APPALACHIAN TRAIL ADVENTURE RUN

   
       
Jim, Sue, Cody, and Tater at Springer Mtn., start of the Appalachian Trail Adventure Run

 

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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
 
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DAY 133:  FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 9
 
Start: Maine 4/Rangeley                                      
End:  Perham Stream/Logging Road
Today's Miles:                      15.4
Cumulative Miles:          1,970.3
Miles to go:                       204.6
   
 
"This is classic mountain hiking featuring high peaks, deep valleys, open
vistas, mountain ponds, and rock-strewn streams. The traverse above
tree-line on Saddleback Mountain provides a significant risk of exposure, particularly during inclement weather. Do not underestimate the time
and effort needed to traverse this section."
 
- The Official Appalachian Trail Guide to Maine, p. 95
 


View northeast from top of Saddleback Mountain, looking toward The Horn

Incoming clouds on the summit of The Horn     9-9-05

The guide is describing the 32-mile section from Maine Hwy. 4 to Hwy. 27. Because of the level of difficulty, Jim and I figured out how to divide it into two portions so I could do it all safely in daylight.

Today I covered just under half the distance, thanks to Jim's tireless efforts to find a logging road that is drivable all the way to the AT. More later about Jim's grand adventure today on the logging roads.

We had gorgeous weather again today, as you can see from the photos above. I was near or above tree line for three miles in the Saddleback Range. Although the mountains played hide and seek in the clouds, each summit was clear when I was there. The views in every direction were magnificent. I could see where I've been and I could see where (I think) I'm going.

What I couldn't see was Katahdin; it was blocked by Mt. Abraham, a local told me. I'm anxious for my first glimpse of The Goal.

WAKE-UP CALL

Up at 5:00 AM, we were on the road in 50 minutes with the camper in tow. That's a record for us, I believe. Jim dropped me off at the Maine 4 trail head and was able to get a spot in the next campground at 7:00. He called in transit and the owner was a bit surprised at the early hour! She understood when he explained why he was so early and she told him which spots were available.

We saw another moose along Maine 17 this morning, near the turn-off for Rangeley Lake State Park. Jim and Cody later saw their second and third "trail" moose in the late afternoon as they came in to get me - a mama and baby. They've seen two more than I have! The Honeymooners (Birdie and Muskrat) pointed them out to Jim as they passed him going the other way.

When I started hiking at 6:30 AM it was 53 degrees. Although it was supposed to be about ten degrees cooler today, it felt warmer than that. There were nice breezes along the three lakes I passed and 15-25 MPH winds on top of Saddleback, The Horn, Saddleback Junior, and Poplar Ridge, the four mountains I climbed today.

PIAZZA ROCK

The 2,520-foot ascent to Saddleback Mountain began gradually up to the Piazza Rock lean-to at 1.6 miles. From the description of this rock ledge I envisioned something like McAfee Knob near Roanoke, VA, where the ledge extends dramatically over the valley.

Nope. Piazza Rock is a flat 40-foot rock cantilevered out from the cliff and supported by another boulder underneath, with perhaps 20 feet extending out into the woods, not over a valley. It's worth the 1/10th mile uphill hike to see it, though. There are also boulder caves farther up the AT but I didn't go see them.

Since it was still early I found six of the hikers who had spent the night at the Piazza Rock shelter still there, eating breakfast: The Honeymooners (Birdie and Muskrat), The Laugh Factory (Giggles and Box o' Fun), Patch, and Dave, a section-hiker I've seen several times this week. Muskrat asked about my gel flask so I told the group about my nutrition system. I think hikers could take advantage of the gel and Perpetuem.

MORE PRIVY HUMOR

What I really wanted to see at this shelter, however, was the privy. No, not because I needed to use it but because I'd read that it was unique. It definitely is. For one thing, it's a composting privy that has no foul odor like the privy I passed later in the day (worse than any portable I've ever used in a race or other event).

The large sign on the outside of the log privy reads "YOUR MOVE." Inside is this cribbage board between two seats:

You saw it here first!

The real fun began after the shelter. The next two miles past Ethel and Eddy ponds were dominated by large, moss-covered boulders. The Trail wound around them, not over them, thankfully. I'm sure the Trail designers were trying to enhance the experience for hikers but by the summit I was thinking, OK, enough enhancement already!!

GLACIAL ERRATICS

Miles five and six were outright steep and featured lots of granite slab, glacial erratics, and five or six false summits to the top of Saddleback Mountain. Knowing what glacial erratics are made the hike more interesting but didn't make the climb any easier.

