Day 176 – 17.1 miles to stealth camp at 2122.1 (77.0 miles to go)

The end is now quite literally in sight.

The day dawned reluctantly, the sunlight bestowed begrudgingly causing me to get chilled as I dressed into my clothes still damp from yesterday’s rain.

I had stealthed right by the Pleasant River which now needed crossing.

Although there was a healthy smattering of uncovered rock tops to hop on, each possible route seemed to involve a 6 foot / 2 meter gap at some point. Eventually I crossed via a long twisting route which needed one foot to be submerged slightly but fortunately my waterproof shoes did their job.

Now the trail passed through The Hermitage, an area of 100-foot high old-growth white pine trees. And then it passed by the Gulf Hagas region.

For once I took a side trail, albeit only for 0.2 miles, to check out the Screw Augur Falls part of the Gulf Hagas region, somewhere I had heard about for many years as the region is a popular day hike and the falls empty into a swimming hole people jump several meters in to. Again though, the water levels are low and it wasn’t all that impressive.

Now to climb 2000′ to the top of Gulf Hagas Mountain itself (2683′) which had no views. Then we dipped 300′ before climbing 800′ to West Peak (3181′) that also boasted no views to distract hikers. Again a 300′ descent before a 400′ climb to Hay Mountain (3244′). Again, the summit was forested with no views. This has been a feature of the AT throughout, called PUDs or Pointless Ups and Downs, and today was a fine example. More than 3200′ of ascent, three named peaks and no reward for the effort.

I gave up and had lunch. Within a few minutes of stopping I cooled down enough to consider rummaging in my pack for a fleece to wear. I decided against it and ate quickly instead. By the time I was finished, less than 25 minutes later, I was actually shivering. Fall has arrived.

A final 350′ dip and 750′ climb took me to the final summit of the day, White Cap Mountain (3644′).

Immediately all the effort of the day was worth it. The most extraordinary 180 degree view towards the south could be seen to the right. It was breathtaking. A hiker called Stefan, a young horticulturalist from Virginia, was up there, having held out to have a late lunch with a view. He told me to push through the overgrown side trail to the left where the view north was even better. He was right. It must be one of the best views on the whole AT. The crown jewel was that Katahdin was clearly visible, probably only 35-40 miles away as the crow flies, though 70 via the AT.

This was the last big mountain until Katahdin. The trail just about tops 2000′ one time but otherwise it’s all low-level now. For the first time I felt the trail was ending. I lingered to savour this final view.

A long descent was relatively easy due to much of it being made up of rough stone steps – this must be a popular local hike due to those views.

I picked up water and chatted with Stefan at the next shelter and Juergen somewhat surprisingly came up as well as I’d assumed he would be ahead of us. He is trying to summit Katahdin a day before Stefan and I planned to as he has a flight back home booked and was supposed to be pushing 20 mile days. Maybe I’ll see if I can do 20 miles tomorrow and consider that option. When he passed by my stealth site later I told him I’d try and take him up on his offer.

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