100 Mile Wilderness, Day 6 (Logan Brook Lean-To to site on Cooper Brook)

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(Note: this is part six of a multi-part series on the summer 2017 attempt at the 100 Mile Wilderness by dad, 40, and daughter, 11)
 
On Day 6, July 5, 2017, we got a nice early start, and descended White Cap into the flatlands.  Today was our first real day battling mosquitoes, deer flies, and horse flies, and we quickly realized that we should have each brought a can of Deep Woods  Off, instead of sharing one can. Daughter’s stomach issues intensified, and she had a headache for most of the day.  The heat and bugs did not help.
 
As per our usual routine, we planned to stop and take a snack break at the East Branch Lean-To, but when we approached, there were two women sunbathing topless right next to the lean-to.  When daughter asked why we had turned around, dad told her there were “boobies” there, and we continued on to the East Branch of the Pleasant River, with daughter wondering aloud why the women would do that, knowing everyone stopped at those places.
 
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The river was a perfect place to stop, sunny with cool water flowing, and hundreds of butterflies.  We stopped for lunch a little later at Mountain View Pond, a similarly beautiful spot.
 
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Due to daughter’s pepperoni boycott, we had done some trading, and dad gave her some of his energy bars in exchange.  On Little Boardman Mountain, we saw two groundhogs, which seemed smaller than the ones we are used to.  One ran across the trail right in front of us, and then the other one just stared at us from a few feet away.   We had a brief verbal battle over daughter’s water consumption, which dad did not think was enough.  This was a hot day, by far the warmest yet.
 
Our day turned for the better when we reached Crawford Pond.  We hiked to a sand beach, and used the opportunity to swim and take our first bath in days.  We took some pictures, and then looked at the beaver construction at the outlet of Crawford Pond, where we pumped and filtered some water before moving on towards the Cooper Brook Falls Lean-To.
 
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It was here, together, that we made a big tactical error.  It was already late in the day, but neither of us was tired, and we had quickly covered the flat 2.3 mile distance from Crawford to Cooper Brook.  We decided to try and push to either Cooper Pond (5.2 more miles) or the Antlers Campsite (7.9 more miles).  As the bugs had intensified, we put on long sleeve shirts, pants, hats, and mosquito nets, got our headlamps ready, and began.  We were almost instantly swarmed by the most mosquitoes we have ever seen in our lives.  They began biting us through our clothing, and on any exposed flesh- in this case, our hands.  No matter how fast we walked, or how hard we swung our arms, they kept attacking, and we looked for a place to get inside our tent.
 
Shortly before the Jo-Mary Road, about 3.6 miles on, we found a level campsite next to Cooper Brook, and set a speed record for setting up the tent.  Daughter got inside and killed off the mosquitoes who had made it in.  Dad suspended the bear bag, and while he was pulling one end of the line to raise it up, caught a glimpse of his right hand, which was almost black with swarming mosquitoes.
We cooked our meals under the rain cover, and watched the swarms move around between the tent and the rain cover.  Despite our thirst, neither of us wanted to get out of the tent to pump more water, so we shared the last couple ounces in dad’s Nalgene bottle, then went to sleep.  We totaled 15.2 miles today.

100 Mile Wilderness, Day 5 (Carl A. Newhall Lean-To to Logan Brook Lean-To)

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(Note: this is part five of a multi-part series on the summer 2017 attempt at the 100 Mile Wilderness by dad, 40, and daughter, 11)
The 4th of July, 2017 was our 5th day on the 100 Mile Wilderness, and we logged 7.2 miles.  We started tired, as we had ended late, the tent site was not level for sleeping, and the people around us got up very early and loudly.  Daughter had some stomach distress today, and we mentally went through what we had both eaten, as well as the water filtration system, but could not figure out the cause.  Either way, daughter said she was done with both oatmeal and pepperoni, two of our breakfast/lunch staples thus far.
We waited in the morning to have our coffee/hot chocolate, and brewed it when we got to the top of Gulf Hagas Mountain, which was a morale boost.  We refilled our water at a cold, clear spring by the Sidney Tappan Campsite, and enjoyed the cold drink.
A steady rain kicked in as we hiked West Mountain, Hay Mountain, and White Cap Mountain, and daughter hiked in her poncho (dad’s was useless- more on that later).
To mix things up, we made a hot lunch by substituting our dinner meals for the pepperoni/cheese roll-ups we had been eating.  We cooked the pouches during a break on Hay Mountain, and ate them at the top of White Cap.  We were both disappointed at being clouded in at White Cap, as we had been looking forward to the 4th of July views from the summit, which the MATC guide listed as “some of the best in the state.”
We didn’t see Katahdin, or anything else, due to the wet rain and clouds, but daughter flexed her muscles for a summit photo and we headed down the mountain to the Logan Brook Lean-To, arriving in the early afternoon.  The rain was intensifying, and we searched fruitlessly for a good, level campsite.  This was complicated by the massive amounts of moose droppings littering the area.
It began pouring, and daughter sat in the lean-to with some other hikers while dad set up the tent in the best spot he could find (still not very good).  Daughter got into the tent and immediately fell asleep, and I tried to set up our gear to dry out and pumped some filtered water into our hydration systems.  While daughter napped, dad wrote down our gear reviews thus far:
     – We both love our Osprey backpacks- just wish daughter’s had an external pouch for the hydration system like dad’s does.  Would also love a waterproof map case on one of the straps, for easy access.  Our pack rain covers are great for keeping everything dry.

