Date of Hike: Friday, September 5, 2003.

Route: Appalachian Trail - Katahdin Ironworks Road to Cloud Pond Lean-to.

Pictures: link to Gallery - Maine Appalachian Trail - Album III - (Katahdin Ironworks Road to Cloud Pond Lean-to) - Pictures 63-91

Total Distance: 12.2 miles.

Difficulty: We had a roller coaster type of hike. Up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down, and on and on. Five mountains, two ponds and one bog. Looking back on the overall trip, I believe this was the toughest day on the trip. Total elevation gain for the hike was 4460 feet.

Conditions: excellent

Weather: Partly cloudy, 60s.

Participants: Aaron Schoenberg (leader), Dean Gletsos & Chris Connolly. Stelios & Maria joined us as far as the Long Pond-West Chairback Trail junction.

Planning: The remaining section of the Hundred Mile Wilderness is 30.4 miles on the AT. There are no road crossings from KI Road to ME 15 (north of Monson). So the question is how do we split this up? First of all going southbound there is a lean-to at Cloud Pond which is 11.3 miles from Gulf Hagas Parking Area. So that becomes an obvious first night, leaving 19.1 miles. Although there are no road crossings, there is a winter logging road labeled on the map crossing at 8.1 from Cloud Pond spur trail. This takes you out to Elliottsville Road in a mile+. And that leaves the mile+ and 11 miles for the last day. This is how I would recommend the breaking up of the remaining section so you only have a 2-day/1-night backpack left, with the last day another slackpack day, making a two night stay in Monson. However in the framework of the last three days, I wanted to throw in a 470 mile car trip back to New York. So what I did, I don't recommend. But I pushed the second day of the backpack to do much more. I saw on the map where I can get close to Elliottsville Road and cut off at the 4.2 mile mark from ME 15 (15.2 miles from Cloud Pond lean-to) on to a crossing of the North Pond tote road. This sounded possible(???). Then I can do an easy car shuttle on the last day along with my car trip back to New York and the last 4.2 miles of the "wilderness". After you read these two days of my backpack you will see the reasons I would not recommend it. Furthermore, in my hike statistics you will see that I just break off at the North Pond tote road. That is because although I made advance special arrangements for the parking of our cars, the landowners do not recommend parking along Elliottsville Road and they do not want hikers exiting and crossing across their property to the left (south) from the AT to the paved road. So at the request of their anonymity and the landowners privacy, I will keep this information vague in this and the next two days write-ups. If you take the logging road from 19.4 out to Elliottsville Road, maybe you can ask Shaw's or Pie Lady to shuttle you and make a two night stay over in Monson.

Drive statistics: (Thursday, 9/4)
0 5:37 AM JoMary Lake Campground (Chris, Alex & I take off in our cars)
6 5:50 Jct. JoMary Road & ME 11
23 6:09 Brownville Junction
30 6:19 Milo
43 6:37 Dover-Foxcroft
51 6:45 Guilford
55 6:55 Abbott Village
62 7:05 Monson
68 7:15-7:21 dropped off Alex & Chris's cars
74 7:32 Monson
82 7:40 Abbott Village
86 7:46 Guilford
94 8:00 Dover-Foxcroft
107 8:15 Milo
119 8:31 Jct. KI Road & ME 11
126 8:41-9:00 Katahdin Ironworks Gate
132 9:09 Jct. KI Road & ME 11
160 9:40-12:00 Noon - Millinocket
177 12:16-12:19 JoMary Gate
183 12:30 PM JoMary Lake Campground (end of driving for this day)

On the car ride the skies let out a downpour with thunder and lightning. After leaving Chris & Alex's cars at the end of the upcoming 2 day backpack and on the return drive to the KI Gate, we discussed the weather and options. It was arranged to meet Stelios, Maria & Dean at the gate. Now it was 8:40 AM and a steady rain when we all gathered to discuss our options with all present. Fortunately, we all had Sunday free and a quick unanimous decision was made to take an R&R day today. The weather forecast for the next three days were pleasant and dry. So the last three days of the trip were put back a day. Shaw's in Monson allowed us to push back our reservation one evening to Saturday. The campground allowed us to keep the trailers for one more day. (mid-week after Labor Day - that was not a problem) and we all called loved ones to inform them of our return one day later. We went into Millinocket for brunch and to buy provisions for an extra dinner to be prepared at camp. Around 11 AM it turned into a mist/drizzle and by 2 PM it stopped precipitating. However, it never cleared and we did not get to see Katahdin from our CG lake on this day. All was not wasted either, as we set up our cars at the end of the 2 day backpack. So the 140 mile car trip was behind us. Chris & Alex did not need their cars so an off day on this dreary Thursday was in order. Since no hiking was done on this day, there will be no separate hike entry for this date, Thursday, September 4.

