Return to Maine Day Seven

 
Laura and I should be hiking an easy 10 miles from Katahdin Stream Campground back to Abol Bridge. We left that small bit last year when Laura broke her wrist. We actually thought we could hike the day after summitting Mt Katahdin? I can barely hobble down to breakfast in the hotel! Gary is considering using his hiking poles in the hallway!
There has been a stretch of three beautiful days and several hikers are staying in the hotel and recounting their hikes up and down the mountain. We all compare notes and congratulate each other on surviving. And Tim and Laura and Gary and I decide to drive home today. Those 10 miles will just have to wait for another year.
 
 
On the drive home we stop in Kennebunkport for lobster macaroni and cheese.
 
 
And we order the lobster special of the day, some amazing concoction of shrimp in garlic butter sauce in a split lobster. Fantastic! Sure would be nice to have a glass of champaign to toast a successful hike but that will have to wait until we get home. Home is sounding pretty good to me.
 
 
 
 
 

 

Return to Maine Day Six

We have set up our tent inside the Lean-To at Katahdin Stream Campground. I worried that I would not be able to sleep, anticipating tomorrow's hike up and back down the highest peak in Maine, the formidable Mount Katahdin, northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
 
Enjoying a nice campfire and the company of good friends, Laura and Tim, was relaxing and good weather forecast for the next day helped to ease anxiety. A round of Bailey's didn't hurt either!
 
 
We have to start our hike in the early dawn, just before 6am, to allow enough time to climb the mountain and then get back down. On a moderate hike of 10.4 miles, we might easily finish in around 5 hours. The trail to the top is only 5.2 miles, but the elevation gain is 5000 feet. Seriously, that's climbing straight up, hand over hand for most of the way. And of course, 5.2 miles dropping straight down. Strenuous, is an understatement. Why are we smiling here?
 
 
The guys seem pretty pumped too.
 
 
The first mile is fairly moderate to this beautiful waterfall.
 
 
Then the going gets tough. This hike is rated a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 for difficulty. “Short people will be at a serious disadvantage” the Guidebook states. I am a “short person” and many times I have to have Gary let me step in his clasped hands to get up the rocks, or have him haul me up, scrabbling on all fours. I just say to myself, I'm not the shortest person to ever climb this mountain.
 
 
Finely we get above tree line. I'm already tired and I see the Katahdin Spur ahead, the real work of the day. Gary asks, “What have we gotten into?” Two of the young guys hiking along with us choose to go back down now. I've decided that turning back is not an option unless we get injured, Gary really wants to quit or the weather turns bad.
 
 
 
It is amazingly difficult and exhausting and on my mind is– rebar. I know from the Trail Guide that there is a very tough, exposed section up ahead where iron bars are cemented into the rock to aid in climbing. I'm an experienced hiker and I know this is never good. I keep trying not think about it. Just focus on the next foot and hand hold.
 
 
Yeah, that would be the rebar. How on earth will I get up this? It's just sheer rock with nothing to hold on to. I have to wedge myself and brace my shaking legs into the cleft in the rocks until I can get one foot up on the first piece of iron and grab the bar above. Then Gary, already up there, tells me to heave myself up on the rock ledge on my belly. Kind of like powering up out of a swimming pool with arm strength. Holy crap.
 
 
I just keep repeating… Quitting is not an option. I don't have photos of the other section of rebar. It was just too scary to do anything but…do it.
 
 
Up the Katahdin Spur and still on our feet, we arrive at “The Tablelands.” I have been fantasizing about this part for hours! I want to kiss the ground but make my way slowly to the last push to the top. Follow the cairns now.
 
 
We meet Laura and Tim coming down here, the only time we have seen them all day. Laura is terrified of coming down.
 
 
YES!
 
 
YES! For both of us
 
I'm on top of the world and the views are spectacular.
 
 
Wow. They say on a clear day as we have, you can see all the way to the ocean.
 
 
A group of Thru Hikers have walked 2175 miles to end their journey on top of Mount Katahdin and we celebrate with them.
 
 
Gary and I do not spend a lot of time at the top. There is still getting down to accomplish. It takes a long time to carefully lower myself down the huge rocks, sliding on my side, my butt– anyway I can. It is not as strenuous because gravity helps us descend but it is scary and I have to have Gary “spot” me so I don't simply vault off the edges as I let go of my death grip on the granit hand holds. We are both exhausted and have to dig our headlamps out of backpacks as darkness catches us. We arrive in the parking lot at 8 pm so very glad to see Laura and Tim waiting. Incredibly, there are still people that are behind us. Laura and I immediately agree we can't talk about it now. We just want to drive into Milliknocket to our hotel, take a shower and crash into bed.
 
