We set out early this morning after a great breakfast at the Sterling Inn and headed into a light rain that lasted all day. Maine has been in a drought for the last few months and it’s great to see all of the plants and flowers really perking up with the much needed moisture. We had a few minor climbs but most of the Trail was really easy except for the mosquitoes. I added a bug net for my head to my gear and it really helps. It looks a little crazy but it does the job.
We’ve been hearing about an attack hawk on this section of the
Trail and someone posted signs to warn hikers. They were not kidding! As soon as Scoobie, Nasty and I past the sign we started running and she came swooping out of the trees and screeching really loud. We were laughing so hard it was tough to keep running. We made it through okay but Boogie didn’t fare so well. The hawk dive bombed her twice and pecked at her head and pack and she had to fight her off with her hiking poles. The comment board on Guthook is full of the stories this year. This hawk must have a nest near by and she is not cool with us hiking through her nursery.
We stopped for lunch at a shelter and when we left we found some Trail magic Cokes sitting on a rock on the middle of the woods. This is my favorite type of magic. It is usually found near a road crossing but when you find it out in the woods like this it feels even more magical. Some sweet soul took the time to hike this in and it so appreciated.
The rain really picked up so we decided to call it a shorter day than planned and we will make it up on our hike tomorrow into Monson. We are camping near a beautiful pond and the sound of the rain is amazing against my rain fly. I think we will be back in the wet tomorrow but we can regroup in Monson before heading out on our last stretch.
Wow. Today was a blast. We finally hit one of the flat and cruiser sections of the Trail and we chewed up the miles quickly. Nasty Noodle, Scoobie and Boogie and I got up early and hit the Trail around 6:00. We stopped by the first pond we saw in the morning and went for a swim and sat and talked with another hiker names Eeyore. The ponds here are so warm and shallow and it feels so good to really stretch out in the water.
Eeyore stuck with us and we hiked another ten miles or so until we stopped for lunch along another pond and did some more swimming and then lingered on the shore for a good while drinking coffee and watching the loons swim around. They were pretty active this afternoon and we even saw a momma loon with her brood out on a swim lesson. We had just another seven miles until our 18 mile goal at the Pierce Pond Fish Camp.
We got to Pierce Pond and everything looked open but we couldn’t find anyone around. The door was unlocked and a generator was running but all we found was a note that said they had gone to the lake. What we were really after was the pancake breakfast the next morning that was advertised on Guthook but we decided again to press on another three miles to the Kennebec River and see if we could get across.
The Kennebec is the only part of the Trail that you have to aqua blaze and it is too dangerous to ford. The dam is eleven miles up stream and when they release water the current becomes deadly. There is a free ferry that the ATC operates but it is only in the morning right now so we had to find another option. There was a note in Guthook that said you could stand on the shore and yell “Cheryl” across the River and if she was outside then she could hear and she would come and get you in her small boat. Luckily, we also had a bar of cell service down there so we we called Cheryl on the phone and she popped right over and ferried us across the River for $40. We asked her if the yelling thing was for real and she said “Absolutely, my dogs will hear hikers yelling and start barking so I know to come get you. Just don’t be trying to yell over here past ten o’clock.” We love Cheryl.
Cheryl also tipped us off to this amazing Inn to stay at down the street on the other side of the river. They came and picked us up and we had the thru hiker holy trinity – shower, laundry and pizza. A bat flew into the living room while we were eating pizza and I mostly ran around in circles yelling. Boogie calmly found a towel and get the little guy safely out of the window. Today was so fun because so much of it was unplanned. The company was fun and we solved some problems on the spot. It also ended with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s! Nailed it.
We are going to push a pretty big day today so we will be closer to Monson and can Nero in there on Tuesday. It’s mind blowing but Monson is my last town stop and resupply before we enter the 100 mile wilderness that ends right outside of Baxter State Park. Put on brakes – I’m having too much fun.
Deet is the active ingredient in the most common bug sprays out there and it is very effective. Thru hikers rejoice in watching mosquitoes die when they land on their deet covered skin. It also melts plastic – so I’ve avoided it and lectured anyone that will listen. I’ve been using another product called picaridin. Unlike deet, it simply offends most of the bugs but it is much safer for the environment and your health.
Maine has broken me down. The mosquitoes and black flies are everywhere and they are flying into my ears, nose and eyes all day. Today was especially bad with calm winds and higher humidity. I stopped for a break at a shelter and found a brand new can of Off brand bug spray. It was the fancy kind with 15% deet and a baby powder coating. I snagged it and covered myself in it and felt amazing all day. The bugs kept their distance and I retained what is left of my sanity.
