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View Full Version : AT, Long Falls Dam to Caratunk, August 6-7



Fourfingers
08-08-2011, 08:31 AM
Friday, August 5

Left Greensboro, VT, at about 4 pm for the drive to Bingham, ME. Twenty minutes were lost getting by the Danville construction on Route 2. I’d arranged on Thursday afternoon for lodging on Friday night in Bingham, Maine, for a ride to Long Falls Dam Rd after breakfast on Saturday, and for our Honda to be delivered to Caratunk on Sunday morning.

At about 8:30 we arrived at Pine Grove Lodge, a hunting a fishing center four miles north of the center of Bingham, ME. The proprietors weren’t there, but had left our name on the door to one of the rooms. The common area had obviously kept a taxidermist busy for quite a while - several bear, many deer, fishers, numerous fish, coyote, etc. I thought: “These people are living their dream.” They clearly enjoy the indicators of a life related to the outdoors - hunting, fly-fishing, etc.

Saturday, August 6

We got up by 0600 and soon thereafter three hunters emerged from another room off the common area. Mike, Larry, and John are from South Berwick, and had spent Friday “baiting” bear - leaving piles of stale doughnuts in likely places in the woods to attract bruins. They would come back in a few days to see if bears had found the bait, continuing this practice until hunting season arrives. The interesting thing is that John (Rackley) is paralyzed and in a wheelchair (trampoline accident a few years ago). He has developed the Renegade wheelchair to enable disabled hunters to hunt, fish, move around on soft ground and in the woods. He even builds blinds for duck hunting and accessory holders for bows, firearms, fishing gear. The hunting party was leaving early, expecting to be back several more times before the start of bear season.

The proprietors of Pine Grove Lodge cater to all sorts of outdoor participants. At communal breakfast at 0800 there were a dozen young people from Southeastern Massachusetts who were to be taken up the Kennebec River for some whitewater rafting later in the morning. Breakfast - eggs, bacon, toasted muffins, juice, coffee, etc. - was filling and carb-rich - both important for a day of hiking. Bob and Andrea cater to many groups with outdoor interests, but work especially hard for disabled veterans.

After breakfast Bob Howe drove us via un-gated logging roads to the AT Crossing on Long Falls Dam Rd where we had embarked on our 19 mile hike over the Bigelows to Maine Route 27 two weekends before. We started the hike at about 8:50. A start before breakfast would have allowed us to hike the 17.2 miles to the Kennebec in time for the afternoon ferry (operating from 2 to 4 pm). But we had another great experience awaiting us. To make sure we would have lodging, and not sure how much space there would be at the Pierce Pond Lean-to, we’d arranged for a “hikers’ bed-and-breakfast” at Harrison’s Pierce Pond Camps, about a third of a mile away. Before we left Pine Grove Lodge on Saturday morning, Andrea Howe, praised Tim Harrison’s skills as a chef (she and Bob had been there the previous evening for dinner) and we decided to reserve dinner there as well - a reservation which Andrea quickly arranged for us.

This meant that we could leave the food / stove / utensils in the car and simply slack-pack - carrying only lunch, snacks, water, sleeping bags as well as the usual safety equipment. The hike over Round Top Mtn and along the Arnold Trail near the Carry Ponds was an easy one, with little elevation change. Temperatures in the high 70s and a lack of wind made the day a bit warm; we stopped at a sand beach on the shore of East Carry Pond for Mary to soak her feet in the warm water - this significantly improves her foot comfort (and attitude) for any hike.

At 3:10 we passed the Pierce Pond Lean-to and then the private dam at the outlet of the pond. A few minutes later we knocked on the kitchen door of Harrison’s Pierce Pond Camps and were greeted by the proprietor - owner / chef-extraordinaire / historian - Tim Harrison. He showed us to a cabin just above the river/falls where we would spend the night. Because we were there for the hiker’s bed and breakfast, we spread out our sleeping bags on the (very comfy) bed. Dinner would be at 6:00 p.m.

A just published book about the history of the Appalachian Trail in Maine by Dave Field was recommended to us by Tim. Many pictures of the trail, the history of how it was located and built, notes on the maintenance of the trail were all there. Myron Avery is famously reputed to have said that you could hike Maine with a 12 pound pack. He was not promoting a pre-cursor to today’s ultra-light habits, rather he suggested that you could hike the trail stopping each evening at sporting camps, obviating the need to carry food/stove/sleeping gear. Harriman’s Pierce Pond Camps is the last of these sporting camps right on the trail and offering services to hikers. (They were called Sterling’s Pierce Pond Camps in the 1930s when they were opened. White House Landing might also qualify for this distinction.)

I noted a few pictures of Steve Clark or by him. When I was in the Colby Outing Club in the 1960s, Steve was among the leaders in the MATC helping to improve the trail across the state. (When my parents did the AT in the 1970s, people were still encouraged to cut spruce boughs to cushion their stay on the 'baseball bat' floors of many CCC lean-tos. Besides Poplar Ridge, are there still others of that design?)

Tim's four course meal was entirely home prepared - home-made clam chowder; salad with Tim’s own poppy seed dressing; a pasta-vegetable medley and hog wings (delicious!!, but you’ll have to see if you can get the secret out of Tim) were the main course. Then warm apple pie or blueberry compote, both with ice cream. We’re both used to losing a pound or two on a weekend hike - not this weekend.

In the middle of the night in a moment of restlessness, I awoke hearing a massive amount of white sound and thought - wow, the rain is really coming down. With some relief, I realized that no rain was falling on the roof - that this was simply the lullaby from then nearby outlet stream from Pierce Pond.

Sunday, August 7

Breakfast on Sunday was sausages, eggs (any style), and a dozen red-white-and-blue pancakes (made with raspberries, blueberries, apples). Tim claims the pancakes were small - not so. Mary and I couldn’t finish all the pancakes - we wanted to be able to hike out that morning. Josie, a thru-hiker staying at the lean-to had reserved a Sunday breakfast by walking over to visit on Saturday afternoon. He was able to finish his pancakes, but not the rest of ours, so Tim wrapped them in zip-lock bags and Josie took them over to other hikers at the lean-to.

Because the weather forecast was for rain on Sunday - and undoubtedly because of the great food - Josie decided to take advantage of the hikers’ bed and breakfast and stay for another day, this time in a cabin and not in the lean-to.

After breakfast, we passed a bit of time in conversation, and eventually left for the 3 and a half mile walk to the Kennebec Ferry, Caratunk, and our car. A bit of rain dampened us and the trail, but not our spirits on the soft treadway paralleling Pierce Pond Stream to the east.

We’ve now completed most of the trail within an easy few-hours drive of our home in northern Vermont - From Falls Village, Connecticut, to the Kennebec in Maine. The views on this stretch near Pierce Pond don’t have the vistas of the whites or western Maine, but the scenery - the Carry Ponds and Pierce Pond - are unsurpassed for the quiet serenity that they offer. The loons on Pierce Pond and the lullaby of the falls add sounds to the visual ambiance of the area. The walk along the stream from the camps to the Kennebec River has half-a-dozen view points above the river and falls. And the hospitality and chef-skills, the conversations with Tim and others, made this the most memorable weekend we’ve spent on the trail in New England in the four years we’ve spent exploring the hills and forests around us.

fourfingers and Screwloose

metcalfm@wirelessvt.net