Days 123-125: The Cabin - Old Speck, Baldpate, Wyman, and Moody Mountains (Slackpacking from The Cabin)
1861 miles on the Appalachian Trail
Yesterday, I caught a glimpse of Old Speck Mountain from atop Mahoosuc Arm: a slightly rounded peak with a distinct rock scar running down the side of its summit. I bet we're going to climb up those rock slabs, I'd thought.
And sure enough, we are now climbing up the exposed slabs up the side of Old Speck, the last mountain in the Mahoosuc Range and 4th-tallest mountain in Maine.
I avoid looking down as we approach the summit. Thankfully, the exposure lasts only for a fraction of a mile.
From Old Speck, we hike down to Grafton Notch, where ME Route 26 runs across the trail. We will stay at The Cabin, a hostel in Andover, ME.
We plan to slackpack in the rain for the next couple days: We'll leave our heavy packs at the hostel, shuttle to the trailhead, hike, and return to the hostel at night.
An elderly couple, Honey and Bear, own The Cabin. The place is a large log cabin with a bunk house downstairs, a greenhouse on the side, and dining room upstairs. Several campers, as well as the Hiker Yearbook bus, are parked on the property. Tenacious quickly finds a nook in the corner with an armchair and sunroof: the perfect place to read in the rain.
Honey and Bear cook up a veritable feast for dinner. Salad, chicken, corn, mashed potatoes, split pea soup -- what else could a hiker want?
That night, I dream of getting chased over huge boulders by a horde of zombies. When I wake up, I'm half convinced the dream was real.
Breakfast is quite the event, though! Banana bread, eggs, potatoes, biscuits, and gravy are laid out across the 3 dining tables. We dig in, then prepare to shuttle out.
Nighthawk, Tenacious, and I will slackpack over Mt. Moody and Wyman Mountain with Tenderfoot and Judy, whom I'd met at Carter Notch Hut. Tomorrow, when the rain abates, we will climb Baldpate Mountain.
Perhaps the terrain is easier today, or perhaps hiking with a day pack is more enjoyable than with a full pack, but I have fun today despite getting soaking wet.
For dinner, Honey whips up another Thanksgiving feast with shepherd's pie as the main dish. Delicious!
Back in the bunk room, I inspect my pack. All the scrambling and sliding over rocks has torn a couple holes in the bottom and side. I dig out a couple strips of KT Tape from my first aid kit, take out a needle and thread, and try to remember how to sew. After a couple failed attempts to make an end knot, I turn to Judy.
"Is there any chance you could teach me to make an end knot?" I ask. I figure Judy will be an expert on sewing, since she makes her own line of tents.
Judy takes my needle and thread and demonstrates. Tenacious comes over to watch. Judy takes the thread, licks her pointer finger, wraps the thread around her finger, and pulls. A small round knots sits perfectly at the end of the string.
"Woah!" Tenacious and I say in amazement.
"Sewing 101?" Tenderfoot asks with a smile as she walks by.
Judy hands the needle and thread back to me.
"Now, lick your finger," she says patiently.
I do, then wrap the thread around a few times, and pull. A tiny knot forms at the end of the string.
I spend the rest of the evening clumsily patching my pack.
The next morning is still damp, but not rainy. We shuttle out to the trailhead with Tenderfoot, Judy, and Candyman, a retired man and northbound thru-hiker who reached The Cabin last night.
"Oh, I really hope my knees warm up and start purring," Tenderfoot says, putting on her pack.
"I think I need a zero sometime," Judy replies.
"Doesn't it feel like we're walking to the gallows?" Tenderfoot laughs.
For the last two days, we've heard stories about the difficulty of the Baldpates. After all the hype, the Baldpates turn out far less terrifying than I anticipated. Stone stairs make up much of the trail up to Baldpate West Peak; when I reach the summit, I hardly even notice or dare believe that I am there. The climb up to Baldpate East Peak is a bit more difficult. Giant granite slabs form the trail, each tilted at a 20-30 degree angle, one stacked atop another. It's a far cry from the 50-70 degree angles I expected, though.
There is slightly steeper terrain on the descent, but that soon flattens out into dirt trail. Candyman hikes with Nighthawk and me during part of the descent. He tells us he saw two hikers fall a couple days ago. One man fell about 15 ft near the border of New Hampshire and Maine, and had to get airlifted out. Perhaps that's why we heard helicopters, I think. I hope that guy's OK.
As we continue, Candyman remarks that he knows how to make a moose call for hunting. Nighthawk asks him to demonstrate. He cups his hands to his mouth.
Most of the hikers head to a Mexican buffet for dinner. Tenacious, Nighthawk, and I stay in for leftovers. Judy tells us about her hiking exploits on the Colorado Trail.
"We ran into a group of trail builders. They fed us. Dinner, breakfast. Then, they took us and dropped us off in the middle of the trail - because they build the middle first, then work on the ends - and said, 'When you get to the end, you'll see a bunch of chain gangs. But don't worry. They're well guarded."