I told you I had another post coming soon! I know I have lost most of my readership, but my trip isn’t complete until this blog is complete… so here is my take on the Hundred Miles Wilderness. Enjoy!
Day 163 – Historic Route to Monson to ME-15/Monson
I did not sleep well, at all, last night. The room was far too hot for me, and someone was snoring. It rained most of the night, so we weren’t able to open the big window for the room, which just made the heat even worse. I got up about 7 and headed next door to Pete’s for breakfast. I ordered the “100 Mile Wilderness” – a meal consisting of 2 eggs, 3 slices of bacon, 3 pancakes, a pile of home fries, 2 pieces of homemade toast, and a bowl of Cream of Wheat. Plus coffee and OJ. I ate it all in under an hour – just barely – and was awarded a pin! If you ask me, it should come with some Pepto, too. After last night’s poor sleep, I made arrangements for a private room for tonight, and moved my gear to the room as soon as it was ready, while waiting for a severe downpour to end. I walked over to Shaw’s hostel, to grab a few items for resupply, and then stopped at the post office to mail home extra food and unneeded gear. I hiked out to the trail and completed the section I missed yesterday, so that I can start at the official trail head tomorrow. It also turned today into a nero instead of a zero, which makes it feel a little less wasted. When I got back to the hostel, I took a shower and relaxed the rest of the day. Later in the afternoon, the weather turned nice – sunny and breezy, but a bit cold. It probably would’ve been a good day to get some miles in, but it felt good to relax for a day.
Day 164 – ME-15/Monson to Long Pond Stream Lean-To
I slept good last night, although I woke up a little earlier than I wanted. I got up, packed, and got a small breakfast from Pete’s. I took the shuttle at 7:45, getting on the trail by 8 or so. Getting dropped off at the trailhead today was a lot like getting dropped off at Springer Mountain, in that both had a “well, this is it” feeling to it. Today was the muddiest day on trail yet, too. It was everywhere and most of it was bottomless! It really slowed me down in places, and the roots and rocks just made it puddle up more. Between the mud, the puddles, and the fords, my feet were wet most of the day. But the weather today was absolutely beautiful. Sunny, just warm enough you sweat a little, a nice cool breeze, birds and squirrels chirping away all day. It was a good one. I saw a couple of SOBOs and passed on NOBO who looked like a section hiker, but otherwise, I was alone all day. I am guessing I will spend most of the 100MW alone. I made it to Leeman Brook Lean-To by 9:15, and kept going. The trail passes tons of ponds today, but still no Bullwinkle sightings. I got to Wilson Valley Lean-To at 1:15, and stopped for about 25 minutes for lunch. I had heard rumors of a trail magic cabin somewhere near here, but it must only be on weekends. I got to the shelter at 4, and decided to not push farther. My legs were feeling a little sore and extra miles today won’t help me tomorrow since there’s not really alternative camping sites listed through the 100MW. Taco and Shell, two NOBOs, were just leaving to move on to the next shelter. I filtered water and then changed out of my wet clothes. I was having some chaffing on my hips and the top of my butt from the weight of my pack. Now I know why Bookie hated her heavy pack! I cooked dinner and as I was finishing, Pilgrim walked into camp. Pilgrim was another NOBO hiker, one I had heard a lot of from Bookie. Later, another NOBO named Blue Kazoo came in and set up her tent nearby. I journaled some until it was too dark, then climbed into my sleeping bag to read. It was interesting to watch the light play on the trees and through the trees as the sun sets, making me smile as I settled in for the night.
