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Backpacking the Appalachian Trail in July

Appalachian Trail Georgia to Maine

Date: 1 July 2000
AT milepoint: ?
July. My last month on the AT. It's hard to believe my trip is coming to an end. January and Amicalola Falls seems so long ago. In a few more days my six month trail anniversary will be here. Next month I don't even know where I will be.

I'm glad I waited on the weather yesterday. The Saddleback Range was awesome today. The ridge is glacially polished stone littered with debris from when the glaciers retreated. Most of the above treeline travel was exposed rock but there was some twisted krummolz and sedges too. Fantastic views of the mountains I will soon be travelling as well. It is possible that I views Mt. Katahdin without realizing it. Katahdin is the AT's norther terminus and I'll be watching for it.

I gained and lost a lot of elevation today. The trail goes straight up and down these mountainsides for thousands of vertical feet at a time. This area is supposed to be the most difficult in Maine. I'm not sure I agree. It is tiring but the actual trail seems to have less obstacles.

Towards the end of the day, I met southbounders Turtle and Willow. The couple warned me that the next shelter was already full and mentioned a nice ten spot they just passed. I think that is where I am at now. It certainly is a nice spot. On two sides it is bordered by a fast moving brook. near the water is a great spot that my tent now occupies. The bugs are not bad either. In fact all day the bugs have not been a problem which is good since it was warm enough for me to shed my shirt.

I'm all out of peanut butter and frosting after today's hike. Tomorrow I'll have to snack on pudding and granola bars to get me over Crocker and beyond. My food bag is getting lighter.

Transcribed on:    12-July-2000

Date: 2 July 2000
AT milepoint: 1979.3
Interesting day today. I finished off Crocker Mountain, north and south peaks as well as Lone Mountain and Spaulding Mountain earlier. The trail skirted around the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain and ski area. Today ends over 10,000 feet elevation gain and over 12,000 elevation loss since Spruce Mountain and the four ponds area, a 45 mile stretch.

The big excitement for today was the forest fire. An hour and nine minutes after meeting a sitting hiker on the trail, I encountered his hiking companions. They were at the smokey spot of a fire. It had burned the forest floor duff for a day or two. The four to six inch deep burn scar covered approximately 15-20 feet and contained within it's boundary a few scorched hot dogs and buns. Some idiots had built their fire on duff and not the dirt. Then they had not put the fire out and it smoldered.

The fire department was alerted by some southbounders who partially stamped out the small fire. I waited with them until the fire crew showed up. As it was a little late we decided to hitch into Stratton. I need stove fuel so I have to stop anyway.

The six of us got a ride from a guy in a pickup with an ATV in the bed. That was crowded—six hikers, six packs, and a 4 wheeler. He even gave us half a pizza to eat during the 60 mph ride. We lost a few toppings to the wind though.

For the night, three of us stayed at the White Wolf and the remainder went back with Ken, our hitch, to his cabin.

Transcribed on:    12-July-2000

Date: 3 July 2000
AT milepoint: 1984.4
I remembered to buy fuel before I left Stratton today. Now I have plenty for starting fires with a big "WHOOMP!". I am carrying an additional 4+ pounds of frosting and peanut butter too. A nice lady gave me a hitch back to the trailhead five miles away. I did not wait very long but it still was a later start than I wanted. Bigelow Mountain awaits.

It started raining as soon as I hit the trail and continued all day. I gained the ridge slowly and eventually made it to Horns Pond. I opted to stay here and fish rather than hike further and possible setup my tent in the rain. I'll make up the miles tomorrow—possible.

Oddly enough, another hiker here, Babe, recognized me from Wildcat Mountain in New Hampshire. She was sitting on a rocky section of trail with a view of Pinkham Notch and the Presidentials when I toiled by her. I remember envying her at the time. Now she;s sitting here with her Larry for some hiking in the Bigelows. They picked a rainy time to do it. Hi guys if you are reading this.

I never did get a fish so my dinner consisted of potatoes au gratin. The fish were jumping—just not on to my hook.

Transcribed on:    13-July-2000

Date: 4 July 2000
AT milepoint: ?
I finished my traverse of the Bigelows. South Horn was clouded but by the time I hiked to West Peak (el. 4145') and then Avery Peak (el. 4090') I was able to see my surroundings. Still, the air was hazy so Sugarloaf and Crocker were visible across the valley but not well. No rain for me but there was some thunder not far away.

