Into The Maine Wilderness: 50% chance of rain

by Gordon Warnica

The idea hit me a couple of months ago. One of the people I had met while thru-hiking the AT (Appalachian Trail) in ’03 was Circuit Rider. In 2003 he had already thru-hiked the trail a couple of times, and his wisdom of what was coming was very useful.

Since ’03 he has hiked the trail every year but last when he and Sherlock the fellow who he hikes with, had to leave the trail at Crawford Notch, New Hampshire as Sherlock’s father was gravely ill. This year their plans were to pick up where they left off last year. They had produced a schedule that showed them going through the 100 mile wilderness in Northern Maine on Friday the 10th of September.

Well, if you are going to Maine for a day you may as well make it 2 days and try for an assent of Mt Katahdin on the same trip. The decision was made to go on Wednesday and apply for a parking pass in Baxter State Park for the Thursday instead of the much busier Saturday.

I sent out a general invite to all those who might be interested, and received the standard replies (wish I could but ………. too sore, too busy, hurt my ankle, can’t maybe next time) but James Balcom and Brent MacDonald both agreed to go for it.

Reservations made at the park and motel and fingers crossed that with a heck of a lot of good luck, we might get to the top of Katahdin and just maybe meet up and surprise an old friend.

Weather forecast 50% chance of rain on Thursday and 70% of Friday. I guess if one actually paid attention to this stuff, you might start having second thoughts.

As we entered the park at 0600 on Thursday, the weather forecast on the bulletin board gave the same info 50% of rain.

The gatekeeper said 50% chance of rain and I answered 50% chance of no rain. She laughed and said, “Your glass is half full” I answered, “My glass is always full.”

Well, it should be noted here that Mt Katahdin is about 5260’ high, it is only a 4100’ climb from where you park your car and the hike is 5.2 miles long one way. We did the first mile in about 20 minutes but then you start to go up and up and up. It took 4 hours to make it to the top, but alas we were alone … for about 10 minutes. By the time we had had lunch and were ready to go back down, there were more than 25 hikers around us. They had come from all directions.

While I couldn’t fly my kite at the summit – not enough wind, I did get it up on the tablelands during our descent.

You can see, the clouds are well below us. It was a beautiful day – no rain – and great views. Note the white blazes in this picture. This is part of the Appalachian Trail and is in fact the last 5.2 miles of it.

We did meet 2 thru-hikers who completed their hike that day and 2 flip floppers who were then heading south.

Well we have completed the first day of our trip but the second day was going to require even more luck and good weather.

70% chance of rain – try and meet up with someone in the middle of the 100 mile wilderness on a 2-month-old schedule.

Up and breakfasting at the Appalachian Trail Café in Millinocket at 0500 on Friday. After 30 minutes of highway driving, we started into the woods. It was 21 miles of logging roads and no signs and almost an hour of guessing the correct lefts and rights to get to the part of Trail that crosses this logging road. James and Brent volunteered to take a broom and dust pan into the shelter that was a mile up towards WhiteCap mountain, while I started up the BarBQ for a bit of Trail Magic. Now if you don’t know about it or haven’t experienced Trail Magic you haven’t lived. Towards about 9 in the morning, the first hiker showed. He was actually accompanying his sister who was thru-hiking and was about 15 minutes ahead of her. I put on a couple of hamburgers and we waited for her. They were rather surprised to get free hamburgers in the middle of “nowhere”. They left shortly thereafter (something about the magnetism of Mt Katahdin after 2160 miles).

Now the wait.

I had checked Circuit Rider’s schedule and he was supposed to be staying at Sidney Tappan Campsite on Thursday night and hiking to Jo-Mary Rd for Friday night a distance of 20.8 miles. The 2 hikers, we had already fed, had not seen or heard of them, but as Circuit Rider was behind them that was not unusual. I sort of thought that if things worked out, Circuit Rider would be crossing where we were sitting some time between 10 and 11.

Lo and behold at 10:15, who pops out of the woods but Circuit Rider and Sherlock. I jump out of the car and he yells “Gimp”, my Trail name in ’03. No kisses, but hugs and handshakes all around.

We talked about what happened in the last 7 years and they asked about my hip. My trail name, “Gimp”, was as a result of my gimpy walk as I then had needed a new hip, since replaced. Told them “All was well.”

An hour later, after we fed them hamburgers, and took all their garbage, they left with apples.

It really was a plan that came together. It was a couple of days that couldn’t have been better.

It only rained while we were driving, we summitted Mt Katahdin, gave “Trail Magic” to a few very surprised thru-hikers and met up with a couple of old friends who surely didn’t expect to see us.

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