Bemis Mountain Lean-to, Day 7, 30.4 miles

My camp last night ended up being one of my more favorite sites I’ve ever slept at. The soft ground made for a comfortable night’s sleep, the elevation kept me out of the cool descending drafts through the night but also sheltered from the wind and not so high the temps would drop. There were no bugs, wildlife, or noisy birds. It was so peaceful and I slept like a rock. Nevertheless, I had to rise after 8 hours to get going again. I could have laid there forever.

I was stoked to start the day with Saddleback Mountain though. With clear skies I knew the views would be amazing. The cool temperatures up on the ridge kept me from getting dehydrated, but also prevented me from taking any pictures. With my limited outfit, I had to keep moving to keep warm, at least until I could drop back down below the shelter of treeline. I ran into another hiker on the distant peak who was bundled up head to toe and realized I probably looked as ridiculous to her as she looked to me.

I needed to resupply at ME 4 just down from Saddleback on the southern side and was super excited to do so. I was running out of food I wanted to eat and low on nut bars which might has well have been bark to me at this point. My maildrop was waiting for me at Hiker’s Hut which was just a quarter mile off the trail. I needed to charge my phone, take a shower, and stock up on food. But when I arrived at the hostel, I was pretty bummed to find no electricity and no running water. Don’t get me wrong, Hiker Hut seems like a super cool place, I just did a poor job of researching to know what to expect. The owner was off running shuttles and recommended people hitchhike into town for showers, restaurants, charging electronics, and resupply. Knowing that wasn’t an option for me, I started snooping around for my resupply. I didn’t have cell service to call the owner so I just hoped it was easily accessible.

Within a few minutes I elatedly found my box. With each mail drop I had put extra snacks to eat while packing up, stuff like pudding cups, Ensure shakes, fruit cups, fruit snacks and other extra food that I could decide to carry or leave based on how I was feeling. I ate loads of food, packed up everything else and rummaged through the hiker box for some extra Deet. I was super bummed to walk out very dirty and with 2% phone battery but I really dropped the ball by not calling ahead to know exactly what to expect.

A lot of people have asked me what I would have done differently as far as gear. They are baffled that a 10 liter pack and 3.5 pound base weight could have possibly been comfortable or even safe up in Maine and New Hampshire in early summer when there was even still snow in some places. Had I known I would deal with more rain in 130 years in Vermont and similar figures elsewhere, I would’ve carried a dedicated 4oz silnylon rain jacket for the first 2 weeks. Without question. But how could I have possibly known I would have ended up with those conditions? However, there is one thing in hindsight I certainly would’ve brought. My phone was my lifeline, and too often I watched the battery dip very low. My phone was my map, my resupply list, camera, journal, connection to the outside world, music, and spare light if my headlamp died. If the battery died, it seriously inhibited the safety and comfort of the hike. In hindsight I would’ve carried an external battery. I had one prepped and ready to go before I started but with the rest of my gear so light, it seemed ridiculous to bring something hardly any lightweight backpackers carry. Another advantage to the external battery would be that I wouldn’t have to sit and charge my phone at every little convenience store or hostel I stopped at midday. I could wait till I stayed the night somewhere and charge it while I slept. It simply took too long to charge my phone, time that I should have been hiking.

Hiking out of Rangeley I was super bummed. It was yet another logistical oversight on my part and I realized for the next several days I would have no clue where I was, no clue how far to the next shelter, no idea what time it was, and no way to listen to music and no ability to talk on the phone. I needed to save my battery for a simple text to my parents once a day to let them know I was alright but besides that it would stay off.

The weather began to deteriorate in the afternoon. The rain held to a gentle mist but in the cool air was chilling. I made it to Bemis Mountain Lean-to and decided to call it a day. It was 8pm and after the cold day I was concerned that the temps would drop toward freezing that night. One of the stipulations with my gear is that I needed to be able to use my tarp as a vapor barrier if the temperatures were going to drop close or below freezing. A vapor barrier keeps sweat from escaping and effectively cooling my body. It increases the warmth of my sleep system by about 15-20 degrees and allows me to comfortably sleep in a 50 degree quilt down to sub freezing temperatures. I couldn’t use my tarp as shelter in this case so I needed to make sure I was in a lean-to or be confident that it wouldn’t rain. It was going to rain, I was almost certain of that, and the next shelter was 12 miles away.

I put on my windbreaker, then my poncho, my down jacket, and then the quilt on top of all of that. Sure enough the temps dropped but I was warm in my sleep system. Some light rain fell in the night and I was happy with my decision to accept a shorter day for a good night’s sleep. For the day I ended up hiking 30.4 miles and stayed at Bemis Mountain Lean-to. 12,500 feet of elevation gain

Continue reading: Day 8

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