AT Miles 5.2 Back down 5.2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Return to Maine Day Five

It's about time we have an easy hiking day. Today we are hiking a fairly flat section. The Trail even follows an old woods road for a mile or two making for some fast hiking.
 
 
It was hard to get a good photo but the Cooper Brook Falls Lean To even boasts a nice swimming hole.
 
 
No time to dawdle, Gary is waiting for us in the car at the Trail head. Laura and I knock out these easy miles in about two hours.
 
 
This gate was the start of our 40 mile back pack last year. It feels good to connect to the end of the section and check out of logging country at Jo-Mary Road.
Cooper Brook to Jo-Mary Road
AT Miles 7.0

 

Return to Maine Day Three

There really are only two roads in the 100 Mile Wilderness, Jo Mary Road and Katahdin Iron Works Road and both are maintained and controlled by big logging companies. To drive on the roads, you have to register and fill out paper work at the gate house, list your itinerary and duration of stay and pay a hefty fee, per person. Then you have to be really good at navigating miles and miles of unmarked gravel or narrow dirt road and take your life in your hands, jerking the car to the edge of the road to avoid the huge, tandom logging trucks barreling down on you at unbelievable speeds, loaded with monster logs.
And I worry about tripping off a rock ledge while hiking?
We are on our way to the AMC Gorman Chairback Lodge, our home for the next two nights. Finely! I spot a moose!
 
 
Today is a tough hike up Chairback Mountain. Lots of rock talus to climb up and butt slide down. I hope the fabric holds out on my hiking pants…it's been worn prett thin.
 
 
There is also beautiful Fourth Mountain Bog to cross. There are rare insectivor Pitcher Plants and Sundews that trap insects for nutrients. I've only seen these at Longwood Gardens.
 
 
I love bog bridges.
 
 
And I really love it when there is a stairway! It takes weeks and weeks of tremendous hard work for trail crews to construct stairs of rock. It preserves the trail from erosion and sure makes for easier hiking.
 
I've been worried about the Barren Ledges, with their ominous name and something called the Barren Slide that sounds even worse.
 
 
But oh my gosh! The Ledges aren't a bit scary or dangerous. We actually don't even go near the Barren Slide, thankfully.
 
 
A great place for a boots off rest.
 
 
And a look back at Chairback Mountain. Been there, hiked that one.
 
AT miles 7.5 Access trails 2.3
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Return to Maine Day Two

It always amazes me how different the terrain is from one day to the next on the Appalachian Trail.
 
We are hiking across the Chairback Mountain range and there are “fins” of rock to cross, sometimes in the forest.
 
 
Sometimes on exposed ledges with great views. Yeah, that was hairy!
 
 
This photo is for my friend Jane who is “concerned” about walking on narrow trail with a serious drop down on both sides. A missed step here would not have been pretty… but the footing was quite secure. I was so grateful for no weather issues– rain, wind, sleet, snow or any combinations to scare the crap out of me and make the hiking more precarious.
 
 
No river crossings on this stretch. A hiker has placed a leaf to direct the trickle from this spring to make collecting water easier.
 
 
My policy is to treat or filter all water but Tim decided drinking was safe because the spring flowed directly from the rocks near the top of the mountain. Mother Nature's filtration system.
 
 
This was a very strenuous hike up that kicked my butt. My mind is working on the fact that we will be climbing up Mt Katahdin in a few days and the elevation is more than double what we did today. And much steeper.
 
And we still have to go down. What's that tiny white thing? Oh, that's a person waving at us and he's not even a quarter of the way down.
 
Third Mountain to KI Road
AT miles 7.0 Access Trails 1.5
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
.
 
 
 

 

Return to Maine Day One

 
Last week Gary and I drove to Maine to hike another section of the Appalachian Trail. Most of the time I didn't have internet access– or a cell phone signal, for that matter, and if we did have internet, I was way too tired to post. My blog is partly a diary and I might want to remember this hike some day, so I am recounting our trip now that we have returned home. I said “might” want to remember… Here we are at the Kineo View Motor Lodge undaunted at the start.
 
 
Near Greenville and Moosehead Lake, we are hiking in the 100 Mile Wilderness, famous for lack of road access. Almost everyone hiking this section of the Appalachian Trail backpacks, loaded with supplies for about 10 days.
 
 
But we are able to “slack pack” thanks to Laura finding remote logging roads and access trails. This means hiking more miles but we won't have to carry heavy backpacks and can drive back to a hotel and eat in a restaurant. Works for me!
 
