has been even harder.
The difficulty of the White Mountains and southern Maine at one time seemed a “bridge too far,” or a fortress that would not be penetrated. The mental and emotional stress had been building. The seemingly impossible task of New Hampshire and Maine spawned much doubt. Thankfully, I realized that I was not alone, that God had been faithful bringing me thus far, that raw self-reliance would not complete the task, so I more actively sought God’s will (see post for Week 25 – “Can I Finish This Alone?”). My time with Recon and Gbolt had been a gift. They provided company, encouragement, camaraderie, and support. Although we lost Recon to injury, Gbolt remained steady and continued to provide more of the same (and his faith would remind me to trust in God’s protection and provision) and would help me get closer to the finish – he would help me get to Monson.
While we had an enjoyable time and while my mental/emotional state was remarkably positive and energized, Week 27 was still mostly about putting more miles behind us.
We left Stratton on a nice day and had a challenging hike through the first four peaks of the Bigelow Mountains. Tough, but easier than many prior climbs, we had a great day with great views, and I even did a Mighty Blue (“Returning to Katahdin”) interview from the West Peak of the Bigelows. We had a very difficult descent from Avery Peak, but – thankfully – made it to camp before the forecasted rain. (We got dinner cooked, but had to eat in our tent/hammock, before the rain started.) Overnight the rain reached an intensity familiar to Noah, but Big Agnes kept me dry.
The next day we had to climb Little Bigelow, the last of the Bigelow Mountains, in fog, mist and rain. What was exciting and encouraging was that we were pretty sure we had finally completed the toughest part of Maine. Whatever remained, we were assured, would be much easier than what we had already accomplished. The rain eventually let up and we started a portion of the trip where we could and would enjoy many of the beautiful lakes (called “ponds” in Maine) along this part of the trail. Of particular note was our stay at Pierce Pond (see photograph on Facebook/Instagram).
Rather than push hard and reach Caratunk a day earlier, we pulled up at Pierce Pond on a beautiful Sunday in the early afternoon. We had a perfect campsite on the bank of the pond and rested by the water all afternoon. We visited a nearby fishing camp and waterfalls along the way. I noted that I probably had not had enough of these days along the way. We went to bed after a nice sunset, were “serenaded” by the loons, and even set an alarm so we could enjoy the stars on a clear night. I’d be remiss if I failed to note that this type of day, while enjoyable in its own right, also helped considerably in keeping a positive if not an energized outlook on the rest of the hike.
Much like the prior day, we had great weather, a short hike and a relaxing “Nero” in Caratunk. One feature of the day was getting ferried across the Kennebec River – by canoe. This is required as the river currents are too dangerous to ford. In Caratunk we stayed at the Caratunk House – a B & B and hostel (mostly a hostel). We did resupply for three days and enjoyed relaxing, making arrangements with Cheryl about meeting me at Katahdin, and getting caught up in our journaling – and also enjoyed great BBQ sandwiches and coffee milkshakes.
We left Caratunk after a great family style breakfast of eggs, bacon, home fries, bananas, and French toast. The hiking initially was remarkably easy as we set ourselves up for the last two climbs before Monson – Pleasant Pond Mountain and Maxie Bald. Pleasant Pond (and the intermediate Middle Mountain) proved relatively easy compared to so many things we had already climbed. The day was pleasant and we enjoyed wild blueberries and good views at the rocky summits.
Rain was forecast and it looked like we had the Lean-to to ourselves (and there were no mosquitos, so Gbolt and I decided to sleep in the shelter and keep our tents dry. It was only my third night in a shelter during the entire trip. The next morning was very humid, rain seemed imminent, but it held off until after we summited and descended Maxie Bald. Sadly, the peak was in clouds because the hike was unusually easy, interesting geologically, and the views would have been beautiful. But, for us, at least it was another peak “checked off.” Now, we had only an easy nine miles to Monson. I started thinking about actually finishing the hike.
On a gorgeous Thursday with a cool breeze reminding me of autumn days, we hiked to the trailhead just outside of Monson. Shaw’s Hiker Hostel picked us up and we got settled for a nero and a zero as we resupplied and prepared for the final stage of this tour – the 100 mile wilderness and Mt. Katahdin. As mentioned, much like those last couple of miles in a marathon, I had said if I could get to Monson, I’d finish. It was a little hard to believe, considering some of challenges and hurdles and doubts, I had made it to the doorway to the wilderness and what should be the final push to the finish. If nothing else, I was grateful to so many who had helped me get this far, including Recon, Gbolt, Carl, and Cheryl – all guided by God’s providence.
Next week – the 100-Mile Wilderness
Last modified: September 6, 2018