|Dear Family and Friends,
I arrived this morning in Stratton, ME, 187 miles south of Katahdin on the AT in just over 10 days. So far northern New England is the land of R&R - that's rocks and roots. Walking south I've realized how new
this landscape is. It wasn't all that long ago, geologically speaking, that the land that I have been walking over was covered by vast sheets of ice. And it is even more recently that the forests have returned. This is evidenced by the jumble of rocks and boulders that push up out of the thin covering of soil. Moss and roots thread their way around these old stones and the trail twists and turns in sometimes chaotic fashion around a myriad of obsticles. You need to pay a lot more attention to the walking. At times the trail might be a quater or half a mile of stepping from stone to stone. This is especally true on the steeper sections. I've had to climb a few rock slides already (many more to come). And, yesterday, envountered my first 4000+ foot mountain since southern Virginia (not counting Katahdin which was climbed with a day pack). The east side of Avery Peak in the Bigelows was a steep, unrelenting climb of about 2000 feet in a mile and a half on a hot and
relatively windless day in Maine. I was infinitely happy when I finally arrived at the top even though I still had 4 miles of rocky up and down ridge walking before I finally stopped at the beautiful little Horns Pond, nestled in a bowl high at the south end of the Bigelow range. But time to get back to the title.
Starting with Falling Bodies.
In which Bird Man (here more appropriately named Bird Brain) takes an unexpected Bird Bath
A couple of days ago I walked down into Caratunk and waited for the "ferry" (a red canoe) to carry me
across the Kennebeck river. The river was once crossed exclusively by fording but since a hydro plant
upstream releases large quantities of water at unscheduled times, a ferry has been established for the saftey of hikers. Once across the river the trail follows a beautiful stream called Pierce Pond Brook for about 3 miles to the pond where there is a shelter. This stream is hallmarked by a number of beautiful waterfalls [image] with lovely pools of clear green water just inviting a swim. I admired them longingly as I walked up toward the shelter where I planned to take a bread and perhaps a swim in the pond. (I've been able to swim almost every day of the walk so far). I finally came to a nice pool right by the trail and decided to at least splash a bit of water on
my face and head, as I have done often on hot days both here in Maine and in the south. There was a
convenient flat rock ledge at water level that dropped sharply into about 3 or 4 feet of water. I walked to
the waters edge and bent over and splashed some cool water on my face. Then I lowered my head just a bit
and rubbed some water into my hair. As I reached again for a second head splash I felt the center of
gravity that was rather percariously being maintained in favor ot the rock, suddenly shift over to the water
side of things. I must admit here that I had not taken off my pack which was still buckled at the waist and definitely at this point working in favor of the brook. For just the briefest instant I thought I might be able to recover and just fall backwards but, alas, gravity and momentum are serious forces to be recconned with. I'm not sure what it would have looked like to a casual spectator but my guess is that the resulting "fall" was somewhere between a face plant and a belly flop. I came up sputtering and was fairly quick to regain my feet and slog to shore water streaming from my clothes, squishing out of my shoes and draining off the outside of the pack. Fortunately the drawstring at the top of the pack barely escaped emersion and the contents remained dry (though I did not know this at the time). My main concern once I was back on the bank was for my camera which rode in a waist belt and was completely submurged in the "dive". Fortunately I had just minutes before put it into a zip lock bag though I hadn't sealed the top. A bit of water got into the bag and the camera was definitely misfunctioning. Once I'd gotten the dampness off the outside, I decided the best thing to do was to proceed as quickly as possible to the shelter and try to dry everyting out there. So squish, squish, squish, I
hot-wet-footed it down the trail arriving in about 15 minutes at the shelter. I had already pulled the film (a new roll with only two exposures gone) from the camera to check the inside for dampness - just the tiniest little bit). So I popped open the back and took out the battery and lay the camera down in the sun and then proceeded to get out of socks and shoes and go through the contents of my pack to look for other damage/dampness. I was lucky in that the day was sunny with low humidity and that there was a great sunny space in front of the shelter. IT took about an hour and a half with repeated repositioning of the camera to get the dry heat into every part but the camera finally came back to life and seems to be working fine - as is the unexpected swimmer. The only casualty of the "big splash on the trail" was the little remote for the camera. This was not protected by a bag and was thoroughly soaked and as a result is non functional. Sort of like my brain was when I decided to bend over that pool with my pack on.
