When I think of the 100 Mile Wilderness, the final lengthy stretch on the Appalachian Trail between Monson and Millinocket, Maine, an old Cat Stevens song comes to mind. “Miles from nowhere, I guess I’ll take my time, Oh yeah, to reach there.” Right now that’s what I’m planning to do—take my time. Some people zip through the wilderness in five days. Molar Man and I plan to take eight. That will put us in position for a summit date of September 2 or 3, hopefully. Today we walked into the “wilderness” at 7:20 and hiked 15.3 miles plus an additional 0.8 on a side trail to the Otter Pond parking area where Sweet Tooth was waiting.
From the outset the trail today didn’t look any different from other sections of trail we have hiked. Ups, downs, rocks, roots, mud, rock slabs, jagged rocks, more roots, blowdowns, streams to rock hop across, streams to ford, ups, downs, more roots, more rocks……need I say more. Ponds again made their presence known as well. There was Spectacle Pond, Bell Pond, Lily Pond, North Pond, and Mud Pond. Not to be outdone were the brooks. James Brook, Thompson Brook, and Wilber Brook required crossings. Then there were the streams. Little Wilson Stream, Big Wilson Stream, Vaughn Stream, and Long Pond Stream gave Molar Man and me ample opportunity for rock hops and fords.
If my brother had ever hiked this section of trail, it would have taken him a week to cover the 15.3 miles. He would have gotten himself a Maine fishing license and made a stop at each pond. Don loved the woods, but he loved fishing more. I have no clue what kind of fish might have been swimming in those ponds, but Don would have figured it out and known what lures to use for a big catch. I paused to think about my brother and take a photo at each of the ponds I passed today.
Sometime around mid-morning I noticed a familiar hiker up the trail. Funnybone, who I hadn’t seen since Salisbury, CT, was engaged in a conversation with Molar Man. He hiked along with us for awhile until we stopped for lunch. Yesterday we happened upon our first McDonalds since Gorham in Foxcroft, so I decided to bring along a double cheeseburger for lunch. I also carried a coke to make my first meal in the 100 Mile Wilderness a memorable one. Mountain Goat and Klutz walked by as MM and I ate. Klutz smiled her cute smile and said, “Mickey D’s.” Mountain goat asked, “Where did you find that?” They both good-naturedly laughed at the old guy with a burger on the trail.
About the time we finished lunch two sections hikers stopped to chat. Steve and his teenage son Sam were out to do the wilderness. They sported some mighty large packs, telling MM and me that they just couldn’t figure out what to leave behind. Steve said he had climbed Katahdin years ago, so I quizzed him a little regarding some concerns I have. He offered some appreciated positive assurance that I could make it. Later in the day I would see Steve slip from a rock and be in Big Wilson Stream almost to his waist. Sam had managed to stay dry on the rock hop.
Late in the afternoon Molar Man and I both tired. We had begun the day strong after yesterday’s rest; however, all the ups and downs kind of tuckered us both out. At the final water crossing, Long Pond Stream, Molar Man somehow figured out a passage across using rocks. Some in fact were submerged. I chose to ford after almost slipping in from a rock in the rushing waters. According to the AT Guide there are only three fords remaining. Thus far none have caused any real challenges. I just take my time, use my trekking poles for balance, and make sure I have a solid plant before taking the next step.
After what seemed like a long tiring day, Molar Man and I finally reached the blue blazed trail to the Long Pond Stream Lean-to. Two-tenths of a mile past the turn to the shelter we located the unmarked side trail to the Otter Pond Parking area. A little apprehensive since we weren’t positive that the trail we had taken was the right one, we hiked quickly, hoping that it was. When the white Volvo came into sight, we were two relieved, happy hikers. Within minutes we were on our way back to Greenville.
Tomorrow will offer us a day with more elevation, five mountains to climb, and several views. Molar Man suggested a very early start and I agreed. So a little after sunup we’ll once again be “Miles from nowhere,” as we make our way to “the mountain I have to climb” in the wilderness of Maine on the Appalachian Trail.