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Summer/Fall 2005
Issue #8

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On Cloud Pond: Simple Agendas in Maine's Hundred Mile Wilderness Area
Jon Heinrich
According to Bill Bryson, Cloud Pond is the nicest campsite he'd experienced anywhere on the Appalachian Trail. Take the tour and experience the "couple of hundred of acres of exquisitely peaceful water" for yourself.


On Cloud Pond:

Simple Agendas in Maine's Hundred Mile Wilderness Area

Jon Heinrich
Published 9/18/05

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God knows I’m not a city boy. After spending my first quarter-century in Colorado, with access to the tallest mountains in the lower 48 at my fingertips, moving to the city was not easy. But alas, it had to be done and now, four years later, I’m making an effort to get out to explore the New England wilderness.

Prior to the extended Fourth of July weekend, I received the wilderness call. Actually it was from a good friend Mikey, who just moved up to Bangor, Maine to get his PhD in forest soil management. With no other plans at stake, I packed my essentials and hit the road up north.

Saturday morning we hit the store for supplies and within 90 minutes out of Bangor, we were deep in the woods looking for the trailhead. Despite a series of huge puddles in the road—which Mikey’s Toyota pickup handled with reluctant ease—we pulled over at the trailhead.

At Present>

As the three of us throw our packs on our backs and decide where the safest place to stash the keys is, we see a shirtless gentleman walking up the trail towards us. Not sure what to think, we wait for him to approach and introduce ourselves.

“Wow, not too many folks make it this far in on the road,” Tom said after introducing himself. We agreed after nearly losing our vehicle several times in the staggered lagoons in the road. “I did the full AT in ’92 and now I live just down this road here,” he explained pointing down the road. “Now I just hang out in the summer and welcome travelers with burgers, beer and pot—a little hospitality as they embark on the hundred,” referring to the stretch of the Applachian Trail (AT) known as the Hundred Mile Wilderness area, the home stretch of the AT leading to the northern terminus of the trail at Mount Kahtadin in Baxter State Park.

As we set off across the rotten bridge signifying the trailhead, Tom told us to stop by on the way back for food and drinks if we were up for it. And he gave us one last warning about the area: “Ahhh, Massachusets plates; people will probably fuck with your car...oh but you’ve got a Red Sox sticker, you might be all right. Safe travels!” And we were off.

Now all I have to worry about is putting one foot in front of the other. “This is the part about backpacking that really cleanses the mind,” I think to myself. Wearing my sandals for the hike paid off immediately as we came to a river within a mile of the trailhead. As Mikey and Mary pulled over to join me in Chacos, I scanned the banks for the easiest place to ford the knee-deep stream. The cool water ran through my toes and I finally realized in exhilaration, that not only was the water the perfect temperature, but I had everything on my back to survive. What a liberating feeling! This is indeed the separation I need.

At the top of Barren Slide, the second, lower summit of Barren Mountain, we stop for a rest with a view. As I sat on the rock ledge overlooking miles of untouched wilderness, I realized my mental activity is beginning to acclimate to the lack of technological stimulus. When I left the car, all I could think about was my job and the myriad other consuming issues of my life. Like a recurring commercial sequence, I would switch from one neurotic thought to another—however always trying to remember to smell the fresh air and take in the beautiful surroundings. But there’s nothing like a long, hot uphill slog to get your mind into the present. Now at the top of the slide, three miles into our 6.1 mile hike, the neuroses was beginning to chill.

With the Barren slog behind us, all we had was a low-lying valley between the peaks, then one last glory ascent to the ancient firetower at the summit of Barren Mountain. A few twists and turns beyond the summit, we found the turnoff to Could Pond, where we would let the frustration of twenty-first century living slip away as the sun gently fell behind the thick coniferous forest surrounding.

3 July 2005
Waking from my dream filled slumber on the mossy forest carpet, Mary greeted me with a hot cup of coffee—one of the most luxurious amenities of the weekend. Now I’m sitting on my camp chair in the beaming sun. Some friendly dragonflies are comfortably perched on my premises appreciating the sun as much as me. I’m not sure, but I think they are keeping the carnivorous bugs away, so I’m happy to let them remain. (Plus, for bugs, dragonflies are beautiful creatures!)

A gentle breeze just toppled Mikey’s thermarest, knocking his Nalgene cocktail into the pond—luckily with the lid closed. In celebration of our freedom on this Independence Day weekend, we took advantage of his special whisky sour recipe consisting of filtered pond water, lemon-lime Gatorade mix and Jim Beam—a concoction that will not only keep you happy, but also hydrated.

The dragonflies hover busily over a grouping of water lilies and in turns, take seats at the floating stumps. Twelve inches to the left, my feet float effortlessly in the surprisingly warm water. Apparently the dragonflies have been eating well because the mosquitoes—the infamous back-woods-of-Maine mosquitoes—have been non existent.

Back up at camp we were surprised by a 3-foot snake who slithered up to see if we’d notice if he checked out our foodstuffs. “Oh, this is going to be a shitshow if Hank see’s that snake,” Mikey said. So Mary gently grabbed their young black lab by the collar and he was never the wiser about our campsite companion. Continued >>

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