Drive statistics: (Friday, 9/5)
0 7:36 AM JoMary Lake Campground
6 7:48 JoMary Road & ME 11
17 8:00 KI Road & ME 11
23 8:10-8:17 Katahdin Ironowrks Gate
30 8:33 AM Gulf Hagas Parking Area

When we entered in our two cars (Aaron's & Stelios) at the KI gate, the gentleman in charge went by the rules and Dean claimed he was a year older, so he got in as a 70 year senior citizen - gratis (did not check ID). The rest of us forked over $8 a head. So pushing the trip back a day had a $40 price tag. The lady who would not have charged us was in charge yesterday, when we turned around and didn't go in.

Hike Statistics:
0.0 740 8:40 AM Gulf Hagas Parking Area - Katahdin Ironworks Road (Aaron & Stelios cars parked here)
0.2 730 8:45 Jct. AT - West Branch of Pleasant River (do not ford)
0.7 860 9:00-9:05 cross Katahdin Ironworks Road
--- 1220 9:20-9:25 rest stop
2.1 1550 10:05-10:20 East Chairback Pond - side trail .2 mile to right
--- 1680 10:55-11:00 rest stop
4.1 2030 11:25-11:40 ledges with views
4.5 2219 12:10-12:40 Chairback Mountain - lunch
5.0 2010 1:00-1:10 Chairback Gap Lean-to - to left
5.4 2326 1:35-1:50 Columbus Mountain
6.7 1760 2:20-2:30 Jct. Long Pond/West Chairback Pond Trail
7.3 2061 2:55-3:10 Monument Cliff on Third Mountain - views
8.5 1880 3:55-4:10 open ledges - view west
--- 1720 ---- low point
--- 2110 4:40-4:45 rest stop
9.8 2383 5:00-5:15 Fourth Mountain
10.2 1920 5:40-5:45 Fourth Mountain Bog
---- 1910 ---- low point
---- 2250 6:15-6:20 rest stop
12.2 2400 7:00 Cloud Pond lean-to

Hike Report:

Stelios & Maria: Joined us for first 6.7 miles of hike. They made a loop hike including the summits of Chairback and Columbus peaks and hiked down an old wood road/trail back to KI Road from the junction with the West Chairback Pond spur, munching on berries as they descended. They spent another night at the JoMary Lake Campground. Alex: Set off at a faster pace on his own and went 20 miles and finished around dark at the Wilson Valley Lean-to (crazy???). During this hike we met 13 other hikers - all northbound thru-hikers.

We started out immediately with a climb and then took the spur to East Chairback Pond. This was a picturesque tarn worth going out of the way for, because it gave us a good perspective of what is ahead. Across the lake was Columbus Mtn. and to the left was Chairback cliffs. I only wish I had more time. Right where the spur reached the shore was a canoe that was tempting us to take a ride. (another time?) Perched on top of the canoe was a toad, so small and so cute just sitting there in the sun and so still. The Chairback cliff aside from excellent views was a short exhilarating scramble over jumbled rocks partly and then a mammoth maintainers job built an incredible staircase for the latter portion to the summit. The summit was the highlight of this days hike. Then it was up and down, up and down, views interspersed and mostly pleasant walking. However, as time went on and miles continued, the bog bridges crossed and ascents made, it seemed like the pace slowed, and the climbs were taking a toll and in my mind, I was asking "are we there yet?" and "does Cloud Pond really exist?" and "is it possible that we missed the spur turn off?". The map lied, I didn't realize how many ups there were. Even though the highest point today was a tad over 2400 feet and only 1700 feet higher than the lowest point, I could not believe my altimeter when it read that we ascended 4460 feet in total today, but then I thought a bit - no wonder my feet ache and my shoulders ache and my body aches and I am tired. I am not a backpacker and carrying all that weight (although my friends said I had a light pack), all that elevation gain and mileage wears you out. That altimeter is probably right.

Cloud Pond which was our final destination was a pretty location and the spur trail going practically into the lake and hugging the shore at dusk when we finally arrived was a fitting end to a beautiful day. Unfortunately, we got there too late (arrived 7 PM and it gets dark by 7:30 PM) and were too tired to enjoy the beauty of the locale. Although I took a couple of photos that capture some of the scenery. And a couple more in the AM with better light conditions. Considering we met a good number of northbound thru-hikers, I was quite suprised that we had the shelter to ourselves. I figure it is mostly due to the fact that the pond is .3 mile off the AT. Dean was complaining (probably due to his tired state of mind) about having to descend a good bit and go that far off the trail to get to this campsite. This is a shame as this is a really pretty isolated location and as a result is bypassed by many. But it will keep its charm perhaps because it is off the main drag. One other thought is that if I had to do it again southbound - I would probably stop here but I definitely would make an earlier start. I definitely did not expect the ups to add up as much as they did and this hike to be as taxing as it was, but it certainly was a memorable scenic day. And Alex hiked all the way to Wilson Valley Lean-to - amazing!!! I don't know how things would have worked out, had we hiked in the steady rain the previous day. Looking back we made a very wise decision putting the remaining three days of the trip back one day.