I'm south of the 2.000 milepoint by just a few miles. I'm tenting on the beach at Flagstaff lake. I thought I was so clever doing this. The pond I headed to has a bit of a bug problem, I heard, but this lake is big and breezy so the insects were not bothering me. Plus, I would get to sleep on sand have have time for a dip. I did go for a dip, well a stroll into the lake really. However the breeze stopped while I was eating dinner and writing this entry. The biters arrived and drove me into my tent early. Now there is a horde of tiny biting flies on my screens and I need to open my tent door and secure myself against the approaching thunderstorm. I'm doomed.

Transcribed on:    13-July-2000

Date: 5 July 2000
AT milepoint: 2011.9
I got lucky last night and was able to stick just my arm out to cover up my air vents in the tent roof. I could not manage to hook them down so they blew back open during the night, but it wasn't raining then.

This morning the wind really picked up. My tent sure dried nicely but began to pull up the ground stakes. I knew it was time to go then.

I passed the 2,000 milepoint today on Roundtop mountain. I shouted a loud, "Whoo Hoo!" which I usually reserve for state lines. I figure I'll be out here for only another 9-10 days. Hard to believe.

Tonight I am thwarted from good food by the Kennebec River. Unlike other water crossings that I have forded easily by rock-hopping, the Kennebec is a large river and dams upstream release more water in the evening. My alternative to fording in the morning is the free ferry provided by the ATC and MATC. Hours of operation this time of year are 10-2. I'll probably use the ferry when Steve the Ferryman arrives.

I had originally planned to ford this evening and make it just over the river to 201 where Wilderness Expeditions rafting is being run by and ex-thruhiker. Word is that the guy feeds you leftover river-trip food and beer for free. That sounds good to me. I'll try to stop by tomorrow for lunch.

Nice and breezy here at Pierce Pond. It is a little chilly but nice. Waves are lapping on the rocks below the shelter and occasionally a coyote howls like last night at Flagstaff Lake. I'm alone although I passed many southbounders earlier. I saw much wildlife too but small stuff. Mostly it was snakes, frogs, and toads or snakes with toads inside them. There was also a very plump grouse.

Transcribed on:    17-July-2000

Date: 6 July 2000
AT milepoint: 2015.9
I forded the river this morning. I arrived on the rocky bank almost an hour and a half before the Ferry Dude. So I scouted around and found two possible spots and a second walking stick. The firs was the most direct route. I got three feet from the shore and turned back because the water was already past my knees. I walked upriver to my alternate spot where more stones were showing above water. The river rocks were round and slippery and progress was slow. The water was moving fairly fast and varied in depth from ankle to mid-thigh. I was very cautious as I wouldn't be the first thruhiker to drown here. Wading upstream, across, and back downstream took 35 minutes. I'm glad I did not wait around for the canoe ride.

At 201 I headed right and discovered that the little grocery store was out of business. I needed three more meals to get me to Monson, Maine. I turned around and headed to Wilderness Expeditions. It was about 2 1/2 miles away.

Much has happened since but to save my transcribers's fingers I'll give a quick summary. The guys here are awesome. They even took me to the nearest store. Now I have plenty of donuts for the next couple days. Also, I'm showered and fed too. Kurt the base manager is quite hospitable and I'm staying here the night. Their rafting company is hosting some live music at their lodge. River guides from the local area will descend on this place tonight. It's bound to be a fun time tonight. It is my reward for a heroic fording of the mighty Kennebec River.

Oh yes, this is my six month anniversary. In January I was on the approach trail to Springer Mountain. Tomorrow I will have been on the AT for six months. Now there are 151 miles remaining. I seem to be unconsciously stretching these last miles but the end is very near anyway.

Transcribed on:    17-July-2000

Date: 7 July 2000
AT milepoint: 2021.6
I returned to the trail today but not before a whitewater rafting trip. The Kennebec offered surprisingly good whitewater. After the big rapids, they brought out inflatable kayaks and duckies for us to play around some. That was a first for me and lots of fun. There was even a little wimpy whitewater to hit. Fun was had by all. We did not lose anyone overboard either. The only problem was experienced by the guy who videotaped us. He had a rough day. We should have been recording him with a second camera. But he is cool and brought me back to the trailhead this afternoon. My web address has been circulated to a few people there so "hello" is you are reading this. Thanks for making my six month point so memorable.

