(Note: this is part four of a multi-part series on the summer 2017 attempt at the 100 Mile Wilderness by dad, 40, and daughter, 11)
On July 3, 2017, we got a relatively late start, as the sun came out. We replicated a yard sale by hanging everything we owned out to dry, including our tent, on the shore of West Chairback Pond. Dad tried fishing, without success, while daughter caught some frogs and dodged leeches. The sun was wonderful after the hard rains and thunderstorms, and it was a huge morale boost to have all our clothing dry.
We were bothered by ants and flies at the top of Chairback Mountain while we tried to enjoy lunch, and it was a hot, steep descent of Chairback. We had some good conversations today, particularly about managing fear, and daughter said that the hike did not seem as long when we were talking. We agreed that ascent of Chairback from the north would have been very difficult.
A stop at a spring for two cold mugs of Tang was helpful in cooling us down, and recharging us. This was a good addition to our food/water, just a little liquid Tang concentrate to flavor our filtered water. We forded the West Branch of the Pleasant River, where we met a southbound thru-hiker who had run out of food, and who declined our offer of some of ours. It was exciting to walk off the map (MATC trail Map 3), and we hiked fast through the Gulf Hagas area. stopping briefly to admire the massive older-growth pines in The Hermitage.
One thing we noticed in this section of trail was our increased sense of smell. As there were many day-hikers going through Gulf Hagas, we could smell soap and shampoo and perfume on them from an impressive distance. The inverse, of course, was that we probably let off offensive odors to them when they got closer.
Gulf Hagas is a beautiful, wild area, and before we started the 100 Mile, we had discussed spending an extra day here if we got ahead on mileage. We were behind our pace, however, and did not tarry here. Dad had traveled here before in August 2016 with two cousins, the day after a Katahdin hike, and images are below from this trip, of waterfalls and a remaining blast furnace/kiln from the Katahdin Iron Works.
Dad and daughter plan to return here, and hopefully do a full 2018 blog post. For day-hikers, this area near Brownville can be reached through a gate run by Katahdin Ironworks Jo-Mary, Inc., in cooperation with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club. The entire round-trip of trails is 8-9 miles, and a map is available at the (pay) gate. There are no camping or fires allowed within Gulf Hagas, but there are pay campsites available through KI Jo-Mary along the Pleasant River and elsewhere.
The last 3.5 miles after the Gulf Hagas cut-off trail was brutal, a steady climb most of the way up Gulf Hagas Mountain with no good landmarks or mileage markers in the fading light, and we were discouraged, exhausted, and sore when we finally reached the Carl A. Newhall Lean-To around 8 PM. We had a funny moment when dad turned to daughter, and said, “This isn’t exactly child abuse, but it’s a little child abuse-y,” and she responded, “Are you sh***ing me?” then laughed.
The campsite was very crowded, with no level sites left, as well as a full contingent of Girl Scouts from Montreal, so we did what we could with a spot close to the lean-to, and fell into the tent. Daughter had Chili Mac, but couldn’t finish it, and dad had Chicken with Dumplings.
We did a lot of walking and climbing today, 11.2 miles worth, plus a .2 mile side trail. Dad only took two pictures this day, the featured photo at top, a sunrise over West Chairback Pond at 4:59 AM, and then this, a White Admiral butterfly perched on daughter’s hand at the campsite at 7:57 PM.
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