2017 marked the final leg of my 17 year section hike of the Appalachian Trail. It was very surreal to step into the woods for the last 'first step' from the trailhead just outside Monson. I had to finish out the trail in Maine, making my way through the famed Hundred Mile Wilderness, and up to the summit of the grandaddy...Mt. Katahdin.
The trip began, of course, with a buffet of airline tickets. OKC to Newark, NJ for a five hour (yes..five) layover.
This was actually by design, as the only other option was a layover of less than an hour. I generally avoid layovers that short, even when not flying to the trail. When flying to hike, my backpack, which is checked luggage, MUST arrive. This causes me more concern than anything because no pack equals no hike. I couldn't afford, nor find, all of the gear necessary to salvage the trip. Nose pressed against the terminal window, I'm always eager to see it gliding up the conveyor into an open hatch of the next plane. I saw it this year, as I often do, which brought great relief...especially when you're in Newark for five hours...with little to do but think about your pack not joining you in Maine.
After a delay in New Jersey (five hours magically became 6 1/2!) I arrived in Bangor, ME and caught my shuttle to Monson, an hour and a half north, and the launching point for this year.
I spent Wednesday night in the charming Lakeshore House in Monson. After breakfast next door at Pete's, the folks from Lakeshore shuttled me the three miles or so up to the trail crossing.
The trailhead on the highway north of Monson. It was bittersweet to take the last 'start' picture.
I quickly entered the famed Hundred Mile Wilderness. Contrary to popular hiker lore, there are some roads (though infrequent) through the Hundred. There are just no paved roads, and the gravel logging roads that do intersect on occasion are not heavily traveled. I didn't see any vehicles in motion through the entire wilderness, only a couple parked (likely local day-hikers). It's definitely remote!
That diarrhea-streak through middle of the photo....is the trail in the Hundred Mile Wilderness.
And here's another helping of slop in case your feet are too dry or clean.
Maine has many lakes and ponds, each seemingly more picturesque than the last.
Little Wilson Falls - these continued down into a fantastic canyon of huge rock slabs. The photos do little justice....and the roar was incredible!
Ford number one for the day. Four more would follow before it was time to camp for the night.
After crossing. Four of the day's crossings were about mid-thigh like this one. One was only about mid shin, but much wider. This is why I don't hike in Gore-Tex shoes. The water WILL eventually be inside your shoes...and then it stays. Even without, my shoes were wet for about three days before I got into enough dry trail and no rain to dry them out. It's all part of the grand process.
All of that moisture leads to vibrant shades of green though!
Looking back from above.
No option for rock-hopping here. Another wet crossing in the Hundred!
Embracing the comfort of constantly wet feet.
My first camp of this trip. I've been so pleased with this tent. It's a Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 and it has really served me well. I've had it for a few years now and am still impressed every time I climb in!
These are black fly bites. They bleed...a lot. And you usually don't feel the bite....you just find the blood. Then you think, "Well, at least it doesn't hurt." Then, about a day later, you have an itchy bump that you're tempted to lop off with a pocket knife. It's good I don't hike with a gun (I don't actually do anything with one...) because I'd constantly fire at those little suckers.
This is a typical AT shelter (or lean-to as they're referred in the northern sections of the trail). I really don't sleep in them much anymore because the bugs tend to be so bad. I also have really come to like my little cocoon of privacy. I like to read and write fairly late into the evening, past hiker midnight (about 9:00pm), so wearing a headlamp is akin to putting your face up to the light on your porch....at night...in the summer. I opt for my tent 99% of the time.
I'll leave you there for now....dreaming of bugs, wet feet, and hiker funk. The next installment will hit sooner rather than later so stay tuned!