July 19. First night sleeping in the 100 Mile Wilderness…cold! Around 3 AM I woke up frozen…probably because I sent home my 15 degree sleeping bag in Monson and traded to the light-weight fleece bag liner. Not very warm, but 2 lbs lighter, so at 3 AM I got up, put on my wind pants and Thermawrap jacket and zipped up tight…I had everything on now and even thought about getting my emergency blanket out and wrapping up in that. It is hard to get moving when the mornings are this chilly, it was probably in the high 50’s or low 60’s, but we were all up and on the trail by 6:30 AM, we had been talking the past few days and all of us wanted to try to do a 40 mile day before the end of the AT…the longest for all of us, and today was probably going to be our best chance. From this shelter there was another shelter 40.1 miles away…it would be a very long day!
The water crossings yesterday had taken a toll on my feet and my socks on the top of my ankles had rubbed my skin raw. As I put on my cold wet socks and shoes this morning I decided to try a trail fix…Gorilla Tape on my ankles to reduce the rubbing…should help! Either way, only a few more days, I think I can pretty much handle anything now for 3 more days! Right out of the lean-to we started climbing. We had to make it over White Cap Mountain this morning, a roughly 3,000 foot climb, and then the rest of the day would be relatively flat. The climb up was ok since it was still chilly and cool and we had fresh legs.
At the top of White Cap we took a break and rounded the corner and saw our first view of Mount Katahdin! It was huge! It is massive and dominates the surrounding landscape because everything is pretty flat and this huge mountain juts out of the wilderness. We could see the alpine areas, the ridge lines, and the top…only 73 more miles until we get there! We got some videos and pictures and took it all in for a minute but the cold breeze kept us moving. We dropped off the mountain and made it to the Logan Brook Lean-To and took another break. JD made more coffee and Rafiki and I put down some food. We headed out and on the way down the hill we passed an amazing water spring. It was covered and had water flowing out of a pipe. I sat and drank my bottle of water, refilled, and drank some more. This is something I am sure I will miss the most from the trail…mountain spring water!
We pushed on to the next shelter and Rafiki beat me there. As I headed down the shelter trail I caught the toe of my shoe on a tree root and didn’t have time to bring my foot back up under me. This happens often, I catch my toe or shoe, but regain my balance…not this time. My upper body kept moving forward while my foot was caught, I was in trouble! All I remember is falling forward, face first to the ground. I hit hard and can remember hearing my head phone crack against my ear…it didn’t break, but it hit hard! I was face first in the dirt and the fall wasn’t over…I was also heading downhill and fell hard, so this fall was the type where your backside continues to move forward and I could feel my legs and feet raise off the ground and drive my face further into the dirt. I finally stopped moving, took a minute to catch my breath, and picked myself up off the ground. It was a hard fall so I sat on my knees for a bit to make sure I was ok. I had leaves and dirt all over my shorts, my shirt, arms and legs, in my beard, in my hair, on my face…what a fall! I looked around, Rafiki was in the shelter and didn’t see it…JD was too far behind me…darn, it is always better if someone sees the fall. I stood up and started walking down the trail and my quad muscle felt weird…I must have somehow fallen on my trekking pole and it jammed itself against my thigh. I stretched at the shelter, but could tell that was going to be a good bruise. We had lunch at the shelter…it as 1:30 PM and we had 19 miles done…only 21 miles to go for the day! Rafiki and I headed out first, JD was making a Pasta Side, and when we made it to the Jo-Mary Road (a gravel logging road in the wilderness) a girl in a Subaru asked us if we knew a JD and where he was. We said yes and that he was a little behind us and she took off running up the trail to see him…this must be JD’s wife!
We sat and took a break at some stocked trail magic…Coke and Tastycake snacks. A few minutes later JD and his wife came walking down the trail and we got even better trail magic! JD’s wife had chicken sandwiches, juice drinks, sodas, snacks, chips, and more for us! We all filled up on food and drink. For JD this was like a NASCAR pit stop. His wife had brought him a ton of gear…he changed shoes and socks, got rid of a few things, got his tool kit out and fixed his trekking poles, and refilled his food bag. It was a very efficient stop! I gave some of my extra food to JD’s wife so she could take it up to Baxter for me where I would need it. The last thing we did was empty our stream water from our bottles and refill water from a gallon water jug. Later down the trail when I would drink this filtered, “safe” water I would prefer my stream water. I could tell that I was going to have a hard time getting used to tap water, well water, commercial water, anything other than mountain water. When we finished our pit stop with JD’s wife it was already 3 PM and we still had 18 miles to go…a little night hiking was ahead of us for sure! Right after leaving JD’s wife I was leading the group and we rock hopped over a stream. I made it and hiked on. Rafiki and JD were behind me and I heard a splash and some laughing, someone must have got their feet wet. I kept hiking and when they caught up with me later I found out that JD had jumped from one rock to another and took a face plant right into the stream! Rafiki said he saw him go down and was pretty worried…with all of the rocks it could have been a really bad fall, but somehow it worked out. JD said he was half way in the water, face submerged, but he laughed, got back up, and hiked on. We had been lucky, some of these falls could be much worse! As we hiked on we passed Pemadumcook Lake where from the shore we had a great view of Katahdin…another look at the mountain we had to climb, only 48 miles away! The rest of the day was relatively flat but we had to deal with lots of rocks and roots. A lady the day before had said it was all bogs and bugs, but things had dried out so I didn’t have to deal with too many wet bogs or annoying bugs.
As the sun started to set we passed another road and parking lot and then a sandy beach on a lake with a picnic table. We sat and watched the sunset and had a snack…this would be a great place to camp but we still had 2.5 miles to go to the shelter, and to a 40 mile day! We turned on our headlamps and hiked on around the pond, finally arriving at the shelter at 9:45 PM. 40 miles done, we even took a long break in the middle of the day, my feet hurt, my legs hurt, my quad was bruised pretty bad, but man it felt good to do a 40! My heels were pretty sore for sure…all the pounding around rocks and roots and made the skin around my shoe insoles pretty tender. Just setting them on the ground even stung! JD had made it a few minutes before we did and was already setting up his tent. Rafiki and I found flat spots and did the same. There was another NoBo thru-hiker in the shelter falling asleep so we kept things quite, set up camp, and we all sat down near our own own tent and made dinner. JD ate a sandwich from his wife (smart!) and Rafiki and I both ate cold instant mashed potatoes, taking one bite, then swatting at the bugs flying around our headlamps, then another bite, then the swat. It was a quiet night and after eating my dinner and hanging my food bag on a tree limb I was MORE than ready to climb into my tent and lay down! My quad hurt so bad that even leaning down to crawl into my tent caused a ton of pain…I was just hoping that tomorrow it wouldn’t be too bad…I figured though, I could walk through just about anything tomorrow to get to Katahdin. We did a 40 mile day today, were more than two-thirds through the 100 Mile Wilderness (76 miles) and we would camp tomorrow night at The Birches, 5 miles from the top of Katahdin! Tonight we camped at Wadleigh Stream Lean-To…mile 2,145.6, only 38.2 miles from Katahdin!