Monday, November 24, 2014

Smiles Not Miles

Follow this link below to the PayPal page. Read the blog post below this one to learn exactly what we will do with your contributions!

Donation Station -- CLICK HERE

Monday September 22nd
Weather: 60's gusty winds partly Cloudy
Trail: Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to to Piazza Rock Lean-to

Breakfast of oatmeal with pumpkin seeds, almonds, powdered milk, and elderberry syrup was enjoyed from a rock overlooking Sabbath Pond. Once again, I'm admiring the industrious submarine birds known up in these parts as Loons. Behind me a fiery red foliage of a Maple tree ignites under a concentrated spot of sunlight through a window of clouds. Reflections of this off the water mix with ripples and lily pads to form an autumn mosaic of wonder.

I am sore today. The miles behind me are catching up. The tendons and ligaments in my feet are feeling over-stretched, my left hamstring and right quad muscles are sore. But today's plan does not hold a major challenge. It's 9 miles on relatively easy terrain to ME4. The plan is to get a ride at ME4 into the town of Rangeley for a P.O. stop, and another ride back to the trail.

The rainy weather from the night before made for a cozy shelter sleep. There is no rain this morning, only droplets of water being blown off the forest canopy above. It still makes for wet hiking as vegetation along sides of the path brushes water against your legs as you walk. I am probably due for a bath anyways. The fall color is really beginning to pop on this partly sunny day. As the sun burns through a thin veil of mist, the reds, oranges, and ambers are glowing in autumn glory. I come to a small lake with a canoe. I wait around for an hour to see if Beans or MacGuyver want to join me for a paddle. There's rain still dripping from the trees in the wind, so I put up a tarp and layer up for warmth.

After about an hour-long mid morning break, I decide to brave the wind out on Little Swift River Pond. The aluminum boat is probably about 11 foot in length; Not meant for one person to paddle very easily. I try it anyways. Once beyond the shore-side canopy, there is a tailwind that blows me out to the middle of the lake and beyond. I barely have to paddle except to keep the boat straight. This is an extremely vivid memory in my mind as the wind is blowing the bright colors of autumn into my brain. The trees and shrubs along the lakeshore seem to be more brightly colored than interior shrubs and understory trees. Perhaps the reflection of light off the water and ample sunlight to trigger color change has caused this phenomenon. The paddle back is strenuous, I stay close to the shore avoiding the countering gusts. This small pond has some charm, but the unrelenting wind is making it difficult to really take it all in. It's a mini adventure, and a chance to get off my feet and to exercise the upper body.
Eventually the gang shows up from behind me. Rizza, and Beans stop to view the lake. Then we take off and head the final two miles to Highway ME4. Rizza decides to check into a hostel outside of the town of Rangeley, that happens to be a quarter mile walk up the road. This way he can get a shuttle to town which apparently is included with a night's stay. Beans and I stick out our thumbs for half an hour until an older man and his wife in a pick up truck slowed down and pulled over. That was a breezy, chilling ride. It's always interesting moving at such a speed after traveling at 3 miles per hour all day for several days.
We were efficient with our time at the post office, grocery, and diner. Efficient enough to be back at the end of town to stick our thumbs out as the sun was setting. We got a lucky hitch back to the trailhead for a 2 mile night hike to Piazza Rock shelter.

Tuesday September 23rd

Weather: cold, extremely windy, poor visibility on the Horn and Saddleback, clear views from Saddleback Junior.
Trail: Piazza Rock Lean-to to Poplar Ridge Lean-to 8.8 miles

 Breakfast over the fire!

We awoke to a pleasant morning day. I met some more thru-NOBO's TwoPack from Alberta, Chosen from Utah, and Hudson from Connecticut. Then, before beginning our big day over Saddleback, Two Pack and I did the short scramble without packs from the Lean-to up to Piazza Rock. No views from the top of this overhang, but the feature itself is very impressive!