 
I really am glad I don't have my big backpack to carry, fording these rivers.
 
 
Or rock hopping across smaller streams.
 
 
Moose did not make it across Big Wilson Stream…
 
 
But we all crossed safely, even though the cable was almost out of reach for Laura and I.
 
 
This is what happens to bridges in the high mountains of Maine. The ice breake-up and raging water during snow melt just destroys the structure and washes the ruble down stream.
 
Long Pond to Little Wilson Falls
AT miles 8.8 Access trail .8
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Twins!

No, not twin grand kids…but that would be really, really great! I decided I could not part with the quilt I made to donate to the International Quilt Association's Celebrity Mini Quilt Silent Auction at the Houston Quilt show.
So I made another one. Now I can't decide which one to donate, the darker leaf on the left, or the more aqua colored leaf on the right?

 
I'm mulling over the decision with a slice of peach pie. I made this pie in honor of my daughter, Caitlin's birthday this week. She likes pie for her birthday cake and even though she now lives so far away in California, I think it is important to carry on family traditions. Gary agrees. Now, this isn't the prettiest pie I've ever made. I can craft a really beautiful deckel edge, woven lattice pie crust. But what would be the point? All that time consuming hard work would be hidden under the monster big slab of vanilla ice cream I'm putting on top of my piece. And, now I have more time to sew!

 

Surrogate Quilter

 

I've been asked to donate a small wall quilt for this year's International Quilt Association's Celebrity Mini Quilt Silent Auction. The quilts will be hung during the annual judged show, Quilts…A World of Beauty, in Houston, Texas. I love that word celebrity! The quilt makers are authors, teachers, IQA Board Members and past Quilt Show award winners. That's me!

My quilt Mayapples won First Place in the Art Quilt Landscape category.

 

 

This year, my newest quilt, Sweetwater Gap Bloodroot, has been accepted into the competition and I am planning on going to Houston to enjoy the show. So, in making the donation quilt, why not pull out all the stops.
 
 
The quilts can be any style or technique, but I decided to do a small “Remarque” of the quilt that will be hanging in the show. I've had little time for creative sewing with the hiking trip to Maine and welcome Little Bodie trip to California. So I've been anxious to get back in the studio.
 
 
I selected some of the same fabrics used in the larger quilt and had fun with the blocks, quilting in my Layered Technique style. I love being able to use all kinds of threads, even the really glittery ones.
 
 
I have put the blocks up on my design wall so I can audition the silk center squares and flower appliqué pieces.
 
 
I like the quilt when the blocks are sewn together, even before the leaves and flowers are added.
 
 
This time I chose to fuse the appliqué down using Wonder Under. I left the edges of the leaves raw but finished the flower bud with a very tiny zigzag stitch to prevent the silk from fraying too much. Here is a close up of the free motion quilting on the appliqué.
 
 
Usually I finish my quilts in this block style with a Knife Edge finish for a clean, more contemporary look. I used this wonderful striped batique fabric as the facing on the back of the large Bloodroot quilt. It was screaming, Binding! at me for this small quilt.
 
 

The quilt is finished except for a label on the back and I have a big problem. I really like it! I don't want to donate it to the auction! This quilt would be a perfect example of fusing appliqué on the quilted top for my Quilting in Layers workshops. What to do? Send my new quilt “child” off to the black hole of Texas and into the hands of a stranger? I'm going to have to think about this…

 

 

Bodie’s Here!

 
I can't quite figure out why this line of Moda fabric by Tim and Beck is called Bartholo Meow, but I knew it would be perfect for a baby quilt. My daughter Caitlin, sent me a paint chip for color and the blue matches the nursery decor perfectly.
 
 
I saw this quilt on Pinterest and thought the block setting would work. I was able to buy a jelly roll of the Bartholo Meow collection and 2 yards of the gorgeous blue fabric.
 
 
I really love the lively colors. This was a fast and fun quilt to make.
 
 
 
Bodie is the sweetest little baby!
 
 
Bodie's big brother Ellis is eighteen months old and loves any sport that involves a ball. I think Cait and Danny are going to have so much fun with their two boys! I just wish they didn't live so far away.

 

Caratunk

 
We checked into the Sterling Inn, a hiker hostel and bed and breakfast hotel in Caratunk. No bunkhouse for us, since we are luxury hiking this trip, we opt for private rooms.
 
 
The Sterling Inn dates back to when the lumber companies floated logs down the Kennebeck River.
 
 
Our shuttle driver has dropped the four of us at Scott Road and we start out on this bog walkway.
 