Day 165 – Long Pond Stream Lean-To to West Branch Pleasant River Campsite
I slept good last night, getting up around 6:30 and getting on trail within an hour. Today was a rough day, though, both mentally and physically. If yesterday was mud day, today was rock day. Steep rocks. Slippery rocks. Bouldering rocks. It was slow going, for sure. And don’t think there wasn’t mud and roots, because there was, but the general ache in my knees and feet says the rocks were worse. Or the ups and downs. Mentally, I couldn’t get my head in a good place, so I couldn’t find my rhythm, which just let my head focus on the pain of the trail… and more chaffing. I was sweating so bad today that everything was dripping wet by 10. Thighs. Top of butt. Ouch. It wasn’t all that warm, but just warm enough I guess, especially on the climbs. I got to the final campsite at 5. I set up my tent, then walked to the river and simply sat down in it. Sweet, cool relief. I watched the sun sinking behind the hill, casting beautiful light on the stream. Fortunately, I didn’t have a camera, I didn’t try to capture it, I just enjoyed it, soaking in the warmth of the sun as my legs went numb in the water. I went back to camp, filtered water (from a different portion of the stream, just in case!), cooked and ate dinner. Taco and Shell came into camp and set up nearby, although they kept to themselves. Pilgrim walked by and set up somewhere else. There’s an older couple here, section hiking, in a single-tarp double-hammock setup. Interesting way to create a nest, I suppose. But they went to bed while I was eating. And two others came in just as I was climbing into my tent. So while I was not alone tonight, I was alone. But I camped right next to a stream, which was rather loud and soothing, helping me drift to sleep.
Day 166 – West Branch Pleasant River Campsite to East Branch Lean-To
I slept great last night, although I woke a couple times due to the moisture in the air. Everything was damp this morning, including my clothes that were hanging to dry. Starting the day with wet clothes usually is a recipe for disaster with me, but it wasn’t. I got on trail early, but had a slow start with a ford immediately after leaving camp. Made decent time but the hills were killer today. I feel like I’ve gone soft since the Whites… or they just wore me out. There were lots of big climbs, rocks, roots and mud. I know I sound like a broken record, but the trail has been about the same lately. I was sweating within 30 minutes of leaving camp and never truly dried out all day, but the chaffing was mild today so it wasn’t too bad. The first couple hills had no views, but the view from White Cap Mountain was great. And on the way down, I saw Katahdin for the first time! It was too hazy to get a picture but I saw the golden egg. I ate a late lunch at Logan Brook Lean-To, then hiked the 4 miles to East Branch Lean-To. I would’ve liked to hike farther, but there aren’t any confirmed campsites near water for a while, so I called it a day at 4:30. Still, it was a good day of hiking today. I’ve come to realize I have “get there-itis”. I skip side trails and don’t like to just sit and observe during the day, knowing I can’t truly relax until I get to camp. But then I get to camp early and just sit there. I’m going to have to work on that down south. The mosquitoes were killer at the shelter, so I set up my tent and filtered water. When I got back from the stream, a section hiker named Terp was there. He’s from Germantown, Maryland, (near me!) although lives in Boston now. He gave me a lot of good info on catching a bus back to Mt. Greylock, and then he hiked on. While cooking dinner, Pilgrim and Blue Kazoo came into camp. While eating, Big Brother and Pink Panther came in. We had some good conversation while we all ate, which was a nice change from the solitude the last couple days, but the bugs were bad, so we were all in our tents by 7:30.
