Sunday, August 26, 2012

The 100 Mile Wilderness (and Baxter)

No catchy title this week, just some hardcore reality. This past week I got immerse myself in the middle of all the beauty Maine has to offer. I know I have whined and complained the last few weeks about Maine, but it decided to play nice and totally redeemed itself. The 100 Mile Wilderness quickly climbed up to one of my favorite sections of the trail. There were incredible views, great terrain, easy miles, and of course, the first major views of Katahdin. Excitement fueled the week, which I think caused me to fly through the wilderness in 5 short days. I see the finish line. Every blister, every chafed area, every drop of blood and sweat, every strained and sprained muscle has led me here- to the place I have dreamed about and gotten choked up about countless times. When I doubted myself, others believed in me. When it hurt to walk, the thought of those in Zambia getting water pushed me on. I am 5 miles from two dreams coming true. Honestly, I am a little choked up right now. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this entire experience would happen, and it has and in some weird way it will continue to. This journey will continue far beyond Katahdin, because it has never been about the destination, but the transformation, and I am a different man for having done this.

I need to stop stuffing my face with these delicious animal crackers my cousin has while writing this, so here is the awesomeness of this last week:

Day 162 (8/20) - Shirley-Blanchard Rd to Monson, ME (6.3 mi)
Today was a walk in the park- literally. I just took a water bottle and took off. It was the easiest, quickest slack packing I have ever done. I hung out with Dad and Ryan and we did some trail magic. The rest of the day was laundry, resupply, and then hanging out with our big bubble of Nobo's at our Hiker Trash Bash.

Day 163 (8/21) - Monson, ME to Long Pond Stream Lean-to (15.1 mi)
Welcome to the 100 Mile Wilderness. I got off to a somewhat late start but was feeling real good this morning. It rained some last night and into the morning, but I was not going to let it get me down. I am in the final stretch. I have to enjoy every last step. The terrain was pretty decent and I made good timing, almost to the point I thought about pressing on and making it a 20 mile day, but I was fine stopping where I planned. The crazy part of today- I officially have less than 100 miles left of the AT. [Remaining miles: 99.4]

Day 164 (8/22) - Long Pond Stream Lean-to to Carl Newhall Lean-to (20.8 mi)
Today I had to kick some major trail butt. There were mountains to climb and big miles to be had. I honestly wish I would have done those extra 4 miles yesterday so I wouldn't have had to push hard to get to my destination before 8 pm. The mountains today got relatively smaller the further I got. Barren Mountain was a bit of a climb, but had amazing views. Then came Fourth, Third, Columbus, and finally Chairback. When I reached the top of Columbus I didn't even realize I had gone uphill. I had a nice surprise on the way up Fourth Mountain. I ran into Wolfe. I haven't seen him since somewhere in southern Virginia. The last I had heard was that he got off the trail, but here he was. He had gotten off for about a month and a half, but wanted to finish it up so he is doing a flip flop, where he went on up to Katahdin and is working his way back to where he got off. The other highlight of the day came from a lady who is turning 45 tomorrow. She is hiking the wilderness with her daughter. We had all arrived at a river crossing at the same time and out of nowhere she asked Meat, Banjo, and myself if any of us "indulge in cannabis." Those were her exact words. I'm thinking "really lady?" These Maine people and their weed. The other day a guy picked Pedestrian and myself up when we were hitching to the restaurant outside of Caratunk. He said he was going to water his plants. We asked him what kind he was growing and he said weed. Pedestrian asked if it was medicinal and the guy said he just likes to get stoned. It's a crazy world we live in kids! Up with hope, down with dope! [Remaining miles: 78.6]

