Appalachian Trail: Maine

Deah and Chris, Katahdin Mountain, Appalachian Trail

“Maine: The Way Life Ought To Be”. Also, really freaking hard. The Maine section of the AT is filled with ups, downs, rocks, roots, mud, and moose poop. Like literally every step is either a rock or a root (or both; somehow these trees manage to grow on rocks), or it’s a muddy bog, or there’s just piles and piles of moose droppings at every turn. There must be more moose in Maine than people. And in case you’re wondering how I know, yes, I do hike a mile or two with Chris in the mornings when I drop him off or in the afternoon when I pick him up.

Maine moose crossing sign
Moose crossing!
view of a lake and a mountain in Maine
Maine Lakes Region

The trail towns in Maine are Andover, with it’s cute little library and the Pine Ellis Hostel and their cabin down by the covered bridge; Rangeley, with it’s beautiful lakes and the awesome Rangeley Farmhouse Inn (hello Stacey and Shane, you guys were the best!!); Stratton, home of the Stratton Motel and the Wolf Den Bar and their infamous and slightly gross Wolf Burger; Caratunk, home of the Kennebec River ferry, and finally Monson, the site of The Lakeshore Lodge and Rebekah “Double Zero”, so named because so many people stop at her lodge and take two days in a row off the trail to recover from the last 2000 miles and prepare for the final push: the 100 Mile Wilderness.
While Chris started the 100 Mile Wilderness, I hung out with some travelers taking a zero, such as Trip and Sisyphus, and we went on a boat ride on Moosehead Lake (a three hour tour!!). Very nice lake filled with some 134 islands, many of which have a fishing cabin on the island or even in some cases a lake home. A lovely region- if you are ever in Maine, I truly hope you are able to get over to the lake side and not just the coastal region. Although I’m sure the coastline is amazing too. We’re going to check that side out on the way home.

While Chris was in the wilderness, I drove to the end at Millinocket and saw some old trail friends that we hadn’t seen in a while. Yay, for seeing Tittycakes, Geared Up, and DaVinci after they summited the peak!

Hiker in Summer Sundae shirt after finishing Appalachian Trail in Maine
Tittycakes, finished!

Finally Chris came out of the 100 Mile Wilderness (it took him 5 days), and I was anxiously awaiting at Abol Bridge Campground. We had dinner together and went to sleep early, as we were summiting Katahdin Mountain the next day. I drove to the base of the mountain, getting a head start on Chris, who had to hike the final 10 miles to the mountain AND do the climb while I just started the climb. It’s five miles to the top, which is at an elevation of 5, 260 feet. It took me five hours to get to the top. It was the scariest climbing I’ve ever done (well, I’ve never really done any rock climbing, which is why my arms, shoulders, and back are still hurting like hell today, three days later). It was so hard!! I cannot emphasize this enough. For a beginner like me, it was definitely the wrong mountain to try for my first attempt. For Chris and the other AT hikers, they did concur that it was the hardest mountain they had hiked/climbed on the AT. But finally, after five hours, I made it to the top (Chris caught up to me even with his extra 10 miles to get there). We saw fellow hikers Lunch, Haiku, and Hiker Monkey up there. We all posed for the requisite photos, rested a bit, and then we had to do the descent…. which was even more terrifying!! Seriously!! Chris had to fireman carry/bear hug me down one tricky bit- I completely froze up and couldn’t move. But finally (after another five hours), we made it down. And so, the Appalachian Trail is completed. It took Chris 134 days, 3 hours, and 34 minutes to complete. Officially he was #186 to finish for the year. Although, that number is a bit inflated, because not everyone who hikes in to Baxter State Park and says they are a thru hiker really is one. But close enough. It’s done, and now we can go on to our Around The World Trip. We’ll be heading to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island in Canada, then back to DC for a quick stopover, then it’s off to Australia and new adventures!

Deah and Chris, Katahdin Mountain, Appalachian Trail
Finished!
Chris at the Katahdin sign mount Katahdin maine end of appalachian trail
Chris at the top!!
rock cairn on mount katahdin end of appalachian trail maine
AT Rock Cairn
Three hikers finishing appalachian trail view from mount katahdin maine
Lunch, Trail Bunny, and Haiku
view of sunset over lake at Abol Bridge campground Maine Appalachian Trail
Sunset at the Abol Bridge Campground
Katahdin Mountain Appalachian Trail Maine
Katahdin Mountain

Next post: Canada and the NE coastline??

