Or maybe he wasn't joking!
Steve Longley, the guy who usually ferries hikers across the Kennebec River
in a canoe, is in Portland this week with his mother, who had a stroke. Eric is
a river guide who handles the duties when Steve isn't available.
2 PM Eric rowed (standing up!) the canoe across the river to
transport seven northbound hikers who had collected on the far side. He could
take only two at a time. Since I'd been there the longest, I got to
ride over to the Caratunk side first.
One of the thru-hikers, "Skywalker," a very tall, lean young fella, really
wanted to ford the river. But he had some questions first. The rest of us knew
Eric would try to talk him out of it. The ferry service began in 1985 after a
thru hiker drowned fording the river.
The main problem is the unpredictable release of water upstream at hydro
facilities managed by an electric company. They don't release the water at the same time each day, nor in the
same amount. It takes the water a while to reach the spot where the AT crosses
the river.Depths can surge two to four feet quite fast, catching hikers
already in the water by surprise.
The ferry service frequently sees hikers (and dogs) being swept downstream
because they miscalculated the strength of the current and depth of the water.
Eric told us the water was released this morning at 11:00. At 2:15, the water
had already risen to a depth of seventeen feet in the middle and it was 76
yards wide. He predicted that it was going to get another four or five feet
higher by 3:00 PM and span 83 yards, reaching the spot where "Giggles" and "Patch"
That got everyone's attention. The dude who wanted to ford the river changed
I reached the river an hour before the afternoon ferry service began (in
prime hiker season, it's 9 to 11 AM and 2 to 4 PM - if you're late, too bad).
After wandering around a bit and taking photos of the river and its junction
with large Pierce Pond Stream, I chose a log seat, ate a Harvest Bar, and watched
HEY, THAT'S COOL!
I knew the Kennebec flows south. But two feet away from me the water was
flowing north! It was the water from the creek. You'd think there would
be a whirlpool effect or something where the waters collided, but I couldn't see
it. All I could see was the water next to me heading north and the river moving
As each of the other six hikers arrived - "Rambler," "Patches," "Linux,"
"Giggles," "Skywalker," then "Box o'Fun" - they noticed the weird water flow and
I swear each one of them said independently something to the effect of, "I thought the river flowed south!"
Before any of the other hikers arrived I noticed activity on the other side.
It was only 1:15. Hey, maybe Steve's here early! I was hoping. Then I
realized it was Jim. Our phones had no signals and the river made too much noise
to hear each other, so we each jokingly made wide arm motions inviting the other
to our side!
No way, José.
Jim left and returned shortly with Cody and Tater (the AT parking lot is
3/10th of a mile away, off US 201). He was throwing sticks and stones into the
river for them to chase. I could see him pointing across the river to me, and
thought, You're bad. Cody can't swim across there! Jim swears he was only
pointing me out to him.
I sat quietly, waiting. Jim paced back and forth on the other side. I assumed
he was impatient. Turns out, the mosquitoes were eating him alive. They were all
over me as soon as I got across (and signed the waiver!) and they are bad at our
campground just up the road. I stopped wearing insect repellent two or three
weeks ago because I wasn't seeing bugs any more. I may have to start using it
After Eric scared all of us about the vagaries of the river, I put on a life
preserver and got in the middle seat of the canoe so I wouldn't have to paddle.
I fell this morning and my right arm is bloody and sore. I knew the current was
strong and there was more wind in that location than anywhere on the trail
today. Rambler got in front and paddled. Eric paddled and steered, sitting down
this time, from the rear.
Cody and Tater came out in the water a little ways to greet us as we pulled
to shore. Cody was perplexed. What's Mommy doing in that boat?? He was all
wiggly and silly when I got out.
That was a really fun experience!
I'll probably wish I had a boat for some of
the upcoming stream crossings I've heard about that are knee and thigh deep -
when there hasn't even been any recent rain. That's got me nervous, with rain
predicted in a couple days.
A WATERFUL DAY
I was afraid I'd be bored today with so little elevation change and no scenic
views from a tree-less summit. It's kinda like the let-down I felt after leaving
the Shenandoahs - no more "real" mountains until the Whites.
But I was pleasantly surprised, especially by the last four miles. I passed
three very large lakes in this 17+ miles (West Carry, East Carry, and Pierce,
all called "ponds" in under-stated Maine lingo), crossed several bogs and Arnold Swamp, went through or over
numerous streams of various sizes, and was ferried across one of the widest
rivers on the AT.
I found another variant of the "bog bridge" - one that floated on top of the
water and swayed side to side when I walked (very carefully) across. Now that
was a surprise to me. I thought I was going into the water for sure. In
other places the wooden logs or boards were either entirely missing (large gaps
between them) or so rotted I couldn't use them. Most were serviceable, however.
