We woke up next to the giant rockslide with the dim sun flickering through the leaves like red hot embers. The sun had probably been above the horizon for an hour now, but her rays were just now reaching us. Garbelly as always was awake getting ready. He quietly got ready until he felt it was time to wake Critter. Then, like every other morning on trail, he opened up the valve to his inflatable sleeping pad and expelled all of the air. This resulted in a loud spewing sound and in return woke up Critter.
We packed up and got back on trail around eight, a pretty late start compared to our usual. We got back on trail and finished our climb up Barren Mountain. It was not particularly hard, just fairly steep. At the top of the climb stood an old dilapidated metal tower, which was fairly unusual to see since most of the mountains we had thus far climbed in Maine only had remnants of towers that were once there.
Just past the summit, we saw three south bounders our age and one Garbelly recognized from trail days. They all sped by quickly with headphones in listening to music, not stopping for longer than an acknowledgement of our presence. A few moments later however, we stumbled onto a true SOBO named Genie who came from Alaska to start the trail. She was perched up on a large boulder staring out at White Cap Mountain and the ridge that extended south from the mountain. She was truly absorbing everything that the one hundred mile wilderness had to offer. Apart from a couple small clearcut areas, the entire view was devoid of any other signs of man. We exchanged information and told her our dreams of one day spending a few summers in Alaska and continued on our way.
As we meandered towards the Chairbacks, we began walking through extremely delicate alpine bogs filled with lush moss, pitcher plants and even a few small sundews. A few bog boards flexed as we walked across them and threatened to hurl us into the deep swamp. Places such as this made us both wish we had studied more botany in school or simply had the encompassing knowledge of someone like Alexander Von Humboldt or Carolus Linnaeus. We knew we were looking at a few extremely rare plants and we had a good idea which ones they were, but were not entirely sure. Each square foot of bog consisted of so many different species we had never seen that we both took a few photos to try and do some research once we got back to signal. The Chairbacks themselves were very fun and easy climbs.
Right as we began descending toward the shelter Garbelly took off with Milo in a brisk jog down the mountain. After awhile however, he stopped to wait for her. Five minutes went by, then ten, then fifteen, then twenty. Growing worried he took off up the mountain hoping to find her or her pack sitting by the side of trail, signifying that she was simply off using the bathroom. However, almost a mile later, there was still no sign of Critter. Quickly he began looking for a sign of a shoe print but the trail was either covered in dry rock or dry pine needles. After awhile of heading downhill, a glimpse of her print appeared on the ground. Somehow she had passed him. A few minutes later she stood at the shelter laughing with a few southbounders. Garbelly was sweating, out of breath, slightly frustrated at the wasted time, yet happy that she was ok. Evidently there was a fork in the trail that Critter accidentally took, placing her ahead of Garbelly. We both took a quick break and then again took off down trail.
After the final one, Chairback Mountain, we descended down towards the west branch of the Pleasant River. There we met a couple of ridge runners. Their job is to educate thru hikers on Leave No Trace practices, bury human feces, talk about weather, report trail conditions and water sources and much more.
The rest of the the day we followed the scenic Gulf Hagas Brook up to the shelter just missing a few quick thunderstorms. After arriving to a full shelter, we found a stealth spot and filtered water. We set huddled together in the small clearing and cooked our dinner as we got drizzled on.