Appalachian Trail – The 100 Mile Wilderness – Day 5
Other than the occasional pitter-patter of tiny mice feet, the night sleeping under the lean-to was uneventful. My food bag was hanging from a rope and I hoped that the critters had not eaten through the bag. Mice are great at climbing and one of the only deterrents is to hang a can or piece of PVC on the rope above the bag. Somehow the mice can’t pass the obstacle. With 40+ miles to go, it would be awful to have my provisions eaten by a rodent. Thankfully, my food bag was intact.
The other occupant in the lean-to was a middle-aged guy who was a southbound thru-hiker. His journey started at Mt. Katahdin in Maine and had over 2,000 miles to go. He gave us some good tips on the trail ahead of us, told us about his broken trekking pole in one of the most severe mud bogs. The reason there were no tent sites available was because of the 12 or so teenage girls spread out across 3 tents. They must have been girl scouts, because I couldn’t imagine your average teen hiking through this wilderness. Turns out, they were doing a partial hike of this area.
We shared our filtered water with the southbound thru-hiker, and hit the trail ready for a long mileage day. Expecting less elevation change, we hoped to make up some mileage over the next few days. The forest swallowed us up as we began to make good time. While the past couple of days had occasional breathtaking views from the mountaintops, today would be the typical green tunnel of the A.T. Numerous brook crossings and bogs would make the otherwise mundane trek more challenging.
One thing I haven’t mentioned was that in Maine the way they name their bodies of water is different from many other places. Maybe, this is a New England thing. You see, they use brooks and streams for what I normally would see as a stream, creek or river. A brook up here can range from a little trickle to a 40 ft. raging torrent. Streams are even bigger. Even stranger are the ponds and lakes. Up here, the ponds can range from an acre or so to hundreds of acres. Lakes can be the size of, well you get the idea. It’s a different way of thinking up here.
Our pace continued to pick up as our usual .8-1.2 mph uphill crawl increased to about 2.5 mph. We would pass a couple of shelters and had our lunch on a flat section of the trail. Often, we would just dump our packs and have our meals right in the middle of the A.T. I don’t think anyone ever walked through while we were eating on the path. After lunch, we came upon a sign that said “Sandy Beach” Our thoughts turned to a cool bath and an opportunity to rinse out our sweaty clothes. I won’t go into detail about how one smells after 5 days on the trail, but your olfactory senses are somewhat improved after you’ve been removed from civilization for a while. Granted, we would take anti-bacterial wipe “baths” each night, but there’s nothing like a real bath or shower.
The sandy beach was a strip about 5-10 ft wide on a large pond. The water was clear and the waves lapped the shoreline. We shed most of our clothes (except for skivvies) in case those girl scouts showed up, and I broke out the biodegradable soap and we had our first “real” bath of the week. The water was cool but not cold unless we went deep. We also took the opportunity to wash the clothes on our back. Using the same soap, we scrubbed them down, trying to remove a couple of days of trail grime and salt from our garments. We hung our clothes to dry on bushes along the shore with the hope that the warm mid-day sun would dry them out.
While we would have enjoyed some more time swimming, the goal for today was mileage. Feeling refreshed, we pressed on, had dinner on the trail and logged over 15 miles before finding a sweet campsite by a stream. Joe had a good ability to find sites in the dark. Making camp, I was finally able to get a decent fire going.
In fact, the fire was almost too good. The kindling and pine straw crackled and popped like a bowl of rice crispies. Joe had to pour some water on the outside of the campfire to keep the pine straw from lighting. The main reason for a fire here wasn’t really to stay warm, but it did keep most of the bugs away. Moths would be the exception, and I think Maine has 90% of the moth population in the U.S. Eventually, we would settle in for a great night’s sleep next to the babbling brook.