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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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After a long day of sitting in the sun drinking whisky sours and rafting across Cloud Pond, we pulled into the firepit amphitheatre for dinner. The order of priorities now was simple: water, appetizer, firewood then dinner. Ahh, the life of simple agendas!

“Camping is all about being on mission mode,” I remark as we organize the remaining food for dinner. “Its all about surviving, doing what you need to comfortably survive and nothing else,” I continue. Mary chimes in, “And anything else is strictly for pleasure!”

Rafting on the thermarest provided great access to the pond. Before dinner, I took it over to the right bank and hiked up to the ridge to see if we could find the sacred-gem of a campsite that would be even better than the “suite” that we already had. There’s something primal and instinctive about perching my raft in the bushes and running through the forest in nothing but my sandals and shorts, looking for the perfect camp site. The steep ascent to the ridgeline was littered with tumbled rocks and downfall and for a moment, I stopped with a jolt of anxiety that I should be more prepared for this mission—at least with a shirt to protect my city-softened skin from the bushwack. But then I went back into action and completed my scouting to no avail.

At least we can rest easy knowing we found the best spot on the pond!

July 4: Day 3
I woke up fairly early today after a deep dreamless sleep. Last night after hanging our bear bag, we decided to make good on our midnight hike, 1.2 miles up to the fire tower on Barren peak. (“Party at the moontower, bro!”)

The view from the summit of Mt. Barren was spectacular. Against a moonless sky, the stars lit up like nothing I’d seen since my recent trip to the Flathead valley of Montana. Off in the distance a few lights from a nearby town made me realized I had not seen a man made light—other than a flashlight—since we arrived a day and a half ago. Not only were the stars supplemented by the town on the horizon, but also by a small fireworks display in town. Six miles deep into the woods and we still got our fireworks display, perfect!

After we returned from our hike, we let the exhaustion pull us into our sleeping bags. I stayed awake as long as I could to view the stars through the trees, but once the cozy confines of the sleeping bag were established, I only had a few minutes.

This morning, after cooking water with Mary for coffee, I’m sitting on the perch above the inlet on the east side of the lake where you enter from the AT. Immediately upon waking I realized this was another perfect cloudless sunny cool day—a complete anomaly for New England.

Simple Agendas:
That’s what camping is all about. I can’t even remember what daily problems plague me on an everyday basis back in the city. All I can think about—finally, after two days of decompression—is what I’m going to do with the remaining oysters, tuna, onion, tortillias and peanutbutter we have left.

The blazing sun through the trees is countered perfectly by the cool breeze whisking through the tree tops. It is another perfect day. Perhaps after breakfast, we’ll go on another thermarest float on the pond, or perhaps just sit around and read all morning until its time to head back to Bangor, and then home.

Mikey and Mary have been a pleasure to camp with as always—and of course Hank too! We originally met during the Phish Vegas run of ’98, but it was not until they moved to Sherborne, Mass. that we really got a chance to hang out. Since then, I come to know them as some of the best people I know. They are fun loving and intelligent and when we hang out, its like hanging with old best friends.

As I sip my coffee, a dragon fly perches on my toe, enjoying the sun. In the distance along the shore of the pond, an occasional squawk rings out from the frogs who seem to be communicating from one side of the pond to the other.

Life prevails everywhere. There are no angular patterns of glass and steel, but only organic patterns of pine needles and ripples of clean Maine water.

On the way back, we’re planning a few stops at some raging swimming holes we saw on the way up. That will be a great final cleansing for an overall cleansing experience. This trip combined with the Montana experience has taken me away from the edge of stress and rainy-spring depression that sinks in after so many cloudy days. I am now ready to face the challenges of the world.

As much as I was sad to hop in the car and head back to the civilized world, the transition was much easier with a few Budweisers back at the truck. Tom, the gentleman we met on the way in, apparently wanted to leave us with a little Applachian hospitality and placed three moderately-cold beers on the bumper of the truck. Wow, humanity is such a beautiful thing.

Jon Heinrich


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