Today was bitter sweet. We crossed our final series of 4,000 foot peaks and it made me a little sad. As we get closer to the finish, I am becoming so much more aware of everything that I am going to miss. Hiking these narrow ridge lines above the trees is one of my favorite. I stopped at the narrow peak today for an extra long lunch and watched a rainstorm move across Sugarloaf mountain.
I am also going to really miss all of my critter friends. I chatted with the red squirrels today and stopped by for a visit with this handsome frog. They shared their beautiful home with me for these last four months. They have quite the place out here and I was so lucky to see so much of it.
The hiking gets a lot easier from here on out but I’ve timed it just right on pace and won’t have to push too hard to still make my planned summit on July 6. I don’t want to rush this. It’s going to be missed.
Nasty and I got up early to get a head start on our day. I love that he likes to be up with the sunrise with me and get going early. We had a 21 mile hike to get to Stratton and wanted to get up and over the several 4,000 foot climbs that we had and get into town pretty early. The hike went perfectly. We swept my over the peaks in great weather and caught some amazing views of the Carrabassett Valley.
We are in a very remote part of Maine and it is wonderful to look out for hundreds of miles and see just endless trees and bright blue sky. We stopped for lunch along a deep river that we expected to have to ford. Just as we were finishing our lunch, two Trail maintainers arrived with a long plank that they install every year as a makeshift bridge. Man, does the Trail provide or what? They were great guys and had hiked this bridge in every year around the same time. They were excited to see us and we exchanged some hiking stories before heading up for our last big climb of the day.
On the way up, I reached out to Pancho to see if he was in the area to give us a ride into town and he was indeed. He met us right as we arrived at the parking lot and he whisked us into town for a resupply trip. When we got out of the grocery store he discovered that he had a flat tire. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a spare and there are no auto shops in town that could help. There was one next door but they were closed indefinitely.
It took me a minute to think of this but I remembered that I had AAA and reached out to them for help. They were great but it was going to be several hours before they could arrive and the closest tire shop was an hour away in Farmington. Pancho asked me to cancel the service call and he was going to buy some fix a flat and see if a local could give him some air. That worked and he said he was going to head to the tire shop in Farmington. Instead, he headed back to the trailhead parking lot hoping the tire would hold. You guessed it – it didn’t.
Nasty and I got another ride to the inn where we are spending the night and left poor Pancho in the parking lot to trouble shoot. A few hours later, he reached back out and I got up early this morning and back on the phone with AAA. They were so helpful and I got a tow truck on the way to help him out. It took a some serious sweet talking but they made an exception to the rule that I had to be present as the policy holder to render assistance. The phrase “I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail” is like a magic incantation sometimes. Try it – it works.
The inn where we are staying is beautiful and the beds were so comfortable. Because of concerns about the virus, they were not offering laundry service but they did set up some wash buckets and a hose that got the job done alright. We walked down to the BBQ place and had a wonderful dinner with unlimited fountain soda! The mark of true fine dining for thru hikers. We are headed out shortly to tackle the Bigelow Mountain range and we are just four days from Monson, Maine and that is our last resupply before the 100 mile wilderness. We are only 180 or so miles from the finish. I am going to miss all this craziness and problem solving. But I won’t miss the wash buckets.😬
It’s weird but I’ve been out here for so long that I have trail buddies that I’ve been missing and are finding again. Nasty Noodle and I hiked the first two weeks together and we got separated and just ran into each other here in Maine. He is a great guy and cracks me up with his funny stories. He is an avid hiker from Sedona and has so much energy. He is great to be around right now and I’m so glad we’ve reconnected. He has been traveling with Pepper, Shit Watergate, Piss Coon, Marmot and Villain.
We had a super easy start to the day and got on Trail around 5:30 hoping to spot a moose. We didn’t see any but the terrain was really smooth and the heat wave broke overnight so we had nice cool breezes all day. The bugs are still out but not as strong. At the 10 mile mark we all stopped by a place at a road crossing called the Hiker Hut. Vera runs the Hut and she provides a nice break spot with Gatorade and egg sandwiches. Her dog Levi was the best part of the visit and we played ball with him as he jumped in and out of the stream.
It was a great break before our climb up Saddleback mountain. It took a couple of hours to get to the top but we were above tree line for most of the rest of the day and were treated to some fantastic views. We hit four 4,000 + foot peaks and the wind was blowing pretty hard at the top. It was a great change from heat we were battling earlier in the week.
We are going to push over the next range tomorrow so we can get into Stratton for a resupply and hopefully a restaurant meal. The hiking is feeling better but everyone is slowing down – especially in the afternoon. Hopefully, our pace will pick up once we get a glimpse of Katahdin.
