Appalachian Trail – The 100 Mile Wilderness – Day 4
By the fourth day, it felt like I was getting my “trail legs”. That means I wasn’t stumbling as much and hopped along from root to root, rock to rock, log to log, you get the picture. The Appalachian Trail as it passes through the Maine Wilderness is an unforgiving collection of bogs, roots, rocks and streams. There were times, no – hours of walking on tree roots. I haven’t figured out why those roots aren’t underground in Maine. By now, you can see my obsession with tree roots. Of all the terrain obstacles, roots are the worst. They trip you and make you calculate each step to avoid rolling down a hill. As we made our way through a ganglion of wooded tendrils, I wondered how many times we would step on, over and around them. Altogether, we would take about 250,000 steps on this hike. Each day 35,000+ steps. Now, after a few hours of walking we would have to stop, take off our shoes and let our feet cool off. This practice would enable us to hike longer and farther. The feet are amazing appendages. I learned from the Marines just how important it is to take care of the feet. Keep them dry, take care of the blisters and keep them clean.
On this day, we would trek up 5 mountains, over 7,000 ft. of elevation gain. The white blazes on the trees would be replaced by the occasional rock cairn or blazes painted on the rocks. At times, the granite was a collection of sharp stalagmite looking projections that would poke into our shoes. A fall here would definitely leave a mark.
The green tunnel of the lower forests would become a green gauntlet on the mountains. There were so many conifers up here, each one competing for the soil. At times, we could only see 10 feet or so off the path. The bugs were starting to get really annoying up here too. So, July is a pretty good time to hike up here as far as weather, but the pests are still abundant. When we reached the point where we were out of gas, we would have lunch. Today’s hike was much like yesterday and I was looking forward to getting these hills behind me. The climbs seemed longer and harder. Switchbacks are not very common on this section of the trail, so when you looked up, you would see a relentless, steep path. On one ascent, I heard someone whistling a pretty good rendition of the Star Wars theme. As I peeked around the next boulder, the young hiker who was on his way down said, “I thought you might need some encouragement”. You run into funny people on the trail.
On the fourth mountain, we would take a break at the Sydney Tappan Campsite, a rare, flat spot with grass. It had one of the classic privies, or in my neck of the woods an outhouse. Joe made it a point to use these civilized structures while I preferred the Yogi Bear method.
The chipmunks around the lean-to’s and campsites seemed especially adept at stealing food. I was on the lookout for them as they stealthily scampered around my pack. I fussed at them, threw a few pebbles as they chattered back at me. After a nice break, we began our last ascent of the day to White Cap Mountain. We were hoping to get some decent views at the top.
At the top, we dropped our packs and found a large, lichen-covered boulder facing west to catch the sunset. The air was cool as we took in the scenery. We retraced our path, pointing out each of the 8 mountains we had climbed. The contrast of the landscape made the colors of the sky even more brilliant. We acknowledged the creation of this vista did not randomly occur. The Lord’s majesty was all around us. After plenty of pics, we saddled up and began the steep climb down.
The northbound descent from White Cap was interesting with plenty of stone steps. The knees take a beating when you have hundreds of these steps, but it is better than an uneven trail. As darkness surrounded us, we began to search for a campsite, but as usual – there were none. We continued on for a couple of miles and stumbled into the Logan Brook Lean-To around 10 p.m. It was so dark that it seemed to suck the light from our headlamps. An unknown voice from the shelter said something about all the sites for tents were taken. We were so tired that we unpacked and rolled out our pads and sleeping bags in the lean-to. These structures will hold at least 6 people, so we joined the one other occupant and settled in for an uneasy nights’ sleep. Uneasy because it is a bit weird to sleep in the same structure with strangers. Fortunately, it was unlikely that serial killers would venture out this far into the wilderness, so as I drifted off my thoughts went to the other lean-to occupants – the mice. I did not want to share my sleeping bag with these vermin.
I used this lightweight for my hike on the AT: Deuter ACT Lite 65+10 Backpack – Emerald/Anthracite It holds up well and there is even a custom waterproof cover for it.