There was nothing leisurely about my departure this morning. I was bound and determined to make up the miles I failed to cover yesterday and catch up with Boo Boo. Shortly after 7:00 am, I started making my way around Cloud Pond to rejoin the A.T. The on and off overnight rain had left the forest dripping with moisture and the trail a muddy mess, but at least my morning started out with the trail going downhill.
For the next 9.5-miles, I would cross the Chairback Mountains which are comprised of a series of 500-foot ups and downs over creatively named peaks such as Third Mountain and Fourth Mountain. Following my descent from the Cloud Pond Lean-to, I crossed the Fourth Mountain Bog using a 100-yard long bog bridge. This beautiful alpine bog was starting to show signs of changing color for autumn and the effect was stunning.
From Fourth Mounting Bog, it was a 500-foot climb to the viewless summit of Fourth Mountain followed by a steep 600-foot descent followed by a 300-foot climb to the summit of Mountain Three and a Half (winner of the Creative Naming award in the category of Mountain Peaks). At the top, there were several small ledges among the trees which gave me a good view back towards Fourth Mountain.
Continuing along the jagged ridgeline, I reached the Monument Cliffs on Third Mountain where I had an outstanding panoramic view of the spectacular Long Pond Valley. Equally as important, I also had a weak cell signal that allowed me to receive a text from Boo Boo. He confirmed that they had indeed made it to the Chairback Gap Lean-to yesterday where they were greeted by a full house. Today, he planned to hike to Katahdin Ironworks Road where he was going to town (I assumed he hired Limpin’ Eagle to pick him up) to wait out the bad weather being generated by the remnants of Hurricane Harvey. Boo Boo had not taken a “zero” or a “nero” in over 140-miles, so I couldn’t blame him for wanting to take a break.
Following a 300-foot descent from the summit, I climbed 600-feet to the summit of Columbus Mountain (as opposed to Second Mountain). There were a couple of women at the top who asked me if I had seen a local woman named Kathy. They were Kathy’s friends and had climbed up from the valley to meet her and hike with her for a while. I thought that was a very sweet gesture and told them that Kathy was about 20-minutes behind me.
On the northern edge of the summit was an opening where I could see the imposing White Cap Range that I would get to cross tomorrow. It was 2:00 pm when, after a short descent, I finally made it to the Chairback Gap Lean-to where I had intended to stay last night. I still don’t know how Boo Boo and Quietman made it here yesterday (at my speed it would have been close to midnight), but Boo Boo did say that it was an extremely difficult 15-miles.
After leaving the Chairback Gap Lean-to, it was a short climb to the summit of Chairback Mountain, the final peak in the Barren-Chairback Range, and this is where it really got interesting. To get to the valley below, I had to climb several hundred feet down a rockslide that was so steep that it was sometimes easier to face the mountain and descend backward. I was consoled by the fact that once I reached the bottom, the climbing was over for the day.
While I had been up on the ridgeline, I would see a ripple in the valley that was mostly covered with exposed rock. I remember thinking to myself that I was surprised that the A.T. didn’t turn west just to cross those rocks. Well, guess what? It turned out to be a nice place to hike with solid footing and gently descending terrain.
The overcast skies continued to clear as I headed down towards that floor of the valley. The trail became less difficult as I descended, and the woods put on a dazzling display of moss-covered lushness. It was late afternoon by the time I reached the Katahdin Ironworks Road, where Boo Boo had left the trail, and I was feeling pretty spent. The West Branch of the Pleasant River was a short distance ahead and, since this stream would have to be forded, I decided to look for a place to camp short of the river crossing. There was another thought in the back of my mind as well. If Boo Boo decides to get back on the trail tomorrow, I could wait here for him.
Date: September 3, 2017
Starting Location: Cloud Pond Lean-to
Ending Location Stealth Camp near West Branch Pleasant River
AT Miles Today: 11.0
AT Miles To Date: 2,105.4