Day 167 – East Branch Lean-To to Nahmakanta Stream Campsite
I slept like crap last night. It was too hot and uncomfortable. I got up to use a tree at midnight and ended up reading my Kindle for an hour. I was finally able to sleep some, but it was restless. I woke up fairly early and got an early start to the day. Literally just outside of the camp, I saw my first moose! She was about 30 feet off trail, in some brush, but she was beautiful! And more gangly than I expected. But finally!! I’ve seen a moose! The trail was fairly easy and mild, with lots of decent trail. Just as I got a rhythm going, a section of mud or roots would appear and throw it all out of whack, but I guess I’m getting used to it. Surprisingly, the chaffing wasn’t bad at all this morning, and I made very good time. I got to Antler Campsite about 1, and ate lunch along the pond shore with Two Bad Dogs, an older couple from Colorado who had lots of stories and comparisons of the AT and the PCT, which they did a few years ago. Just as we were packing up, a lady walked up and said she and her husband had hotdogs and soda and homemade cookies, if we wanted any. Umm, thru hikers here! We packed up and walked over to chat and partake. And it was wonderful. Dawn and her husband, Gwen, were a nice couple from New Hampshire, visiting their cabin on a pond next to this one. Their son, “Red on the Head”, hiked in 2005, and when Dawn beat her cancer a year ago, she said giving trail magic was on her bucket list. And here they were. A hot dog, two cookies, a handful of chips, and a Pepsi later, and I was all smiles. And as I was leaving, Dawn insisted I take a beer for dinner. Amazing. It was an honor to meet them and share their celebration. But the trail called, so I headed out. And right away, I was in pain. Apparently, I had stopped long enough for everything to dry just enough that things were “tacky” and the chaffing flared up immediately. I got to Potaywadjo Spring Lean-To about 3:30, and quickly decided I could do more, so I headed for Nahmakanta Stream Campsite, even though the chaffing was telling me to stop. But my legs felt great so on I went, setting my new longest daily mileage. I made it to camp at 5:30, quickly set up my tent and then waddled to the stream, where I once again waded in and sat down in the cool water, drinking my beer as I relaxed. Cold relief. Anywhere else, this would be horrible, but after hiking, the cold water feels wonderful. I sat there for a good 15 minutes, giving myself a little bath of sorts, then got up and filtered water. The mosquitoes were horrible, so I cooked dinner and ate while walking around camp, trying to not provide a stationary landing platform for the thirsty blood suckers. If I stopped, they attacked, so I added some “unofficial miles” to the day. As soon as I was done, I hung the bear bag and took shelter in my tent, which is fine since it gets dark about 7 now anyways. I was all alone in camp tonight, but I didn’t seem to mind. Hopefully I can get a good night’s sleep.
Day 168 – Nahmakanta Stream Campsite to Hurd Brook Lean-To
I slept great last night, thank the sweet lord of sore muscles. I woke up at 5:45 and was on trail by 7, with clear skies and cool breezes for a few hours, which was wonderful. About 20 minutes from camp, I spooked a bear, and almost had to stop and change my underwear! I didn’t see him until he went crashing through the brush running away from me. Perhaps I need a shower more than I thought. The trail was monotonous today, and definitely a “root day”. Big, gnarly masses of roots that you had to pick your way through, hoping you don’t slip and fall (which happened twice…) But the day went on ok, even though my legs and feet were sore. The chaffing seemed to be under control most of the day, mostly because it was warm and I was sweating a ton. Today ended up being a mentally tough day, with aches and pains, boredom, and just “being done”. I hit my wall early and just wanted to be done hiking. But after a short break, I was able to hike on. I got to Rainbow Lake Campsite, my intended destination, about 3:15 and decided to push on. And before I knew it, it was 6 and I was walking into the shelter, once again resetting my distance record. Hardware and White Wolf were there but nobody else, which was odd considering this is the last shelter before the Birches. We’re guessing most people pushed the extra 4 miles and then hitched to town for the festival this weekend. I filtered water as it got dark, cooked dinner and headed to bed. Talking with Hardware and White Wolf, I realized how much I was going to miss the group of hikers I had met the last week or two, once I traveled back to Massachusetts. My legs and back were already aching as I cooked dinner, so I hope I can sleep.
