Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spring 38: Crazy Rain Hike

Tuesday, April 26
5:30am-9:30am, Cadillac South Ridge Trail and Eagles' Crag, Acadia National Park, ME
foggy, drizzly to rainy, windy

Yowz! Crazy rain hike!

I decided to check out Eagles' Crag and Featherbed Pond this morning before I left the campgrounds and moved to my apartment at the Schoodic Peninsula.

Must have misremembered the distance, because I thought the pond was around 2.3 miles, for a 4.6 mile round-trip loop.

It was gorgeously misty, foggy and magical as I started out. Mist-shrouded pines are somethin' else. The lichen-rounded rocks and little pines look like something out of a movie set, not real (but that's often how non-Californian forests look to me!).

The magic is increased by the beautiful hermit thrushes I hear singing. This one wins Bird of the Day, he had some special flourishes I have not heard yet:

There is also this new bird:

As I amble along, I declare to myself, "Light drizzles are fine to hike in! Even pleasant!"

When I get to Eagles' Crag, I have to laugh. I imagine the vista is astonishing, however today all I can see is a wall of white fog beyond the edge of the cliffs.
Still, it's fun to imagine what's there and savor the unknown.

Onward, to Featherbed Pond, where I hope to hear a little bird oasis before decamping from Mt. Desert Island!

The rain gets a little more intense as I gain elevation, scaling open rock faces which are exposed and windy. It's getting a little chilly, and as the rain comes down harder, I take occasional refuge: under a large tree, in the lee-side of a giant boulder.

I seem to be hiking for a long time, much longer than the .6 miles beyond Eagle's Crag that I thought I was going. But no pond yet. It seems strange to keep climbing up when I want to arrive at a pond, and I keep imagining suddenly arriving at the summit of Cadillac Mountain, having accidentally hiked 4 miles when I meant to hike 2.3!

As I start to get blasted by harsh, sideways rain and cold winds, the intelligent advice of the Park placards keeps resonating in my head: "Going up is optional. Coming down is not."

(I think they also say, "It's OK to turn around", but that line didn't make it into my inner mantra. I did, however, remember that "cold + wet + wind = hypothermia")

Instead, calm logic argued with adventure-seeking ego. `How stupid it would be to ruin your whole residency by twisting an ankle and getting stuck on the mountain!' `But I just want to get to Featherbed and hear the birds - then I'll turn right back around!'

New mantra: "Don't twist an ankle. Don't get hypothermia" (first sign is chills, which haven't hit me yet)

The next signpost indicates I've gone one mile past Eagle's Crag, with only 1.5 miles left to the summit Cadillac Mountain. Ha! I'm not tempted (I swear!), but I'm upset about not finding Featherbed Pond. Did I completely misremember its existence?

By the way, I thought I'd forgotten my trail map (it was actually at the very bottom of my pack).

Just a little further, I urge myself. It seems implausible, as I'm going up a steep incline, but perhaps the pond is hiding behind that stand of pines up there.

Another face-slapping rain attack as I scramble up rocks that are being transformed into a waterfall. The trees, it turns out, are hiding nothing. It is time to turn around. Thank you, Park Service, for encouraging common sense.

Half a mile down, I see a nice log bench that I didn't notice on my way up. Behind it, lies... a mist-covered pond! I find this pretty hilarious, and laugh at myself for missing it earlier, though it is pretty heavily obscured by fog.
Two minor stumbles, drenched boots/pants/clothes/pack/cellphone, and three miles later, I'm back at Blackwoods Campground. My original four-mile amble turned into a seven-mile trek against the elements. What an adventure!!


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