Day 178 – September 1 – 16 miles – East Branch Lean-to to Antlers Campsite
Elevation Change: 3569 feet
It was colder today than it was yesterday. The weather reports called for highs to be between 48 and 53. It was the first day, in a very long time, where I wore my thermal under-layer while hiking.
The leaves on some of the trees have started to change. A reminder that if we didn’t finish the trail soon, Mother Nature would kick us off of it.
Not long after getting back on the trail, we came to the first of many ponds. Every time we got to one, especially in the morning, we would look for moose along the shore line. We had been encountering a massive amount of moose droppings on the trail. They had to be around here somewhere.
After the pond, we climbed up a small hill named Little Boardman Mountain. At the top was a small clearing in the trees, giving us a nice view.
After Boardman mountain, the trail was basically a gradual descent for the rest of the day. Going from 1980 feet to 500 feet over the course of 13 miles.
Soon we came to Crawford pond. The cool thing about all the ponds that we had passed, was that there weren’t any signs of man on them. They had a wild beauty to them.
About 8 miles into the day we took a short break at the Cooper Brook Falls Lean-to. There was a stream with a lovely looking swimming hole directly in front of it. On a hot summer day it would have been a great place to go swimming. On a day where it felt more like autumn than the summer, it was less inviting.
From the Lean-to, it was a easy 3.7 mile hike to Jo Mary road. The location of our food drop.
Just as we were about to get to the road, we saw that OMG was camped off to the side of the trail. That was a little strange, so we went over to investigate. When she saw us she looked both happy to see us and a little aggravated. We soon found out why.
She was fording the West Branch Pleasant River barefoot, when her foot slipped and she jammed it into a rock. Breaking one of her toes in the process. Besides being in pain, she was trying not to freak out about the possibility of her trip ending with less than 100 miles to go. She just sat on a boulder in the middle of the river with her foot resting in the cold water for a few minutes.
Once she collected herself, she came up with a plan. There was a dirt road nearby that ended in a parking lot. She would hitch a ride out of the wilderness and figure out what to do.
Through a series of events, she was able to get a ride back into the wilderness at the food drop location. Effectively skipping the White Cap Mountain range. She camped there and rested her foot until we got there, a day and a half later.
When talking to her, we could tell two things. One, she was very upset about her toe. Two, she was determined to hike the rest of the way to Katahdin.
Thankfully it wasn’t one of her big toes that was broken. She taped her broken toe to the one next to it, and would tough out the remaining mile to the end. Luckily, the remaining miles were supposed to be some of the flattest miles on the trail. Except the climb up Katadin, of course.
Since we had reached the road early, there was nothing to do but sit and wait. It began to rain a little and everyone put on there rain gear.
At 1PM the driver of the food drop car pulled up, gave us some sodas, and gave us our food.
After packing away our food, we made quick work of the remaining 4.2 miles to the Antlers campsite.
The Antlers Campsite was situated right on Jo Mary lake and had many open spaces to set up tents and hammocks. The wind was coming off the lake at a fairly strong clip, but most areas were sheltered from the wind somewhat.
While everyone else setup their tent / hammock in a sheltered grove of trees, I setup my hammock out on a windy peninsula. Assuming the wind would die down towards sunset.
Because of the drought the lake was much lower than usual. This created a flat rocky area perfect for a campfire.
Stoat made his first fire on the trail. He collected most of the wood and built a small fire ring on the beach. He did a good job, and got the fire going quickly.
While we were eating dinner, another camper walked by. When Flashfire saw him she did a double take. She said,” I think that’s the guy who housed the German hiker / vlogger when he was off trail!”
Flashfire had followed several German Hikers on their 2016 Thru hike to prepare for her hike.
She went up to him and asked if he was the guy she was thinking of. Turns out, he was! Flashfire was very excited. It was like she was meeting a celebrity. She made sure to get a picture with him before he left.
Eventually it was time to call it a night. Flashfire doused the remaining log in the lake and everyone headed for bed.
Before getting in my hammock I sat and watched the sky. The clouds were quickly moving by, and they had a odd blue coloring to them. The sky above them wasn’t that visible, but I guess there was enough of a gap in the clouds to let the blue light in. The landscape was cast in shadow which really enhanced the effect.
Its hard to describe how I felt at that moment. I guess I was equally appreciating the moment, and longing for the trip to never end.
We have four days left on this great adventure. I’m going to savoir every minute of it.
51.8 miles to go.