 
I love bog bridges! I'm still hoping to see a moose but no luck here.
 
 
Not sure why this blaze deserves it's own little frame.
 
 
Just after lunch at Pierce Pond Lean-to, we have to cross the outlet of Pierce Pond on a very strange, old wooden dam. We were told at the hostel to take the blue blazed trail to avoid the damn. Sometimes on the Appalachian Trail, if something is particularly hazardous, especially in bad weather, there will be a trail “blue blazed” around it. Laura and I haven't blue blazed anything yet, and don't want to start now.
 
 
Different! But not at all scary, thankfully. I think it would be dangerous after a big rain or in high water.
 
 
The trail now descends along the river. Waterfall after waterfall, each one so beautiful, I am constantly stopping to take photos.
 
 
I'm pretty sure I saw a fisher, a mink-like critter, dart away from the bank here. I wish I could have gotten a photo!
 
 
Gary taking a photo of me crossing this unique bridge. You walk along the lower log, holding onto the two logs about waist high.
 
 
This amazing beaver dam was huge!
 
 
I think the beavers did a much better job here than humans did on the wooden dam we crossed earlier. There were two beaver lodges just below their dam.
 
 
Everyone waiting for me on the bank of the Kennebeck River. I have to take some ribbing for being last but I have been “awed out” today. It's been a magical hike with waterfalls, beaver dam, spotting a fisher and now, a very major milestone. Crossing the Kennebeck.
 
We are waiting for 2 o'clock when the ferry starts running. The Kennebeck is a huge river and the dam above releases water and causes the river to rise so fast you could never get across without being swept downstream by the current. So the state of Maine pays to have hikers paddled across in a canoe.
 
 
The canoe is the official route for the AT and even has a white blaze on the bottom.
 
 
What a great way to end a hike today.
 
 
I let Gary paddle in the front so I could admire the river and enjoy the ride.
 
AT miles hiked 8.2
 
Hiking trip total miles 39.6 Miles remaining to hike 817.0
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Day 5 Moxi Bald Mountain

 
Why do the signs only point South? We are hiking the opposite way, North from Moxi Pond Road to Bald Mountain Road. I've been a little nervous thinking about this hike. Mountains in Maine are big and the trails don't tend to be switch backed. Gary has dropped us off because he plans to spend the day fishing.
 
 
Just steps from the road we have to ford the inlet to Moxi Pond. “Ponds” in Maine would be called lakes anywhere else. This was supposed to be a rock hop but plenty of water flowing has forced us to ford. And it's pretty treacherous because you have to step down into the swift water, up past my thighs, make sure you're secure to take the next step and do it again until you get across. Those rocks don't make for a soft landing if you mis-step.
 
 
All safely across, we start hiking up the mountain immediately. It's a great trail up, steady and not too steep. Some cool rock formations to enjoy.
 
 
Tim is loving this and really wants to explore.
 
 
He wants to investigate this narrow slot but Laura vetoes the idea.
 
 
Think it will hold long enough to pass through?
 
 
Almost to the top. Love that blaze on the cairn.
 
I love this! Almost like a paved walkway! Just goes to remind me, you can look at the maps and mountain profile and worry about a hike and then be totally surprised at how lovely it is. And sometimes what looks like a stroll in the park on paper, makes my heart race and turns out to be adrenalin pumping, leg shaking scary. How many miles will I hike before I learn this lesson?
 
 
How is this for just plain spectacular!
 
 
It just keeps going. I'm so sad that Gary missed this hike.
 
 
It's all down hill from here.
 
 
Just to reinforce that “expectations” lesson, we face another unexpected water ford. This is the last straw for Laura! I think I would consider swimming, but fortunately it isn't that deep. As incredibly beautiful as it was, no way am I hiking back over that big mountain. I am very happy to see Gary waiting at the road crossing with the car.
AT miles hiked 10.8
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Day 4 Zero Day

 
A zero day is a day no miles are hiked. It's a day for resting and relaxing. The plan for today is to lounge on the dock, read a book and listen to the sound of loons calling to each other, a day to kayak around Lake Hebron.
 
 
I paddled around the point…
 
 
And spotted a bald eagle in a tree!
 
 
I parked my kayak in the still lake water and watched him for some time. A couple paddled by in a canoe and told me where to see his nest. I quickly located the huge nest– a big juvenile eagle was making quite a racket, waiting for mom to bring him a fish. Once fed, he quieted down and paced around the edge of the nest when his mother flew off to hunt again. How lucky I was to watch three eagles in their habitat.
 
 
Gary fished from the dock and could barely throw the line out before he caught a small blue gill or trout. Lots of catching, but no trophies.
 
