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AT 2017: Day 158, Sawyer Brook to Bemis Mountain Lean-to

I saw things getting out of hand; I guess they always will

Hike with Gravity

There was a time when I thought I would have completed my hike by now. I estimated, or at least hoped, I would finish in five-and-a-half months.

Admittedly, until I reached New Hampshire, I didn’t have a good idea how much effort was involved in getting through the White Mountains and Southern Maine. I knew I would slow down there, but I didn’t expect I’d have so many days with mileage in single digits.

Still, i don’t have any complaints about how much time my hike has taken me.

Weather Partly cloudy with a high temperature in the upper 70s
Trail Conditions Many rocks and roots, a couple of steep climbs
Today's Miles 11.3 miles
Trip Miles 1,932.5 miles

Letting my expected finish date slip a couple weeks doesn’t pose much of a problem. Letting it slip much more than that could be a problem.

Mt. Katahdin is located in Baxter State Park. The park's rangers closely monitor the weather and will close the trail to the peak when conditions get dangerous.

The chances of that increase significantly after October 1. Chances of finishing after October 15 drop significantly.

Knowing this, Stick, Tengo and I realize we need to start earlier in the morning, then push harder to complete more miles per day. With that in mind, we started out this morning at 7:30.

When we left our campsite and crossed Sawyer Brook, the trail immediately began a steep climb up Moody Mountain. Within 30 minutes, the elevation change was so steep, steel rebar was provided as a ladder.

Right after that, a log ladder was available to continue the climb.

The trail didn’t go to the top of Moody Mountain, but the 1,200-foot climb in a distance of under a mile-and-a-half was plenty steep enough without doing so.

After the trail dropped down to South Arm Road, which ran through Black Brook Notch, it then made another steep climb. This time it went up a much taller mountain called Old Blue.

A rebar ladder was also needed at one spot on this climb, but after the first 900 feet of the climb it became a little less steep.

On the way up, there was a wonderful view spot that looked down to Black Brook Notch.

At the end of the 2.8-mile climb, there wasn’t much to look at from the summit of Old Blue Mountain. The peak was open, but was surrounded by stunted spruce trees. There were hardly any spots from here to get a good look at the valley and surrounding mountains.

I ate my lunch at the top of Old Blue. If I had been able to get a better view while here, I might have been able to see Andover Earth Station.

Though I expect the facility would look like an ordinary communication relay site today, it is a place of some historic significance. The facility was constructed in 1961 to relay the first transmissions from the Telstar 1, the first direct relay communications satellite and first privately-sponsored space mission.

The descent from Old Blue Mountain was not as difficult as the ascent, but it didn’t go smoothly. There were a few places that were more annoying than demanding because of rocks.

These rocks weren’t difficult like Pennsylvania rocks, but because of the descent, which was soon followed by a series of up and down, the difficulty was a challenge nonetheless.

Puncheons were laid down in some spots, which smoothed out the path over rocks and roots, but they didn’t necessarily make walking easier. It took concentration and balance to walk on them. Some were partially rotted and some teetered on rocks.

The ups and downs through this section were modest and not steep. The trail’s pathway was a constant challenge anyway.

A small bench appeared just off the trail on the way to Bemis Mountain. It was startling to see, so far from a road crossing. I didn’t stop to sit on it, though.

The time was 3:30 p.m. and I still had 3.5 miles to go to reach Bemis Mountain Lean-to.

Under normal terrain, I should have been able to reach the shelter in just over an hour and a half. With the maddeningly-difficult trail conditions, though, I knew I could easily double that time.

In fact, a little more than three hours passed before I arrived at the shelter. Stick arrived a few minutes before me, and Tengo was there a few minutes before him.

Tengo chose to sleep in the shelter again. By the time Stick and I set up our tents and collected water, the sun had set. We had to cook dinner by the light from our headlamps.

It seems this will be the way of things from now on. We get up early, hike difficult trail all day long, and finish just before or just after sundown.

This is what will be necessary to complete this hike before snow begins to fly on Mt. Katahdin.

Spent a little time on the mountain
Spent a little time on the hill
I saw things getting out of hand
I guess they always will


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine." ref.