Monday July 26th, 2021, 0530-1600
Katahdin Stream Campground to Rainbow Lake Dam, SOBO AT mm 28.2
2726 gain, loss 2726
It was a very restful night, thank goodness. I heard Avery packing and out the gate by 1 am, but her slight rustlings barely registered. The sound of Katahdin Stream and my weariness from the big climb the day before ensured that I was out most of the night. Being mid-summer and so far north, it started getting light around 4:30 am. I usually wake with the light so I was on the trail by 5:30 am…earlier than planned but it felt good to get such a head start on the day. Even my fully loaded pack didn’t feel too bad… recall this was my first time using it, which was a big gamble for me. It’s frameless and without a hip belt, so the test was all on my shoulders.
The early morning was foggy and humid. I hoped for it to clear and be dry for a few hours. But by 6:30 am, it was starting to sprinkle and I heard rumblings just as I reached Little Niagra Falls. I thought it might just be a jet passing overhead but as the thunderstorm moved closer and the rumblings became more defined, I knew I was in for it. By 7 am, it was dark, lightening was flashing all around, and it started pouring. I was grumpy about this turn of events but mostly I was concerned for Avery being exposed on top the mountain. I hoped she was ok. If Bushcraft was to be her trail name, she could find a way to take cover and survive this.
Maine seemed determined to demonstrate that it does nothing but rain when I hit the AT. But as opposed to my first unprepared backpacking attempt, I came armed with an umbrella this time. It kept my upper half dry while my lower half got soaked. At least with the comfortable summertime temperatures, I wasn’t cold. In fact, I was feeling quite content with a pleasant flat stroll along the Penobscot River. I thought it might rain all day but by 8 am, it started to clear and the sun came out. I was surprised, in a good way.
I walked on, making great time to the park boundary. There I met an ATC ridgerunner, who monitors a part of the 100 mile wilderness. He was checking in NOBOs for the Birches site, last legal camp before Katahdin, which was already almost at capacity (12) by 08:30 am. Only thru-hiking NOBO’s are allowed to stay at the Birches, allowing them to get an early start on their quest for the summit the next day. Had I to do it all over again, I’d position myself near Abol Bridge, waiting for good weather to summit Katahdin, then pretend like like I was a NOBO to get a spot at the Birches…I know how to pass as an experienced thru-hiker after all. This way I wouldn’t have had to deal with the difficulty in getting campsite reservations months in advance, thus rolling the dice on what the summit weather would be like. Live and learn.
The Ridgerunner gave me some good info about the upcoming stretch and was a pleasure to talk to. I next hit the small store at Abol Bridge, buying a coke and resisting all else since I already had so much food. The mosquitoes had been chasing me down and biting the backs of my arms in the morning, so I was tempted to buy some bug spray. I never carry any because I don’t like the chemicals staying on my skin. Ultimately, I decided just to suffer or try to cover up. Maybe I could pilfer some spray from other hikers if it became unbearable. I had a head net at least.
A nice NOBO named Turtle chatted with me at the store. In exchange for info on the remaining spots at the Birches, he gave me his AMC thru-hiker pass good for discounts at campsites in the Whites and free food items at the huts (which he hadn’t used). I’d probably be outside the time limit on the pass once I got down there but it was a thoughtful gesture. He had the tiniest Palente pack I’ve ever seen, which made my pack look huge (well it did have 5 days of food in it!). Pack envy is not a thing I often suffer anymore but it can still happen.
I had made 10 miles by 10 am and was feeling quite proud and also strong. I crossed the wide Penobscot river on the bridge and entered the 100 mile wilderness. I decided to shoot for a site that was 15 more miles, bringing me to 25 miles for my first full day. But this seemed like too much maybe… I’d have to see how I felt after lunch.
I’d been told that the northern 60 miles of the 100MW were pretty flat but there was still a 1000′ climb to get up to Rainbow Ledges mid day. I had some shoulder soreness but the pack was still feeling pretty good for this ascent. I took my lunch break at the top, enjoying cell service, a view of Katahdin, and a pack of teen girls out for a week adventure. There were 13 of them with 2 counselors, only 2 years older at the wise old age of 19. They were all mostly stripped down to their underwear, drying out on the rocks. They apologized for their appearance as I approached and I just laughed and did a mock flip of my skirt. Their enthusiasm was contagious and I chatted with them a bit. They were all very outgoing. So nice to see young adults getting immersed in the wilds, especially women.
While I was up there, 2 more women arrived…both flip-floppers heading south like me. I also found a bunch of blueberries…yum! The sun became too intense after a bit…ironic after the dreary start…so I continued down to Rainbow lake. I’m not doing as much for sun protection on this hike, since it’s mostly in the trees, but there are some open areas now and again. The humidity today made me glad for my airy hiking dress. I’m very used to the humidity, coming from Miami, and even still it was oppressive at times.
The rest of the afternoon was spent hiking along a huge lake. I was still feeling good but checked the map for options. I saw that there was a campsite at the end of the lake, making for a 23 mile day. This seemed perfect and perhaps a little more quiet than the further shelter. I arrived by 4 pm, which is usually way too early to stop but I only needed to average 22 miles in the first week, so I was already ahead of the game. Plus, I did get a really early start and had thus been going for almost 12 hrs. I think I earned such an early finish on day 2.
I took the 0.2 mile side trail and was surprised to find a perfect campsite by the lake, completely empty. I had time to set up, go for a swim, wash and dry things, make dinner, and even do some body maintenance with my foam roller. It all felt so good, especially rinsing off all the sweat of this and the day before. I could stay out here forever with such conveniences.
After awhile, the 2 girls I met at lunch, Boose and Two Banks, arrived. Being fellow female hikers, I was happy to share the lovely site with them. It was just us for the rest of the night until 2 guys on a pontoon boat came by at dusk, presumably saw our tents and were grumpy about us taking their party spot. They proceeded to honk their horn a few times but fortunately retreated back down the lake…man-babies. Then all was blissful once again.
Animals for today: lots of frogs, toads and even a small snake. A flock of 9 loons swam by in the evening and I heard some calling mid day. I love loons!