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During the summer of '73 I had a little adventure. In retrospect I look back on a trip where I was ill equipped, but totally psyched for the challenge. My goal was to start hiking on the Appalachian Trail at Mt. Katahdin in Maine and hike south to my home state of Maryland.
I had the whole summer to do it, so time wasn't a factor. My mentor was the backpacking guru, and author of the "Compleat Walker," Colin Fletcher. Of course, Mr. Fletcher didn't know I existed, but I read his book like the Bible. I had been "into" backpacking for about a year, ever since getting out of the Army.
A year in the hot, muggy army base at Long Than North in Vietnam had left me lean, but hardly mean. A year back in the U.S of A. and I was already starting to "slip." Twenty pounds overweight ain't so bad, except when your carrying a 60 pound pack.
Planning what went in that 60 pound pack was half the fun. I read everything the Appalachian Trail Conference published. A book called the "Appalachian Hiker" by Ed Garvey was probably my biggest inspiration to take this particular trip. The conference also published a list of mailstops near the trail and detailed trail guides for all the states that the AT goes through.
I used that list to plan where to mail my food. I left the list with my parents and planned to call them at strategic times and tell them where I'd be in two weeks. I boxed two weeks of food in a box so all they had to do was label it and drop it off at the post office. Thanks to Colin Fletcher, bless his heart, I packed a stick of mincemeat for every day of trip. I learned to hate mincemeat! Lots of oatmeal, instant soup and dehydrated dinners filled the rest of the menu.
On May 30, 1973 I gathered up my "World Famous(red, white, and blue)" pack, my Dunham boots, my swiss army knife, my sierra cup, my walking stick, my floppy hat and my trail journal and set off on my adventure. I recorded my daily adventures. What follows is my trail journal, as is. After reading it you may wonder why I endured such a masochistic adventure for as long as I did. The explanation is that I always wrote in my journal at the end of the day. By that time of day all the bugs and bogs and blisters had numbed my brain and my writing reflected the feelings of my beleaguered body rather than the deeper satisfaction of solitude and wilderness which I often experienced along the way. There were good times and not so good times. The story begins....
All buses were right on schedule. Arrived in Millinochet about 11:30 AM. Bus driver told me where to go to get a hamburger and how to get to the state park. After eating lunch I began hiking toward Baxter State Park holding the hitchhiking sign so cars approaching from the rear could see it. A couple with a pickup and boat picked me up after I had walked about a mile. They were very trailwise and gave me some helpful information. We stopped to take pictures of Katahdin. I promised to send them a card when I finished my hike.(H. R. Gallant, E. Millinocket, Maine 04430) Took a hike about a mile up the slope and also about a mile south. From the looks of these preliminary hikes I will have to watch for blazes and follow the guide book closely. Saw a cute little animal on my hike, but didn't have my camera. The black flies are pesky when eating, but when walking they don't bother me much. This leanto #6 costs $3.00 for two nights.
Chipmunk got into food bag. Ruined one days food. He really went wild over the mincemeat, but didn't seem to go for the oatmeal too much. The flies are pesky. Tonight will be the test. I'll have to devise some system for sleeping bugless. Insect repellent didn't last too long. Will hike up mountain tomorrow with just day pack, leaving food suspended in leanto. Will sleep here tomorrow and then head south Friday. Time for supper. Spaghetti tonight.(later) Spaghetti was good and served very large portion. Had to let it cool before eating. Washed dishes and filled gas tank. Bugs seem to be easing up a little as the evening cools. Guys who were here last night say there were not many bugs here. But it has rained here up until today(Sunny.)
It started raining last night. This day was a big disappointment. Had breakfast, then took most of the stuff out of my pack and put in what I would need to climb Katahdin. I started out wearing my poncho but it got too hot so I took it off. Before long I was soaked to the skin. I wasn't cold as long as I kept moving. I climbed above the treeline and when the going got real rough I left my pack(at about 3 miles from the summit.) I continued without it until I reached a point a little past the two mile marker. So I didn't reach the summit today and it looks like I have to wait till some other time to do it. Sure wish it would stop raining and clear up. The reason that I didn't go to the summit was that the visibility was to poor. Everything above the treeline was in the clouds. I think I'll start south tomorrow and not worry about climbing the mountain unless it is really sunny and hot. I haven't made up my mind for sure yet. I guess I'll wait and see how the weather is tomorrow. I think it's starting to clear up. I can see clouds moving overhead. Before, the sky was just a grey mass. I can see the mountain now.(later 6:30PM) Am anxious to give Katahdin another try. Finished supper and washed dishes and filled stove. Only used about 1/5 tank for all three meals put together. Now that it has stopped raining the bugs are back.
