Day 66: Stealth camping on Little Bigelow to Pierce Pond Lean-To (20.2 mi)
Today was a great day, but it was long. We walked along so many ponds (which are more like lakes) and leap frogged with two other couples (Smiles & Honey Badger and Red Stripe & Baba Ganoush) and Biscuits. We had lunch on a dock with Biscuits at about 12:40 and then 4 mi later there was a tiny sandy beach where we all 7 hung out and swam (the two couples, us, and Biscuits).
The stretch of trail from lunch to the beach was especially boggy for about 2.5 miles and I started to feel so sleepy and tired. Taking a dip at that sandy beach and drinking some Nuun gave me a second wind for the final 6.3 mi to the shelter.
I left the beach before everyone else and started hiking. The trail was fantastic! It was piney and smooth (what we call “Hollywood trail”) with only a few patches of bog/mud/swamp. This allowed for a little bit of running in small bursts during the slightly downhill sections of the smooth trail.
Today was mostly FLAT! We are finished with the hard stuff of southern Maine now that we have the Bigelow mountains behind us. I’m sure we will still have our challenges, but we had great weather, flat terrain for the most part and a lot of smooth trail and pretty ponds. Good company helps as well!
Got to the lean-to and set up our tent with a beautiful view of the lake. We ate dinner with Biscuits and watched the sunset over the lake while listening to the loons. Our quinoa meal wasn’t quite filling enough so I ate a tortilla with some peanut butter from Biscuits which hit the spot. He also let me borrow his extra z-rest sleeping pad again which helps tremendously with warmth and comfort. He sleeps in a hammock so he only uses the pad for shelters or sitting on at camp. Double sleeping pad has been a nice game changer in quality of life!
Day 67: Pierce Pond Lean-To to Stealth camp by Moxie Pond Road (16.1 mi)
We slept in! It was Kennebec river day, which means you have to take a ferry across a large river. The ferry only runs from 9 am - 2 pm. Since we only had a 4 mile hike from our camp to the ferry, we took our time leaving camp this morning to get there in the neighborhood of 9 am.
Upon arrival to the river, the ferryman asked us if anything unusual happened to us last night. We said “no, why?” He said there was a man at large who swam across the river and asked a guy stealth camping on the bank of the river if he had an extra pair of shoes or a shirt. They think he probably used the trail and headed south. He asked if we heard the helicopters looking for him all night. We did not.
We took the “ferry” (a canoe) across and I even got a ferrymen’s blessing for tipping the ferryman. He drew us a map in the dirt with a stick for how to get to the Caratunk House and we walked the 5 minutes to the B&B. They had a very nice hiker resupply and we all three got snacks and something to eat then. I ate double oatmeal and Fresh Feet had double veggie burger. As we were sitting outside on the picnic table eating I got absolutely DEVOURED by no-see-ums. They left itchy welts all over my thighs and I had to leave and start hiking.
Then we hiked another 6ish miles to a shelter and I felt as though I was sleep waking. Fresh Feet suggested I take a dip in a nice stream and I did. It helped some, but I felt so sleepy tired this afternoon. It might have been the heat?
We then climbed a small mountain which was a nice change in pace from all of the more flat sections we have been walking recently. I enjoyed climbing and then getting the views after. I felt like there was a sense of accomplishment.
The descent was long and seemed to drag on forever, however.
Finally we made it to a stream where Biscuits and Fresh Feet filled up with water and I pushed on to find a stealth spot. On the way we passed by Moxie Pond on a short road walk section and there was a small dock and I washed off at the dock. Then we had a river ford and it was slightly scary, but I made it after some backtracking. I found a stealth spot and we set up camp and ate dinner when Smiles and Honey badger also showed up to stealth camp with us. I turned in early because of how tired I was today, hoping to get more sleep tonight before our supposedly very rainy day tomorrow.
Day 68: Stealth camp by Moxie Pond Road to Stealth camp by E Branch Piscataquis River (18 mi)
I had a pretty hard time sleeping because my no-see-um bites began to itch uncontrollably all at once. It was awful and I couldn’t help but scratch them because I was partly asleep.
We expected today to be pouring rain on us all day, but we got lucky! We had some drizzle, to sprinkle, to light rain, to only “tree rain” throughout the day, which kept the trail nicer. We were wet, our feet were very wet, but at least we didn’t have a giant puddle to walk in the entire day.
We started out the morning with a big climb up Moxie Bald Mountain. If we hadn’t been in a rain cloud, being on top of this bald summit provides some of the best views of the region. We had a misty and very windy and cold summit so we didn’t hang out on top at all.
