Starting Location: Chairback Gap Lean-to
Destination: West Branch Pleasant River
Total Miles: 2098.8
Clearly the challenges of the trail are not at an end. After 9 hours of continuous downpour through the night, Gerry, Captain Hook and I awoke in the shelter to the sound of roaring water below the shelter where the AT continued and a silent spring could be found the night before. This didn’t seem to bode well for the amount of water that might be found on the trail this morning. We would soon come to find that the trail was, in fact, a raging stream all its own for nearly all of the 4 miles down to the West Branch of the Pleasant River, in places knee deep with water. If you didn’t know it you’d sooner guess that the trail we sloshed through was, in fact, an actual stream bed.
Of course, all of this water had to run somewhere and that somewhere was the West Branch of the Pleasant River which the trail forded directly across. One look at the swollen flow and I knew this was going to be a problem, and after 3 days without sun, slogging through miles of trail river only to find himself at the bank of an absolutely raging river he needed to get across, Gerry simply turned to me and asked if I minded if he bailed. Feeling wet, exasperated and in over his head, he looked shocked. I completely understood, and we went about discussing how he could get out of the wilderness from the dirt road a half mile back while I thought more about if I could possibly cross this river.
With no bridges for crossing and no alternative way around, Gerry agreed to stay at least to watch me cross. As Captain Hook arrived, I put my pack on, patted the lucky charms in my pocket and waded out into the river. Perhaps a third of the way across the 40-yard channel, the once ankle-deep stream was now already over my belly button. Realizing that the main heart of the river was probably chest deep and given the incredible struggle I had to simply stay standing and not be swept away with the swollen river, I turned around and went back to shore. There was no way around it—I could not cross this river today without risking a maximum price. With no way around and a river of trail behind us, our options were few.
In the end, all three of us started walking on the road hoping to reach the Katahdin Iron Works and get a ride to a town to regroup. Our fear was that with a tropical storm upon us with more heavy rain to come tonight, the river may get worse and with more rain in the forecast for the days following that, we could be waiting for days to cross the river. My only hope is that the Camera Crew, Camel and Leki-less happened to camp on the north side of the river last night and are safely past.
We managed to get a ride out to Monson to get Gerry’s car and then drove back to the town of Greenville, the nearest town to the river crossing, some 30 miles west via the dirt road. Spending the night with Gerry, Hook, and Eelz—another hiker who got a ride out with us after finding the river impassable himself.
Tonight’s rain has already started, and I don’t have a good feeling about our chances with the river in the morning. If we can’t cross, we’ll just have to pitch tents and wait until the river goes down and there’s no telling how long that could be. All we can do is wait.
The lone highlight: seeing my first tamarack tree of the entire trail.