Miles Hiked: 10.4
Miles Left: 261.4
Ending Location: Camping near Frye Notch Lean-to at mile 1923.9.
Staying in a full shelter meant that as soon as 5:30am rolled around I was awake. The weather felt like it was just on the verge of drizzling and while it would be nice to say there was a fog drifting off the lake, the reality was the campsite was high enough to be caught in the clouds. After eating breakfast I stopped by Declan’s tent to wish him farewell and he mentioned if I waited around until after his 7am radio call to get the weather he’d brew me a cup of coffee. He would have made it sooner but had to leave right then to hike out of the valley so he could get reception. So of course I hung out for a bit. Through hikers are like bears. You can’t feed us or we lose all ability to survive on our own in the wild.
Long story short, despite waking up early it was quite a while before I actually started hiking. I did start it right though as the trail out if the camp led up Old Speck Mountain, one of the few 4k footers I’ll see in Maine. The clouds and fog were still thick lending everything a ghostly appearance and completely obscuring any view. Despite that I ended up taking a 0.3 mile side trail to the very top of the mountain to simply say that I did it. Just as my luck would have it, shortly after leaving the summit the clouds finished blowing past and things began to clear up. Still, I won’t complain as it certainly beat hiking in the fog all day.
The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent descending down Old Speck into Grafton Notch. Even though it was a Monday there were a ton of day hikers out which surprised me. A nice waterfall was near the bottom though which I’m sure attracted a lot of visitors. For the last part of the trip down I was getting pretty hungry but I held off eating my lunch since I wanted to eat it in the parking lot instead. I figured that would maximize my chances of getting trail magic if people saw me gnawing on a Cliff bar. As I said, hikers are like bears… It did turn out there was a former through hiker in the parking lot handing out Snickers bars so my tactic was partially effective.
After that it was a long slog up to the tops of the Baldplate Mountains. The weather had warmed up considerably and a good chunk of the climb consisted of what seemed like an endless succession of stairs so by the time I reached the top of West Baldplate I was absolutely soaked with sweat. The view was worth it though and I ended up taking a very long break to admire it as well as call my girlfriend to work on plans for summiting Katahdin. The bog between West Baldplate and East Baldplate was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The mud didn’t look bad but on further inspection I can see how it could trap people enough that they would require a rescue. It just went down and down. I tried to find the bottom of it with my trekking pole, but even when it was fully extended there was no end in sight. Basically, don’t drop your phone in this section!
While I would have liked to make more miles that day, when I hit Frye Notch Lean-to it was getting dark and I was getting lazy. FYI Maine calls all their shelters “Lean-tos” because … Maine. It actually is a more descriptive name though as that’s what most of the shelters are like. After looking for a while, I finally found a tentsite off by itself so I made camp and hydrated dinner. I put off falling asleep for a while to read but eventually I turned in for the night.