Up early and good weather. Decided to climb BaxterPeak. Part way up met Tom and Barry. May hike the rest of the time with them. They are walking all the way south. Reached the peak at about noon. It was cloudy so I didn't get any landscape shots. Had Barry take a couple of pictures of me standing near the summit sign. Also met my neighbors from yesterday on top. The climb was really rough. Coming down was much easier. It started raining on the way down the mountain. Had supper and went over to talk to Tom and Barry while they ate. I don't have a leanto tonight. I'm sleeping at a covered picnic table tonight. I will be ok as long as we don't get a hard blowing rain. Will start hiking south tomorrow morning about 7AM. Hope all my clothes dry out overnight. They never will if it keeps raining.
Started today about 7:30AM with Tom and Barry. Fell in river pack and all about 9:30. I think I ruined the camera. Arrived at Abol campsite about 1PM. Tom and Barry decided to stay here because Barry's feet were bothering him. I decided to push on alone. Trail was obscure in places headed for Hurd Brook Leanto. Arrived at Hurd Brook about 4:00. A couple was already there. They say the next section is fairly easy. Plan to go as far as Rainbow Lake shelter or maybe Wadliegh Pond. The trip there would be about 12 miles. I'll check the guidebook and if there aren't any river crossings between Rainbow and Wadliegh I may push on to there.
Late start. Waited till 8:30 to walk with a guy named Alan who came to Hurd Brook about 7:00PM last night. We took it rather slow to begin with and took some long breaks. At noon we stopped near the head of Rainbow lake for lunch. I decided not to eat lunch and pushed on without Alan. Fairly level walk to Rainbow lake leanto. This is a new leanto about 4 miles further south than where it is shown on the map. Will try to make Namakanta lake leanto tomorrow. If it is still early I may go on to Mahar Campground or Pataywadja Spring leanto. That would make up for some of the time I've lost these last 2 days. I am a few mile behind schedule. I guess I'll be walking alone again tomorrow. It is 7:00PM and I doubt that Alan will be coming in. He will probably spend the night along the trail. The weather looks good. My right boot heel has come loose. I tied it up this morning with nylon cord. Seems to be working. I hope it doesn't get any worse. I am sitting in front of the fire and it seems to be keeping the bugs away. The black flies were vicious today. Had trouble with mosquitoes last night. It doesn't seem as chilly tonight. Plan to get an early start in the morning. Should sleep well since I have a soft bough bed. Well, I'll be darned! Alan made it!
An incredible day. Hiked 16 miles through mud and gook and bugs. The bugs are getting worse. The mud and gook is about the same. Started out with Alan about 8:00AM. I left him at Wadliegh Pond leanto. He had foot trouble and wanted to rest. Hiked alone from there to here. This Potawadjoa Spring leanto is sitting in a mud puddle. Apparently due to spring seepage. My lips and the inside of my nose are a little dry. Plan to go on to Cooper Falls leanto at least. Maybe to Eastbranch Tote Road leanto. I hope the bugs let up when the sun goes down. They did yesterday. Alan's last name is Levander. He is form South Carolina. I probably won't see him again since I am hiking much faster than him. I may sleep without my bag tonight. It's pretty warm.
Long walk today, 18 miles. Boot is still holding up. But leather upper near heel is working open. From Potowadjoa to Cooper Brook fall was a mosquito infested mess. I hiked alone today. Met 4 people on the trail. This is a well situated leanto. When I was hiking here I saw a sign saying 2.9 miles to East Branch Pleasant River leanto. Then it seemed like about 5 minutes later that I was here. Maybe I was daydreaming or something and lost track of time. I'm going through a hilly section tomorrow. Hope to make 14-15 miles to White Brook leanto. My left foot really hurts in the back and on top this morning. It stopped hurting after a while on top. But the irritated Achilles tendon still hurts with the boot on. My legs are a mess from bites and scratches, but at least I have dry long pants to put on at the end of the day. Had to ford several streams and beaver flowages today again. Getting more confident at it. Saw a small snake today. That's one a day for the last three days. Laying here on my sleeping bag this place looks cozy. Would be nice to have a little company though. May possibly have poison ivy or something on my legs. It itches a little but I refuse to scratch. Guy at Cooper brook leanto gave me some nut mixture type snack to try. Is pretty good. I am tired. Must close up pack and get in bag.
