Intermittent showers overnight continued to make the trail a dripping mess. Without cell service in the valley, I didn’t know if Boo Boo would be returning to the trail today or not, but I doubted that he would leave the comfort of town in this weather. In any case, I decided to go ahead and get an early start, knowing full well that he would easily catch up with me if he did return. Yesterday I hiked a reconnaissance mission to the river and determined that there was no point in putting on my boots this morning. Wearing my camp shoes, I walked the few hundred yards to the river and waded across the West Branch of the Pleasant River to start my day.
From the river crossing, the trail starts a gentle 1,000-foot climb over 5-miles generally following the Gulf Hagas Brook up the valley. It is a beautiful section of trail that leads past numerous water features, including a small waterfall. The miles went quickly by and I arrived at the Carl A. Newall Lean-to around 9:00 am.
From the lean-to, I began climbing in earnest to make it to the ridgeline of the White Cap Range. First up was a 700-foot climb to the tree covered summit of Gulf Hagas Mountain. During this climb, the trail turned into a muddy mess while passing a series of alpine bogs. I saw a large footprint in the mud that looked like it might belong to a moose, but I never did see an actual moose.
It was along this section of trail that I became officially old. A young thru-hiker caught up with me and told me how inspired he was by seeing so many older guys thru-hiking the A.T. He asked me my age and when I told him he said that I was (wait for it ……..) spry! Never during my lifetime did I ever expect to be associated with that adjective. In fact, my mental connection with the word spry is when it was used to describe Cloris Leachman’s granny character in the movie “Bad Santa.” I wanted to fire back at him that I was inspired to see so many millennials leaving behind their game consoles, double lattes, and fidget spinners to hike the trail, but I held my tongue. I’m certain that this young man intended to give me a compliment (I think), but instead, I felt old and insulted. On that note, I just continued spryly down the trail.
Next up was another 700-foot climb to the summit of West Peak. West Peak was also covered by trees, but it was also covered by something else. Apparently, West Peak is the favorite privy of the local moose population as the summit was literally covered with poop. I had never seen such a concentration of animal droppings before and I thought it odd that moose would climb this high in the absence of water.
After gingerly tiptoeing across the top of West Peak, I followed a nicely constructed set of steps down for a few hundred feet before heading up and over another tree covered summit called Hay Mountain. From the base of Hay Mountain, the trail leads to the 3,650-foot summit of White Cap Mountain, the highest peak in the White Cap Range. The summit of White Cap Mountain is an open alpine area that supposedly has some of the best views in the State of Maine. The views were not in the cards for me today, but the terrain was decked out in fall colors and looked spectacular. The featured photo for this blog post was also taken in that area.
A short distance down from the summit of White Cap Mountain is a magnificent view of Logan Gorge. You should be able to see Mount Katahdin from this spot but today Katahdin was obscured by the clouds. As I continued to descend from the last major mountain range before the Katahdin Range, I entered a lovely birch forest with a smooth trail.
Around 4:00 pm I reached Logan Brook Road, my second road in the 100-Mile Wilderness, which signified the end of my descent from the White Cap Range. Once again, I found myself passing through the lush, almost enchanted, moss covered forests of the lower elevations. When I arrived at the East Branch Lean-to, I discovered that a couple of hikers were already there. One of them (I think his name was Grey Beard, but not the 84-year old Grey Beard) was the guy walking with a huge Airedale Terrier named Maxx that I had first met way back on Killington Peak. It was too wet to set up my tent, so I climbed into the shelter and made myself a space next to Maxx.
Date: September 5, 2017
Starting Location: Stealth Camp near West Branch Pleasant River
Ending Location: East Branch Lean-to
AT Miles Today: 16.6
AT Miles To Date: 2,122.0