Thursday July 29th, 2021, 0600-1700
Gulf Hagas Brook to Vaughn Stream, SOBO AT mm 100.8
5095 gain, 5870 loss
What a pud-alicious day it was! The Chairbacks did not disappoint in their pud-ishment. But first I got to enjoy a leisurely hike down into a pretty valley, where I forded the Pleasant River. It did not please me to get wet shoes (which have been dry since the the first 2 days) so I changed into my camp shoes. My bungee laces make shoe changes quick and efficient. The ford was also easy.
Then came the first of many climbs, this being the biggest to get out of the valley. One small spell involved a talus field of sharp boulders that were hard to negotiate. The trail was all rock and root much of the rest of the day. Chairback mountain at least had some views, so I didn’t mind this first climb. The rest were just PUDs… pointless ups and downs. Even the trail makers were so bored and tired of them that they simple named 2 of them third and fourth mountain.
I didn’t take any breaks all morning but by lunch had only gone 13 miles. The trail was very quiet, as if everyone was avoiding this section. The hikers all came in waves at the beginning and end of the day, with only about 5 seen in the middle. I caught up to a SOBO guy, Silverback, named so because, as he told me, he weighed 300 lbs when starting the trip 16 days ago. He didn’t look that big but still obviously a very large guy with equally big pack. As much as I’ve been struggling to push 150 lbs (my pack and bodyweight) up what are essentially rock climbs, I couldn’t imagine what he’s going through. I also couldn’t imagine being out here for that long. I’ve been surprised by the number of folks with no experience coming into this. It’s some next-level hiking to be sure and definitely wouldn’t be my choice of places for learning the ropes. But hey, it can be done so why not.
I walked with Nate (his real name given as he didn’t seem sure about the trail name) for a bit, just trying help brighten his day. It’s easy to get downtrodden in such tough circumstances. My solution for nearly everything is to get done with it as quickly as possible but that’s not always an option. Eventually I pulled ahead as I was low on water and pushing to the next source.
The best part of the day was a bog that grows tons of carnivorous pitcher plants and sundews. These are common to Florida but I didn’t expect them in Maine. I also enjoyed some nice views and cell service after the last (5th?) climb, Barren mtn. Finally I was able to download the location info for my peak finder and start identifying some mountains. I thought I could see some of the Presidential mtns in New Hampshire but not yet apparently. Mt Bigalow was very prominent to the south. I’ll be going over it in a few days.
Some section hikers asked me about the weather forecast… it’s definitely supposed to rain tonight and some of tomorrow. Bummer. I set up camp pretty early as a result. I wanted to go a bit further but would have had to hike 5 more miles for a tent spot. A shelter was 3.5 miles but I was certain it would be full on a rainy night. I had just passed the 100 mile mark, so it seemed like a good mark to end on.
My site was great, with some deep pools in the stream and a waterfall. I had time to go for a dip and be ready before the rain. I pitched on a slight incline, figuring it would drain well if the rain became heavy. Just as I got back from my visit to the stream, the rain began. Perfect timing.