Pleasant Pond Leanto is housing Creen and Nor'easter in addition to myself. The poetic couple are southbounding. We have shared fantastic stories about some of the characters we have met on the trail. They are from Columbus, Ohio near a brewpub I've been known to patronize. It's a small world. I may have to hoist one in their name at Hosters when I'm visiting Columbus again.

Transcribed on:    17-July-2000

Date: 8 July 2000
AT milepoint: 2043.6
Wow I had planned on 22 miles today but they passed so easily. Pleasant Pond and Moxie Bald Mountains were the only ups and they were only in the 1,000-1,300 foot range. There were great views from Moxie though. The last nine miles were along the Piscataquis River gorge. I had to get into my sandals to ford the West Branch of the Piscataquis too. The crossing was kid's stuff.

Tomorrow I have an easy nine miles to Maine 15. Then I'm hitching into Monson where a maildrop awaits. I'll arrive Sunday so I'll spend the night at Shaws Boarding House and pick up my drop in the morning.

Manson is my last stop before entering the 100 mile wilderness and finishing at Baxter Peak on Mt. Katahdin. I will be done next week. Wow.

Transcribed on:    17-July-2000

Date: 9 July 2000
AT milepoint: 2052.6
Talk about an easy hitch! I hiked the nine miles to Maine 15. I stuck out my thumb for 10 feet and the first car pulled over while the hikers in the parking lot across the street asked if I needed a ride.

So I'm in Monson taking care of town business.

The renowned Shaws Boarding House is everything I heard. They serve a phenomenal amount of food here. The huge repast is being enjoyed by a motley collection of thru and section hikers, including the two gentlemen finishing up their 13 year AT hike.

Transcribed on:    17-July-2000

Date: 10 Jul 2000
AT milepoint: 2063.0
Last regular maildrop, last town stop, last town food, and last 104.1 miles. Tomorrow my remaining miles will be in the double digits.

I left Shaw's after donating a fair portion of my food to the hiker box. I'm planning on doing the "100-mile wilderness" on six days rations or less. It is actually closer to 90 miles and that should be more food than I need.

This is a busy spot tonight. There is a camp group and three southbounders tenting near the shelter. At the shelter are fellow northbounders Northwind and Billboard. Also the section hikers from Shaw's are here joined by Steve, his son.

Oh, Little Wilson Falls was oddly beautiful. It was only around 40 feet high but the slate it cut through was sharply broken in mostly 90 degree angles. Very weird. It looked like a bunch of building blocks.
Transcribed on:    19-Jul-2000 11:18:20 EDT

Date: 11 Jul 2000
AT milepoint: 2078.6
I took a picture of Billboard's and Northwind's tiny packs before they left this morning. The packs are 17 pounds before adding food. Of course, they are cold when they are stopped and at night. This morning they were in the fetal position trying to keep warm.

I said goodbye to the hiking brothers and Steve. I have Chuck's address so maybe we can swap summit photos. At the next shelter more people from Shaw's greeted me. It was an uncle, his girlfriend, and his two nephews. They're out doing a section of the AT. They were still drying out after the soaking they received hiking last evening during a short rain shower.

Barren, Fourth, Third, and Columbus Mountains awaited. It was definately a significant hike but not too bad. I'm feeling pretty strong and my food bag is getting lighter. I'll be finishing this trip with some high mile days.

I almost went beyond Chairback Mountain but decided to stay in the gap at the lean-to. I'm glad I did. I met some cool, fun southbounders here. Fall Girl and Firebreather to my right and Zigzag and Tuba Man to my left. Tuba Man is carrying a 30 pound tuba in addition to his 40 pound pack. Way to go! He didn't play while I was there though. I should have insisted. There are also some people tenting nearby.

The water source here sucks, but I was warned earlier so I humped some water in from a pond outlet down the trail. Everyone else is drinking yellow-brown stuff. It won't be their last time.

Best of luck, southbounders.
Transcribed on:    19-Jul-2000 11:27:27 EDT

Date: 12 Jul 2000
AT milepoint: 2095.7
I left the Barren-Chairback range and made a sandle-crossing of the Pleasant River. Just across the river is a stand of old growth white pine. A little further is Gulf Hagas which is home to many waterfalls. I took a side trail to Screw Auger Falls for pictures.

The whole day I was meeting southbounders. I almost talked too much. The day ended with a big climb up Gulf Hagas Mountain, West Peak, Hay Mountain, and Whitecap. I just about did not leave myself enough daylight. There are two more southers here as well as two additional northbound section hikers. Here is the Logan Brook Lean-to.