 

– Our ponchos are awful.  Dad’s literally ripped (hood almost off) the first day, at the first campsite, and we would definitely spend more money on good raingear.

     – We both love the JetBoil stove, which doesn’t use much fuel, and heats water almost instantly.
     – Our Outdoor Research Stuff Sacks are awesome- we keep food and clothing in them, and the food bags can be suspended as bear bags- even in the rain, they keep everything dry.
     – Our beach towel-size PackTowls are perfect- lightweight and quick-drying, and we can wrap them around clothing at night to make makeshift pillows.
     – Our Kelty tent is extremely easy to set up, and has kept us dry in the rainy weather, even the crazy thunderstorms.
     The White Cap range was the last of the real mountains in our path, and we were excited to make some mileage on the flatter ground, with our packs lighter from food being eaten, and hoping for a break in the weather.  Dad’s handwritten notes for the day ended with “Wet weather has been a major factor so far.”

100 Mile Wilderness, Day 4 (West Chairback Pond to Carl A. Newhall Lean-To)

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(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.
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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.
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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.

100 Mile Wilderness, Day 3 (Long Pond Stream Lean-To to West Chairback Pond)

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(Note: this is part three of a multi-part series on the summer 2017 attempt at the 100 Mile Wilderness by dad, 40, and daughter, 11)
Our third day, July 2, 2017, we got an early start, even though all our clothes and socks were wet, and the area around the tent was a mud pit.  The morning light revealed tents around us, almost on top of each other, as people had crowded in the Long Pond Lean-To site to escape the strong thunderstorms overnight.  We enjoyed wonderful views on the way up Barren Mountain, as well as birdsongs we had been hearing throughout from a warbler, whose music we would hear throughout the hike whenever we got to higher elevations.  We also saw small finch-like birds with dark heads near the summits, but could not figure out if they were the singers.
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The light was particularly beautiful in the morning, and dad captured a good shot of daughter walking through the rays of sun during the ascent of Barren.  The temperature rose quickly.  We broke into our dark chocolate trail mix for the first time at the Barren Mountain Ledges, and found that this was one of the few food items of which we did not get tired.
We had a tough time with some of the map landmarks, and were briefly discouraged until we were suddenly on the peak of Barren Mountain, next to an abandoned fire tower.  We met another hiker there with his elderly father, who had hurt his ankle, and they were debating their options.  It was a very wet hike, and every hiker coming southbound seemed to make a comment about the wet, boggy conditions.
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Fourth Mountain had a bog with insectivorous pitcher plants, something we had not seen, so we took photos of those.  Third Mountain had great views, but, seemingly, many consecutive summits, and we were ecstatic when we reached the side trail to West Chairback Pond.  We had done 9.2 miles over the Barren-Chairback Range, and another .2 to the beautiful campsite overlooking the pond, which we discovered was, unfortunately, teeming with aggressive leeches.
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The shore contained several boats and canoes, and we wondered how (other than via the Appalachian Trail) people got in to use these.
We made a small campfire to boost morale, dry some of our equipment, and keep away the worst of the mosquitoes.  Despite (or maybe because of) the large number of fallen trees around, dad had a rough time finding a suitable spot to hang the bear bag.  With no other campers around and the strong smell of food, this was a priority.  Dad had Mountain House Chicken Teriyaki for dinner, and daughter had Pepper Steak.
Because the tent was still damp from the thunderstorms the night before, we left the rain fly off the tent, and were able to see the stars all night through the mesh above.

