2019-Day 100: Nahmakanta daydreams and Rainbow Stream meltdowns edition

July 22, 2019

Other than an unwelcome bio break at 2:30 in the morning, I slept pretty well in our mosquito den. I felt bad for creaking around the cottage at that hour of the night, but there was no ignoring my bladder for 3 more hours. No, I did not walk all the way up to the fancy privies in the middle of the night, and yes, I did pee in the yard under a moonlit sky. Neither of us wanted to get out of bed, but we finally forced ourselves to muster around 6am. Oakland made the trek to the privy first, then I followed suit. The privies were theoretically gendered (should one choose to pay attention to useless distinctions when we’re talking about a wooden platform with a hole in it). We were the only female bodied people on site, so we had that privy all to ourselves. After the necessary duties, we got dressed and packed our bags. My left eyelid was swollen and my left temple was slightly painful. This led me to a minor anxiety spiral about a recurrence of the shingles that I’d had in December of 2018, but I wasn’t feeling any nerve pain or itching, so I did my best to let go of my impending doom narrative. Oakland took a picture of my eyelid so we could monitor the situation, and we continued clearing our gear out of the room.

We went up to main building with AB and loitered on the porch watching a hummingbird zoom around. The dude bro contingency drank coffee and smoked a variety of substances while we waited for the building to open. One of the kids perused a trump book, which made me cringe. We were beckoned for breakfast at 7:30am sharp and received strict instructions to take 4 pieces bacon, about two scrambled eggs worth from a communal bowl, and 1 English muffin that had been toasted and buttered. I worried that the bros would be careless with their egg portions, but they were actually pretty polite. Then came the silence of long distance hikers eating home cooked food. In addition to our previously mentioned rations, we were provided with all you can eat blueberry pancakes (sadly no butter). They weren’t as good as Shaws, but they were well worth the impending shortness of breath I would feel after eating 3 of them AND an english muffin covered in strawberry jam. Oakland also managed to consume 3 pancakes, which was a feat for her usually restrained breakfast appetite.

Around 8, we slowly rose from our chairs and settled our payment with Bill. Then we returned to the cottage to brush our teeth and finalize our packs. We confirmed our hotel reservations with HQ for Monday, August 4th in Millinocket. AB kindly brought my electronics bag back to the cottage because he had been in the main building when Linda returned with everyone’s tech. My brick was fully charged, which was an unexpected luxury given the power situation. We went back up to the front porch to wait for our boat ride back to the trail side dock.

The dopey black lab kept us company as we silently judged the gaggle of bros, several of whom continued to enjoy their locally sourced joints (who knew the Trumpers would also provide “complimentary” pot with a $40 lighter).

Bill announced that we would be going back to the AT dock in two trips of four people. Feeling pushy and in no mood to watch the speedy bro-squad get first dibs, I immediately said, “Okay, who wants to go with the slower hikers in the first boat??” The smokers declined with no resistance while AB and the nice kid from dinner decided to join us. I gave the dopey lab, whose name is Trapper (found it in today’s creature feature notes!) a goodbye pat, and we piled into the boat.

Three minutes later, we stood on the floating dock saying goodbye to Bill. He gave the men handshakes and made no moves to do the same for us, so we busied ourselves with our packs.

Oakland and I immediately whipped out our deet wipes. The kid, whose name I never did get, expressed surprise that we were still bothering with bug spray. I scoffed at the idea of NOT using it, and he said that he’d stopped because it didn’t seem to work. I both understood what he meant and had no intention of giving up on the toxins. AB and the kid disappeared down the tote road as we continued slathering ourselves. We had recently discovered that spraying deet onto the old wipes was more effective than simply spraying it straight onto our skin, so we tried to use that method whenever we could muster the energy to do so. This allowed us to keep working through our spray bottles and use fewer wipes.

We finally our made our way back down the piney path and laughed when we ran into AB at the trail intersection covering himself in bug spray with his headnet resting over his baseball cap, at the ready. He told us we had been wise to apply ahead of time because the tote road had been brutal. Oakland and I took a right onto the AT and let adventure boy take the lead. The morning started with mild footing over pine needles and a smattering of roots.