On to shooting stars.
AT the end of that day I arrived at West Carry Pond where I had a thouroughly enjoyable intentional swim.
The Persid Meteors have been going on for a few days and I decided that if I woke sometime after midnight
I'd walk down to the lake shore which faced North East and sit out to watch a few falling stars. I did wake
around one AM and using my head lamp found my way to a large flat rock on the edge of the lake. The night
was very dark since the young waxing moon had set early. The stars were brilliant in the cool clear air with the milky way arching over head and the big dipper sprawled out above the north horizon across the lake. The Pliades were rising in the east, and Polaris hovered almost half way up in the sky and due north. West Carry Pond is surrounded by low hills covered by fir and mixed hardwoods and I could just make out the dim silouetts of the surrounding shores. An occasional bat - more a shadow than an actual body - flitted through my field of vision and vanished into the black. The air was exceptionally still and the sounds of frogs croaking across the pond a mile away floated out over the quiet surface of the water. And on that quite surface another entire universe of stars lay spread before me. I sat for a long time just wrapped up in this most wonderful silence. A few faint meterors cut the sky overhead. And then from some far corner of the pond, a loon raised its etherial voice in a call of two pure clear notes that remined me a bit of the sound of the Native American
Flute but were even more liquid and captivating. In the natural hollow of those hills the call echoed slightly and reverberated. Just before it was gone completely there came a reply from some other quiet corner. And then back and forth such a luxurious luminous music, finally joined by more loons in their more charicteristic yodeling laughter. The whole of the pond filled with there music. And then, just as suddenly, it stopped but for the echos that hung over the water for a long moment. I was dumbfounded, mesmeriszed, overwhelmed. I sat for some minutes just feeling the effects of this concert for one. I finally rose and turned to return to the shelter and
my sleeping bag. As I stood, I noticed a rock near my feet and, on a whim, picked it up and threw it into the blackness of the night. I heard the splash though I did not see where it hit. I could not see the spreading ripples either, but watched in wonder as one by one the stars began to shimmer on the surface of the lake in an ever widening dance of joy.
And finally - the Blueberries.
I've always loved blueberries and having spent a number of summers on the Maine Coast and also having a pick your own blueberry farm as a neighbor consider myself something of an authority on the matter. On the trail between Monson and Caratunk, the AT passes over Moxie Bald Mountain [image] and then Pleasant Mountain. In between the two it dipps into a vally which is crossed by a power line that also happens to pass over the trail. Beneath that powerline are the best blueberries in the world. I can make this statement with the authority of one who has been there and liberally partaken. I spent the day passing and being passed by the Idaho 4 - a wonderful family with kids 6 and 8 who have walked all the way from Springer to Harpers Ferry and are flip flopping back south as am I. I'd met them in Damascus and was happy to see them again. We arrive at the power lines at about the same time. They to lunch as planned and me, as it turned out, to enjoy a second lunch of the most delicious blueberries I've ever had (Sorry Terry Jones - my neighbor grower). I sat down in a patch of large perfectly ripe fruit growing in cluster of 4 to 6 berries and just kept filling my hand and pushing them into my mouth. In half an hour or so I ate what seemed like a quart (at least) and finally had to give up when I could eat no more (imagine that on the AT). Now blueberries are good for you in serveral ways. They are fresh fruit, there high in antioxidents, and they are also GREAT fiber - I can attest to this also.
So for at least one afternoon, Bird Man was a bit of a Blue Bird - a blue bird of blueberry happiness.
That's the skinny from Maine for now. Lots of R&R ahead as I enter the mountains of Western Maine and
then the White Mtns. of New Hampshire. My next official stop for mail and resupply is Gorham, NH probably in another 10 days or so. Who knows, maybe there'll be a computer in Gorham I can get my feathers into.
Peace, Blessings, and Love to All,
Bruce "Bird Man" Nichols