I ate my last Ramen Noodle tonight. Yea! Now I know my trip is finally coming to it's conclusion. For dessert someone left instant pudding which proved quite tasty to this hiker.

My socks and boots really, really stink!
Transcribed on:    19-Jul-2000 11:32:49 EDT

Date: 13 Jul 2000
AT milepoint: 2117.0
I'm taking a chance tonight. I'm spending the night on a beach without putting up my tent. I'm gambling that these bugs will go away during the night. That usually seems to be the case. I can't tell what the clouds are doing either. My tent and raingear are handy.

Easy walking today. After the remaining descent down Logan Brook Ravine to get off White Cap Mountain, the trail was flat except for two small areas.

-Ah yes, I think I just saw a bat skim over the water. Go bat, go!-

There are two beavers living near here and they have been swimming around since I arrived.

-I think more bats are needed here.-

The sun is down. The frogs are croaking. The mosquitoes are singing to me. The moon rose early and is almost full. The calm waters of Jo-Mary Lake are reflecting the remaining light. This is a nice place to be. My thruhike is finishing with some beautiful memories.
Transcribed on:    19-Jul-2000 11:38:52 EDT

Date: 14 Jul 2000
AT milepoint: 2137.0
Last map and last unfinished page in my mileage guide, the AT Data Book. Two days more and I am done. I'm glad I have a new job somewhere and a move out to Colorado to look forward to. My time out here has been everything I wanted and more, and it might be hard to leave the trail if I didn't have that consolation.

The AT couldn't let me finish without another four hours of hiking during a thunderstorm. Clothes and boots are wet again. The tent is wet now too since I'm using it here at Rainbow Stream. The lean-to is full with some sort of youth group and several others are camping out too.

Seems like the group did better than another I encountered today. One of the boys in that group was sprawled out on the trail getting swabbed down with cool water. It was hot then before the storm. I asked if there was anything I could do but the leaders had it under control.
Transcribed on:    19-Jul-2000 11:44:29 EDT

Date: 15 Jul 2000
AT milepoint: 2152.0
Looks like summit day will be Monday instead of tomorrow. I was all set to do another five and end the day in Baxter State Park at Daicey Pond Campground, but I heard the weather Sunday is supposed to be rainy. So I stopped after 15 miles concluding the "100-mile wilderness", at a private campground the AT passes after crossing the Penobscot River by bridge. Tomorrow I'll make for Daicey Pond or Katahdin Stream Campground if it is not packed already. That will leave either 7.6 or 5.2 miles for Monday. Plus I'll need to hike back down the 5.2. It will be a full day for sure. Katahdin is an impressive mountain.

I hiked in more rain this afternoon, but it was short-lived. Now it is more sunny than cloudy and I'm trying to dry my stuff out.

Let me just say these ducks here are so lucky that people are around. If this site was more secluded, I would be having duck cooked over the fire.

I caught up to the early-rising youth group on Rainbow Ledges. They seemed to be enjoying themselves unlike some of the other groups. They're fun to talk to as well. They greeted me with shouts of "Hardcore!" as I approached the open high spot and wished me "Good Luck" when I left. They even laughed at my stories and were grossed out to learn I've used primarily one pair of underwear the whole trip. The pair got better ventilated as the trip progressed.

For posterity's sake, I photographed my bare, wrinkled, calloused, sore, stinky feet today. My chance of getting a foot model job are nil. I may be able to better beg coins from people on a street corner when displaying them though.

Update: The ladies two sites down are cool. This is their 15th annual getaway campout. One thruhiked last year. She paddled by on the river earlier and asked if I was thruhiking. Then she camp back with a plateful of food and cookies for me. While I was over talking with them a moose came out into the river to feed. So, I got my moose picture by canoeing closer to it.

Update 2: They have brought a lacquered wood shaft and pay it much attention. Should I be scared they asked me to sign it? I'm only the second mail in 15 years to brave their compound.
Transcribed on:    19-Jul-2000 11:58:11 EDT

Date: 16 Jul 2000
AT milepoint: 2161.9
I made the correct choice. I'm sitting here at Abol Bridge Campground. The sky is grey, and I can't even see Katahdin because of low clouds. There has been a couple of drops of rain this morning although the night was dry. Time to finish packing and do today's miles.

Easy trip from Abol up the West Branch of the Penobscot River and then up Nesowadnehunk Stream to Daicey Pond. Turns out that there is a spot for me at Katahdin Stream Campground 2.5 miles further so I'll head back out soon.

