Ascent Trip ReportCamped out at Cherry Mountain Campground the night before, and spotted cars that night. Finally got back into camp around 1:30 AM, went to sleep around 2:30. This was also my first time hammock camping. Only got a couple hours of interrupted sleep, and woke up around 5:30 AM for breakfast and break-down.
We got started at the Starr King trailhead around 6:30 AM. The trail was wet, but in good condition. It was threatening to rain all morning, and very humid. It was difficult to keep the pace of the other guys, and we made very good time. Starr King was a pretty uneventful waypoint. We stopped briefly, then continued right along to Waumbek. Waumbek also was pretty uneventful; there weren't any views due to the heavy fog, so we pressed on quickly.
Somewhere between Waumbek and South Weeks, I twisted my knee a little bit and immediately started having pretty bad pain, especially during descents. It was so bad that I was pretty sure I would need to bail down the York Pond Trail. As I was forced to keep moving, the pain started receding a bit, and eventually I had little pain while ascending, and manageable pain while descending if I was careful about walking sideways, or leaning heavily on my poles. In the end, I decided to gut it out and stay with the group, as arranging a pick-up at either Berlin fish hatchery, or the west side of Cabot might have proved a little uncertain.
The stretch over Weeks seemed to take alot longer than it should have, but in reality we were still making very good time. Terrace Mountain was again uneventful, and we only made short stops at the trail intersections.
The hike up Cabot seemed really easy and short compared to what we had just been through. We stopped at the viewing point a quarter mile from the summit and had lunch. We arrived there at about 1:15 or so. While we sat, a few sprinkles fell, then the sun came out for the first time that day and we relaxed and laid in the sun for a while. We pushed off for the summit at 2PM, taking a break at the cabin to use the facilities. I had run out of water at this point, so I tried to make my way to the spring right near the summit, but after descending for a few minutes, I still couldn't see or hear it, so I turned back since the group was waiting for me at the summit. We took a couple pictures at the summit, then pushed right on to the Bulge and the Horn. I didn't take the spur to the horn, not wanting to tax my knee more than was necessary, so I kept going down the trail while the rest of the group tagged the summit. We met up again at Unknown Pond, and stopped briefly for snacks. The descent after Unknown Pond was one of the low points of the hike for me, as my knee was killing me, and I couldn't keep up with the group. The heavy foliage made it rather difficult to use the poles effectively, and I ended up just carrying them most of the rest of the day.
We finally got down to Kilback Pond, only to find that the footbridge crossing it was submerged and very unstable. It sank about 6 inches as soon as we stepped foot on it. We crossed one at a time, having a couple close calls nearly falling in. We made it across and across the next pond without getting completely wet. Just after the second pond, I could hear what sounded like someone chopping wood ahead of me. I think this was likely a moose, and I kept hearing it ahead of me as I walked, so I think I kept spooking it ahead of me. This slight descent was quite nice, and was nice on my knee.
Roger's Ledge was the other low point for me. I was quite exhausted and really didn't not want to climb again. The map made this look like a little bump in the road, but in reality is a pretty good and steep climb. Having not had any water in several miles, this was a very unpleasant ascent. We had some really nice views for the top of the ledge, and stopped for a snack there, but I was really tired and just wanted to get done by this point. Some very considerate moose had left a nice present right on the top of the ledge in the form of a huge pile of droppings. We got to smell it while we ate. We took off again pretty soon, and decided that Jason, who was feeling great and looking to burn some energy, should run down the last 5 miles, and pick up the car which had to be parked outside the gate, and drive it into the South Pond Parking lot where the trail comes out. He took off, and we continued behind more slowly. Before too long, Patrick also took off too quickly for the rest of us, and the three of us remaining trudged along the blowdown strewn trail. This last couple miles was very easy grade, and my knee really didn't hurt too much, except when climbing over the blowdowns. We could hear the creek flowing, and soon had to cross it several times. The water looked so clean and cold, and sounded so delightful that I was very tempted to just jump in and start gulping. I was approaching 10 miles without but a few gulps of water, so I was quite parched. Anyway, we finally came to the pond, and speed walked the last bit right along the coast of the lake. This really was a very beautiful area. We got to the beach area at 7:30 and saw Jason and Partick swimming, so after quickly getting a drink from the drinking fountain, we all went and jumped in the lake. The water was cold, but felt great after such a long day. We were the last people out of the pond area, and the guy that was closing up shop there was kind enough to hold the gate for us and close it behind us.
We made our way back to the Starr King Trailhead to pick up the other car, then back to the campsite to recover my glasses that I accidentally dropped there that morning, then headed into Lincoln for a late dinner at the Common Man. We left at 11 when they closed, and got back into Boston right around 1.
All around an awesome and tiring day. Thanks to my hiking partners for putting up with my slowness and for encouraging me to go despite my doubts as to my ability to finish.After this hike, I felt way more ready for the presi-traverse planned for the next month.