The weather forecast is indicating a good chance of rain today, but for now, my clothes are dry enough to be bearable. At least bearable enough for me. After being wet for so long, I’m guessing that my smell is bad enough to repel a skunk, but I’m pretty much immune to it by now. It seems that the campsites at Baldpate Lean-to filled up overnight but there isn’t anyone here that I know.
To anyone that has been reading my journal for any length of time, it probably seems like I start each morning with a climb and, for the most part, that is true. In most instances, the climb is planned. I select a campsite that will let me start a big climb in the morning when I’m well rested and my legs are fresh. In other instances, though, I just stop before the big climb because I can’t go any further, and that was certainly the case yesterday.
The climb for this morning was another steep and rocky scramble for 1,000-feet to the summit of the Baldpate West Peak. By now, I was low on food, so at least I didn’t have that extra weight to contend with. The summit was covered with trees, but there is a rock opening just past the summit that rewarded me with a view of the Baldpate East Peak.
From the Baldpate West Peak, the trail drops like a rock for a couple of hundred feet. I’m starting to become more comfortable with walking on steeply sloping granite slabs. Even when wet, these slabs provide an amazing amount of traction because they are not covered with that slick as ice algae that I had to contend with in the Mid-Atlantic states. At the bottom of the descent, the trail leads to the saddle between the peaks which is filled with another gorgeous alpine bog.
After the bog walk, I began climbing steep granite slabs towards the summit of the Baldpate East Peak. The summit of the East Peak is completely open which provides a stunning 360-degree view of the surrounding wilderness. This is supposed to be one of the most popular day hikes in the State of Maine, but today I practically had it to myself. I don’t know if it was because of the iffy weather or it being Thursday that was keeping folks away, but it was nice to enjoy the summit without being a part of a large crowd.
In addition to the fine views, the summit also had a strong cellular signal so I called the Pine Ellis Hostel, reserved a bunk space, and arranged for a shuttle to pick me up at East B Hill Road. After the call, I began “falling off the mountain” towards the road located six miles down the trail. About a half mile from the summit is Little Baldpate, an area that is less of a summit and more of a bump, but it did provide an opening for a pretty picture.
As I lost altitude, the trail began to flatten slightly and get smooth which allowed me to make good time. At Dunn Notch, the trail passes by the top of Dunn Cascades which drop 60 feet over the edge of the rocks. What I could see of the falls through the trees looked spectacular, but I was never able to find a spot that would allow for a clear picture. Further down the trail, however, I passed a smaller set of falls that I thought were much more picturesque.
I arrived at East B Hill Road approximately 25 minutes before my scheduled pickup time, so I relaxed by the side of a road with a couple of other hikers. During the entire time that I waited there, only two cars passed by so I suspect this is a difficult road for hitching a ride to town. A pickup truck stopped for the other guys just as the van from the hostel arrived for me and transported me to Andover, ME. There were a couple of older women driving the van and I heard later that the driver sometimes couldn’t remember where she was and the co-pilot was legally blind, so they went everywhere together. I don’t know if this story is true, but at the least, it seemed plausible (and amusing).
Upon my arrival at the Pine Ellis Hostel, I checked in, found my assigned bunk room, and started washing my clothes. Andover is much smaller than I had ever imagined and there were only two places currently open where you can eat. The most talked about place is the Little Red Hen which is very popular with hikers because, in addition to food, they offer free tenting and $5 showers and laundry. The buzz at the hostel was about their Thursday night AYCE (all you can eat) Mexican buffet, so as soon as my clothes were clean and dry (a heavenly feeling), I headed to the restaurant.
When I walked in the front door of the Little Red Hen, I saw Peanut and Shiver sitting at one of the tables with some other hikers. I hadn’t seen them for several days, so I went over to chat with them and discovered that they were camping out back. Being very hungry, I quickly found my own table, ordered a coke and headed for the buffet. Up to this point, my eating exploits have become the stuff of legends, but I can honestly say that this was the worst restaurant meal I have had on the trail. Maybe if I had arrived at the 5:00 pm opening things would have been different, but everything tasted bland and was cold and overcooked. It could have been saved with a salad bar and a soft serve ice cream machine, but since neither were available I walked out full but very disappointed.
Across the street from the Little Red Hen restaurant is the Andover General Store. This store is a prime example of how they get things right in Maine because not only was there a well-stocked food section, but also a full-service short order food counter, a small selection of outdoor related hardware, a craft beer cooler, an ice cream bar, and a liquor store under one roof. I purchased enough food, ibuprofen, beer, and snacks to get me through tomorrow and returned to the hostel. After chatting with the lady that runs the hostel about how their shuttle plan worked, I signed up for a shuttle that will take me back to where I got off the trail today, and then pick me up in the afternoon at South Arm Road to return me to the hostel. In between, I expect more rock, roots, mud, and climbing.
Date: August 17, 2017
Starting Location: Baldpate Lean-to
Ending Location: East B Hill Road
AT Miles Today: 8.0
AT Miles To Date: 1,932.9