Day 152: Abol Pines to The Birches

August 13, 2013

Today’s mileage: 10.0
Total mileage: 2180.8

It was another restless night for both of us. The upside is that we did see a few of the meteors from the Perseids Meteor Shower last night. We were tossing and turning all night, thinking about the next two days and the end of our thru-hike. Only hours remain.

We were up and out of the campsite at 7:00, just in time for the opening of the camp store across the street. The guy who makes the breakfast sandwiches apparently doesn’t always wake up early enough to make them. Today was one of those mornings. We had to settle for some cinnamon buns and chocolate milk instead. Four other thru-hikers rolled in at the same time as us, coming from the last lean-to. Miles and I set out into Baxter State Park around 8:00 and registered for The Birches at the information board as we entered the park. There are only twelve spots available at the thru-hiker only lean-tos and campsite, so in peak thru-hike season, you want to get there early to ensure that you have a spot. We’re still ahead of the hiker bubble, but we wanted to get in to camp early so that we had time to relax and enjoy our second to last day out here.

The trail was so nice between Abol Bridge and Katahdin Stream Campground. It was smooth and quiet, pine needles carpeting the trail. Unlike many of the other flat sections of trail in Maine, there was a significantly less amount of rocks, roots, and mud. We enjoyed our last ten miles cruising along the trail as we hiked by the Penobscot River. It felt like a victory lap for our thru-hike.

We had our last ford of the hike across the lower fork of the Nesowadnehunk Stream. The water was about knee high, but by now we’re seasoned pros at fording and the strong current was easily passable with careful foot placement. Hooker remarked that his feet always felt so much better after fording through the cold water. I felt the same way, but also relieved that neither of us managed to fall during our fording adventures and get swept downstream. Trail catastrophe avoided.

The upper fork of the stream did not have to be forded, but it was a bit treacherous nonetheless. There was a board placed across two rocks that almost flipped as I stepped on it to cross. Then, I had to leap across the water from the edge of a slippery rock to a small, rounded rock near the edge. Miles thought I was going to fall as I took my time, making sure that I could make the jump. I leapt across and landed safely on the smaller rock. If anything, our thru-hike has significantly increased our agility. Not to mention, I am now the proud owner of a set of jacked calves.

We took a break at Big Niagara Falls, a raging waterfall just off trail. It was a great little spot to take a break as the mist of the falls sprayed in our direction. From there, we only had 3.5 miles left in our day and it was only 10:45. We passed several day hikers on their way to the falls. As we neared the end of our day, we had another amazing view of Katahdin. It was so close this time, the peaks standing out from one another. I was ready to climb it right then and there. We saw a deer, frozen in the trail only feet ahead of us. We really haven’t seen much wildlife in Maine, so this was a rare moment for us. None of us moved, watching each other to see who would make the next move. Eventually, we cautiously stepped forward and the deer leapt away at the last moment, it’s white tail flapping behind it. We also saw a mother squirrel carrying her baby, clung to her neck. She passed right by us on the trail, clearly on a mission.

We arrived at Katahdin Stream Campground around noon, definitely our earliest end to a hiking day by far. It was an easy, relaxing ten miles to our last destination until Baxter Peak. The ranger wasn’t at the station, so Miles, Hooker, and I headed over to The Birches to set-up camp. You have to pay to stay here, so we have to go back and see the ranger later in the afternoon to pay up. So far, it’s Miles and I, Hooker, Pigpen, Sweats, Splinter, ZZ Topless, and Wild Blue, who is staying at KSC with his family. It began to rain as we set up our tent and now we are enjoying a relaxing afternoon in the tent. I’m just happy that we’re warm and dry in our tent instead of wet and cold hiking in the rain. They’re calling for 50% chance of showers tomorrow. This is a change from the 0% chance of precipitation we saw a few days ago. I knew it was too good to be true. My weather forecasting cynicism has only increased.

Minnesota Pete, who we met in North Carolina, Wiki, and ZZ Topless showed up in the evening. Wiki was nice enough to hike in some PBRs that he shared with us and we enjoyed a good night talking about our time on the trail with Wiki and Minnesota Pete. It was awesome to see some people that we had met earlier in our hike.

We can only hope for a good day tomorrow and count ourselves lucky that we do have the option of summiting another day since we live so close to Baxter. I’m going to try and go to bed early tonight so that I’m ready for our early start tomorrow, but I have a feeling that I won’t be getting much sleep tonight.

I will save my summational thoughts for tomorrow’s post and beyond. There’s too much to say and not enough battery left on my phone. Today was an odd day. It felt strange, knowing that tomorrow would be our last. Thru-hiking has become so normal to us, that coming out of our routine may prove to be more difficult than I imagined. I can already tell that tomorrow will be filled with mixed emotions. Even though it’s a moment that I’ve often thought about, I don’t know how I’ll feel during that final moment of our thru-hike when we reach the summit. Excited? Sad? Relieved? Sensational, as Miles may think I’ll feel? Tomorrow, we will find out.

As the cast of Les Misérables would say: “One Day More!”

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5 thoughts on “Day 152: Abol Pines to The Birches

  1. Phys Ed says:

    Omigod I can’t believe you are there, and you finished on Wednesday!! I am so proud of you guys……..I only wish I was there with you. And be prepared…….I came off the trail on June 26, and I am still not over it – and I didn’t even complete it. It’s hard to hike, and it’s hard to stop. Nobody told me how hard it would be to get back to ‘normal’. Maybe the trail mentality is the new normal! Keep in touch!

  2. Trolley Stop (2011) says:

    Thanks Guys for a wonderful discription of your hike. I’ve enjoyed following you since your Pre hike posts. Great job. Enjoy that last climb up Katahdin. A day you’ll never forget. Congratulations!

  3. david andrew says:

    By now you have finished your hike and are probably home. Let me just say that this blog has been one of the best journals of a through hike I have ever followed, and I have followed many. Congrats on finishing your great journey. One day, when my sons are older, I hope to make one of my own. Your journey will remain an inspiration for me.

  4. mmaki1014 says:

    I’m sure you two have finished by now! First congrats!!! Secondly, Thank you so much for keeping such a great journal. I’m planning a thru hike for next year and your blog has been one of the main motivators keeping me on task! Can’t vwait to read your summit entry!!

  5. Judy Patterson says:

    Thank you, thank you for the last 5 months of readings. I read this 1st at 5:30 this morning with tears in my eyes and have just finished rereading again – same reaction!You have evoked memories for me of the first years of our 45 married years when we did some hiking and backpacking together. Several people have commented on how the trip you and Miles have just completed has got to be a great omen for your future and your marriage and I certainly agree. I can’t wait to read more about your lives off the trail. I, too, have connections in Bucksport and hope we can meet one day.
    Judy

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