The AT hugs the shores of both Carry Ponds for a mile or more. I enjoyed the
lapping waves and cool breezes from both. Today was mostly overcast but it felt
warm and muggy. I appreciated the cooling wind on the lakes and river.
Pierce Pond was my favorite of the three lakes. Somehow it's just prettier. There
is a nice lean-to (shelter) located about twenty-five feet from shore and row
boats in a nearby cove.
The Trail got pretty weird as I walked (gingerly) over this mess of rocks and
logs at the outlet of Pierce Pond, the beginning of Pierce Pond Stream. It was
very strange to see and hear all the water surging below me!
I quickly decided that Pierce Pond Creek is the best creek I've seen on the entire AT so far.
The Trail follows it, sometimes so closely it has to be flooded when the creek
is high, for the next 3.7 miles down to the Kennebec River. Although the drop in
elevation is only 670 feet the stream is full of noisy cascades, chutes,
rapids, and waterfalls, interspersed with quiet pools of water that barely seem
to be moving.
Now how does that work?? This phenomenon has always fascinated me:
almost flat, still water, and then a cascade or waterfall as the pitch decreases
Where the AT isn't right next to the stream, several side trails have been
built to take hikers next to some of the falls. Since I had plenty of time to kill by then
(no need to sit at the river for two hours waiting for the ferry), I took most
of those short trails. This is one of many waterfalls on the creek:
Although the Trail isn't very runnable along the stream because of all the
roots it is well worth a hike
if you're in the vicinity. Run over to the river from the parking lot on Hwy.
201, take the "ferry" across, and walk up the AT till you get to Pierce Pond and
the shelter. Then come back. Kids would really enjoy this eight-mile hike, too.
I ran probably three miles today. I could have run more, but knew I had to
kill some time waiting for the ferry so I took it easy and walked places I could
have run. Some parts of the Trail were smooth and covered in pine needles. Most
others were so full of rocks, roots, and muck that it was difficult to walk.
Because there was so little elevation gain and loss today, however (about 4,100
feet total), my pace was a bit faster than recently, even with lots of stops and
at least a mile of side trips.
Not knowing what the Trail would be like - and having a deadline to catch the
ferry - we got up at 4:15 AM and I was on the Trail by 5:40. Because of the
cloud cover I needed my light the first 25 minutes. I'm glad the MATC has lots
of white paint; I'm grateful for all the blazes they use!
Jim noticed this painted in the middle of the road at the trail head this
The mileage was accurate several years ago but I passed the
current 2,000-mile mark on Sunday four or five miles before this road. It shows
how much the Trail can change from year to year (it always seems to get
"Charlie Brown" (his real first name, but he has a different last name) was surprised
to see me again today. He thought I'd be a day ahead now; he didn't know I took
yesterday off. He was going southbound again, doing the car-tag thing with
laughed when I saw his red bandana. He gave it to me Sunday to tie on a tree so
Ed would know where to turn on a dirt road for the short-cut we told them about.
They were very appreciative of that, as it saved them about 40 miles of driving two
Charlie and Ed plan to summit about the 25th, depending on the weather.
Hurricane Ophelia is the current concern.
About two miles from the end I met "Swingin' Jane" going south. We
first saw each other in Virginia, I think. She had her black Lab with her then
but hasn't had him since she flipped from the MA-VT line to Katahdin. She knew
she couldn't make it there before the weather gets dicey so she did what many
thru-hikers do - stopped on her way north, went to Katahdin, and is working her
way back south to where she stopped.
We talked about twenty minutes about the Trail either direction and some of
our experiences this summer. She spent last night at the same campground/ lodge
where Jim moved the camper today and he saw her notes in the trail register
Jim also met "Chainsaw," a young thru-hiker who was picking up his mail at
the post office. He's hoping to summit Katahdin the 26th.
I'm typing this inside our camper this afternoon, watching the mighty
Kennebec (which is still rising) about 100 feet away. What a terrific campsite
We're at Northern Outdoors, Inc. at The Forks, near the confluence of
the Dead and Kennebec Rivers. There are also cabins and a lodge here, where we
plan to have dinner tonight. [Later - at least six other thru-hikers ate dinner there, too.]
We have the campground to ourselves. The water is turned off now but we have
electricity, acres of trees and grass, and the Kennebec within eyesight - all
for the low rate of $14.50 a night. That's a steal. When Jim mentioned I was
thru-hiking they gave us a 25% discount.
Guests can get free rental kayaks to use on nearby Martin Pond. We've never
been kayaking before, but Jim's gonna try it in the morning after he drops me
off. I have a short (12-mile) segment tomorrow, so maybe we'll go back for more when
I'm done. Should be fun!
We sure are enjoying Maine.