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AT 2017: Day 172, Chairback Gap Lean-to to White Brook Trail Junction

Not a chill to the winter but a nip to the air

Hike with Gravity

The cold breeze that began blowing last night continued this morning. It was cold enough that when I woke up and started preparing to pack my gear, I wanted to move fast to stay warm.

The weather forecast didn’t show this to be a turn to winter weather, but the temperature was chilly enough to know winter wasn’t far away.

Date
Weather Clear and breezy, with a high temperature in the upper 60s
Trail Conditions Rocks or roots, and sometimes rocks and roots
Today's Miles 14.8 miles
Trip Miles 2,096.9 miles

I woke up before most of the other hikers in camp, and also before the sun. Stick and Tengo were up soon after.

We were all wearing our puffy jackets and other extra layers of clothing as we ate breakfast and packed our gear.

By 6:45 a.m. we were back on the trail.

Right away, the trail led us for a half mile to the top of Chairback Mountain. The view from here was looking north toward the Whitecap mountain range.

Oddly enough, the mountains were wearing a cap of white, fluffy clouds.

The descent from Chairback was steep and tricky, part of which was over a talus field of jagged rocks.

The sky was clear to mostly sunny, but it took a while to warm up. When I finally warmed up enough, I took off my fleece hoody and base layer leggings.

I arrived at the west branch of the Pleasant River at 10:30 a.m. So many hikers were at the 150-foot-wide crossing it was almost crowded. Tengo, Stick, Jason and Maple, Boomer, Single T, Scout and I took turns to cross.

The water here wasn’t quite as deep as yesterday's stream crossing. Nevertheless, the water was especially cold and it took a little while for me to warm up my feet after I reached the other side.

A short distance beyond the river, the trail made a sharp turn and continued through a protected area called The Hermitage. For the next two miles the trail passed through a 35-acre stand of 150-year-old white pine trees.

This land is designated as a National Natural Landmark, and is adjacent to another tract that holds the same designation.

The trail does not go through Gulf Hagas, which was a disappointment because the scenery there is said to be spectacular.

Gulf Hagas is a deep gorge cut by the west branch of the Pleasant River and contains several waterfalls.

In the afternoon, I ran into a traffic jam that was similar to the one I found at the river this morning. The same hikers and a few more were stopped at Gulf Hagus Brook to collect and filter water. The scene was almost like a Serengeti watering hole.

I was the last hiker to leave the stream. The trail continued a climb over Gulf Hagus Mountain, which became much steeper after passing Carl Newhall Lean-to.

The mountain was a sub-peak in the Whitecap range I had seen this morning from Chairback Mountain. The top was covered in trees, so there were no views from here, or so I thought.

I walked past a K that was painted on a rock. There was also an arrow with it, pointing to a side trail. Foolishly, when I saw the K it didn’t register in my brain it was the first initial of “Katahdin.” The arrow was pointing to a spot where Mt. Katahdin could be viewed. I didn’t know this until Stick mentioned it to me later.

I caught up to Stick and Tengo on the climb up the next peak, which was called West Peak. This and the next peak, called Hay Mountain, were also wooded and didn’t provide any views.

What I did see, though, was a lot of moose poop on the trail. After seeing so much on the trail, I was wondering if moose purposefully used the trail as their toilet.

Then it dawned on me why the poop was on the trail. The forest in this section of trail was extremely dense. It would be difficult for an animal as large as a moose, especially a male with a large rack of antlers, to move through the trees.

The moose are apparently walking up and down these mountains on the trail, just as we are.

Tengo, Stick and I arrived at about the same time, which was 5:45 p.m., at the junction with White Brook Trail. There wasn’t an official campsite here, but we knew after reading a comment posted in the Guthooks app it would have plenty of room to pitch our tents.

This turned out to be true, so we decided to stop here.

We had already completed nearly 15 miles today. Continuing another 2.3 miles to the next shelter would mean going over one more mountain, then probably descending in the dark. We didn’t feel a need to do that.

The evening was chilly again, and seemed colder than it had been last night. Fortunately, though, we didn't have as much wind.

Looking ahead, if we are able to continue putting in about 15 miles a day, we should be able to summit Mt. Katahdin on Thursday. Right now, though, the weather forecast doesn’t look good for that day.

As I was walking 'round Grosvenor Square
Not a chill to the winter but a nip to the air
From the other direction she was calling my eye 
It could be an illusion, but I might as well try
Might as well try

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