Shaw’s has an optional $9 all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, which was a great way to start the day.
Today’s plan was a 15.3 mile hike from just north of the Long Pond Stream Lean-to, via a 0.7 mile side trail from a logging road, back to ME 15. Unfortunately, the two other people who had signed up for the shuttle there bailed, so I wound up stuck with an expensive shuttle today (and probably tomorrow as well). In retrospect, it would probably have been better to have just skipped slackpacking at all today and gotten a ride back to ME 15 and hiked north.
I got started a little after 8:30. The hike from the road to the AT was fairly steep, but also fairly easy, complicated by a tree that fell across the trail, forcing me to crawl under it since going around wasn’t a particularly good option.
About 3.5 miles in, the trail passed through the bottom of a rock field climbing a hundred feet uphill. It looked like that was the direction the trail was going to go (because, where else would it go?). Fortunately, though, the next blaze was just ahead, and not at the top of the rocks.
I took my first break at the Wilson Valley Lean-to, after about 5.6 miles, chatting with some hikers who had stayed there overnight and were late leaving.
About a mile later, the trail crossed the Big Wilson Stream. The water level there was a bit deep, and it took me almost fifteen minutes to figure out a safe way across.
I had been warned a few weeks ago that this whole section of the trail I’m doing today should be avoided in the rain due to a preponderance of black slate. In reality, there wasn’t that much of it on the trail, and while it’d certainly be a nicer hike without the ground being wet, I’m not really sure that it would have been as slick and slippery as had been suggested. There was a short section of exposed ridge, but nothing today that was so extensive that it would have been super-awful in the rain.
My second break today was after 9.7 miles, at the Little Wilson Falls, a wonderfully scenic place for a break.
My third break was at the Leeman Brook Lean-to, which I shared with three other hikers who had finished their day there. Getting back to the trail from the shelter was a bit tricky: the trail south from the shelter was a little hard to discern, but I found my way after a few minutes.
The last three miles of trail, from the shelter to the road, were fairly easy, though a bit steep at a few places. Just short of the road was a sign marking the entrance to the Hundred Mile Wilderness, warning hikers of the difficult of the trail and lack of resupply opportunities until Abol Bridge, 100 miles north. Having now done the first fifteen miles in reverse (and with a resupply and hostel after), it feels a tiny bit like cheating — it’s more like the 85 Mile Wilderness for me.
It was humid today, though I think not quite as bad as yesterday. In either case, I wasn’t as spent as I was yesterday.
I made it to the trailhead at 5:45, completing another milestone — less than 100 miles remaining — and got picked up by Shaw’s at 6. After getting back to the hostel, I immediately started running chores. Baxter State Park has a visitor’s center at Monson’s community center, and it’s recommended to visit there and pre-register for a permit to hike in Baxter State Park. (It’s a little funny: you don’t actually pick the permit up until you reach the ranger station at the foot of Katahdin, after already traveling ten miles through the park.) They also want you to indicate the date you’re expecting to summit, and what your plans are for overnighting in Baxter. There’s basically two options: The Birches, a limited-capacity free shelter for thru-hikers, or the paid Katahdin Stream Campground, slightly closer to the AT. (The point is to help people not get into a bad situation by not being able to get space at one of the options and be stuck trying to get out of the park overnight, since camping elsewhere is prohibited.) My plan is to make it to Baxter on Tuesday the 13th, giving me six days to finish 95 miles of the trail before summiting on the 14th.
After that was done (which involved tripping over a folded-up table lying on the ground when I went to use the community center’s restroom), I got dinner at Lakeshore House, and returned to Shaw’s to do my resupply (expensive, but very conveniently located).
After a shower, I hung out in the common room, waiting to do laundry and ignoring the movie was playing on the TV (The Last Samurai, on a scratched DVD that required some effort to play past the scratched part). By the time my laundry was done, it was fairly late, and with the lights out in my bunkroom, I wound up not being able to organize my resupply for doing a food drop, so I’ll have to do that tomorrow morning.