Thursday, September 11, 2014

Onward to Monson

Fortunately after the Bigelows, the Trail does mellow out considerably. Even though there are still substantial stretches of roots, rocks, and mud there is little elevation change. I was able to start hiking faster and doing more miles putting me at the Kennebec River the next day. I really enjoyed the Trail from Pierce Pond down the Kennebec as it follows the stream past many cascades and waterfalls.

Pierce Pond Stream
Kennebec River

Perhaps one the coolest things in Maine (maybe on the AT) is the "ferry" that transports hikers across the Kennebec. Even though the river is gorgeous it's far to dangerous to ford. The ATC's answer has been to provide a free ferry service for hikers via canoe during season. Our guide Dave, explained that the ferry has been in operation since 1937 and is the last surviving human-powered ferry in the country. After eight years of service, Dave deftly maneuvered across the Kennebec but I could sense the river's power as we battled the current just to make the landing.

Kennebec River Ferry approaching

I stopped overnight in the tiny town of Caratunk (pop 60) that dates back to 1840. The Sterling Inn provided excellent hiker accommodation and our host, Eric, was quite the local historian. But other than another resort several miles up US 201, there are few resources there. I pushed on the next day and finally got my first 20-miler of the entire hike. It wasn't exactly painless as I had to traverse both Pleasant Pond Mt. and Moxie Bald Mt. but I did get my first glimpse of Katahdin in the distance some 100 miles away.

My reward for cranking out the 20-miler (with the help of a Cliff Shot and Led Zeppelin II on the iPod) was a stay at the Bald Mt. Lake Shelter sitting just 40 yds from the water.  As dusk came on I went down to the lake to watch the loons singing and noticed the Harvest Moon rising in the east. It just doesn't get any better.

Dawn on the lake was just as beautiful but I had to tear myself away to make the last 18 miles in Monson, my final town stop on the AT.

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