Greetings folks, from New Hampshire. I was able to re-enter the USA at Fort Kent Maine 31 July and on 3rd August climbed Mt. Kathadin, Maine’s highest peak (5268 ft.) which took me 6 hours to ascend and descend. Since then I have been walking steadily southbound on the Appalachian Trail a total of 300 miles to Rattle River Shelter near Gorham, NH, a trek lasting 38 days with 5 zero (rest) days en route.
The scenery was spectacular, the mountain climbs magnificent, and in particular I enjoyed splendid views of literally hundreds of lakes, ponds, and browsing moose that dot back country Maine.
Hiking in Maine certainly has its challenges but lessons learned during the 620 miles I hiked northbound from Springer Mountain Georgia to Woods Hole Hostel near Pearisburg VA (April 24 – July 6th) undoubtedly helped my northern endeavor.
The first real challenge in Maine was the “100 Mile Wilderness” south from Baxter State Park, where I walked for 9 days without passing human habitation and just a handful of motor vehicles at Forestry Road crossing places. Signs at each end of the 100 Mile Wilderness warns “there are no places to obtain supplies or get help for the next 100 miles. Do not attempt this section unless you have a minimum of ten days supplies and are fully equipped. This is the longest wilderness section of the entire Appalachian Trail and its difficulty should not be underestimated.”
At one point I was able to pick up food in a sealed bucket at a pre-arranged spot beside a forestry road that I crossed, a regular arrangement for hikers provided by the hiker’s hostel in Millinocket.
On arrival in Monson, famous for its slate, I enjoyed 2 zero days, to recover from the 100 Mile Wilderness – a tiny Maine town as famous for its slate as its catering for the needs of AT hikers.
But greater challenges were to come as I headed south over the Bigelow Range of mountains, two of which (on the AT) exceeded 4000 feet where I regularly met determined mountain walkers out to climb every mountain over 4000 feet in New England.
At Cartunk, I crossed the fast flowing Kennebec River by canoe, the only place on the Appalachian Trail where one does this. It is a special service provided by the ATC operated in memory of a woman hiker who drowned while trying to swim across more than 20 years ago.
After a brief rest in Stratton, I headed south over the Crocker Mountains and 4000 feet up Spaulding Mountain – other 4000 feet plus mountain peaks followed, The Horn (dramatic) and Saddleback Mountain, this section (ending near Rangeley) took 3 days. Two days later I was in Andover, and ready for a rest at the wonderful hostel-home of octogenarians known as “Bear & Honey” – Beeman felt quite at home here…!
Then came the approach to one of the most talked of, and arguably most challenging sections of the entire AT, namely the Mahoosuc Arm followed southbound by the fabled Mahoosuc Notch, a jumble of colossal house sized rocks.
It took 6 hours to hike 5 miles. The first 3 hours to descend Mahoosuc Arm and almost as long to clamber through Mahoosuc Notch – 9 times I had to take off my rucksack (pack) and shove it through small holes under which I wiggled between & below these house sized rocks. I wearily finished this memorable day by climbing Fulling Mill Mountain (3395 feet).
By comparison, summiting the Goose Eye Mountains (which followed) was just a doddle despite their steel re-bar rungs helping one descend faces of granite rock (see photo).
At 1:45 pm 7 Sept. I crossed from Maine to New Hampshire, (where psychologically my spirit was lifted high at having hiked all of Maine) and made my way along less steep paths to Gentian Pond Shelter, at which I was rudely awoken by strident train blasts between 12:30 – 1 am from a railway line far below. Civilization apparently beckoned.
My foot journey on this section of the Appalachian Trail ended at Rattle River Shelter just 300 miles south of Mt. Kathadin.
Daily throughout my hike down through Maine, I met hardened determined North Bounders (NoBo’s) hell-bent on reaching Mt. Kathadin having walked from Springer Mtn., the southern terminus of the AT, all summer and I wish I could have been one of them. Most were young citizens of the USA,(some of whom remembered meeting me down in the southern states) but I met Poles, Japanese, Israelis, Germans as well, whose courage of traveling so far from their home, conversing in a foreign language, and coping with the steep demands of the rugged Appalachian Trail I truly admired.
For now as fall approaches, the days shorten and temperatures drop, I am content to hang up my rucksack for the winter. I have walked just 80 miles shy of 1000 miles of the AT this summer and my plan is to complete the “easier” (?) section between Pearisburg VA and Gorham NH, re-starting next March…..hopefully raising some more much needed dollars for the NHCS in the process.
Note: For those of you who have been concerned/ or wondered at my long silences during the summer, I must add that hiking the AT involves living where there is no electricity, just self-catering for ones most basic needs takes time and some effort. The AT shelters certainly have no modern conveniences and nor should they be expected to. The humble hostels in tiny towns which one visited about once a week often had mediocre internet connection and hikers queuing to use their only computer.
To all my many many fellow hikers, Happy Trails and I hope you reach your destination safely. I remember in particular (from my northern hike) BLT, Lydia, Elizabeth, Nightwalker, Momo, Kris (from Poland), Peace & Love, Brownie, & Pandora. From my southern hike, Connor, Caveman, and We’ll See, Pokey & Codfish. Greetings all.