It’s been a while, I know. Turns out that in Maine – at least on the AT – it’s hard to find a computer and a decent internet connection in the same place.
I left off at the end of the Katahdin climb. My plan was to present the journey through the 100 miles in a start to finish narrative, but I can’t seem to make that happen, so I’ll just pick out some moments from it. If I have time (I’m in a library with a time limit on computer use) I’ll try to get up to the present day.
On the first day in the wilderness in my group did 14 miles. Opie, the fastest guy in the group, kept asking us if we wanted to do more. It was a ridiculous question. None of us were in trail shape. We barely made that 14 miles. I didn’t even eat that night. I slept in my tent behind a lean-to and woke up every time a leaf fell.
Earlier that day we had done our first river crossing. It was hair-raising, but not (as I later learned) as bad as far as Maine crossings go. I sat down and, having hiked for three hours at that point, started to make a snack. One guy saw what I was doing.
What are you eating? he said.
Another guy turned to me.
You’re eating lunch?
I hesitated a moment. Uh, well, I’ve been going for three hours. Good time to eat something.
After the next crossing is a good time to eat something, said one guy.
That group and I did not stay together long. People who question when or what you’re eating generally aren’t good companions. You eat when you’re hungry. It’s really a fairly simple matter.
Three days in I met Joey. Yes, he looks exhausted and fed up in every photo I have of him.
Joey’s a Mainer – excuse me, a Mainah - who wanted an adventure. The 100 miles was more than he expected, though. His gear was heavy. He had at least twice as much food as he needed. His stove ran on firewood and had to be fed constantly with twigs.
Joey was great company, but he left the trail 3 miles before the end of the 100 miles by using a logging road to get to the nearest town. Long distance hiking isn’t for everyone. I wish him the best.
People had told me previously that that section is one of the most beautiful areas on the trail, and I found this to be true. It was, however, treacherous. The Maine Appalachian Trail Club maintains the trail and various improvements on it, like bog bridges and privies. Without them it would be a much slower, much dirtier hike. The MATC does great work. I’ve left them thank you notes.
They also have a sense of humor.
For the most part I went shelter to shelter, avoiding using my tent. It’s not that I hate tenting…I just love the shelters. They keep you warm or cool, have fire pits out front, and…well, you can’t really beat that view.
The bugs loved me.
I found a broken pole halfway up White Cap Mountain. Carried it up and over and down, fantasizing about finding the one guy in the next town with a single pole of that same design and confronting him. Lose something? I’d say. It didn’t work out, though. That thing was heavy, and eventually I began to feel silly carting it around. Left it at a camp site. Maybe someone else will take it the rest of the way into town. I did my part to keep trash off the trail! In fact when I made it to Monson I had over half a pound of trash that wasn’t mine in a little baggie. People thought I was nuts. I just hate seeing trash out there.
People leave all sorts of things laying around the shelters or sitting on the side of the trail. You wouldn’t believe some of it. I’ve found tents, tarps, hammocks, weapons, food (so much food!), clothing, fishing gear…saws. I don’t know why people bring this stuff out there. What do they think they’ll be sawing? What use is deodorant in a forest?
This is the southern terminus of the 100 Mile Wilderness. It just comes out onto Maine 15. You pass a pond and go up a bit of an incline and there you are.
My hostel in Monson picked me up so I didn’t have to walk into town. There are two hostels in town, a good restaurant, and a gas station that has a pretty good resupply. Lakeshore Lodge was where I spent most of my time. Cheers and Roadkill are caretakers there…great people. Made me feel very welcome. There’s free kayaking, a restaurant under the hostel, and a bar. What else could a hiker need?
Monson is probably the coolest little place I’ve ever seen. Everywhere you go the people are friendly and glad to see you. If I ever return to northern Maine, I’ll make sure to stop by again.
Since the Wilderness I’ve been hiking with Thor and Stack. Stack’s a former army ranger, and Thor’s his son. He’s thinking about joining the army, so he’s getting in shape on the trail.
Met this little guy going up Avery Peak on Bigelow Mountain on 6/19.
There are other people who need to use the computers, so I’ll wrap this up. I’m now 188 or so miles in, and have done about 14 mountains. Soon I’ll have my trail legs, which just means my legs will be in trail shape.
I’m traveling with Thor and Stack most of the time, but I’ve met lots of people, and I’m beginning to understand how this thing will play out. People move past each other all the time, only to fall back again. There are lots of people who move roughly the same pace as me, people I see every couple of days now. Sky Chicken’s in Stratton, the town I’m in now, somewhere. Blue Velvet and The Gardener are right next to me at the library. These are people I expected to be way ahead of me on the trail!
Again…these entries are done on shared computers. I have to type them out quickly. Hopefully in the future I won’t have to try to summarize almost 20 days in a single entry.
On the whole, everything is going well. I’m getting faster, getting used to doing long days and going without much rest. It’s been great fun so far, but very challenging. I fall a lot. That’s one thing no one ever mentioned. I fall all the time. In Maine the terrain is appalling, with mud everywhere, roots that form loops that you step into and trip on, slippery rocks…everything works against you. A northbounder I met named Cloudwalker assured me that after making it from Katahdin to the end of the White Mountains in New Hampshire I’d be through the most difficult parts of the trail and ready to fly on the easier terrain ahead.
Today I weighed myself. I’ve lost 20 pounds in 20 days. I’ll probably lose another 20 over the next month.
I lost a pair of socks. My shoes are falling apart. My shorts have the crotch ripped out. Everything else seems to be working fine. My 0 degree Enlightened Equipment sleeping quilt is unbelievably warm. I fight to stay cool under it while everyone else shivers in their sleeping bags.
I’ve become very good at fire starting. That took a while.
Haven’t decided where my next mail drop spot will be, but I’ll try to come back tomorrow and do another quick entry and update that. If nothing else I’ll figure out where that drop spot will be and update the site on my phone.
Other people seriously need to use the computers. Gotta go!
A hiker register. Maintainers use these to keep track of who’s on the trail and where they are.
Olivier, a French Canadian hiker.
Sky Chicken, the hiker who gave me water up on Katahdin! She’s easily the toughest hiker I’ve met. She had hip surgery just before coming out onto the trail.
The Kennebec River is postcard-lovely.
Sterling Inn Great Room.
Nope. Gotta find a way around that…no way I’m jumping it.
Thor, Stack, and David Corrigan. David runs the little ferry across the Kennebec River outside Caratunk, ME.
Steaming shoes after a long day.
Rainy, slow day. Time to eat + ibuprofen, ibuprofen, ibuprofen, ibuprofen, ibuprofen, ibuprofen, ibuprofen, ibuprofen, ibuprofen. – ROCKETMAN SOBO
Sasha, who belongs to Blue Velvet and The Gardener.