We wound around until a river ran alongside our right. The acoustics of the water ranged from babbling brook sounds to the silent coursing of wide, slow-moving sections.

AB let us pass him for no apparent reason, which immediately made me dread the push of a person behind me, but he eventually dropped out of sight. As we went up a seemingly out of place set of metal stairs on other side of a stream crossing, I joked about it being an escalator.

AB caught up around the stairs, but then inexplicably dropped back again. The footing intensified with patches of standing water and muddy rock hops. We paused for the occasional mushroom investigation and to admire views of Nahmakanta Stream, which the trail paralleled for over 4 miles. Here are few pictures from the next couple of hours.

We eventually reached the shore of Nahmakanta Lake, where we ran into two of the NOBROS (yes, I finally made that word combo) taking a smoke break. It would have been a great place for lunch, but it was only 11am and neither of us felt like taking said break with company.

We enjoyed the breeze and took in the view for a minute before turning back to the trail. The cooling breeze followed us through the woods for a little while as we wound around the left side of the lake over a morass of irritating rocks.

There were small, but sharp ups and downs as the trail zig zagged towards and away from the shoreline. I saw a new pink flower as we crossed a small beach section before ducking back into the woods.

We contemplated eating on that beach because of the view, but the lack of shade wasn’t appealing, so we decided to push another mile for Wadleigh shelter.

Our excitement for lunch was slightly dampened by the presence of a hiker napping in the shelter. He had a pack that was as long and as wide as his linebacker torso, which led me to make the pejorative assumption that he was a section hiker. He didn’t stir the entire time we ate, so we couldn’t confirm my biased theory.

We dropped our packs and sat on logs near the fire pit, which was thankfully in dappled shade. The cicadas were in high dudgeon as we pulled out our food bags and gleefully unwrapped our leftover pizza slices.

Three of the NOBROS passed us, two of which mistakenly wandered through the shelter area instead of sticking to the trail, which ran to the right of the shelter. AB eventually stopped in for water and a midday sojourn with the privy. We also collected water after we finished our lunches. The source was a nearby shallow, rocky stream with a robust mosquito population.

We left Wadleigh around 1pm and made the 2ish mile approach to Nesuntabunt through a medley of rocks, roots, and the occasional building-sized boulder with shaggy fern covered tops.

My notes are pretty sparse here, but I remember being surprised by the steepness of the final mile to the summit. As we grumbled and sweated our way to the top (hello, pizza lungs), I admired the light streaming through the canopy and said hello to a small garter snake friend.

We eventually made it to a side trail that would take us to another view of Katahdin. We decided to leave our packs at the intersection and scrambled down a rock face, unknowingly picking the hardest route to the view point. Two of the smoking nitwits sat against some rocks partaking in yet another pot break. Oakland and I gave perfunctory greetings and kept ourselves busy checking out the amazing view across the lake (also today’s top picture).

One of the guys asked us where our packs were, and we said we’d left them at the trail. This thoroughly confused the dude bros because they thought they were still on the AT itself. We convinced them that they were indeed sitting at a dead end side trail and that they should head back the way they’d come.

Oakland and I had to catch our bearings back at the trail intersection because it was a horseshoe curve that made it hard to see the northbound blazes. We made our way down Nesuntabunt with little fanfare. About halfway down, we caught another view of Katahdin that we stopped to admire before continuing over the roots and rocks.

The trail eventually crossed Wadleigh Pond Rd and then dipped back into the woods for a tedious counter clockwise trip around Crescent Pond. There were canoes sitting along the edge of the water, which felt confusing relative to the perceived remoteness.

The view was pretty, but by the time we made it to the northwestern side of the aptly named pond, it felt like we had walked around our ass to get to our elbow (welcome to the AT). We continued over the uneven footing and passed up the side trail to Pollywog Gorge. The jaunty name wasn’t enough to lure us to what guthook described as a lackluster view.

We were both exhausted and in rotten moods. We took a short break to refill our water where the trail ran alongside the wide and rocky Pollywog stream.

Shortly past our water stop, we came across a handful of stealth sites to the right of the trail. The allure of a stream-side stealth spot gave us pause, but we made the decision to push onward to maintain our mileage goal for the day. The trail promptly devolved into a half mile of rocks and roots on steroids.