AT: Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire

Deah and Chris, AT Vermont, Appalachian Trail

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While Chris hiked the 90 miles of the Trail that are in Massachusetts, I drove back to the DC area and got our house ready for our new renters. And then the day arrived: the packers came and put our stuff in a moving van, and now we are homeless. After one last book club with my lady friends, I was off to join Chris in Vermont, for the last 500 miles of the trail. And when I say “join him”, I mean “drive the car around and see stuff while he hikes, and arrange food and lodging and sightseeing for the days/nights he’s not on the trail”.
I caught up to him in Rutland, VT: wow, what a green, fresh smelling state! We stealth-camped right by the trail in a beautiful setting by a brook up the side of a mountain. (Stealth camping is camping at spots along the AT that are not paying campgrounds or designated shelters. Just nice flat spots that you can pitch a tent. Free!). It got cold that night: Down in the 40’s. But luckily summer seemed to catch up with us over the next week and it was quite nice.
I followed/stalked Chris for all of Vermont and New Hampshire, sometimes hiking a mile or two in the mornings when I drop him off at the trailhead, sometimes camping with him on the trail, sometimes getting us hotels or hiker hostels, and sometimes getting myself a place to sleep alone while he overnighted in a stretch of the trail that had no road access for me to come get him. During the day I stopped at cool sites, shuttled other hiker friends around, had lunches and dinners with new trail friends, rented bikes, kayaks, etc. I loved the rolling hills and mountains of Vermont and the lovely farmlands and vistas.
New Hampshire has been brutal. They don’t call it the Granite State for nothing! It is often said that NH and Maine are the toughest states on the trail. In New Hampshire we encountered the White Mountains. Though lovely, they are a bitch to climb up and down, continually, day after day. The NoBo’s (northbounders, or what is left of them) are worn down, and we are just starting to see the first SoBo’s, starting down from Maine in early July and hoping to finish by Thanksgiving. Directly after the White Mountains were the Presidential Peaks, culminating in Mt Washington, the 2nd highest peak on the AT. It was a brutal 2 day climb, but luckily I was able to take the auto road to the top and pick up backpacks from Chris and his friends, so the could “slack pack” the descent with only a small day bag. They were much appreciative. A shout out to our trail friends: DaVinci, Mobius, Midnight Sparkle, Naked Ninja, Rosie, Dr Zoom, Grasshopper, Trip, and Geared Up. You all are doing GREAT!!
So. 13 states done. Next up: Maine!

AT: Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut

Chris in Pennsylvania Appalachian Trail

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After a somewhat restful four days at home, Chris was back on the trail and heading north from Harpers Ferry. After a quick jaunt through Maryland, Chris and his son Mike reached Pennsylvania, where in a rocky patch of boulders, Chris sprained his ankle. He rested for a day, hobbled into the next town of Palmerton, where hikers are allowed to sleep in the basement of the jail for free. He rested there, then kept going, even with a badly sprained ankle.
My friend Ann and I were able to visit Chris and Mike near Hamburg, and then they crossed over into New York. Chris saw a bear- on the same day that he could see the NYC skyline from the trail. Pretty cool. Near Bear Mountain, hikers can go through the Trailside Zoo for free, and see lots of animals. And not far from there, hikers can sleep for free at the Graymoor Spiritual Center, a monastery.
Eventually, New York gives way to Connecticut, and Mike went home and I came to visit. Still sore in the ankle, Chris wanted a couple of days off the trail, so we explored a bit of Connecticut and Rhode Island. We went down to Mystic Seaport, ate pizza at Mystic Pizza, and looked at the ships there. Then over to Rhode Island to visit Naragansett for lunch at Iggys Chowder House, and some beach time at Misquamicut Beach. Except the ocean was freezing so we never got in!
But eventually we had to get back on the trail. I camped with Chris at Housatonic Meadows State Park, where I learned that a queen sized air mattress won’t fit in our tent. Sadly.
722 miles to go!
Next post: Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire!

AT: Virginia and West Virginia

Hiker faces a row of mountains on the appalachian trail

Chris has been hiking with his son for the past 140 miles or so.  This week they reached Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, which is just shy of halfway for Chris.  This part of the trail is very close to our house in northern Virginia, so I was able to go pick them up and bring them home so they could each do a few days of administrative tasks.  His son has just been accepted to college so there is lots of paperwork involved in that, and Chris needed to pack up his closet and office in preparation for our big trip coming up in August.  And, happily, I was able to get pictures off both their cameras and post some images from this section of the trail.  Today after work I’ll be driving them back out to Harper’s Ferry, and they will continue their hike.  Mike hopes to get 500 miles in on the trail, and I will meet up with Chris in June after I finish work.