Blame it on the river.
I'm sitting in the camper on a beautiful sunny day, taking a (much-needed)
rest day when I intended to keep going on the Trail to the finish without a
break, barring bad weather.
OK, blame it on the weather.
When we went to bed last night around 9 PM, the wind had just started blowing
with hard gusts that shook the camper. I could feel and hear it all night, even
with ear plugs. There was no rain, just hard wind. I was hoping no trees would
fall on our camper. This beautiful campground is full of trees.
The alarm went off at 4 AM, one of our earliest wake-ups. The next section of
17+ miles will take me through an area full of trees and bogs and lakes.
Although there isn't much elevation change, it is slow because of all the mud
and muck. I'll be under pressure to reach the end of the section on the other
side of the Kennebec River before 4 PM, the absolute last time the ferry service
provides a ride across the river each afternoon.
Mind you, there's no ferry as such. The ferry service uses a canoe
to transport hikers back and forth across the river. Our campground hostess
knows Steve Longley, the fella who usually mans the canoe. He used to stay in
one of the cabins at Deer Farm. Steve is a Notre Dame graduate with a yen for
the wilds of Maine, not working in some corporate office in a city.
The wind was still howling at 4 AM when the alarm sounded. My sleep-deprived
mind raced. How safe would it be to run and hike through seventeen miles of
woods when I've already been konked on the head by a branch on a windy day? And
would Steve want to paddle his canoe back and forth across the wide Kennebec
River in a high wind? What if I got there on time and he wasn't providing his
service? It would mean back-tracking three miles to a dirt road that is forty
miles out of Jim's way to pick me up (very few bridges cross the Kennebec).
We woke up and debated whether it was either safe or wise for me to run this
section today. We aren't anywhere close to the trail head for the next section,
so the options were do this one or take a day off. I asked Jim if he'd want to
be out on the Trail in this wind. He said no.
So I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep!
Didn't happen. I laid there a total of nine hours and got maybe two hours of
sleep the whole night, worrying about what to do and listening to the wind.
It was still windy when we got up at 7. Weather reports indicate it will be
windy all day. A cold front is blowing in from Canada. I called the ferry
service. Steve is in Portland, ME today, but another guy is planning to ferry
hikers across the river unless the wind gets too strong.
So I'll give it a go tomorrow. Meanwhile, my knees can use the break. There
has been a lot of elevation gain and loss the last seven days, and they are
That's it. Blame it on my Granny Knees.
(You'd be surprised how many of the young hikers complain about their knees
hurting, too. Makes me feel a little better.)
The most ubiquitous sight along the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine,
is trees. Yes, there are mountains and lakes and rivers, but trees are
the common denominator from one state to the next. It's a long green tunnel when
the leaves are out, a cool, shady respite.
Now we are at Tree Central. Maine has a higher percentage of treed land than
any other state in the U.S. Ninety percent of the land mass in Maine is treed,
despite three centuries of intensive logging.
Below is a photo from September 6
showing some of the eighteen million acres of trees in Maine:
We are becoming quite aware of the importance of logging to the economy of
Maine. We see about as many logging trucks on some of the roads here as we do
passenger vehicles. They drive fast, even on dirt roads. The logging
roads are our lifeline, providing access to trail heads in areas that are too
long for me to run/hike in one day. Jim is becoming an expert in deciphering
which unmarked logging roads to take at intersections.
In the first stage of logging in the 1700s and early 1800s, felled logs were
transported by rivers during the spring run-off. The Kennebec was an important
route. Rivers are no longer used for this purpose.
Methods of harvesting and processing spruce and pine in Maine have changed
dramatically over the years with the development of mechanized equipment and the use
of trucks and railroads to transport the lumber to mill sites. There are
eighteen paper mills and numerous lumber and specialty product mills in Maine.
So far, I haven't seen much evidence of clearcuts along the Appalachian Trail
or from the mountaintops. In some areas the trees are obviously younger, but
pains have been made to route the Trail through densely forested areas. I'm
curious to see what the "Hundred-Mile Wilderness" looks like in a few days,
since logging is active in that area.
Maine has an extensive shoreline on the Atlantic Ocean. This is the only part
of Maine that I've previously seen. I have fond memories of eating delicious,
freshly-caught Maine lobster, another important industry for the state.
So Jim said, "Let's find a restaurant that serves Maine lobster."
Unfortunately, the campground owner says we won't find any around Kingfield.
We'll have to wait until another town or on our way back home through a larger
We've had only one response to the question of what New Hampshire residents
call themselves, and we're sorry we didn't think of it ourselves:
"New Hampsters," of course! Thanks, Harry.