Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Mad Whittler Bunny Club (Sept 2nd - 5th)

"You will find something more in the woods than in books.  Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters."

~Saint Bernard

Leaving Andover we had a fairly easy hike ahead.  We began the gentle climb past Surplus Pond and up Wyman Mountain.  We ran into Daystar and Gribley a few miles out of town by the pond.  They were getting a late start that morning and had just finished breaking down camp.  The five of us got hiking, finishing the climb up Wyman, stopping at Hall Mountain Lean-To for lunch, then making our descent down to Sawyer Notch.  The notch had a gorgeous brook with some nice camping spots and I was half tempted to spend my afternoon there.  But 2pm seemed a bit early to quit hiking and I wanted to get the climb over Moody Mountain out of the way.  Cheesetowel, who had actually already done this section since they hitched into Andover from South Arm Rd, warned us this climb was a bitch.  And a bitch she was.  Moody Mountain was definitely on it's period, she was mean and messy.  The climb was only a mile, but it was very steep and there was debris everywhere.  It was hard to locate the trail and often times I wasn't entirely sure I was on it. 

I found Pants and Gribley resting at a viewpoint that I was sure near the top, but they so kindly pointed out we hadn't even gone half a mile.  Not only was I not near the top, I was not even halfway near the top.  I sighed as I got up to continue the steep obstacle course that was this mountain.  Like most moody bitches, the best way to approach is slowly and carefully.  I finally reached the top, paused at the view, then began the descent to South Arm Rd.  At the road I found Pants, White Wolf, Daystar and Gribley taking a break.  Black Brook ran south of the road and numerous flat camping spots dotted it's bank.  White Wolf had already set up his tent by the brook, it was already 5pm and he had no desire to start the climb over Old Blue Mountain.  I concurred and went to claim my spot, and came back to everyone else reviewing their options.  Gribley and DS made the decision to keep moving just as Cheesetowel arrived.  They had woken up, finished their usual late afternoon lurk around town, and gotten a ride back to the trail.  Being they had yet to do any hiking that day, they decided to join Gribley and DS over Old Blue (I have a hard time not picturing Will Ferrell crying over "Dust in the Wind" every time I type that).  Just as the four of them were saddling up, six more hikers, Yukon and co., piled out of another car to start the climb up Old Blue.  Pants, agreeing that was gonna be one crowded mountain, followed White Wolf and I back to the brook.  

View from Old Blue

The next morning the three of us took off separately to start the climb over Old Blue.  She was long and painful, but we were rewarded with a great view at the top.  Then AWOL (our guidebook) decided to make things interesting by completely fucking up the mileage and just making things up.  Based on the detailed accuracy of our book for the south, and the total bullshit our book contains for the north, I was beginning to wonder if AWOL ever stepped foot in the upper states or if he was too exhausted by the time he got up there and just decided "Yeah, there's probably some mountains, let's throw a random stream here that may or may not actually be there, and that's probably about 10ish miles."  At this moment my book and profiles were providing me no information on where I might be, so I decided to sit down on a rock and eat some pop tarts.  

Longstride and Silvergirl arrived as I was lounging in the sun.  They looked concerned, and asked me if I knew where we were, they felt like they should have arrived at Bemis Shelter by now.  Well according to the book we should have, and no I had no clue where we were.  It occurred to me that at that moment, if someone were to put both a calendar and a map in front of me and asked me to point out what day it was and where I was, I could confidently do neither.  I was alarmingly OK with this truth as I got up to continue hiking.  I knew what direction I needed to go and that was good enough for me.  I made my way over what I was hoping was Bemis Mountain (cuz that meant the shelter should be at the base) but not without falling twice.  Annoyed, I was dangerously close to enacting Pace's 'third time' rule.  Third time I fall, that's where I camp.  

Exhausted and a bit crabby, I finally arrived at Bemis Mountain Lean-To around 3pm.  I walked past a bunch of tent sites which were empty save for two exhausted looking SoBos.  It was a bit early in their hike to be looking so defeated.  I smiled sympathetically at them as I headed toward the shelter.  Pants was there, apparently DS and Gribley had just left, hoping to go another 13 miles.  DS was down to her last pop tart so they were shooting for Rangeley tomorrow, while I was shooting for my sleeping bag and tent.  Pants and I decided that Bemis looked like a lovely home for the night (even though it was afternoon).  I set up shop and settled in with my book.  We saw no sign of White Wolf, so we assumed he passed the shelter without stopping in.  I was sleeping by 7:30, getting some much needed rest since I slept like shit the night before.  

