Maine Gazetteer Challenge Map 50
The first week of January in my blog post, I announced Bruce's and my hiking challenge for the year and wrote about our first adventure. We intended to do something every week. Then I decided to have health challenges, so far one a month - after not being sick for 7 years, not even a sniffle. Each time, it was nothing serious, but just enough to set me back a couple weeks. Then I didn't have the energy to continue venturing out into the snow with all the gear needed to do so.
But spring has sprung, I have a new bounce in my step, and we were commitment free over the weekend. Saturday we donated our time to our town in honor of Earth Day picking up trash. Our one mile stretch of road - equalling two miles walked up and back - wore us out. There is a difference between walking two miles and bending, stretching, and lifting for two miles. We were completely exhausted and felt like we had been run over by a truck.
Yesterday morning Bruce asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I wanted to drive to Abol Bridge just to take a new photo of Katahdin and we could check off Map 50 of our challenge by doing one of those little unknown trails. It is a two-hour drive from home. Everything is a two-hour plus drive from here. Years ago we invested in lake front property and built a home so we wouldn't have to leave to go on Vacation. Bruce traveled for a living and when he had PTO, he didn't want to go any place. Now that he doesn't travel any longer, all we want to do is go on adventures. It might be time to find a new plot of heaven, or at least one on wheels.
This iconic view is from the middle of Abol Bridge on the Golden Road outside Millinocket, Maine, one of the gateways to the North Maine Woods. It is privately owned by wood operating companies and landowners who are gracious enough to let visitors use the road to gain access to the wilderness and all the beautiful splendor she offers. If you visit there, please remember we are guests and always give the right away to trucks and working vehicles.
Our intentions were to capture my coveted photo, peek at the entrance to the Appalachian Trail's Hundred Mile Wilderness then go hike a small nature trail we passed on the way in. We see that trail every time we come to Abol and wonder where it goes. But we are usually on a schedule related to the A.T. Since we have both done that part of the trail we wanted to do something different for the Gazetteer Challenge and Map 50 has plenty to offer besides the Appalachian Trail.
We parked the truck, dressed for a hike, even though we weren't going to go far, and hiked the 1/4-mile on the dirt road to the northern entrance of the Appalachian Trail's Hundred Mile Wilderness.
Well, that was it, one look at that white blaze and I was pulled in. I said something on the lines of let's just hike here. Bruce agreed and suggested we go to the lean-to. But that was 3.3 miles away and I am so out of shape and nursing a bad hip, I said, "We'll see."
The woods were so beautiful and peaceful. And best of all, NO BUGS - yet. I don't like hiking in the spring in Maine, especially where we were because those biting little demons are ferocious until about July, then they are still bad but manageable.
No insects, and so far, no other visitors. We saw one car on the way in who snapped a photo on the bridge then left and just the angler in the river at the base of the photo of Katahdin above. Risking that we would see few to no other hikers, I let Prince Ziggy off leash once we were deeper in the woods. He chases cars, so he must be leashed where there is traffic. In the woods he stays with us. We are still working on not chasing squirrels and other wildlife, but he does come back when called. When he is on edge and over excited which coincides with not listening, he stays leashed. We are out there to respect nature, not to have our pooch frighten it.
The trail was wonderful, not too easy, but not too hard either. It was just enough to work my hip without overstraining. I was surprised I could even walk after how bad I felt the day before. A descent night's sleep does the body good.
Most of the snow was gone, except in a few low-lying pockets. It was also dry except for a few muddied sections that were easily navigated by rock-hopping. We saw a refreshing spring flowing out of the ground. on the way back, I rinsed my sweating face with it's cool waters. And what trip to the NMW would be complete without seeing some sign of Maine's largest mammal, the moose.
The trail maintainers will have their work cut out for them. I have always appreciated the efforts of those volunteers who keep our trails in tip top shape. After our two miles of just picking up trash and seeing how hard that was, our gratefulness has only deepened. This trail is a mess. We threw stuff out of way when we could, but not having gloves we had to be careful. I learned my lesson last year when I removed a large branch from a trail only to be left with a pine-pitch covered hand.
Most of the debris was passable by stepping around it or just sliding it off the trail. This large hemlock strategically fell right down the path. Ziggy was hiking a few yards a head of me and it didn't phase him at all. He bushwhacked to the right of the trail, I followed and he some how instinctively made it back to the trail. It amazed me. How did he know to get back on the trail? This was a large work around that no one had created yet and he went right back to the trail instead of just staying in the woods. On the way out, when we reached this spot, he retraced his steps in reverse around the blowdown. I know how to do it, but he's a dog. He scares me with how intelligent he is. Just simply amazing.
Our peek at the entrance to the Hundred Mile Wilderness ended us at the Hurd Brook Lean-to. We made it. Not that it was a huge and difficult hike, I just doubted my ability. It is a baseball bat floor, three-sided structure meant for six. Our first introduction to the term baseball bat floor peaked our curiosity in 2015. We thought real bats were used. In reality, hewn longs, resembling baseball bats made up the floor.
On the drive to our adventure while I still had cell service, I texted our son, Patch who completed an A.T. thru-hike last summer. I wanted to know his day hiking and multi-night gear lists and brands. Bruce and I need to upgrade and since it has been several years since my hikes, and we haven't kept up with research, we wanted to know what he used. Stuff changes fast, making hiking easier. On the inside of the shelter, a name was carved in the wood with the date - '95. Now that was a tough time to hike. There wasn't much in the way of high tech, ultra light gear back then.
I sent Patch what I used. He texted back, Why the stove for day hikes? This is why.
I have spent a lifetime at Mach-5. Rushing here, rushing there. trying to be the fastest person in whatever sport I participated in. Now, I like to enjoy the slower pace of life, so have decided to take my stove with me, even for a day hike to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. I don't even drink coffee at home. And, I pack my day hammock.
Ziggy waiting for his snack.
After our respite, we packed up, signed the shelter log, packed out the trash left behind, and headed out.
This is a never-ending task. I do it, I know others who do it, and trail maintainers, ridge-runners and other stewards of the trails do it. There will always be those who are careless and those who take responsibility. It would be nice if everyone respected all aspects of life, but that's not reality. We can only do what we know is right and hope that will be a beacon for others to follow.
Before we left the parking lot, we grabbed a leftover trash bag stowed in the truck from our Earth Day event the day before and picked up trash and returnables from the parking lot to the trail head. Unfortunately, there was evidence of too many people not appreciating the privilege guests are given by the the owners of the North Maine Woods.
On the way out, we saw the sign once again for the mystery nature trail, and proclaimed, "Next time."