It felt like we were being punished for not listening to our bodies and rejecting a perfectly good campsite. I tried not to dwell on the decision and silently hoped that Oakland was doing okay. She had been quiet and on the edge of inconsolable for much of the late afternoon. We crossed Wadleigh Pond Rd again, and found the pair of brothers from White House Landing sitting on the wooden bridge overlooking Pollywog Stream.

They asked us where we were headed for the night, and we bemoaned that we were shooting for the Rainbow Stream lean-to. We headed up the road and nearly missed the trail save for a small rock cairn sitting to the right of the gravel.

Back into the woods we went, where the footing was mild for a little while but quickly went semi-Maine. Oakland erupted into tears after banging the arch of her foot for the second time in a matter of minutes. It didn’t help that we were approaching dinner time with nearly an hour of hiking left. She plopped onto a rock to finish her meltdown while I took a quick pee break in a cloud of mosquitoes. I felt awful for Oakland, especially because there was nothing to do but breathe through the misery and keep walking.

We crossed over dry, rocky stream beds and scrambled over the occasional boulder with Rainbow stream cascading to our right. We passed a rock sluice with large boulders forming an impressive trough (pictures don’t really do it justice). A little ways upstream, the water was nearly sedate relative to the crashing flow we had just seen.

The trail followed the stream for about a mile before veering left. I hadn’t realized how loud the water had been until the silence echoed around us. I took exactly zero pictures for the rest of the day, which should give you a sense of morale. From memory, I would say the trail narrowed somewhat until we reached the sprawling, and annoyingly hilly tenting area for the Rainbow Stream Lean-to.

We walked past a smattering of tents, scanning the area for a large enough site that wasn’t going to send us rolling downhill all night or involve sleeping on a tangle of pine roots. Adventure boy was in the process of setting up his dinner when we arrived. He was far too chipper for my current mood, and didn’t rise to the level of crankiness that we expressed about the ground conditions. We finally wedged our tent onto a mediocre site that had all the trappings one doesn’t want in a campsite. I offered to get water while Oakland set up her bedding. Down the hill I went where I found a handful of chatty, presumably NOBO hikers sitting on the lip of the shelter facing the picturesque Rainbow Stream. I set my day pack down at the edge of the water and dutifully filtered enough to water fill all of our plastic bottles. As I screwed on the cap for the second sawyer bag, it popped out of my hands and proceeded to bob down stream. I kept my eyes glued to the white cap, but I could feel myself giving up on it while my mind flipped through the ramifications of being down a water bag. The irritation of that scenario spurred me into carefully rock hopping down stream a few yards while holding the full sawyer bag. I managed to retrieve the cap as it swirled in a shallow eddy near the stream bank. I picked my way back to solid ground and twisted the cap onto the bag, cursing as I nearly dropped it a second time.

I regaled Oakland with my struggles and triumph while we scrounged around for our dinner gear. The mosquitoes were abysmal, which did little for our collective mood. For the cherry on top of an aggravating evening, I had to find somewhere private to deal with my cup because I had no desire to huddle in a spider filled privy at dusk. I found a smattering of tree cover several yards behind our campsite and dealt with the situation while feeling thoroughly confused by the random bag of clothes hanging from a bear line in the same little pine alcove.

With much grumbling, Oakland and I settled into the tent for the night. She had noticed a nodule on my eyelid during dinner (the same one that had been swollen earlier this morning), so I decided to take a Benadryl. I couldn’t bring myself to work on my notes, so I made the executive decision to rely on pictures, not realizing that I had been in too foul a mood to properly document the second half of the day. I’m finishing this to the sound of Rainbow Stream rushing down below and the infrequent pop of a bug against the tent.

Mile 2146.4 to mile 2161.9 (15.5)  – Rainbow Stream Lean-to

Checklist total miles: 1030.6 

Oakland total miles: 553.2 

Creature feature: several small snakes, very animated loons, Trapper the dopey black lab, black & white woodpeckers, a handful of frogs, a couple of ducks, moose poooop, and thousands of mosquitoes 

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