Long tiring walk today. About 15 miles today with a climb over White Cap mountain. I just don't seem to have much luck with mountains. When I started up it was sunny. By the time I got to the top it was rainy, windy and cold. So I didn't even bother to climb the 0.3 mile to the firetower on top. There was nothing to see but the clouds. My right boot is still holding up. The leather down near the heel is taking a beating though. I got a bough bed again tonight. I am alone here. I didn't see anybody at all today. Guess I'll get to sleep and save my flashlight.
Came as far as Cloud Pond today. Bypassed Chairback on the blueblazed trail. It was foggy and wet this morning. That's why I didn't want to go over Chairback and to save my boot. 5 other people here tonight, a bit crowded. Hiked alone today.
Came as far as Old Stage Coach Road leanto today. Had a late
breakfast of bacon and eggs with some people at a place called
Bodfish Farm. An old guy at Wilson Campsite gave me a bottle of
soda. I itch all over from bug bites. I got some water boiling to
clean up my pots and cup. They seem kind of dirty. Only 6 miles
to Monson. I am really looking forward to spending a few day
there. I hope a room isn't too expensive. I hope I can get my
boot fixed tomorrow. I can't go on with it the way it is. I am
dying for a hamburger, coke, potato chips and pretzels. I plan to
buy some things like nuts and candy bars and cheese to take with
me on the trail. Since I haven't been eating my lunches I gave
them away. That spaghetti cooking sure does look good. I think
spaghetti is my favorite dehydrated dinner. I hiked alone again
today. I think I like it better alone. At least I write more when
I'm alone. I think that's a good sign. Plan to get a real early
start tomorrow and get into Monson as soon as I can. It should
only take about 2 hours. It's all on good trails and roads.
(7:30PM)Can hear the trucks on Me.HWY 15. Things to do in Monson:
1)Check post office for mail, Check on river crossings, check for room
2)Call home- tell to take out lunches, to take out 1 fuel can, to take out 1/2 of mincemeat from next package.
3)Get boots fixed
4)Mail home camera, film, bino's
5)Get some woodsman's fly dope
7)Buy junk to last till Caratunk
8)Save $5 for ferry
9)Things to get:Tea bags or hot chocolate, candy, cheese, rice, spices
Didn't sleep too well last night. It was hot, and buggy and the bed was hard. I finally figured that I could double my pad to make it thicker and cushion my back. I had wanted to get an early start but I didn't get going till 7:00AM. Still the trail to Monson was fairly good and I got there about 8:30AM. Mailed my camera and binoculars home and bought a few things. Had a hamburger, coke and french fries and headed out. Didn't get my heel fixed. I tried some dupont glue but that didn't work. Have made tentative plans to try 20 miles tomorrow. I will see what time it is when I get to Joe's Brook leanto and then decide if I want to try for Pleasant Pond. The flies at this leanto don't seem to mind smoke. The mileage for Pleasant Pond is apparently wrong in the fact sheet. According to the guide book it's about 20 miles or 2 miles further than what the fact sheet says.
Long hike today. I am now within a couple of hours walk of Caratunk. Will try to leave early tomorrow. I have to pick up my packages and find a way across the river. I am at Pleasant pond Mtn. leanto. This leanto is situated on a dirt road. A pickup truck just rode by. I really pushed hard today and I am tired. Must save my flashlight.
Got an early start and got into Caratunk about 8:30AM. I saw a cow moose on the way into town and followed it about a mile before it disappeared into the woods. Repacked my food and called home. Got this guy name Smith by dialing 3775 on the phone at the store and arranged to be taken across the river at 11:00. Everything went according to schedule and I arrived here at Pierce Pond shelter at about 1:30. I could probably pushed on but this is really a beautiful place and the heavy pack will take a little getting use to again. My feet can use the rest. I pushed hard yesterday and I still gained 10 miles today. My boots are drying in the sun. I haven't seen them this dry in a long while. When they dry completely I want to put some silver tape on the heel to help protect it.
