Maine, The Way Life Should Be

Sunset at Pierce Pond

Sunset at Pierce Pond

Vacation-land; The Great North Woods; The Way Life Should Be.  Maine sounds so pleasant and, despite some occasional rough terrain, it certainly has been. When a potential thru-hiker gets the idea to walk the Appalachian Trail, they tend to overlook the hardships and dream of blissful days on bald mountaintops, daily swims in pristine lakes, and extraordinary wildlife sightings like moose, fox, and eagles.

Of course not everyday on the trail is so idyllic, but Maine seems to be fulfilling these blissful visions more than any other state.  Fortunately there are many miles of trail here, in fact, Maine has the second-most miles of the AT (280), behind Virginia (close to 500). The first 100 were by far the most difficult, including very steep and rocky mountains as well as the infamous Mahoosuc Notch, the ‘hardest mile on the trail.’ I had heard many horror stories about this mile and went into it with very high difficulty expectations.

Fellow hikers on the Bigelow Range

Fellow hikers on the Bigelow Range

The notch is about a mile of scrambling, over, under, and between huge boulders and caves and lives up to its reputation of difficulty. Despite taking nearly two hours to crawl a mere mile, I actually enjoyed it. I felt like a kid in a big jungle gym. Out of the notch it was sunny and 80 degrees but inside some of the boulder caves, ice was still on the ground and the air temperature dropped dramatically – I felt like I was in a big refrigerator.

Another unique thing about Maine is river fording. To keep Maine more ‘wild’ the local trail clubs rarely build any bridges, forcing hikers to ford through the streams and rivers. The only exception is the Kennebec crossing, where a canoe ferry is offered because dam releases make the river depth and current very unpredictable (hikers have died trying to ford this river). The deepest ford I’ve encountered was waste high, but generally the river crossings never go above my knee.

Fellow hiker Lulu maneuvering Mahoosuc NotchA funny story of karma, the other day I was walking and saw that someone dropped a candy wrapper on the trail.  Being the model citizen that I am, I picked up the trash figuring one tiny wrapper wouldn’t add too much weight to my own trash bag.  Well about a half mile later I found another wrapper on the trail.  I was thinking, “jeez, I’ve got a real litter bug walking ahead of me!”  Well, about another mile further, lo’ and behold anotherwait.  “That’s a still-sealed and wrapped Power Bar!”  Oh yes!  Finding an energy bar on the trail is like gold to an AT thru-hiker.  I promptly ate it and knew – just knew – that karma really does exist.  Either that or the hiker ahead of me has a loose drawstring on their pack :)

Currently, I’m in Monson, ME with a mere 113 miles left of the trail. Tomorrow I’ll be entering the ‘100 Mile Wilderness’, the longest stretch of the trail which does not cross any towns or improved roads. Fortunately I’m ahead of schedule with plenty of time to finish. I’m quite happy about this because many fellow thru-hikers have tight deadlines to complete the trail and are marching through the final miles like pack horses with blinders on. Like anyone after walking 2000 miles, I am starting to obsessively daydream about summitting Mt. Katahdin, though I try not to get too excited about finishing. I really want to savor this last section so I’ve been slowing down my pace, taking more breaks, and enjoying the scenery instead of worrying about miles or schedules. And Maine couldn’t be a more magical place for a slow and steady finish to this journey.

Next time I update, I hope to have a picture of me at Katahdin, the highest point in Maine and the end of my Appalachian journey.

Taking a break after climbing Mahoosuc Arm

Taking a break after climbing Mahoosuc Arm

    Tent City! Fellow hikers (from left): Triple-C, Chris, Steam, Darkness, Lulu

Tent City! Fellow hikers (from left): Triple-C, Chris, Steam, Darkness, Lulu

View of Flagstaff Lake from atop Avery Peak

View of Flagstaff Lake from atop Avery Peak

The Pristine Horns Pond

The pristine Horns Pond

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13 Responses to Maine, The Way Life Should Be

  1. Field says:

    Bo Jang….Dude,
    You be supa janglin’ fo sho! Wen you get closa to da en, tay me a date you tink you an yo travlin’ hood be conquerin’ da summit o Mr. ‘Tahdin. Maybe I gets my sef dey to weycome yous to da en a yo trips. Meentime, don sprain yo anko, as you gettn clowsa da ena yo hike. My bes to LuLu, Chris, 3C, an Rachiobug. (an Tic-Dic, too)
    Lata, Mon

  2. Jordan says:

    Preston, you’re my hero! Enjoy your last state

  3. Jenny Hopkins says:

    Best of thoughts your way during your last part of this amazing journey. wow! These entries and pictures are SUCH a delight. Thank you for sharing :)

  4. Emma says:

    Hi Preston!

    I have enjoyed reading all of your posts. Best of luck on your final journey. We miss you dearly in D.C. and cannot wait for your return! Take care!

  5. Dad says:

    Preston,

    We are getting excited about our trip to Maine to help celebrate your AT adventure. Left Knoxville, TN in the “Magic Bus” (named after Greek bus encountered in a former walkabout many years ago)..and now camping by Mystic River near Cades Cove. Will head out this morning back to Boone for 2-days before departing to Mt. Katahdin. Enjoy the last 100 miles of the trail!
    Love Dad

  6. Jeff & Lois says:

    What can I say??? You’re an inspiration to us all!! You make Maine look and sound like paradise. I’m so glad you’re able to take it more slowly and enjoy every part. Good thing it’s August in Maine. Love ‘ya. Stay safe these last few days.

  7. Nancy says:

    Take it slow and easy these last 100 miles. Awesome experience!!! I can’t wait to hear more from you in person.
    Love you. Be safe!!

  8. Peter says:

    Yo man. Wasup. Dude, seriously, congratulations man. It’s so impressive that you’re actually going to finish this. Not that people really had a reason to doubt, but that doesn’t make it less impressive. I’m sure you’ll have some amazing memories from this adventure.

    So, when you get back to DC I’ll buy you a beer. Although, maybe you should buy me one, since you haven’t been paying rent for the last 6 months. Haha. Anyway, I’m glad to have been able to read your posts and follow along with your ‘walk in the woods.’

  9. Maria Barrientos says:

    Preston. I can’t believe you are on the last state. It seems like you started your trip last week. Great job!!! Let me know when you’re done and you’re ready to get back to work. I saw Brian a couple of days ago, and we both agree that we can’t wait to get you back to work.

  10. John Volkmann says:

    Hey Bo-Jangles!

    I left a voice message on your phone. Give Brian or me a call when you have a chance. We have kept a seat warm for you.

    Best,
    John

  11. Dad says:

    Update:

    Preston, the Magic Bus rolled through New York and landed on the coast of Maine last evening..in time for some great lobster! Will leave in the AM after a walk on the beach. See you at Mt. Katahdin.

    Dad

  12. tim smith says:

    yea yea yea 2000 miles. do you want in our fantasy football league or what?

  13. Field says:

    Wha yo emai? I sen you a pic a da top o da MOUNTAIN! You done yosef real good. Congratulations is in oda!

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