Beautiful trails and ingrown toenails

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After having a fantastic 4th of July in Monson, it was time to hit the trail again. I ate another hearty breakfast from Shaw, packed my bag, then took their morning shuttle back to the trailhead. The next section of trail was supposed to be easy and well maintained. Fortunately, it was true. Unfortunately, I developed a nasty ingrown toenail which we will talk about later!

A beautiful and sturdy bog bridge!

Day 11 (18.0 miles)

The terrain was easy and relatively flat. The rocks and roots that Maine is famous for subsided for the day. The trail followed streams for much of the way and there were a number of fords. None of them were deep or dangerous, but my feet were constantly wet (the reason why I think my ingrown toenail deteriorated). Even though the terrain was easy, my feet hurt at the end of the day. Luckily the shelter I stayed near was on a beautiful pond. I set up camp and cooked dinner just in time to be swept away by a good rain.

The calm before the storm.

Tonight my left big toe started hurting a little. Immediately after looking at the toe, I understood the problem. I’ve had bad ingrown toenails before that I had to have a doctor remove. It was less serious but I didn’t have the “right tools”. I removed part of the nail and thought I would be good to go. My tent site was isolated and I slept for almost 12 hours. The rain hitting the top of my tent made me happy to be warm and dry in my sleeping bag.

Day 12 (13.0 miles)

The rain stopped just before I got out of my tent. My shoes and socks were soaked from the day before (pretty normal on the AT.. just didn’t help my toe situation). The agenda for the day included two small mountains: Moxie Bald and Pleasant Pond Mtn. The first mile from Moxie Bald is steep but solid. It narrows towards the top and is a nice climb overall. Many people said the view at the top was amazing, but I encountered a misty whiteout.

Summit Bald Moxie.

The descent was more difficult. I fell quite hard on a wet rock slab, almost injuring my knee. The nice trail from the day before had faded into the typical Maine terrain. Near the bottom, my left foot went into a deep puddle and got soaked again. Immediately my big toe started hurting. A few miles later, the pain was getting a bit overwhelming. I took my shoe off and the ingrown toenail was worse than I thought. Over an hour of agonizing “trail surgery”. Basically, it is enough to dig up pieces of encrusted nails. I managed to get everything out except one piece. The toe was completely bloody and swollen, it was time to let go.

Just below Pleasant Pond Mtn. Summit

A little neosporin and a bandage later and I was back on track. The pain was tolerable but not pleasant at all. I rushed up Pleasant Pond Mtn and was relieved when the weather started to clear up. There was a great view at the top and even service. It was great to talk to my fiancé and family after a hard day on the trails. It was around this time that a bird (I think a type of grouse) approached me at the top.

A grouse?

Arriving at camp at Pleasant Pond was a relief. I took the afternoon to relax and dry things in the sun.

Public dock at Pleasant Pond.

Day 13 (19.7 miles)

Toe felt better that day. Swollen and sore but didn’t hurt too much when walking. Crossing the Kennebec River requires the use of a canoe ferry which only operates at certain times. The first crossing was at 9 am and I intended to be there a little earlier. I did almost 6.5 miles before 8:30. The trail from the nice pond to the river was a gradual descent with only one small uphill. Upon reaching the edge of the river, I was delighted to see my friend Tenacious. He was also waiting for the ferry. We chatted for a bit before the “captain” of the ferry got us on board and took us across the river.

Tenacious paddling through the Kennebec.
Looking at the Kennebec.

After crossing the river we followed a beautiful creek with cascading waterfalls. The trail was a relaxing climb with forgiving terrain. We decided today would be a good day to run a few miles.

A nice place to have a snack.

A few more miles into the day and we reached an area where a Gauss Hawk swooped down on people to protect its nest. He even managed to take a woman’s hat and cut another guy around his eye. We watched the bird carefully, but luckily we got out of the section safely! The rest of the day included two ponds. One had a nice beach that we swam in and had a great view of a family of ducks.

A family of ducks crossing East Carry Pond.

We camped at West Carry Pond, the second pond, which was a secluded spot. My body didn’t want to go any further from both pain and hunger. I ate twice what I normally do for dinner. Finally, I felt satisfied. The night got better when I meet two other SOBOs at the campsite. A beautiful but difficult day on the trail!

Day 14 (12.6 miles)

I woke up at 5:45 a.m. and surprisingly Tenacious had gotten some sleep. Legs and feet felt great considering the long day before. The first part of the day was easy. There was a nice pond that we crossed where we took a short break and filtered some water.

Looking through driftwood alongside a pond.

After a few miles of rolling hills, we took the climb up Little Bigelow. Although only a few kilometers long, it seemed long. The view was well worth the climb and honestly I had no choice but to go up.

A view near the top of Little Bigelow.

A lunch break at the top was perfect. Tortillas filled with trail mix and peanut butter hit the mark. Cellular service was excellent and I was able to get in touch with family.

Little Bigelow looking north.

We finished lunch in the early afternoon and rode down the mountain in the saddle to camp. The entrance to the campsite is hidden behind large rocks that you can walk through.

Rushing to the campsite.

The rest of the day was spent setting up camp, hiding in my tent from the rain, and eating dinner. Joe, one of the other SOBOs I met the night before, met us at camp and decided to meet us in town the next day.

Day 15 (10.4 miles)

The morning began with the ascent of the great Bigelow. The climb was tough but the terrain was better than expected. The views at the top were breathtaking. It was amazing to see the ground we had covered and what was still to come. We could even see Katadhin in the distance!

View from Mount Bigelow.

Although the first climb had the majority of the elevation, there were still a few climbs to cover before taking a freeway to Stratton. We took our time and paid attention on the technical passages. An early breakfast at 10:30 gave us the energy to tackle the final climbs.

Descending one of the Bigelow peaks.

The last kilometers seemed long but we covered them quickly. Excited for city food! The hitch in town was easy, I got one on the third car. I immediately went to the Backstrap Grill and had a delicious cheesesteak. We used the market and gas station to restock, then headed to camp at the Mountain View Motel. Scored a rustic cabin for $30. A shower, more food, a cold beer and a campfire was a perfect way to spend the evening. I was happy to be in town but excited to be back in the mountains tomorrow!

Thanks for reading this post! I decided to try posting updates for every section I restock (about 3-5 days). Like I said before, I love the trail and the people I met. With everything you see in the news, you wouldn’t believe the cuteness that still exists. Thanks again for reading and don’t forget to keep wandering in your own direction!

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