Came as far as Jerome Brook leanto today. It started raining soon after I left this morning at 6:00AM. I was soaked till about 11:00 and then it got sunny and hot. Arrived here about 4:00PM. That is a good time to finish up. It leaves plenty of time for supper and dishes and snacks and planning and resting. I am sitting here now very comfortably with a cup of hot tea. I just finished supper. The mosquitoes were pretty bad today. I didn't sleep much last night because of the flies. Had a thundershower here shortly after I arrived. It hasn't really stopped yet. It cooled things off a little and I hope it puts down the bugs. They are not particularly pesky right now. I think tea is a great idea. Its easy to prepare and it goes down easier than the cold stuff. It goes much better than orange juice with the dehydrated dinners. I got plenty of boughs here for a soft bed tonight. I've got some hard climbing for the next couple of days. I hope the weather is better. I wouldn't want to get caught on one of those exposed summits in a thunderstorm. There is a crazy white-throated sparrow who was singing during the thunderstorm a little while ago. I hope it clears up soon so the brook where I get the water will have time to clear up. I have a piece of plastic from a plastic bottle tied on to protect my heel leather. It seems to be working ok. The twine I'm using doesn't last as long on the heel repair as the nylon did but it is more easy to replace since it is expendable and I can just cut it off. I may not have quite as much bug trouble tomorrow since I'll be at higher altitudes most of the time.(later)I am now in my sleeping bag. The trees are still dripping outside and the brook is quite high. The bugs don't seem to bad yet. I may get by without a headnet tonight.
Started out cloudy and stayed that way till after I got to Avary leanto. Had a fair view from the mountain. The clouds were high. Stepped in mud up to my knee this morning. Had a nice long visit with the fire warden this evening. His cabin is about 100 yards from here. Bough bed again tonight. A couple has their tent set up in the leanto. Clear sky and full moon tonight. Looks like a good day for tomorrow.
Had some fantastic views this morning from West Peak and the Horn. Really unbelievable. The rest of the day was downhill walking. Made real good time to Bigalow Village. Got to HWY 16 at about 1:00. Started to hitchhike to Stratton but gave up after about 15 minutes and started hiking south. Soon came to a well stocked shell station and bought a couple cokes and some chips and also some supplies for gorp. I will pass the 200 mile mark today which my 15th day of actual hiking. Things are going great. The jury rig on my boot is holding up well. I only replace the string about twice a day. Have plenty of string. I am at Mt. Sugarloaf leanto tonight. It's a little bit trashy. Not well maintained like most of the others. Kept my boots fairly dry today. Avery shelter is right up near the peak of a 4000 ft. high mountain. I am down at the base of Mt. Sugarloaf here with the bugs.(later) In my sleeping bag now. It just started raining outside. I think its just a short shower. I don't know whether I can trust the roof of this shelter. The guidebook says that it was built by the CCC in 1937 and it sure looks it. I am going to try for Poplar Ridge leanto tomorrow. The next day I'll take an easy 9 mile to Piazza rock. The next day I'll go to Rangely. It's only 5 miles to Route 4. From there I will hitchhike to Rangely. Then afterwards I'll go to Sabbath Day Pond leanto for the night. Just discovered that the roof was leaking so I moved over a little and found it was leaking in another place and dripping right on my head. I'm glad I found out about the leaks before it got dark
Just realized that when I get to Rangley in two day it will be Sunday. I hope they have a store or two open on Sunday. Did 13.2 miles today. I am at Poplar Ridge leanto. I didn't see anyone today and I am alone here tonight. It was wet, cold and windy(30-40 mph at least) going over Mt. Sugarloaf, the second highest peak in Maine. Off course I didn't see any view. It cleared up later in the day but stayed fairly cool. It is almost cold right now. No bugs at all here. The cold air seems to do the trick. I will sleep well tonight. Only 8.5 miles to do tomorrow. There won't be any chance to get my boot fixed in Rangley since it will be Sunday. I should be able to find a place to get a few goodies though. I hope. I will try breakfast in bed tomorrow.
A miserable day. Rainy and cold. And worst of all a good portion of the hike today was on open ridges and summits. It was an extremely cold wet walk in the clouds. My sleeping bag got a little wet. I arrived here at Piazza Rock leanto about 3:00PM and had a quick cup of hot tea. And climbed into my sleeping bag to try and dry out the wet spots with my body heat. It is about 6:00PM now. I think the rain is stopping. I hope the clouds go away and give a couple of hours of sunshine. I am still in my sleeping bag which is about the only way I can keep warm. My shirt and sweater are soaking wet.
Accomplished a lot today. Started out with a little of yesterdays chill in my bones. Hiked in long pants for the first time. They got thoroughly soaked on the trail to HWY 4. From there I started walking and hitchhiking. Got about 4 miles before a lady in a VW bus picked me up. Spent a couple hours in Rangley. Had bacon and eggs, and later had a hamburger and fries. Washed clothes and dried sleeping bag. Got an instant ride leaving town in a pickup truck. Arrived here at Sabbath Day Pond leanto at about 3:00PM. A fitting place to spend Sunday. Very pretty pond. If weather is good will go over Bemis Mtn. to Elephant Mtn. leanto. If weather is rotten I may take the blue blazed short cut and try for Squirrel Rock leanto.