Day 169 – Hurd Brook Lean-To to The Birches
Unfortunately, I got no sleep at all last night. My back and legs kept cramping up, I was hot in my sleeping bag, then cold without it, had to get up to use a tree a few times, etc. Needless to say, it was a rough night. It started raining at 3, and was still drizzling when I got up at 6:30. We were all slow to get moving, especially since it was very cold. Once I hit the trail, I found it to be a mix of rocks and roots but not too bad. I got to Abol Bridge at 9, stayed for 30 minutes eating a breakfast sandwich, cinnamon roll and a Pepsi, then hiked on, with a mix of nature trail and “normal trail” until Katahdin Stream Campsite. I got there at 1:30. It just seemed like a very odd day, leaving the 100MW and reentering civilized camping. I got a couple views of Katahdin and every time, my breath caught in my throat a little. It has been years of planning to get to this trip and tomorrow, with luck, I will summit Mount Katahdin. But I don’t really know anyone I am with. Hardware and White Wolf are going to town tonight, but they’ll summit tomorrow, most likely later in the day than me. The campsite is supposedly full tonight, but so far, I don’t recognize anyone. It’s an odd feeling being surrounded by hikers and feeling totally alone. There wasn’t cell service at all at the campsite, but I did have it for a minute earlier today to be able to receive some texts from the past week. The group of us hung out around the campfire, trying to stay warm. I filtered water, cooked dinner, and enjoyed a Pepsi with dinner – I feel like an addict with Pepsi. We sat up around the campfire a little while talking. Burl and Tree Beard showed up at dark, a nice couple I wish I had met sooner.
Day 170 – the Birches to Mt Katahdin (and back to Katahdin stream Campsite, then to Milinocket)
Miles: 5.2 (plus 5.2 back to Katahdin Stream Campsite)
I slept great last night, even though it was super cold! I woke up before sunup, though, excitement in the air. I walking to the ranger station at 6:15 with Five. We set up our slack packs and hit the approach trail at 6:45. It was bitter cold this morning. My hands were freezing from climbing on the rocks. I hiked up with Tree Beard, Burl, and Five, talking most of the way up. We summitted at about 10:30, with amazing weather – cool temps (although it warmed up nicely once the sun peaked), a slight breeze and clear skies. The summit was full, too. Tons of people didn’t summit yesterday due to the rain, so they were climbing today. I saw Pilgrim, Papa Oats, Hardware, and White Wolf at the top (or as I was headed back down), and we all congratulated each other on reaching the summit. It feels very odd to be at Katahdin but not be done. I got back to KSC at 2:15, along with a large group of other hikers. I repacked my backpack and tried to hitch, but didn’t find any cars leaving, so just decided to wait for the scheduled shuttle. I got a little reflective while waiting, looking around at everyone giving high fives, laughing and relaxing. All of the people sitting at KSC are done. They are thru hikers. They are headed home. I’m not… not yet, anyways. And I will probably never see any of them again. That saddens me. I look at the short list of deep friendships I have developed while on trail, and I wonder what affect it will have on me in the long run. I have never made friends easily, always keeping a part of me reserved and protected, and as much as I had hoped this hike would bring some of that out, I am seeing that it isn’t. It was an hour drive to Millinocket, but the van was full of laughter and discussion of future endeavors. I checked into the hostel, called my dad, then went to the AT Cafe for dinner. But nobody else did, so I ate alone. I walked to a market for snacks, and texted my mom a little, although she was out of town so I didn’t want to interrupt her too much. Back at the hostel, I showered, made a call home, and tried to embrace the day. I feel very down, though. This is not how I imagined Katahdin being. I did laundry and generally kept to myself, knowing that others were celebrating and I still had hiking to do. I was also a bit stressed about trying to find a bus to Greylock. It was a late night, for sure.
Day 171 – Millinocket, Maine, to Williamstown, Massachusetts (via bus)
Surprisingly, I slept great. I got up at 6:45 and putzed around until the shuttle to Medway left at 9. From there, I caught a bus to Bangor, Maine. I texted friends all day, on and off. From Bangor, I got a bus to Boston, then another to Springfield. I almost missed my bus transfer to Pittsfield because of an accident coming out of the Boston area. Thankfully, they held the bus until we could transfer. I called Kamikaze during my hour-long layover at Pittsfield, chatting about how the trail had been for each of us so far and giving her some tips for the 100MW. Then I took a bus to Williamstown, Massachusetts. Walked the mile across town, got a room at the Willow Motel, wandered to the gas station next door to get food, made a call home, and tried to relax before turning in, completely exhausted.
I am still working on the final few weeks of my trek, but hope to have it out soon. Thank you, again, for patience. And remember to always Spin the Compass!