Wednesday July 28th, 2021, 0540-1910
Antlers campsite to Gulf Hagas Brook, SOBO AT mm 79.8
6037 gain, loss 5180
I called this hump day because it’s a Wednesday but also because I would be more than halfway done with the 100mw by the end of the day. And boy howdy did I exceed that, going much further than planned for my longest day yet on this trail.
To start things off, I visited the privy. It was labeled as ‘Fort Relief’ and had 2 seats side by side. I guess if you want to poop next to a friend or significant other, this is the place. Kind of odd.
Then I hit the trail for one of the cruisiest sections yet. The trail seemed to make use of some old logging roads as it was wide and smooth, just a pleasure to walk. The section was noted to have horrible mosquitoes but I guess I went too fast for them, as I only got a few bites. It helped that it was breezy, cool, and sunny…it almost felt like fall weather.
I made 4 miles by 7 and another 4 by 8:15! That’s better than 3 mph pace. In Millinocket, I was assured by a NOBO that had just finished the AT for the second time that I would only make 2 mph in the 100mw. Never trust a NOBO is a mantra we SOBOs like to say.
The first people I ran into today were Giddiup and Fearless, a couple that I have met 3 days in a row now. They are slackpacking the section and are from Bradenton FL. It was fun to see familiar faces first thing and we talked for a few minutes. They should be at the hostel where I’ll be in a few days, so hopefully I’ll see them once again. I next took a break at a nice shelter situated in front of a waterfall. I chatted with a few ladies that were there.
The easy-as-pie trail continued all the way to a logging road, where a 1500′ climb to Little Boardman mtn ensued. It wasn’t bad but the descent was steep, rocky and rooty. Goodby easy trail. At least I got a lot of good miles in. I stopped for lunch at another shelter, where I met a flip flopping couple, Snacks and Zips. There was also a nice lady with very good recall of trail details that gave some good, objective information about stretches coming up…you can trust some NOBOs.
A couple of guys from Fort Collins were also having lunch and I couldn’t help marvel at how awful their tortilla concoction looked…the beef jerky had the appearance of some animal having made a relief stop…
The afternoon involved a lot more climbing…the most yet. The trail went up about 2000′ to White Cap mtn and then a series of 3 more steep climbs to Hay mtn, West Peak, and Gulf Hagas. This series of mountain after mountain felt like the northern section of the Long Trail. On the way to the first summit, I caught up to Zack again. He was feeling ill, throwing up, had no appetite and too much food. He offered some to me and I figured I could at least help by taking some weight off. He gave me a Mountain House dinner and 2 chicken packets. I didn’t need any of this but it’s high value stuff I’ll be happy to eat later.
So with my pack having gained weight, I tackled all the climbs. Everything was as expected…tough, steep and tiring but nothing I hadn’t dealt with before. White Cap had a semi-alpine top with stunted trees and some great views of Katahdin and all the mountains to the south. Since I couldn’t see much when I climbed Katahdin, these were the best views yet…an appreciated win. Besides the early thunderstorm on Monday, the weather has been great for my 100mw trek… can’t complain.
I know I also said that this stretch doesn’t really feel like wilderness, but looking out over the landscape, it was striking just how vast all the lakes and forests are in this region. I couldn’t make out one town or even a house or farm. The only man-made signs are logging operations… I’ve seen or heard a few of these, plus there have been quite a few logging roads. Still, it is a pretty remote area.
It took me a long time to go over all the peaks. When planning the day, I had decided to shoot for a campsite that would have been 25 miles…more than enough. Only later did I read that the water source at the camp was really slow and maybe unreliable. Since I was feeling so good earlier in the day, I decided to push for the next shelter, another 2 miles. Now I was regretting this push. My feet hurt…namely a few toes that have some small blisters. And also I figured arriving a shelter so late would ensure that it was quite full.
I wasn’t wrong about this…it was quite packed. To be fair, everyone was very welcoming and accommodating, offering to help me find some tent space. I could have made a few spots work but I was so tired after 27 miles that I really wanted a quiet place just to crawl into my quilt and sleep. One guy suggested some sites he had seen down the trail and that was all it took to propel me on my way. After another mile and a half, I found a perfect spot alongside the stream, setting up just before dark. Too far and too late but at least this set me up for getting a headstart on the toughest stretch yet, the dreaded Chairback mountains.
This was my first night camping alone but the other nights have felt pretty solitary as well. It’s funny how many great campsites there are along the trail, completely empty or nearly so. Here they call them ‘stealth sites’ but on any other trail they’d just be campsites. The shelters are such a draw but they’re also a distraction from the elements I seek. To hear nothing but a loon call and the bullfrogs chant all night. No lights, no fire, no cigarette smoke, just fresh air, darkness, and peace. We’ll see how I feel about all this when it’s pissing rain but on these fairweather nights, I love the stealth.
Animals: I saw a cute little grouse at the top of White Cap.