Friday, September 9, 2016

Day 126: Chairbacks and Whitcaps

8/23: seasonal stream - West Branch Ponds Rd
Mile: 2095.1 - 2119.3 (24.2 miles)

It's chilly when I wake up and I don't really want to move. I've looked at the elevation profile today and it looks not as fun as I'd like. I've heard a lot of the folks who went south mention the chair back mountains (there are 4 I get to climb) and it looks like 4 more later in the day along with a whole lot of smaller PUDs (pointless ups and downs). Hopefully the profile is deceiving.

The cold wind makes the beginning climbs wonderful. They are much smaller than many others I've faced recently and only a bit scrambly. All told it's around 6 miles climbing the peaks but if they weren't named I would have guessed they were the normal rolling nonsense the trail loves. I think the folks going south just haven't yet had the joy of what Maine and New Hampshire seem to consider trail, or their first mountains after 60 or so pretty flat miles was just a big change. Either way its not too hot (despite the guy striding down the trail in only his tighty whities) and it's a lovely morning.

Around lunch I reach the West Branch of the Pleasant River. It's a quick stop to pull my shoes off and head across. A nice refreshing break for me feet. As I eat my lunch I'm surprised to see a whole lot of people. Asking around I find out it's only 0.2 miles to a parking lot and I'm very close to a popular section of trail that highlights waterfalls. Of course the AT skips the falls and I don't honestly feel any desire to detour.

The trail follows Gulf Hagas Brook for 3 miles of very gentle climbing. It's pretty and I even get a few small waterfalls. Then it's the last 4 peaks of the day. The trail is nice and has a shocking number of stone steps but it's some very steep ascents.

Right after the first mountain I'm walking the ridge line thinking there's an awful lot of moose poop when I round a corner to see a moose chomping on a tree. Startled I jump back behind a bush staring at the lovely lady. She tolerates me for a few minutes before tearing up a bit and stomping her front hooves at me. Needless to say I very calmly shrieked and ran away my heart beating about a million times a minute.

The last climb is my favorite. Whitecap Mountain is windy and feels above it all. I don't realize until I'm staring that I've been in the trees almost the whole day. The views are stunning and I think I even see Katahdin. I stop and stare on the north side of the mountain. It's a nice refresher on how great it can really be out here. I can fall into a bit of a grind in the trees but Maine has been a really special treat.

I pass by a shelter and head a bit farther to a spring to camp. Passing by what might be one of the creepiest things I've seen on trail. At first I'm excited to see the dog up on the rock. Then worried because I don't see any people, then just confused. It's stock still and I'm 99% sure not breathing. The wind doesn't even ruffle it's ears. Did someone taxidermy their dog and leave it as a lookout? I'm lost.

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