Saturday, October 11, 2014

The White Mountains, New Hampshire...Conquering the Wildcats!!!!
















Monson to Caratunk, Maine














Conquering Katahdin and the 100 Mile Wilderness

So an amazing woman named, Kay, who has been following us on our blog, saw our post regarding wanting to flip-flop and looking for a ride to Maine.  Kay, who also lives in Fayetteville, NC, was heading to Vermont to finish hiking The Long Trail and offered to pick us up on her way to Vermont and drop us off in Maine.  Mom and I were blown away by her offer and graciously accepted.  

My former battalion Command Sergeant Major while I was at Ft. Bragg, Sam, lives in Scarborough, ME.  Sam had stated he would like to hike with mom and I up Katahdin when we reached Maine, so I contacted him as soon as I knew that we were definitely flip-flopping.  Sam stated he and his wife Cathy still wanted to hike Katahdin with us, but it would have to be over the weekend and we could stay at his place in the mean time.  So, Kay picked us up in Buena Vista, VA on Monday  18 August and we headed north.  We arrived at Sam and Cathy's Tuesday evening.  Kay spent the night and then headed on to Vermont Wednesday morning.  Mom and I spent the rest of the week relaxing at Sam and Cathy's.  

Saturday 23 August we got up, packed up and headed up to Baxter State Park, ME, in order to summit Baxter Peak, Katahdin on Sunday 24 August.  While eating breakfast Saturday morning, we looked out the backdoor and saw a Tom Turkey and 7 hens pecking up the dropped seed under Sam's bird feeder.




Sam made reservations for the four of us to stay in a cabin on Chimney Pond at Baxter State Park Saturday night.  The view was amazing and we arrived early enough to enjoy some canoeing on Chimney Pond.





 Sunday 24 August

Sunday morning we were up and headed up The Hunt Trail/AT to the summit of Mt. Katahdin/Baxter Peak at 0730 hours.
Hendo, Hendo's Mom, Cathy and Sam...we were smiling at the start.



The hike up started pretty moderate.
Hendo hiking up the rocky section of The Hunt Trail.

And then we hit the 1 mile vertical boulder climb.  Yes, if you look closely you will see white blazes marking the "trail".  The climb up and later in the down back down the boulder climb, was by far the hardest thing mom and I have ever done in our lives.


Hendo "hiking"/climbing up the Hunt Trail/AT to Katahdin summit.

Hendo wedging her leg in between two boulders on her way through the boulder climb.


After making it up the boulder climb we were greeted by The Tableland.  The Table land is relatively flat, but covered in rocks, so it is still slow going, hopping from rock to rock.


Finally we made it to the summit.  It was so great to see the Katahdin sign.  A shout out to all my Special Forces buddies...love ya!!

The hike up and back down Katahdin via the Hunt Trail/AT is 10.4 miles long.  It took us 15 hours to complete the hike.  Needless to say, Mom and I were absolutely exhausted and beat.  I had leg cramps in my inner thighs all night long.

We had planned to begin hiking south on Monday, but we were too beat up and spent three days in Millinocket recuperating and exchanging Mom's backpack.  We started trekking south through the 100 Mile Wilderness on Thursday 28 August.



Thursday 28 August - 4 Sept
 1st Half of Wilderness

While we did not find the 100 Mile Wilderness (100 MW) over physically taxing, we did find it tedious and slow.  The trail surface is primarily tangled roots, so it is very slow going.


Warning sign posted at the north end of the 100 Mile Wilderness:
"It is 100 miles south to the nearest town at Monson.  There are no places to obtain supplies or help until Monson.  Do not attempt this section unless you have a minimum of 10 days supplies and are fully equipped.  This is the longest wilderness section of the entire AT and its difficulty should not be underestimated.  Good Hiking.  MATC (Maine Appalachian Trail Club)"


Do to the extensive bogs in the 100 MW, split log walkways are common throughout the 100MW.  While some are 2 logs wide, most are only 1 log wide.  After successfully traversing miles of log beams, Mom and I feel we are now fully qualified to serve are back-up members of the Olympic balance beam team.



Split log walkway through the bogs.


It may look like we are bush-whacking our way through the woods, but we are not.  We are in fact on trail and following the White Blazed through the 100 MW.  The trail is just extremely gnarly.


Hendo's Mom making her way along the haggard trail.

Hendo hiking along the root bound trail in the 100 MW.

A lone White Blaze guides us on our way through the 100 MW.

Large stones in stead of log walkways to keep us out of the bog and on down the trail.


The red squirrels in Maine are unlike any other squirrels we have encountered.  Without any hesitation or fear, the red squirrels run right up the the edge of the trail and great us with pattering feet and extensive chattering.  They love peeling the pine cones to get to the seeds.  It often looks like it is raining pine cone petals as they nibble on the pine cones up in the trees and the petals fall down on us.

Red Squirrel enjoying a pine cone.