 
Laura tried out a kayak for the first time and followed loons with babies riding on their mother's backs.
Sometimes the best days of the Appalachian Trail experience, not a mile is hiked, but the memories made are just as sweet as making progress toward Kahtadin.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Day 3 Fording Rivers

 

 
Today we are hiking from Bald Mountain Road to Lake Hebron and it is all about rivers. When we reach the West Branch of the Piscataquis River, we see all these little cairns hikers have stacked up at the waters edge. Heavy rains can make this river very dangerous. Hikers have drowned trying to ford the river in shoulder high water levels.
 
 
Gary is used to fording streams and walking in rivers to fly fish and he goes first. I am hot and sweaty and looking forward to cooling off.
 
 
This is the second river I have had to actually put on water shoes and ford. The current is swift and I'm very glad to have the cable to hold on to. I enjoyed the challenge and the cool water felt great!
 
 
All Gary can think about is why did he not bring the fly rod? All Laura can think about is, we have to ford the river a second time later…
 
 
The river tumbles and falls all along the trail today. I love it when the sound of the water is my companion. Watching every step and concentrating on staying on the trail. Too much gawking could get me in trouble.
 
 
When we reach the Each Branch of the Piscatauquis, Tim goes first and it's an easy crossing. When the river is high, hikers will tie their backpacks to the cable and pull them across. There is nothing worse than a soaked and sodden sleeping bag and water logged food. I am so happy that we have lucked out with perfect, dry weather. It's been a great day on the Appalachian Trail.
 
AT miles hiked 10.7
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Day 2 Little Wilson Falls

 

 
I love this photo of Laura contemplating Little Wilson Falls. I love waterfalls and Little Wilson is the highest waterfall on the Appalachian Trail. It was a hard slog getting up here. We are “slack packing” this section, meaning we are not carrying a loaded backpack with a tent, all our food and gear and sleeping on the trail. We are “day hiking” driving to where we can find a road that crosses the AT, or hiking a side trail to where it intersects the Appalachian Trail.
 
This morning we paid a driver to shuttle us to a forest road where we picked up a rugged trail that followed Little Wilson River, climbing straight up for about a mile and a half to reach the AT intersection.
 
 
This can be pretty difficult and confusing because many times the spur trails are not marked on the maps and sometimes, especially in Maine, even the dirt roads and logging roads are unmarked.
 
 
The top of the falls where you can walk to the edge. Laura doesn't walk to the edge of anything, especially waterfalls. But I want to make that extra mile and a half count.
 
 
Check and double check, where are those white blazes?
 
 
My eyes are constantly looking for moose in every likely pond and we pass several today. But no luck.
 
 
This beaver damn was very cool. Look how the water lever is as high as Laura's shoulders, held back by beaver engineering.
 
 
Impressive root snarls to negotiate. You call this a trail?
 
 
More like it! Laura and Gary taking a breather at the top. Follow the cairns instead of blazes now.
 
 
Our hike ends today at the parking lot before the start of the 100 Mile Wilderness. The sign says:
There are no places to obtain supplies or get help until Abol Bridge 100 miles north. Do not attempt this section unless you have a minimum of 10 days supplies. This is the longest wilderness section of the AT and it's difficulty should not be underestimated.
Sounds daunting! It is a very tough section. I know because I backpacked half of the 100 miles last summer. But tonight I will sleep in a real bed– right after a long, lovely shower. I love slack packing!
 
AT miles hiked 6.6 plus 1.5 spur trail
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Day 1 Warm Up

 
My brand new hiking boots don't look very new any more.
 
 
Laura plunged into a mud hole and her boots look worse than mine! We are all up in Maine to hike another section of the Appalachian Trail. After a long drive from Massachusetts, Laura and I stretch our legs for 3.3 miles between Maine Rt. 15 and the Lake Hebron trailhead.
 
 
Gary and Laura's husband, Tim, check into this house we have rented on Lake Hebron. No tents or backpacks on this “glam” hiking trip.
 
 
After unloading our cars, it's a short drive into Monson for dinner. No freeze dried food on this trip either! The ribs cooking in this huge smoker are on the plate tonight.
 
 
A cold beer pairs perfectly with ribs, cole slaw and grilled corn bread. The Long Trail is actually in Vermont but a section of it follows the same trail as the Appalachian Trail.
 
 
There is enough light left when we get back for Gary to try his luck with his fly line on Lake Hebron. I'll watch from the shore this time, listening to the call of loons and allowing the tranquil evening to settle around me.
AT miles hiked 3.3