This constitutes the second opening paragraph that I have constructed today. I decided to trash the first due to negative attitudinal content. It began with the statement, “I hate this trail.” That’s exactly how I felt much of the day. In the other opening, however, I proceeded to go into a tirade over my frustration with all the obstacles the AT keeps throwing in my direction. I’m no different from any other hiker. Everyone who steps foot on this oftentimes brutal “footpath” faces the very same trail conditions. So I deleted the draft that made me sound like a whiner. Regardless, today’s trail was no fun. It aggravated me from the first climb, taunted me with a smooth surface for about ten yards, laughed, and tossed a nostalgic “White Mountain-like descent at me near the end of the day. Sometimes, and I did say sometimes, I hate this trail.
The AT set the mood for today’s hike early when it placed a root in a position for my foot to snag. Before I had shed my rain jacket, I found myself face down in the dirt. Fortunately my head didn’t hit. My hands saved me. Still the fall from the trip on the root established a irritable attitude that, for whatever reason, I embraced throughout the day. Today’s hike was hard. I wasn’t looking for hard. I wanted the path to return. After all we are in the 100 Mile Wilderness, which I thought was supposed to be known for its fast terrain. Maybe the young folks are able to whiz right through, but this old body needed nine hours to cover the 15.0 miles.
The first challenge occurred on Barren Mountain. Molar Man and I started the day at a pretty good pace, arriving at the summit in under two hours after a 1600 foot ascent over just under three miles. Like other days and climbs, roots, rocks, and mud all made their presence known. What I had not expected was the need to use my hands a few times to pull myself up a rock face or balance myself by holding to a tree. With four more mountains still to be climbed, I was already bordering on exhaustion after the first. The 4:30 alarm might have also been a factor regarding my early fatigue.
After descending Barren Mountain we were confronted with Fourth Mountain. I’m always a bit leery of these “unnamed mountains.” Not only was Fourth another tough climb, but on the way up Molar Man and I had to deal with Fourth Mountain bog. A board walk helped us with that. From Fourth Mountain we moved to Third Mountain. I suggested to Molar Man that we name the two Joe and Henry respectively. He failed to see the humor. At least the climb up to Monument Cliff on Third Mountain wasn’t quite so steep.
After Third we came to my favorite mountain of the day. After almost a 500 foot ascent, we reached the peak of Columbus Mountain. Finally, after hiking 2100 miles, I have discovered in Maine a mountain that shares its name with my home town. I took a picture of the sign designating its name and elevation before starting another descent to the Chairback Gap Lean-to. The only northbound thru hiker we had seen all day, Sleeping Beauty, was taking a break there. SB agreed that the trail had been tough today.
From the lean-to we only had to climb 200 feet to the summit of Chairback Mountain. Despite some rock slabs, the climb wasn’t too bad. The descent, however, was downright treacherous. Slim even sent me a text warning. For about a tenth of a mile I thought I was back in the Whites. A very dangerous,
steep rocky trail forced me to hike with deliberation again. On more than one occasion I sat down to inch my way down a rock slab. It was tedious.
When we finally reached some dirt trail, we were able to hike at a faster pace all the way to the Katahdin Ironworks Rd. Sweet Tooth had arrived earlier and was offering some trail magic to Sleeping Beauty and a section hiker. Another north bound thru hiker that I had not met, Triceratops, also showed up. Sweet Tooth said that SB had already warned her about my irritability. I acknowledged it before dropping my pack to hike another half mile to the West Branch of the Pleasant River packless. Molar Man followed suit. Sweet Tooth drove up the road to meet us for the ride into Milo.
Tonight we are staying at a B &B in the home of Everett and Frieda Cook. A more delightful couple I have not met in Maine. When we arrived one of their great-granddaughters was over for a visit. For a while I worked on my journal sitting on a front porch bench swing until the mosquitoes forced me inside. I plan to get to bed earlier tonight because Molar Man and I have a bigger day planned for tomorrow. With a tired body and weakened knees, I hope to hike with a more positive attitude as I continue moving through Maine on the Appalachian Trail.