We descended and arrived to a lean-to, but it was only 11:00 am and felt too early for our pm smoothies, so we took a quick break with Smiles, Honey Badger and Biscuits and then pressed on. About 4 miles later we decided to use up the water in our reservoirs to make our smoothies because there weren’t any good water sources around. The spring we were counting on did not look good.
We continued on another 5 miles to the next lean-to where we initially planned on ending our day. The first 2 miles were easy breezy and I ran most of it. Then we got to the biggest mud pit of the day and my foot went in above the ankle. Ugh. About 5 minutes later there was a river ford with a big rope across and I decided to just go with socks and shoes on, in hopes it would clean out some of the bog mud stink from my socks and shoes.
The next 3 miles were pretty easy regarding elevation, but the trail was rooty, rocky and slippy. I got to the lean-to and it was 3:45. Too early to call it a day. While taking a break and changing socks I got absolutely attacked by no-see-ums AGAIN! It felt like sharp shards of glass piercing/stinging me invisibly and and I felt like there was nothing I could do about it!
We pushed on two more miles, forded another river and decided to set up camp just on the other side of the river. The mosquitos and no-see-ums were really bad, so Fresh Feet put all of his energy into building a fire. We had some time since we got to camp around 5:00, which felt early. I set up the tent, filtered water and made dinner. Just as I was making dinner, Biscuits showed up and joined us while we ate a LOT of beans, rice, pumpkin seeds wrapped in tortillas. I felt really full after dinner which is getting more rare these days. The smoke from the wet fire did help deter the bugs and made being outside bearable.
However, once I got into the tent, the bites from the previous days and today were itching so badly and combined with the wool leggings I was wearing (which I think I sometimes have a skin sensitivity to), I started to break out into hives on my legs. I took a Benadryl and it helped until about 3:00 am. I didn’t get too much sleep and was pretty itchy and miserable!
Day 69: Stealth camp by E Branch Piscataquis River to Monson, ME (6.7 mi)
The terrain was smooth sailing this morning and we made great time getting into Monson. I knew we would be meeting up with friends (James and Rachel Madsen), but didn’t have cell service to contact them for a lot of the walk into town. I basically didn’t stop the whole way except to pee. The no-see-ums devoured me if I stopped or slowed and it was becoming intolerable.
When we got to hwy 15, we met James and Rachel in the parking lot and they drove us and Biscuits into the small town of Monson, ME. They immediately greeted us with vegan baked goods which absolutely hit the spot! What a treat! We then checked in to our hostel, got laundry started, took showers, washed our dishes, set out our wet tent to dry and opened our resupply box (THANK YOU JOSH AND PRISCILLA!!). Josh put some delicious homemade granola in the box for us and the Madsen’s brought us vegan yogurt, so we feasted on granola and yogurt while we waited for our laundry. Josh ALSO put in enough tortillas to get half the hostel through the hundred mile wilderness - clearly he has twins at home! Our resupply was a big one. We planned to carry 8 days for the next 120 miles, which is pretty heavy and adds up quickly.
The Madsen’s treated us to a delicious lunch where we ate so much and filled our bellies with real food and our hearts with real conversation. It was such a treat to get to be spoiled by the Madsen trail angel duo in one of the most remote sections of the trail (and country!).
We then stopped by the AT info center and got all the info we needed about Baxter State Park and our summit date. Baxter is extremely strict about a lot of things and our mount Katahdin summit will fall on Labor Day weekend, so it may be crowded and difficult to make everything work as it should in the next 8 days.
When we got back to Shaw’s (our AT hostel), I rested for quite a while. Caught up with my family some (although cell coverage was so spotty!) and caught up on the blog a little.
My headband never made it back from the laundry (grumble grumble), but we got coordinating southwestern bandanas at the gear shop at Shaw’s for Biscuits, Fresh Feet and myself. One of the hostel workers, Levar (“Fish”) went to the Austin Waldorf School and his sister and my sister know each other! Such a small world! He hiked the trail last year and is working up here at the hostel for the season with plans to do the John Muir trail next. What a fun connection.
We ate loaded vegan bagel sandwiches at the deli in the general store and went to bed. I covered myself in tiger balm hoping for some itch relief, and got some, but didn’t have a great night’s sleep due to the systemic histamine surge my body is fighting from all the bites from the last few days. My Sjögren’s disease can make my body have intense flare ups and skin reactions with regards to histamine seems to be one of my symptoms. Ugh.
The 100 mile wilderness awaits us in the morning. We will have the heaviest packs yet (the most we’ve carried has been 6 days) because we plan to go at a comfortable pace (some people just crush 25 mi days to not have to carry as much food). Since we still haven’t had a zero since VT, we are tired and will try to average 16-17 mi/day.