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 had been dry since my 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 ascent from the valley. One short spell involved a talus field of sharp boulders that were a trick to negotiate. A pair of NOBOs were heading in the wrong direction towards a cliff when I called out this small fact to them. Disbelieving, they questioned how it was that I was coming from the correct direction of the trail. I explained that logically, as a SOBO, I had arrived at a point on the trail ahead of them because I was coming from the other direction. I was also standing right on top of a white blaze at that moment, which wasn’t quite visible from their vantage point. They still seemed to be struggling with the absurdity of my claim and not keen on wasting my energy trying to explain further, I shrugged and continued on. NOBO’s don’t like to trust SOBO’s either but sometimes it easiest just to face reality.
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 the first climb. The rest were mostly 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. Still, I had fun.
I didn’t take any breaks all morning and 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 finally caught up to a SOBO guy, Silverback, named so because he weighed 300 lbs when starting the trip 16 days prior. He didn’t look that big but still obviously a pretty large guy with equally big pack. As much as I’d been struggling to push 150 lbs (my pack and bodyweight) up what were essentially short rock climbs, I could see how he was suffering. I’d been a bit surprised by the number of folks with no experience coming into the 100mw. It definitely wouldn’t be my choice of places for learning the ropes but 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 it done quickly, 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 mt. Finally I was able to download the location info for my peak finder and start identifying some mountains (a task I regretfully had forgotten to do before I started and thus was unprepared on top Whitecap mt). I thought I might be able to see some of the Presidential Range in New Hampshire but not yet apparently. Mt Bigalow was very prominent to the south. I’d 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 in 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.