Monson to Nahmakanta Stream
A sign warns hikers of the remote and rugged nature of the last stretch of trail through Maine, at least the last stretch before Baxter State Park, and the final summit of the mile-high peak, Mount Katahdin. It warns to take 10 days of food. I took 4.5 days.
The terrain was mostly flat, but it is rooted and rocky and you’re more likely to fall over a root that to fall into a groove. Perhaps it was that I truly was finished and burnt out by the idea of solitude, but I just couldn’t find my groove. The days were long, the pace sluggish, and oh right, I have a new setback which is no longer a terrible pain in my piriformis (which has magically vanished), but now I am averaging 2-3 hours of sleep a night because of a mind-warping pain whose source hasn’t been located yet, and that is causing severe shooting pain in my hands, wrist and shoulders. All this pain has caused difficulty breathing, and that compiled on top of large mile days has increased anxiety tenfold. I cursed the trail and yearned for a massage and chiropractic appointment in the next town.
Funny thing is, I’m not in pain after I start hiking. It’s just laying down, or texting, and is especially painful when I wake, which is usually 2-3 hours after I close my eyes. Damn I crave sleep, and for this pain to disappear. It feels like I have a touriquett on my arms, and it’s gotten so bad that I can’t even squeeze my toothpaste out of the tube. So I don’t bother brushing my teeth until the afternoon, when the pain is far less. I don’t see anyone out here, so whose really gonna care if I’m not brushing twice a day?
Pain aside, I walked past two dozen ponds, which could be described more like lakes as some are huge, and some still frozen. I looked for moose and beaver at every opportunity. I saw one moose, a few beavers and heard the call of my favorite bird, an osprey. I also forded a dozen streams, taking my boots off and either walking across the calf to knee deep water with socks on, or socks off. Once I forded with boots on, but that was because I slid in a disbelievingly deep puddle, and was covered in mud up to my thighs. The water was cold, but manageable.
In this segment, there was one day of significant elevation change, another series of ascents and descents. I thoroughly enjoyed Barren Mountain, elevation 2,660 feet, as it was the first climb of the day, and I felt great from a refreshing night’s sleep(this was the last night of good sleep that I’ve had, which as I write this, four nights have now passed). I was greeted by a vista at its top, the sun just beginning to warm the horizon in the early morning hour. To make the miles during this segment, I was hiking by 5am and until at least dark. Long days to spend by yourself.
The snowline walked with me past a series of forested summits. Peaks like Chairback Mountain offered views to the north. Then toward afternoon I had one big climb, which would entail a series of summits, ending eventually at the top of White Cap, elevation 3,650. Now, when I was at the Lakeshore House Pub, I received a phone call…on the pub’s phone. This isn’t the first time that someone has tried to track me down, and as I was enjoying the conversation with some friendly locals, I was handed the receiver. A man was calling to let me know the snow condition over White Cap, which was kind of him. He offered me his number and said if I had any problem, to give him a call. Indeed, the snow on White Cap, a forested ridge that stretched on for nearly 4 miles, was buried under snow. I honestly feared I might posthole the entire lenght of my body. It was the deepest, softest snow I’d thus far encountered, and although unlike the terrifying challenge of walking upon ice, or down wickedly steep and snowbound terrain, the conditions on that ridge were very, very slow going. My Black Diamond Ergo trekking poles constantly fell apart, I almost lost a boot, and I feared the ol’ right knee would hyperextend and snap in two. But alas, I made it. It was 9pm when I reached the summit, where I’m sure a spectacular vista would’ve greeted me had I made it there even an hour earlier. Then down, down, down. Now raining, I stayed at Logan Brook Lean-to where I ate dinner and thought I’d essentially pass out after such a demanding day. But no, after a restless night, I woke to pain in my arms and large snowflakes landing in the thick forest. Fortunately it didn’t accumulate and I dropped completely down in elevation. It would be another gentle day, a day of relief, but also a day of great emotion. The northern terminus sat just two days away. Or so I thought…