Katahdin and the 100 Mile Wilderness
I’m not sure that I have ever done something as physically and mentally challenging as it was to climb Mt. Katahdin and hike through the 100 mile wilderness. I can honestly say that I completely underestimated Mt. Katahdin. I didn’t expect to be pushed to the limit of my physical abilities from the start. The climb was almost a mile high, and a lot of it was climbing over rocks and boulders while the wind whipped by you. The worst part was that the 5.2 mile hike from the camp up the mountain was only to get to the start of the trail and did not count towards your total mileage for the trail. By the time we had hiked back down to our campsite we were worn out and unsure of what to expect from the coming five months.
The following day we had the task of hiking out of Baxter State Park. The hike was pretty uneventful, except that we got introduced to mother nature’s most fiendish instrument of torture – the mosquito. I have never been so annoyed, frustrated and pissed off at something so small before in my life. I totally thought that I was prepared for battle with my 98.1% Deet Jungle Juice, but I was gravely mistaken. These little jokers are smart. They know every chink in your armor, can anticipate your every move and wait for you to come out of your bug net every morning for their breakfast. As if the mosquitoes weren’t enough, it was extremely hot, (not by Georgia standards, but the pack on your back amplifies everything) and we had to ford two rivers. We were excited about fording the rivers at first because we had all played Oregon Trail when we were little and had these crazy misconceptions about them. The rivers proved to be stressful and time consuming. The water felt great in the heat but getting your boots wet and taking the time to wring out your socks and put your clothes back on took away precious daylight and energy. After the two river fords the rest of the hike out of BSP was pretty uneventful. We were relieved when we made it to the road marking the exit. We found a store about a mile down the road and bought some Little Debbie cakes (no one knows what a “debbie” is up here) and some Cokes.
After our tasty treats we walked down the road about a mile and entered into the stretch of the trail that they call the “100 Mile Wilderness”. The Wilderness is a stretch of about 100 miles of trail between Baxter State Park and the town of Monson, Maine. It is one of the toughest stretches of trail because you have to have at least 10 days worth of food and there is little to no help if something should happen to you while you are hiking. At first, this sense of adventure and peril excited me, however after about the first 15 miles the sense of urgency and seriousness hit me. I began to feel trapped by this wilderness and it felt like it went on forever and would never end. Knowing that we had a ways to go we kept persevering and began to develop a routine for the day. We would wake up early, break camp, hike, rest, hike, make camp, eat, sleep and then repeat. Once this routine set in we were more able to enjoy ourselves and the adventure that we were having.
Don’t get me wrong – the wilderness was not completely bad. It was a tough but great way to be broken into on the Appalachian Trail. There were some great views from the tops of the mountains, and we were able to camp next to some of the most beautiful lakes that I have ever seen. We didn’t get to see a moose or an elk or a bear, but we saw quite a few snakes, tons of frogs, loons – and Gollum came into our camp one night (okay, it was really a deer but he sounded like Gollum).
I almost broke down and cried when we came out of the wilderness and saw Maine Hwy 15, which meant that our Appalachian Trail orientation was over and we were going to be able to shower, sleep in a bed, and have real food for the first time in almost two weeks. We called the hostel that we were staying at and they sent a shuttle to come pick us up from the trailhead. When we arrived at our hostel, Lakeshore House, we were shown our room, our beds, a place to shower, and loaner clothes to wear while we were in town (I ended up with a pair of women’s pants and a Miller Lite racing shirt). We wasted no time in settling in, doing laundry (it took two washes because we made skunks smell like roses), showering, and venturing down to the restaurant below our hostel. We found a scale in the hostel and I had lost 21 lbs in the wilderness, and Andrew and Jared had each lost weight as well. Over the next two days we were able to relax and rest our weary bodies while meeting up with friends we made on the trail and meeting new friends who were staying at the hostel as well. We head back to the trail tomorrow after we go to the local church and binge one last time on normal food. I am surprisingly excited to get back to the trail and have developed this anxiousness to be hiking again. It is nice to be in town and have a couple “normal” days, but hiking between the white blazes is starting to become the norm for us, and seeing what is next on the trail is exciting.
P.S. – I realized the other night why the forest up here is so weird at night. There are no cicadas, crickets, or any of the other woodland chorus singing the wonderful melody of the south as I lay down to sleep.
Andrew and I at the AT Lodge the day we climbed Mt. Katahdin.
Jared at the AT Lodge before climbing Mt. Katahdin.
We reached the top and now we start our southbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.
My poor feet have gone through a lot.
Sunset at Rainbow Lake.
Mt. Katahdin from the Rainbow Ledges.