100 Mile Wilderness, Day 2 (Big Wilson Stream to Long Pond Stream Lean-To)

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(Note: this is part two of a multi-part series on the summer 2017 attempt at the 100 Mile Wilderness by dad, 40, and daughter, 11)
At 5.9 miles on July 1, 2017, this was our lowest mileage day, due to the many river fords, challenging terrain, and the wet conditions.  We left our campsite and hiked to the river ford at Big Wilson Stream (we would also ford Wilber Brook and Vaughn Stream).  We heard a train behind us, well after we had crossed the Montreal, Maine, and Atlantic Railroad right-of-way.
Long Pond Stream was a harrowing crossing, as the rain had swollen the stream into a river, and the trail crossing site consisted of a threadbare rope across rapids.  Dad crossed there, and lost a flip-flop almost immediately.  Daughter crossed upstream, and we were putting our shoes back on when she couldn’t find one of her socks.  We looked back across the torrent, and saw a lone wool sock sitting there on a rock.  Dad waited while daughter crossed and brought it back, the same way she had come before.
(Here is a great post from the Hiking Life on how to ford a river.)
The hike uphill to Long Pond Stream Lean-To was strenuous, and we were both impressed by the river gorge below us on the way up.  We had agreed to alternate planning our route/stopping point each day, so we got into our first real trail argument over where we would try to make it.  Daughter was tough, and enthusiastic about trying to make it to Cloud Pond Lean-To (4 miles up Barren Mountain past Long Pond Stream Lean-To).  Due to the darkening clouds and the lateness in the day, dad proposed Long Pond Stream.
A helpful Appalachian Trail volunteer ambassador unwittingly resolved our dispute when we met her headed down the trail in the opposite direction.  She told us that there was not much good water available on the mountain peaks, and that the weather made Long Pond a better destination tonight.  We pulled into the Long Pond Stream Lean-To area shortly thereafter, greeted the people in the lean-to, and looked for a level campsite.  We found one uphill, and set up our tent just in time, as the rain began coming down hard, and many other people arrived, looking for places to pitch tents.  Dad had Chili Mac for dinner, and daughter had Chicken Teriyaki.  Thunderstorms and hard rain all night.  When daughter saw dad’s pruny, swollen feet at the end of the day, she said they looked like “a princess’s worst nightmare.”
In the same vein, the hike today was a wet slog, and the only pictures we took were of some interesting mushrooms on the side of a tree, which were surrounded by slugs.

100 Mile Wilderness, Day 1 (Monson to Thompson Brook)

100 Mile Wilderness, Day 1 (Monson to Thompson Brook)
(Note: this is part one of a multi-part series on the summer 2017 attempt at the 100 Mile Wilderness by dad, 40, and daughter, 11)
On June 30, 2017, we began our 100 Mile Wilderness attempt at the trailhead off Route 15 in Monson, dropped off by grandfather.  Our plan was for mom or grandfather to pick us up at Abol Bridge in ten days.  Before we left home in southern Maine (very early) daughter and dad each weighed our packs/ourselves, and discovered that hers was around thirty pounds, and dad’s about fifty-five.  We missed the parking lot, had to turn around, and saw a male and female cedar waxwing staring at us from the guardrail, which we took as a good sign.
Around 8 AM, grandfather took a picture of us, and we started north into the 100 Mile Wilderness after signing into the trail log.  We read the sign, which said, “THERE ARE NO PLACES TO OBTAIN SUPPLIES OR GET HELP UNTIL ABOL BRIDGE 100 MILES NORTH. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS SECTION UNLESS YOU HAVE A MINIMUM OF 10 DAYS SUPPLIES AND ARE FULLY EQUIPPED.  THIS IS THE LONGEST WILDERNESS SECTION OF THE ENTIRE A.T. AND ITS DIFFICULTY SHOULD NOT BE UNDERESTIMATED.  GOOD HIKING! M.A.T.C.”
Shortly into the trip, dad slipped on two separate rocks, and cut the heel of his left hand and the pinkie of his right hand badly.  We agreed that hiking poles would have been helpful in the slippery conditions.
100 Mile Wilderness, Day 1 (Monson to Thompson Brook)
We traversed our first beaver dam, and we both marveled at the ingenuity of these small creatures.  At Leeman Brook Lean-To, we saw our first A.T. Shelter, and took a snack break, opening our peanut butter M&M’s.  We saw our first bear scat on the trail, as well as moose droppings everywhere, and a garter snake sunning itself on the trail.  We stopped briefly to talk to a (male) southbound thru-hiker whose trail name was “Starlight,” which daughter got a big kick out of.
Our first ford of the trip was Little Wilson Stream, which was challenging with the swift current and two heavy packs.  Dad went across, then came back for his pack, then for daughter’s pack, a sequence we repeated on all the fords that followed.
Little Wilson Falls
Little Wilson Falls.
This ford followed Little Wilson Falls (6.6 mi), an impressive 60′ waterfall where we took the obligatory “waterfall selfie” together.  There were also very attractive campsites surrounding Little Wilson Stream.
Big Wilson Cliffs
Big Wilson Cliffs.
After crossing Big Wilson Cliffs, we started looking for a good campsite, as we had a big ford coming up of Big Wilson Stream (9.7 mi), and we did not want to attempt it at the end of a long, rainy day.  We found a great spot at the intersection of Big Wilson Stream and Thompson Brook, 9.2 miles past our start, and soaked our feet in the cold water.
Camp set-up took the form it ended up taking the next several nights: we would both pitch the tent, and daughter would take care of the inside set-up/sleeping arrangements while dad hung up the bear bag and prepared our dinners.  We saw a bald eagle near our campsite, and we both had chili mac for dinner to celebrate our first day on the trail.  We started reading “A Walk in The Woods” by Bill Bryson under the light of the solar-powered lantern our friends had given us, and dad quickly learned how to edit dialog on the fly to make it child-appropriate.