Last night at the Pine Ellis is what I needed. Eileen was so sweet and she had coffee and muffins for us on the porch this morning before driving us back to the Trail at 7:00. I left with my new crew of hikers and we had a big climb to start the day. The weather was so much better today. It was misty and cloudy which kept the temperatures down and the sun off of our necks. It was a blast to chat with Nasty Noodle again and we compared funny stories from the Trail all day. Just when I needed it the most, the Trail provided some cooler weather and a relaxing fun day.
We hiked a pretty easy 18 miles to Sabbath Day Pond. I slowed down my pace with the new group and they liked to take lots of little breaks along the way. It really helped to recover and still got in the miles I was looking to do. As soon as we got in, we made a big fire and I went for a swim in the warm pond. It is a big pond but pretty shallow so it was refreshing but very comfortable. I got out and stood next to the fire to dry off.
Today also gave me some confidence back. I was feeling really beat up yesterday but I ended up feeling closer to normal by the time we finished today. We talked a lot about Katahdin. Once we get over the Bigelow Mountains we will start to see it before we head into the 100 mile wilderness. It’s going to be a great sight to see her on the horizon. This has been such a big dream for so many years and I can’t believe that I’m planning my summit day logistics. Damn – it feels good.
I should be in Stratton by Friday or Saturday and will need to find a ride into town for a resupply and maybe treat myself to a hotel bed. I will miss the camping for sure but over 100 days of it has me anxious for the comforts of home. For now, I’ll just sit back in my sleeping bag and watch the fire die down. The birds are singing their afternoon songs and a cool breeze is carrying away the humidity. The Trail continues to draw me farther down to my goal. Sometimes she leads me gracefully.
Ok. So you’ve made it to Maine but this beast isn’t over yet. If I had any advice for a thru hiker it is this – don’t spend too much in the Whites because Maine wants to be noticed too. I attacked the Whites and tried to show her I could keep up my same pace. I may have won the battle but she took a chunk out of me for sure. I am in a bit of a recovery hole. I am getting some more sleep now but waking as tired as I went to bed. I’ve been here before with overtraining and I know what I need to do – slow the hell down.
Honestly, I think this is a little how you are supposed to feel after hiking over 1,900 miles so I’m not that concerned. Every hiker I talk to is pretty beat up. Our conversations have turned from how beautiful everything is to how we are managing our bug bite sores. Like it or not, we are struggling so it’s time to be extra kind to our bodies. Today was easier than yesterday but still really challenging, hot and buggy. This adventure still has some serious work for me.
I started the day with a steep climb up Baldplate and it looks a lot like Stone Mountain. The hike is a steep ascent up granite and the views are amazing from the top. It was a really clear day just after sunrise and I got some good video for you. The descent back into the valley was not that steep and then when I got to the other side there was actual Trail. The dirt kind! I hadn’t seen that since Vermont and it felt so good to stop pecking across boulders and settle into a nice pace on the soft path.
I stopped for lunch at a roaring river and waterfall and spend some time soaking in the cool water away from the bugs. Astronaut, Jellyfish, Fire and NC’Ice were pushing another 26 miles today trying to get done by July 4 but I have a few extra days so I shortened by day to 17 and got a room in tiny Andover. The Trail Angel at the Pine Ellis Inn is so sweet. Eileen is in her 80s and loves to have thru hikers stay at her house. She showed up with cold lemonade for me for the ride into town.
When I arrived, I ran into a crew of hikers that I had met in Gorham, NH and they are also slowing down so I am going to head out with them in the morning. They are a sweet bunch and one of them (Nasty Noodle) and I hiked the first two weeks of the Trail with. It’s funny how we have been so close all this time but had not seen each other until now. I think slowing down a bit will do the trick and I have a plan that should still get me to Katahdin by July 5/6. Just have to take the next days as they come and be kind to my body.
Yesterday’s section was rated 10 in our guide – the most difficult rating on the AT. I didn’t want to believe it after getting out of the Whites. I thought it couldn’t get any tougher but I was fooling myself. This section also contains the especially cruel section called the Mahoosuc Notch but it was far from the only challenge of the day.
What makes this part of the Trail so hard is the terrain. Sure, the elevation is steep but there isn’t any “trail” to speak of. Just an endless series of steep boulders. If you are climbing, then the game is to find hand holds or nearby trees to haul yourself up. When descending, there is a lot of sliding on your butt and hoping you don’t pick up too much speed and loose control. It’s excruciatingly slow and dangerous so there is nothing that you can really do to speed anything up. I hiked from 6:00 until 7:30 with just two short breaks and still only got 17 miles in.
