Summer Journal Day 13
Thursday, August 13
I think I almost killed myself today. I may still die.
We were up early and on the trail immediately after breakfast. Joe made French toast, with homemade maple syrup and sausage for breakfast which is one of Chris’ favorites.
We decided rather than drive the mile to the bridge that we’d hike right from camp. It would add just under two miles to our hike, but we had the time.
Gulf Hagas, sometimes called the Grand Canyon of Maine, is awe inspiring to see. Photographs can never do justice to the beauty of the falls and canyons. But, be prepared to hike. Something this beautiful doesn’t come free.
We hiked down to the plank bridge and crossed over the Pleasant River which is about 40 yards wide at this point. From there we hiked another mile and a third to the Head of the Gulf. We were 2.2 miles into our trip before reaching Stair Falls. But as we had been told, the hike was relatively flat and easy to walk.
We began the Rim Trail at Stair Falls at the Head of the Gulf and it was clear that this was a special place. There were no other people around and we just stood for a moment and stared at the way the water pushed its way past the rocks. Next came Billings Falls with the river putting on another spectacular show as it jumped over ledges and tumbled over rocks rushing into the gulf below.
It was nearly a mile to Buttermilk Falls, but all along the way there were tremendous views, outcrops of ledge on which to sit and swimming holes. Buttermilk Falls was another magical place. We stopped for a while to watch the river pounding over the rocks. But this is where the Gulf began to show its teeth.
The 1.3 miles from Buttermilk Falls to the Jaws, was breath taking in two ways. The views were incredible. The way the river has cut its way through the rock is amazing. We could stand on ledges hundreds of feet above the boiling water and look straight down. The sense of height is palpable. While I was cautious, Chris had no problem walking right to the edge.
But the trail had changed. As we had been told it was easy and flat, but at Buttermilk Falls that all changed. The trip along the Rim to the Jaws was all up and down, at times vertical requiring hand holds. Most of the ledge was only about 20 or 30 feet at a time, but it was straight up and straight down, over and over.
I don’t know how many times we went up and down, but it seemed to me to be several dozen times. I was feeling like I had done enough vertical climbing to have actually climbed a mountain. The temperature was in the 80’s and it was very humid. I was sucking on my water bottle like a dying man in the desert. Of course none of this fazed Chris. He just bounced up one wall and down the other side. Sometimes he’d climb over and come back for me. I was taking frequent breaks.
Finally I could go no further and had to rest. We stopped on a ledge over looking the Jaws, which is astounding to see. Chris sat and ate a ham sandwich.
I just laid down on the rock trying to catch my breath, sweat pouring off my face like a river, my shirt was soaked. Looking at the map I figured that it would be quicker and easier if we just pushed on. There was no way we could turn back. It would take me forever to get over all those ledges again. By going forward, climbing who knew how many more ups and downs, we hoped to hook up with the Pleasant River Tote Road Trail which looked flat. The intersection was still a half mile ahead, but from there we’d have just under four miles to cover back to camp.
I had had it with rock and root climbing, but every time I’d pull myself up and raise my head over a ledge there would be another. The only benefit was the views; it made the pain worth it. Then, just to add to my misery, I fell over a log and hit my knee hard. At first it didn’t seem to be more than a bump and a scrape, but it didn’t take long before the pain was causing me to limp. I popped a couple of Ibuprofen and it seemed to help, but now I was moving even slower.
The climbing continued and with my free hand I managed to take plenty of pictures. The Rim Trail remained horrendous. Chris took my pack and carried both as I continued to fall apart.
Finally, below the Jaws we found the connector path to the Tote Road. From here I hoped for just a pleasant walk in the woods. We had left Little Lyford at 9:30 am. It was 1:30 when we made the turn back toward camp.
On the Tote Road we came across another father and son. They had started at the other end and were also on the homeward leg of their hike. I asked his opinion of the Rim Trail between the Jaws and Buttermilk Falls and if he though it was tough. The guy stood there for a moment before answering. “You think!” he finally said the pain of his passage etched on his face. “It dam near killed me.”
“Me too,” was all could say. I wasn’t the only soldier in wimpland.
Of course our sons were getting a big kick out of our suffering.
The trip back took half the time, but I was wasted. I staggered back into camp at 3:30 looking like I had fallen into the river and drown. I think I was actually near death.
Chris made sure that I got into our cabin then dropped the backpacks and grabbed his fishing pole. “I’ll be back for dinner,” was all I heard, the last words muffled by the sound of my head hitting the pillow on my double bed.
At 5 pm I staggered up the hill behind our cabin to the shower looking like I had just knocked off a 12-pack. The hot water felt good, but wasn’t enough to mask the searing pain. My whole body was screaming at me.
I stumbled back to the cabin and fell back onto the bed. Chris rushed in about 20 minutes before dinner and grabbed some clean clothes and ran up the hill for a shower. I really couldn’t hear what he said with all of my moaning.
He had hiked another two miles into the woods, caught another trout, cleaned it, and brought it up to Joe, who agreed to cook it for Chris’ dinner. I came out of my coma long enough for hear his story of how while running along a trail he bumped into a big moose. The animal apparently refused to move, so Chris just stood quietly and waited. After a while the moose gave a loud huff and walked up the trail. Chris continued on to his fishing spot like nothing had happened.
I had five minutes before dinner and slipped back into the coma.
Joe cooked pork loin for dinner with mashed potatoes, green beans, homemade bread and cheese cake for dessert. It might have even hurt to chew. After we ate Joe and Chris played chess while I just prayed someone would shoot me.
Chris wants to go canoeing tomorrow. They may have to bring me down to the water on a stretcher.
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