Monday, March 14, 2016

Day 156: The Gulf Hagas Detour

August 10: I got another early start to the day. The very first thing I had to do in the morning was ford the west branch of the Pleasant River. Normally, I'm too lazy to take off my shoes to ford a creek barefoot, but since I had--quite literally--camped right beside it, I didn't have to take off my shoes to cross barefoot. I just didn't put them on!

First obstacle on the trail today: the west branch of the Pleasant River. (Notice the Gold Bond I sprinkled in my shoes? I was totally ready to put my shoes on.... just as soon as I got to the other side!)

The water was cold and the river bottom slippery and full of rocks so I went slow, taking my time and trying to be careful not to slip. It was a little awkward to cross, not just because of the bear feet, but also because I was carrying my shoes in one of my hands that would have otherwise been used to grab my trekking pole and help balance me while walking through the creek.

I made it to the other side without any mishaps, then sat down on a bench to put on my shoes and shoes for the day.

Shortly therefore, I reached the trail junction for the Gulf Hagas. The Gulf Hagas is often described as the "Grand Canyon of Maine" and is known for its multitude of scenic waterfalls. I skipped by it during my first thru-hike since it's not actually part of the Appalachian Trail, but I've already regretted that decision. When would I ever have a chance to visit it again?

So this time around, I intended to take the side trip. The Gulf Hagas loop would add an extra 5.2 miles of hiking--which is not insignificant!--although it would allow me to reconnect with the AT 0.7 miles down that trail so overall, I'd be hiking an extra 4.5 miles. And switching out a relatively boring 0.7 miles for a spectacular 5.2 miles was totally worth the trade-off! When would I get the opportunity to see the Gulf Hagas again? I already told Amanda to shoot me before allowing me thru-hike the Appalachian Trail for a third time, so it's not like I can do it next time! =)

The connecting trail required a short ford, and I started following the trail past a serious of waterfalls. The trail itself stayed along the rim of the Gulf Hagas and almost none of the wataerfalls are actually visible directly from it. You have to go off the trail a short ways to the viewpoints where the views were located. Some of them were easy, but most of them required a fair amount of scrambling and the going was slow.

You can see Young Blood and Loon's camp on the other side of the river, where I had also camped for the night. Salty Dog is also camped there, but his tent was hidden in the trees to the left of the others and isn't visible in this photo.

And most of the waterfalls I found somewhat disappointing. They were nice, but they weren't nearly as large as I had imagined and the amount of effort scrambling up and down cliffs to get to them was infuriatingly slow. And every ten minutes or so, there would be another side trail for another view or waterfalls, and I'd loyally go off to check it out.

It was kind of a relief when I finally covered the few miles to the head of the Gulf Hagas and the trail finally looped around to return to the AT. The loop back moved away from the Gulf Hagas rim and wasn't as rugged as the trail along the rim making that part faster, but it was comparatively boring as well since it had no waterfalls or viewpoints. Just a walk through the woods.

The entire time, I never saw a single other hiker. I'd been told that the Gulf Hagas is filled with countless day hikers, as you'd expect from a 'Grand Canyon' of Maine, but I didn't see a single person the entire day. I knew most thru-hikers won't stop for a 5-mile detour so I wasn't surprised to see them, but not even any day hikers kind of surprised me. Perhaps it was just too early in the morning for them.

About three hours after I left the Appalachian Trail, I finally returned to it. The Gulf Hagas detour threw me far behind my self-imposed schedule for the day. I did not expect to take three hours to cover a mere 5 miles, but it was a rugged little detour.

Back on the trail, I didn't sit on my laurels very long because I wanted to make up for my lost time and pushed onward.

Later in the day, the trail passed a campsite--not a shelter, just a wilderness campsite--which I had no plans to stop at until I saw a sign saying that there was a register in the privy. A register... in the privy?! I had to go down to the privy and see for myself. That was too funny. =)

The Gulf Hagas is called the Grand Canyon of Maine is known for its abundance of waterfalls. I took photos of them. All of them. And you're going to see them all.... =)

While I was down there, I heard a couple of other hikers back at the campsite who seemed to be arguing with each other about something, but when I headed back up, I only saw one person sitting by himself. I guess the other hiker had already left. I didn't recognize the fellow and assumed he'd been hiking southbound and waved hello, and as I passed him walking back up the trail, I heard the argument break out again and saw the man arguing... with himself!

It was so bizarre! He'd shout something at himself, and reply in a slightly different voice. What the hell?! This was not a guy just talking to himself like everyone is prone to do. He was actually yelling at himself! It kind of freaked me out and I was happy to put some distance between us. I never saw him again after that, and good ridden!

Near the end of the day, the trail passed over White Cap Mountain, the last 'big' mountain before Katahdin peaking at 3,650 feet above sea level. The trail would, for the most part, settle about 500 feet above sea level for the rest of the hike. Three more times it would poke up above 1,000 feet, but never again peaking above 2,000 feet. Until the very end. Katahdin, where the trail would sore one last time over 5,000 feet above the surrounding terrain.

The reason I mention this is because Katahdin is a very large mountain surrounded by.... almost nothing. It dominates the landscape around it, and I figured that I was maybe 35 miles away as the crow flies.

So this is the first really good view thru-hikers tend to get of the end of the trail. You need a clear day, obviously, and I had it! Katahdin stood majestically in the distance. The end! If it wasn't feeling real before, it certainly does now.

I stopped for the day at Logan Brook Lean-to. My goal for the day had been the next shelter, but that was another 3.6 miles away and I just wouldn't be able to make it before dark. I was done for the day.

Two other hikers had set up a tent near the shelter but never came out of their tent so I never learned who they were. Late in the evening, a southbound hiker had arrived and joined me in the shelter. I didn't even remember to write his name down in my journal so I couldn't even tell you who he was, but at least he wasn't yelling at himself which is always a plus in my book! =)

Screw Auger Falls

Lower Falls

The Jaws

Buttermilk Falls
I'm not sure this waterfall is even big enough to have a name, because I didn't see any signs labeling it!
Billings Falls
Stair Falls
That was it for the waterfalls--now I had to look for the small marvels along the trail on my way back to the AT! =)

I took a quick snack break at the Carl A Newhall Lean-to.

You've got to be $#!^ing me! Sorry, I had to say it! =)
Well I'll be darned, there IS a register in the privy! I'm not sure I'd want to touch it, though....
What can I say? It was a good day for taking photos of mushrooms today! =)
View looking south (from where we came) from White Cap Mountain.
Viewing looking north from White Cap Mountain.... with the end of the trail now in sight! That's Katahdin in the distance! And just look at all that wonderful, flat terrain between me and the Big K! I was so looking forward to some flat, easy terrain....

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