The Mahoosec Notch is in a category by itself. It is .8 miles long and took me two hours to get through it. It is a crazy jumble of huge boulders, logs and ice. You have to plan each move, try to execute it and hope it gets you over something that you can still move forward through. Many times I would be so proud that I was able to get up and over something just to realize that I couldn’t move forward from my new position. Backtracking was the only option. There were three places where I had to shove my pack under or over a rock and then drag it through after I got myself over. Crazy.
The reward for getting through the Notch is a nearly vertical rock climb ascent. It was a brutal collection today and I was feeling totally wiped out. I hadn’t slept well in days and was really struggling. Everything was hurting. I had to talk myself through this – out loud. I hope no one heard my motivational phrases but I had to do something. I called my favorite cheerleader Betty and she gave me a great pep talk. More cowbell, please!
I made it down to Grafton Notch and found my first SOBO hiker at the parking lot. His name was Hats Off (a hawk stole the hat off of his head) and he looked so fresh. He was clean, healthy looking and chipper. I probably scared the crap out of him when I came shuffling out of the woods hunched over and snarling through the day. You will have days like this buddy. It’s part of the fun. I had one more climb of the day to the campsite and treated myself to a bath in the cold stream and a big dinner. I had a great night’s sleep last night and feeling better about today. I might even get a ride into town tonight and buy a spoon. It doesn’t take much to please a thru hiker.
Whelp. It’s here. I made it to the border of Maine and it feels great. I headed out early today from the Rattle River Inn after a delicious chocolate chip pancake breakfast and hiked under cloudy skies and thick humidity. After the first couple of climbs, I started to hear thunder and it opened up with an nice summer rain shower that cleared out all of the mosquitoes and black flies for a few minutes. Although we are officially out of the Whites, we still have quite a bit of technical bouldering and climbing to get through.
It’s been an amazing journey to this point and I am feeling so good about getting here without any major issues. Fingers crossed – I want to keep it that way for sure so I am being extra careful on the wet boulders. The views from the summits today were really cool with the thunderstorms rolling in. I didn’t spend a lot of time on the top because of the lightning but I did get a few good shots for you.
A few miles from the shelter I met Jellyfish’s parents and their sweet dog Tesla with the most striking blue eyes I’ve ever seen on a dog. Sweet girl – when her parents left she wanted to keep hiking with us. These technical sections are no problem for her four wheel drive. I get such a kick about seeing dogs on the Trail and can’t wait to see Chuck. Just a couple more weeks!
We are camping tonight just across the Maine border and I have a ton of food with me from our resupply. The only problem is that I lost my spoon while we were at Rattle River so I made a custom set of chopsticks to carry with me for the rest of the trip. They work great and are lighter to carry than my spoon. Every little bit helps. We have a big day tomorrow. We are going through the Mahoosec Notch which our guide describes as “a deranged jumble of boulders at the bottom of this deep cleft between Fulling Mill Mountain and Mahoosuc Mountain. Be careful, and enjoy!”
Slack packing is amazing. I just took some water and lunch with me and I couldn’t feel my pack at all. As I hit the first climb up to the top of the Wildcat ski resort, it was a blast to move so quickly up and over the big boulders. Once I got up and over the first climb, I came upon a beautiful cold mountain lake and jumped in for a quick swim before the next series of summits.
I felt great after he swim and stopped at the top of the next climb for a quick lunch. It was a grab and go because the black flies were ferocious and wouldn’t leave me alone for an a second. I am trying my best not to use deet products for the bugs but today was testing my limits. That is probably why I started to go a little crazy today and started seeing faces in the rocks. At least they aren’t talking to me – yet.
The only thing I don’t like about slacking is that it really changes my focus. Since I can go faster without my equipment, I am focused on that more than the beautiful surroundings. I did stop several times at the lookouts for some great views and a cool breeze on this really hot day. It got over 90 degrees today and the heat was pretty intense as I dropped back down into the valley.
After the last climb of the Whites, the Trail flattened out pretty nicely but the mosquitoes came out in force along the river and I had to break into a jog to try to get away from them. As I got within a few miles of the inn, I called and ordered a pizza and salad and it showed up a few minutes after I got in. I am taking a rest day today and picked up all of my resupply items including my last box from Outdoor Herbivore. They included a sweet note on my invoice and I can’t believe that this really is the final push. I’ll be in Maine on Sunday afternoon! I’ll take tomorrow off from blogging but will be back on Monday. Thanks again for following and I love all the comments.