Came 11.1 miles today to Elephant Mtn. leanto. This place is really well supplied with black flies. I am in my sleeping bag with sweatshirt and headnet and gloves to keep them off. They are pesky though just buzzing around. And I itch just thinking about them. I am pretty much right on schedule. Got a couple of days of rough hiking ahead. Will try for Fry Brook leanto tomorrow. That's 16-17 miles. But it is a lot of downhill and level walking. Had fair weather today. Some high clouds made it hazy. I hope it doesn't rain for a couple days till I get through Mahoosuc notch.
17 miles today. Made up for some lost time. Tired feet today.
Passed up Squirrel Rock leanto and pushed on to Frye Brook.
Stayed last night with three guys who caught up with me:
Jim Smith, 5751 Riverdale Rd.,Apt. 1B,College Park, Georgia 30349
Richard Judy,43 Wiltshire Drive, Avendale Est., Georgia, 30002
Bob Brugman,RD 3,Box 520,Flemington, NJ 08822
Am staying here with them again tonight.
Hard day today. Late 8:30 start. Climbed two really big mountains. Only came 10 miles but it was really rough 10 miles. Cost $1.00 to stay here at Speck Pond shelter. Had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the caretaker here. He promised some bacon for the morning. Another rough day tomorrow.
Today was really fascinating and rough. Went through Mahoosuc Notch- a precipitous boulder filled gorge. Took about 2 hours to go one mile. Only came about nine miles today but it took from 8:00AM to 7:00PM to do it. Scraped my elbows up slipping down a slope this afternoon. All is well. Will leave Maine tomorrow. Hope to go into Gorham for a hamburger at McDonalds.
Stopped in Gorham and called home to arrange for new boots and more money. Will be sent to Glencliff. Am at Rattle River.
A short hike today to Imp shelter--a cabin-like structure. There are about a dozen people here. Jim and Bob and Richard plus two guys form Virginia and their dog--Doug, Bruce and Dick(dog). May stay in hut tomorrow. Trail will be rough going for next few weeks. These mountains are high and the views are great. This shelter is about 3500 ft. and there was a great sunset. There are six thru-hikers here(Jim, Bob, Richard, me, Doug and Bruce.) Can see the lights in Gorham below.
A 14.5 mile hike today. Left Imp shelter around 7:30 this morning and arrived at Pinkam Notch just after 6:00PM. Was a couple hundred yards away when I heard the dinner bell ringing. Got excited and made a wrong turn in a swamp. Barely made it in time for dinner. Had more than I could eat--veal, potatoes, soup, cake and a few other things. It costs 12.50 to stay here and you get supper, breakfast and a trail lunch. I'm having the bill sent home. This is really great. Had a shower, but had to put dirty clothes back on. It still felt great to be clean. Thundershowers outside right now. Met Herb Fithian(thru hiker on his way from Georgia to Maine.) Also met Tom Barringer, head hutmaster for AMC.
Had a fantastic breakfast this morning. Tons of bacon and eggs and buns. A rather short hike today to Madison hut. They are filled and we(Jim and I) may have to sleep on the floor somewhere. Hiked with Jim Smith again today. Will have another big breakfast here tomorrow. Climbed Mt. Madison which is over a mile high. Had some very rewarding views.
Had a huge breakfast of pancakes this morning. Hiked all day above treeline. It was really clear and had some great views. Called home from the summit house on Mt. Washington(6,288 ft.)
Short hike to Ethan Pond leanto. Jim Smith went by a short route to Crawford House.
Short day again today. Only 8 or 9 miles. Plan to take three more days to get to Glencliff. Otherwise I would get there on Sunday if I rushed. Felt a little weak and decided to cut it short at Guyot shelter.
Late start. Rotten weather. Stopped at Galehead hut and asked for a handout(peanut butter and jelly sandwich.) While we were sitting there eating it the wind and rain got real bad. Decided to stay till it let up. It kept on raining and blowing so we decided to spend the night rather than chance going on in the foul weather.
It blew and rained all night and all day today. Had no choice but to stay here for another day and hope that the weather improves. Can't go over Mt. Lafeyette and Mt. Lincoln in the foul weather. It would be too dangerous. Spending night here again at Galehead hut.
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