This is me and my friend Erica/Braveheart.  Braveheart is a fellow paratrooper, Iraq Veteran and 2014 thru-hiker.  She was diagnosed with MS during her thru-hike, but like any die-hard paratrooper, she kept trudging on and finished her hike.  We initially met after the Northbound 300 mile mark, and ran into her again as we were headed south and she was headed north, approximately 10 days from finishing.
Hendo and Braveheart


The one challenge of completing the 100 MW is resupplying your food.  There are no towns along the way to get off and get food at, so traditionally you have to carry 10 days of food to get through.  10 days of food is a lot of weight to slog along 100 miles.  Thankfully, there are hostiles at the northern and southern ends of the 100 MW that will do food drops for you.  So you pack 5 days of food and put 5 days of food, toilet paper, soda, beer, stove fuel, etc, in a 5 gallon bucket, which the hostile then hides in the woods along the trail for you to get halfway through.

Hendo retrieving our food cache.


In addition to lots of roots and rocks, there are a lot of rivers/streams to ford in the 100 MW and Maine .  Some you can rock hop, but others you have to put on your water shoes and walk through.  There were a couple of times though that the local beavers helped us out.  Below is a picture of Hendo crossing a stream via the beaver dam.

Hendo walking across the beaver dam.



5-11 September 2014
2nd/Southern half of 100 Mile Wilderness, Maine


Did mention that there are a lot of rocks/boulders and roots in Maine??  As you can see here our tent blended right in with the surrounding boulder scape.

Found a flat spot amongst the boulders for the night.

Watering up at the end of the day.  


While the norther half of the 100 MW is relatively flat, we got back to climbing mountains in the southern half.  The mountain climbing really wasn't that bad, especially because of some awesome rock work on White Cap Mountain.  Mom counted 800 rock steps, but that wasn't all of them, we estimate there were 1000-1500 stone steps in all.  We gladly gave them a right-side up Jolly Rovers Trail Crew bandanna for their amazing rock work!!!!  Other AT Clubs need to take noted from MATC!!!


Hendo's Mom giving her approval to the stone steps up White Cap Mt.


Hendo's Mom hiking up White Cap Mountain, Maine.

Look closely you will see the white blazes painted on the rocks leading up White Cap Mt.
Hendo's Mom almost to the summit of White Cap Mt.


Summit sign on top of White Cap Mt.


As I mentioned before river/stream/creek crossings are a regular occurrence in the 100 MW and Maine.  The West Branch Pleasant River was our first big ford where we had to put on our water shoes and roll up our pant legs.


Hendo fording West Branch Pleasant River.


Looky what we found, our own personal trail.  It's about time we got some recognition, haha!!  This sign marks the trail head for Henderson Brook Trail, just south of West Branch Pleasant River.


Our own trail, Henderson Brook Trail.


Today was a long day of hiking, 9.9 miles, capped off with a climb up Chairback Mountain.  This is the most technical hiking/climbing we have encountered since summiting Katahdin.  Needless to say, Hendo's Mom was not a happy camper.  Hendo ended up having Mom take off her pack so Mom could climb up without her pack on.  Hendo then attached Mom's pack to the bear line (50 feet of paracord) and pulled up Mom's backpack.
Hendo finding her way up Chairback Mountain.

Hendo pulling up Hendo's Mom's backpack.

Gorgeous sunset and moonrise from the top of Chairback Mountain.


Our work wasn't done once we got to the top of Chairback Mt.  The climb up to the Chairback Shelter was quite the climb itself.  We finally made it up though, had some dinner and passed out.  Mom was not a happy camper.  When we woke up the next morning we found the location of the shelter quite interesting.  If you look closely you will see a pile of rocks which is the fire ring approximately 6 feet in front of the shelter, and then there if the edge of the mountain dropping off.  Glad we didn't venture our too far when we had to pee in the middle of the night.

Chairback Gap Shelter perched precariously on the side of the mountain.


Hendo hiking up Fourth Mountain.

Gorgeous carnivorous Pitcher Plants in Fourth Mountain Bog.

Looking out from on top Barren Mountain.  The brown patches are sustainable logging forests.


Our second significant stream fording came at the end of the day on Tues 9 Sept as we had to cross Long Pond Stream.  There was a rope strung across the stream, so we were able to clip our packs to the rope with our carribeeners and push our packs to the other side along the rope.  It was much easier to do this than wearing our packs across.

Hendo fording Long Pond Stream


Our last big ford was across Big Wilson Stream.  This was the deepest of all of our fords, with the water coming up to our thighs.  Hendo's Mom was able to slide her pack across on the rope, but Hendo's pack was too heavy and would have drug through the water.  Therefore, Hendo had to wear her pack and use the rope to steady herself.
Hendo's Mom fording Big Wilson Stream


We exited the 100 MW and arrived in Monson, ME on Thurs 11 Sept.  One of Hendo's CVMA brother's, Magnum, was nice enough to give us a ride to and from town and was a huge help!!!
Hendo, Magnum and Hendo's Mom.