Our group of five got an early start up the Haoe Lead trail from the Maple Springs trailhead. We met a half dozen small groups of hunters and their dogs within the first two miles of trail. I was happy to learn they were hunting wild boar, an introduced species that are very destructive to the forest. The Haoe Lead trail became even more wild, rugged, and technical as we hiked deeper into the wilderness. Our pace slowed to about one mile an hour as we negotiated over loose rocks and gnarled roots, all obscured from view by a layer of slippery fallen leaves. We practiced our acrobatics through the obstacle course of downed trees, tossing our packs ahead of us to squeeze through the tangles of branches. The trail, which probably sees more deer and wild boar traffic than human feet, was so narrow in spots that my wide feet hung over the edge and were at constant risk of slipping down the hillside. Thickets of blackberry brambles towered over us, though they weren't as impenetrable to us in our long pants as they had been the previous June on my first attempt. And yet, I was in heaven! I marveled at the rugged beauty of this wild forest, which, to me, seemed protected by its very remoteness and these inaccessible trails.
|Gnarled old tree.|
|View from the Hangover.|
|Carrion flower fruits.|
|Turk's cap lily seed pods.|
On top of the exposed bald, the wind howled all night, and even with the low end of my tent pitched into the wind, my tent shook. Fortunately, I stayed toasty warm. (Note: because I knew we'd be camping on the bald where trees were scarce, I brought along my tent instead of my hammock.)