It's a bit of culture shock using these car accessable campgrounds. Everyone is so clean and their clothes too. And they have so much stuff!\

Great view of Barren Mountain (a different one), The Owl, and Katahdin across Daicey Pond. It is mostly cloudy with the upper slopes of Katahdin in and out of the clouds. No rain yet. It is really something to be sitting here under "Greatest Mountain", Katahdin.

Katahdin Stream Campground (el. 1,070') - base camp.
I'm at the foot of the mountain. I've packed the small "loaner" daypack with my limited gear and food for tomorrow. My big pack and most of my stuff is still scattered. I'll load that one up after my last cooked meal, breakfast, on the trail. The big pack is staying at the ranger station until my return.
Transcribed on:    19-Jul-2000 12:06:19 EDT

Date: 17 Jul 2000
AT milepoint: 2167.1
Summit day began early. I woke up around 01:30 and could not get back to sleep so I was hiking before 05:30.

Clouds were heavy and low as I started the final 5.2 miles to Baxter Peak, the highest on Katahdin. My concern was primarily that inclement weather would force me to turn back or risk a lightning strike as I ascended above timberline. Also, some of the rock scrambles would be more dangerous if wet.

After an easy uphill mile to a crossing of Katahdin Stream, I collected a quart of crystal clear water to take with me. During breakfast I had already drank a quart and a half. With the cool temperature and light daypack, I did not think I would need more than a quart for the round trip.

Just past the crossing is a beautiful 50 foot cascade. Here Journeyman, a flip flopper who shared the lean-to with me last night, caught up. We helped each other out with photographs. He went back down to the crossing to get water, and I headed up the mountain further.

By now a light mist that I have come to associate with being in clouds was falling softly. The falls were at around 1,500 feet. For the next couple miles the trail would gain over 1,000 feet of elevation per mile. I cruised along easily though enjoying the woods and pleased that it appeared there was a possibility the sky would clear as the day continued. After becoming used to my standard backpack load, the daypack felt just like wearing a shirt.

At spots the trail passed over boulders or rock slabs that were slick with moisture and had to be negotiated with care. I still have the scab on my left leg from my previous slide down a rough rock. These spots became more numerous until I left treeline and entered and area of boulders. Then the trail was all rock scrambles. Journeyman had passed while I took a short break. We both wanted to hike and summit alone although this only marks the 1,000 milepoint for him.

Interesting and fun section. The boulders and air were heavy with water. No breeze stirred the cloud I was in and visibility was limited. I took things slow and made steady progress. At various points deemed "to difficult" by the park, iron hand and footholds were drilled into the bare rock. Since I generally leave these unnecessary crutches for the lamers out there, some spots required thinking and a bit of commitment. What annoys me the most is that the iron holds get in the way when I climb the route. Anyway, I made it through and after a quick passage through some trees was again on exposed rock.

The clouds were in two distinct layers. The lowest was now below me and the upper layer was close above me. This section of trail rises above and is visible from Daicey Pond on a clear day. I could not see the pond now, but a thin blue horizon was present. I haven't seen anything like it before.

The steep barren ridge climbed up to The Gateway, named thusly because it is the entrance to the Tablelands. The Tablelands are a stretch of gently ascending land near the foot of Baxter Peak. I made good time here and was rewarded with views promising better to come. About three hours had passed since leaving base at 1,070 feet. I was now over 3,500 feet higher at The Gateway.

Mount Katahdin's highest peak, Baxter, projected into the upper cloud layer and was not visible during my transit of the Tablelands. The clouds below formed a great, white sea and hid all else from view. The scene was fantastic.

The trail steepened during the last ascent to the peak. As I entered the clouds again the rocks and small alpine vegitation below me faded. I was excited though and hurried onward working up a sweat in the cool air. Before I knew it, I could see the dim shape of the summit sign and a large rock cairn. Journeyman had left the summit all to me so I could finish the trip as I started - alone. Thanks Journeyman. I approached slowly, soaking in the sight. I've seen the sign in many a photo and thought about it often but it was always far away. Standing before the sign at 5,268 feet I felt nothing - neither elation or sadness. The adventure was in the journey not in the destination. This trip may be over, but I will have others. I kissed the sign as many have done before me and was instantly transformed from a thruhiker to just a lowly day and weekend hiker.
Transcribed on:    19-Jul-2000 12:35:07 EDT

generated 19-Jul-2000 20:25:29 EDT

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