Royce-Speckled Mountain Loop (WMNF and Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness)

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On June 3, 2017, we tackled a challenging overnight hike to test out our tent and sleeping gear (and our leg power).  We got the idea to attempt the Royce-Speckled Mountain Loop in the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) and the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness from the awesome SectionHiker blog.  This will be our first addition to our Links page, and this guy does an incredible job documenting hikes, gear, and everything else.  See here for details and map of the Royce-Speckled Mountain Loop from this treasure trove of hiking and backpacking information.  We loved the area, and you can check out our Caribou Mountain post for an alternate hike in the same area.

So, based upon internet research, trial and error, and sheer economics, we had settled on the Kelty Salida 2-person tent, and this was our first use of it while hiking.  This is 3 lb 14 oz, comes with a very effective rain fly, and we bought a footprint for it, as well, all of which came in handy later during our 100 Mile Wilderness attempt.  The Kelty Salida is easy to setup, cozy for two people (one big, one small), but enough space to sit up, and great for the elements.  Our packs and boots were too big to fit inside, but we managed to wedge them comfortably under the rain fly.

For sleeping bags, on recommendation from our cousin, we both got the Marmot NanoWave 55, (dad in a long, and daughter in a regular length).  These are insanely comfortable and packable, and we both enjoyed them.

Our sleeping pads were the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Mattress, again, comfortable and packable.  We felt they made for a good balance of being lightweight and durable, but also thick enough to keep us warm, dry, and cushioned (mostly) from the ground.

We got a late (mid-morning) start on June 3 from the parking area at the Brickett Place on ME 113, and then walked down ME 113, turning toward the Cold River Campground to the Basin Pond area to pick up the Basin Trail.  We enjoyed a break around noon at Hermit Falls.

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From here, it was an extremely steep climb to the Rim Junction, where we took a sharp right and picked up the Basin Rim Trail.

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The ridge turned out to be a great spot to have lunch and look back over Basin Pond, and the progress we’d made.  The weather turned cold and rainy as we ascended West Royce, and the footing became very difficult, slowing our progress.

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We descended West Royce carefully, and the light started fading for us.  Because we were losing daylight, we called an audible, bypassing the ascent and descent of East Royce, and continued on through Evans Notch to cross over ME 113 again, and started the gradual ascent of the Spruce Trail.  We passed the no-camping boundary, and immediately began looking for a campsite off the trail, as it was closing in on 7 PM.  Daughter began the set-up of the interior of the tent, while dad prepared the makeshift bear bag with Stuff Sacks and parachute cord.  We enjoyed a well-earned hot dinner of Mountain House freeze-dried Italian style Pepper Steak, and fell asleep quickly.

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In the morning, we started early on the eastern side of our loop, enjoying the morning light and changing vegetation in the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness on the way up Spruce Hill, and hit the summit of Speckled Mountain around 9:30 in the morning, the view seen in the featured image at the top of this blog post.

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The ridge hike across the Blueberry Ridge Trail yielded wonderful views, but the constant downhill and pounding over rock was difficult on daughter’s sore feet.  The descent of Blueberry Mountain was slick and brutal, and hiking poles would have helped with balance and footing.

We stopped at Bickford Brook so that daughter could soak her feet in the icy brook.  From there it was a short walk back to our car at the Brickett Place.  We totaled about 14 miles, across some pretty rugged terrain, and enjoyed the test of our overnight equipment.

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