Day 165 (8/23) - Carl Newhall Lean-to to Cooper Brook Falls Lean-to (18.9 mi)
Today was awesome- plain and simple! I had some climbs right from the start. None of them were much effort. The big payoff came as I started down Whitecap Mountain- there, in all her glory and only about 30 miles away was Katahdin. Even though it was that close, the trail snakes to get there, so it's twice the distance by foot. Whitecap is the last significant mountain before Katahdin, so once I was down from the top, the trail was pretty flat the rest of the day and will remain that way for the next few days. I have to say that I absolutely love the 100 Mile Wilderness. I wish I had a few more days to play around in it, though I wouldn't want to carry that much more food. It did rain for about a half hour, but the day was so perfect it didn't seem to phase me. I made it to my destination for the night and will get to fall asleep to the sounds of a cascading brook behind me. Life is so good! [Remaining miles: 59.7]

Day 166 (8/24) - Cooper Brook Falls Lean-to to Wadleigh Stream Lean-to (21.5 mi)
Another absolutely perfect day. Have I mentioned that I love the 100 Mile Wilderness? Today led to some pond side walking, a long stroll along a river, and a breathtaking view of Katahdin. All of this wrapped up in a 21 mile day and done by 6. The only sad part about today is that this is my last night sleeping in my tent (the next two nights I will be in the camper with my dad and cousin). My little tent did the job well on the trail. It kept my dry for the most part during storms and it survived the constant set up and tear down. So kudos to Six Moon Designs for making a quality tent! I celebrated my last camping night by cooking double dinner- ramen and mashed potatoes (and I made them together). It was delicious. Tomorrow will be double breakfast and finish the remaining peanut butter after I make lunch. That way I will not waste any trail food. [Remaining miles: 38.2]

Day 167 (8/25) - Wadleigh Stream Falls Lean-to to Abol Bridge (23.1 mi)
Remember that scene in The Goonies towards the end when Mikey finds One Eyed Willie's chamber and has that moment of respect before all the Goonies take the treasure? I had that moment today on top of Rainbow Cliffs with Katahdin. It was just me and her and I let her know that I would treat her like a lady as I conquer her in a few days. I am so excited. It's weird because just a month ago I was feeling a bit depressed about this journey almost being over. These last few days in the wilderness, though, have just made me too excited. The finish line is in site and nothing can stop me. I am not ready to be reintroduced to "real life," but i am so ready to be with Wendy. If only I could convince her to be a mountain woman (as long as she would still shave) and I could make a living by hiking it would be perfect. As I made it out of the 100 Mile Wilderness and was crossing Abol Bridge, I got the best view of Katahdin yet. I have to admit it looks a bit intimidating, but it's just going to be the icing on this already super sweet cake. I made great timing with all these miles and met my dad and cousin almost immediately as I crossed the bridge. We went into Millinocket and I tore up some McDonalds (and later it tore me up). I thought Dad was going to make me sleep in my tent one more night. [Remaining miles: 15.1]

Day 168 (8/26) - Abol Bridge to Katahdin Stream Campground (10 mi)
Today was a day of mixed feelings- somberness and excitement. It basically resulted in lack of motivation to hike. I got to the trail head around 10:30 but didn't start hiking until around noon. I met up with the gang and we snacked and hung out and tried to find motivation to hike. Meat, Banjo, Sting Ray, Pedestrian, Houdini, and myself finally headed out and all talked about what life is going to look like on the other side of the hike. Once we got to the ranger station at the campground and registered, I hitched a ride out to meet up with Dad and Ryan and camp with them. I am excited about tomorrow, but I guess the nervousness of "real life" is starting to get to me. I will just have to deal with it as it happens. I have one day left to take in all that the trail can give me, so that is my focus and motivation tonight and tomorrow. [Remaining miles: 5.1]


  1. Good work. I've been following your journey for quite some time. I'm happy to hear you're both nearing the finish line and still enjoying yourself so much. Good luck on the summit of Katahdin.

  2. Oh! Brian! You are there. I can't imagine the emotions you are having tonight. I hope tomorrow's journey is exciting every step of the way! I look forward to seeing you in Georgetown.

  3. Come see us at Starbucks when you are done. The journey isn't over. Now you must take the personal growth from this experience and apply it to the next segment of your own continuing trail. I am so happy for you and have really enjoyed following you every step of the way in your writings.