View of Moxie Pond

We woke up the next morning ready for a 15 mile day to Little Swift River Pond.  The morning hike down Bemis was gradual, past Moxie Pond and down to Sabbath Day Pond Lean-To for lunch.  The pond was gorgeous, with a sandy beach in front that would have made excellent swimming.  Sadly, as we entered fall, it seemed our swimming days were over.  The trail in the afternoon was as gentle as the morning.  We arrived at Little Swift River Pond much sooner than anticipated.  It seemed that AWOL had misplaced some miles.  We debated just continuing on to Rangeley since it was early, until we found the unchained canoes by the pond.  It looked like rain, but we decided to take our chances.  We spent an hour paddling around the pond before the rain broke through.  Luckily we had set up our tents before so we just had to quickly paddle back in the light sprinkle and dive into our shelters.  I ventured out once to get some water at the pond outlet, where I was greeted by a very obnoxious red squirrel.  It is safe to say most hikers were getting pretty fed up with the red squirrels.  Red squirrels are small, cute and evil.  They are very territorial, so they make this hissing clicking noise every time we walk by.  They were fearless, would run right up to you, and even throw things at you, as this one was now doing as I tried to gather water.  Even though we were bigger, they out numbered us and were slowly stealing our sanity.  I cursed the asshole squirrel and dodged his acorns as I sprinted through the rain back to my tent. 

Little Swift River Pond

The rain never let up and turned into a ridiculous down pour.  We both woke up in a dirt filled water bed.  Shoving our soaking wet gear in our soaking wet packs, we started our five mile hike to Rangeley.  We passed Chandler Mill Stream and South Pond before arriving at ME 4.  We needed to get into Rangeley, nine miles west from here, to resupply.  At the road was a sign for a hostel called "The Hiker Hut," which was only .3 down the road.  We weren't sure if we wanted to stay in Rangeley that night, but they offered rides into town so we made our way down the road.  Below the sign for the hostel was a note that read: "Tater Tot, your dad left the Hiker Hut this morning to tackle the Saddlebacks and he says hurry your arse up."  Nice dad.  Realizing this note was actually from two days ago, my arse had a lot of hurrying to do.  But first it had some eating to do.  We approached the Hiker Hut, which was just that, a hut.  A nice woman came out one of the small buildings and showed us around.  We chatted for a bit, I guess they had been expecting me since my dad left.  Unfortunately they were full - FM, Meds, White Wolf, Owf, Flies and Solo all stayed here last night, and had such a great time they were staying another.  FM had taken their truck into town, so it looks like we were hitching.  We were picked up by an elderly gentleman and his son, and during the ride the old man asked me to hold out my hand.  I slowly and apprehensively did as he asked, and he proceeded to place a very tiny wooden bunny into my hands.  Just as I was beginning to wonder how much farther until town and how long I would have to be in this man's car, he handed me his 'business card.'

I paused as I was trying to decide if this was creepy or adorable.  I landed on both.  Say what you want about hitching, but it's a great way to meet a lot of interesting people.  We got dropped off in the center of Rangeley, only slightly larger than Andover.  We found everyone eating in the Red Onion, so we dropped our packs outside and headed in, ready to feast.  We were surprised to see Peach and Overdrive inside as well.  I guess Peach had gotten sick and they had been in town for a few days, but were heading back to the trail today.  We sadly had to let everyone else know we couldn't stay at the Hiker Hut cuz they were full:(  We took Peach and Overdrive's recommendation and headed towards the Saddleback Inn up the road.  

After we checked in we decided, in an effort to be efficient, we would split up the chores.  He took off with our laundry while I hiked up the road to the grocery store to grab resupply.  After we did this we agreed we would never do that again.  I was left with improperly dried clothes and he was left with a bunch of food that he apparently didn't want to eat.  You win some you loose some.  But we both won when we discovered the NCIS marathon on USA.  Though I was bummed we weren't at the Hiker Hut with our friends, I also knew it was going to be a mini trail days out there and I was actually looking forward to a little rest after our rainy night.  Southern Maine wasn't easing up on us yet, we had the Saddlebacks and Bigalows to look forward too.  But for the moment, I was just happy that we had caught up to some of our friends.  And that NCIS was on, that too.  

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