All parents have seen it. Sometimes it’s disapproval, sometimes condescension, sometimes it’s support, and sometimes it’s surprise. Our kids do something where other people are present, and we see The Look. Someone’s eyebrow raises, a lip curls, a nose flares. Behind it is a thought, usually something like, “Are you going to let him do that?”.
In my case, someone’s jaw drops open, and the thought is more like, “You must be kidding.” I love that.
So when I visited the ranger at Roaring Brook Campground in Baxter State Park and got that response, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t contain a smirk. They have seen people do some pretty stupid stuff, so an eyes-wide “Really?” from one of them is an instant win. Whether it was the ranger at Roaring Brook or hikers on the trail heading back from Russell Pond, I got this response from every one of them. “Where were we heading?” they asked. “Pogy Pond” I told them. “Wow. Have you been up there before?”
I consider a 12-mile hike on nearly flat ground with 75 lbs on my back to be not that big a deal. Weird, maybe. Impossible? Not by a long shot. As long as everything is packed well, and I make absolutely zero mistakes, it’s no big deal. We had everything: water shoes, extra clothes, food packed in a separate bag that could easily be removed from the pack and tied up in a tree, camera, tent, water purification, electrolytic tablets, toothbrushes, you name it.
The only person who wasn’t surprised was the ranger at Russell Pond, who knew I was coming and when I’d left, because he’d been alerted. When I showed up in the same time an average hiker would, the proof was in the pudding. With 7 hours of daylight left, I only had 3.5 flat miles to go. So we sat at Russell Pond for awhile, tanked up on water from a nearby spring, ate some food, took some photos, and headed out.
Did I mention we almost walked into a moose?
When we got to Pogy Pond, there was plenty of time to make some echoes, take some more photos, start a fire, hang our food bag, and even point out Katahdin for Rye. I even made a quiet video of the mountain:
Once it got dark, we settled in, ready for day 2. I awoke to a rippling sound down in the pond, which could only be one thing: a moose. Through the brush I saw a dark shape moving about. The second I unzipped the tent, the water rippling became branches rustling, and the moose was gone. Time to get started.
The plan for day 2 was to head for South Branch Pond 6 miles away. We would be there at mid-morning, and would have time to swim and paddle a canoe before heading up into the notch at Barrel Ridge. The second night’s stay was at Middle Fowler Pond beyond the ridge. The climb was about 1,000 feet over two miles, the biggest real challenge of the trip. Day three was simply a three-mile hike down to the road to meet Gramps and Grams.
So we got the food bag down, loaded up the backpack and started off. Riley wanted to ride almost immediately, so into the pack she went, and here’s where the mistake comes in. I didn’t tie off the food bag, like I did on the first day. Shortly before we reached South Branch Pond, I put the backpack down to get a snack and… the food bag was gone.
It probably fell out very shortly after Riley got into the pack, so it was sitting on the trail three miles back. I considered adding 6 more miles to the trip to get it, but the consequences of walking that distance without finding it were pretty steep. Even worse, if you want to see a bear, leaving a bag of sweet treats on the trail and waiting two hours is a great way to do it.
The worst case scenario was to finish the trip, a bit hungry, but with plenty of water and everything else. Luckily, Gramps and Grams decided to visit South Branch Pond a day early, so they were waiting with granola bars as soon as we came out of the forest. The rest of the day was spent canoeing on Grand Lake Matagamon, and the next day we headed for Acadia to hike Mt. Champlain. This was a big upgrade from a hungry night at Fowler Pond.
So… back to the rangers and the hikers and their surprised looks. They knew that there’s more to backpacking than the ability to walk around with a heavy load. Next time I see that look, I’ll know what they’re thinking; “You might want to tie up the food bag.”