Piazza Rock! Two Pack is doing the scramble to the top of this spectacular overhang boulder.

Beans and I headed out of camp around 9:30 that morning. We arrived at camp around 4:30. We only did 8.8 miles to Poplar Ridge Lean-to.
 "Onwards and upwards!"

The environment atop Saddleback was very surreal. At times, when the gusts of wind fell silent and the fog hung still in the air, I felt as if I was snorkeling through coral reefs. There are all sorts of interesting life forms that find home in this extremely harsh, mostly winter environment. In the photo below, white Reindeer Lichen can be seen surrounded by what I think may be dwarf blueberry ground cover. The Lichen remind me of cauliflower florets. All the coniferous growth is stunted by constant harsh winds and heavy snowfall.
  We thought we were going to have a 'good views' type of day over Saddleback. A view to Rangeley lake and beyond would have been quite a treat. But this was not the case!

 Here is a vista from Saddleback Jr. looking back at the Horn and Saddleback. The visibility has begun to clear up now that we've crossed over the foul-weather-prone main Saddleback.

My knee is beginning to give me some trouble. The steep, technical downhills are painful on my right miniscus. I talk to Beans along the last few miles down. We decide to stop early at the Poplar Ridge Lean-to. I am glad we stopped early. The volunteer trail maintainer for this section of trail has left hikers a very entertaining, 18 page Q&A for our reading pleasure. Dave Meeser has maintained the section of Appalachian Trail from the Horn to Obert Stream Campground since 1957! For dinner I sauteed garlic in coconut oil, simmered dehydrated broccoli, carrot, spinach, and added chicken flavor Ramen noodles, StoveTop stuffing and sun-dried tomatoes. It was declicious!

Wednesday September 24th

Weather: Spectacular sunny Autumn day!
Trail: 2.7 miles on the White Blaze; 10 miles on the Yellow Blaze (road)

My friend Steph has Smiles not Miles for a trail name. She is an easy going type of person who cares not about how many miles she hiked that day. I decided to adopt her trail mantra on the morning of September 24th.

I decided atop Poplar Ridge that the fun factor had decreased low enough to bail off the trail. My usable but painful knee injury that had been gradually getting worse over a few days was bad on steep technical down hills. And Saddleback had lots of those. Ibuprofen was just not helping. Poplar Ridge was not an easy place to bail. The trail at this location was miles from asphalt. Orbeton Stream was three steep miles downhill first thing in the morning. A jeep trail near the stream crossing took us (Beans left the trail with me) about a mile past an active logging site helping us to realize the important role the A.T. Conservancy plays in corridor land preservation. But Maine is big timber, and here we were walking on dirt roads used for snow machine travel in winter.

We walked eight miles of dusty logging roads passing trout and Atlantic salmon streams and homesteads and second summer homes. It wasn't the flat road walking that hurt my knee one bit. The roads made for good walking where one could achieve a nice rhythm. Finally we arrived at the almighty super speed black top highway. Stratton, ME here we come! We hitched into town with three rides. One ride was in a 1965 black Ford Mustang! Sweet ride.

We quickly found ourselves reconnecting with other thru-hikers that had been ahead of us on the trail. Four of us went into the White Wolf Lodge Inn for a hearty hiker meal. We all ordered and destroyed the Wolf Burger. Hudson insisted on being timed while eating his meal to the bare plate. I think his time was something like 3minutes 47 seconds to eat an entire plate of fries and a large beef patty stacked on top of a breakfast sausage patty stacked on top of 4 strips of bacon stacked on top of lettuce tomato and onion. I savored my Wolf Burger, and I was glad to be in the comforts of town and amongst good company.

Looking perplexed with this intimidating pile of meat on my plate. Four days of oatmeal and ramen noodles just doesn't compare with a meal like the Wolf Burger. 

 Follow this link below to the PayPal page. Read the blog post below this one to learn exactly what we will do with your contributions!

Donation Station -- CLICK HERE

No comments:

Post a Comment