The AT guide describes Saddleback like this: "The wind-swept ridge is dominated by exposed bedrock on which scattered glacial erratics are perched. (Glacial erratics are rounded boulders left at random on the exposed bedrock as a glacier retreats.)"

I loved the part of Saddleback Mountain above tree line despite the numerous false summits going northbound. To the south I could see the mountains I've already climbed and the lakes I passed a little bit earlier. To the west I could see billowing white clouds coming my way. To the north I could see The Horn and mountains I'll be climbing the next couple days.

And I could RUN up there! Most of the rest of the Trail today was too gnarly to run but the smooth granite just begged to be run. I ran down the north side as long as it wasn't too steep, then had to be more careful. As it was I fell three times today but didn't get hurt badly - just more scratches and bruises to add to my fading collection.

Saddleback was today's high point literally and figuratively at 4,120 feet. The Horn is almost as high. Saddleback Junior is 3,655 feet and Poplar Ridge just over 3,000 feet. All had the same kind of bedrock and alpine plants on top. All had great views. Despite the rugged trails leading to the peaks I can recommend this section for a great hike or run on a sunny day.

Total elevation gain today was about 3,920 feet; loss was about 4,200 feet. There were some very steep sections both up and down, especially just before and after Orbeton Stream.

RENDEZVOUS SNAFU

I talked to Jim from the top of Saddleback Junior. He was just leaving the camper to scout out another way to reach the AT at Perham Stream, two miles up the Trail from the railroad bed above Orbeton Stream. He found a side trail to the railroad bed but I wanted to go farther so tomorrow's section isn't so long. Our Topo software and the information we got from Bear at The Cabin showed an "unimproved" road to Perham Stream that we hoped was drivable.

Our plan was for me to call when I got to the railroad bed so I'd know if Jim had found the road farther up or if I needed to go down the railroad bed 1.5 miles to the truck. Wouldn't you know, Jim didn't have a signal and I did. I left two messages that I was at the rendezvous point but he couldn't access them.

I was to wait there until he hiked in one way or the other.

I waited. And waited. Talked to hikers who went by. And waited. Asked The Honeymooners to tell him where I was if they saw him up the Trail. And waited.

Waited for two and a half hours, getting increasingly worried. Mostly I worried that we got our "signals" crossed and maybe I should go on up the Trail to Perham Stream.

But what if he wasn't there? Then what?

Meanwhile, Jim was having a misadventure. He took a right turn on one of the unnamed old logging roads and came to a decrepit wooden bridge over a creek. He got out to inspect it. If decided that if he steered carefully, he could get across OK. That worked.

He discovered it was the wrong road, however, so he turned around. This time he didn't hit the boards correctly and this is the result:

OOPS!!

Jim hit a rotten board and dropped about a foot. He couldn't move the truck forwards or backwards. He's lucky he could get the door open on the driver's side. He had no phone signal to call me or to call for help. He started worrying how the heck he'd ever get out of there and how he'd get to me before dark (it was about 1:30 PM).

Jim remembered seeing a couple houses back down the road. He and Cody got out and ran five miles to the first house. No one was home. He ran to the next house and found a woman (Betty) and her teen-aged daughter at home. They let him use their phone to call a tow truck to extricate our truck from the bridge.

The tow truck owner first said no, that the logging roads were too rough for his truck. Jim expressed frustration and Betty got on the phone. She knows the tow truck owner and driver. She convinced them the road was passable, and the tow truck arrived in twenty minutes. Jim and Cody hopped in. (Cody had fun playing with the family's pit-bull pup while visiting, and was most interested in their guinea hens and goat.)

The tow truck driver used a winch to lift our truck straight up into the air and put it back down on solid wood. Then Jim drove it off. The only apparent damage is a slightly bent steering arm that we'll have to fix.

Jim found the right road to the AT and hurriedly ran down the two miles to our rendezvous point. The Honeymooners told him where I was and pointed out the two moose. Cody got in four more miles and several creeks, quite an exciting day for him. (Tater got a nice long nap in the camper while they were gone.)

Jim and I were both very glad to see each other. I'm glad he wasn't hurt and the truck damage is light. He's glad I stayed put as we'd planned.

We've talked many times about what we'd do in an emergency like this, and the best we can do is have a plan and stick with it in case our phones don't work. We consider ourselves lucky this time and hope nothing else quite so exciting happens the rest of the trip!

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil