If you missed the first half of my (Lindsay) thoughts on our 2014 Appalachian Trail Thru Hike click HERE. If you want to read part two then click “Continue Reading” down below.
Wow, it’s hard to summarize the thoughts of 5 months of hiking into a single blog post, but here it goes! (I’ll make sure it isn’t too long.)
Hiking the Appalachian Trail isn’t something I’d ever considered. Ever. In fact, until recently I didn’t even know what it was. Being from Saskatchewan – the flat prairie ground in the middle of Canada – hiking was not much of a recreational activity growing up, and we most certainly had never heard of the AT. We had taken a few weekend hikes but never anything more than 50 mile when Clay told me he wanted to go on this really, really long hike. I enjoy all forms of exercise, so if a little is good then a lot is better, right? Right! I read exactly TWO books to learn a bit more of what I was getting myself into (Becoming Odyssa and The Things you Find on the Appalachian Trail) and then we started planning our own trip! Simply put, I was hiking because my husband wanted to.
“Guys, I can see the road!”
We spent 5 long, hard days to see this road. The story of us summiting Mount Katahdin and finishing our 2014 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike starts 15 trail miles south of the infamous wooden sign on the top of Katahdin. This is the point where the trail crosses the Golden Road and the Penobscot River and where we left the 100 Mile Wilderness and re-entered “civilization”. Leaving the 100 Mile Wilderness and sitting down on a picnic bench at the Abol Bridge Campground, overlooking the fast flowing Penobscot, is when the realization hit us that our journey was all but over. We could see Katahdin, likely only 5 miles as the crow flies to the summit from where we sat drinking a well deserved beer and eating an overpriced cheeseburger. The next day we would climb the big guy and end our journey, which at this point seemed a formality and more symbolic than necessary. We had made it. We had hiked from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mt Katahdin, Maine and we were a day away from climbing to the summit and ending our journey.
The infamous 100 Mile Wilderness of northern Maine, the only thing standing between us and the base of Mt Katahdin. What is the 100 Mile? It is advertised as an isolated and remote stretch of virgin wilderness through marshy moose bog habitat with easy rolling terrain connecting pristine lakes. The idea of hiking completely through this section originated almost a century ago in connecting several hunting camps situated only a day apart. As time passed the hunting camps slowly disappeared and the 100 mile experience changed from something geared toward the upscale outdoorsman to a rugged, self reliant wilderness trek. The foreboding reputation of this section of the Appalachian Trail has created a sense of fear and anxiety amongst the pool of modern AT Thru Hikers and it has now become an almost impassable barrier. Mentally at least. With communication technology developing and an influx of thru-hikers with greater disposable cash, the 100 mile has morphed once again to something different. The distance between Monson, Maine and the Golden Road on the boundary of Baxter State Park is still 100 miles but the mystique of a true wilderness experience has become a thing of the past.
Maine. My home state, the final state on the northbound Appalachian Trail, the second longest state on the AT and arguably the most primitive and natural section of trail on the entire 2200 mile journey. Within miles of crossing the New Hampshire border we came face to face with what we call the most difficult range of the AT, the Mahoosuc Mountains. As we hiked the northern New England section of the AT our fellow hikers talked about two sections of the upcoming trail more than anything else: The White Mountains and the Mahoosuc Notch. The Mahoosuc Notch, or Mahoosuc Mile, is considered to be the hardest mile of the entire AT. With the Notch buried deep in the middle of the Mahoosuc Mountain range, the range itself gets very little attention and is consequently a very underestimated section of the trail. The Mahoosuc’s only take up about 75 miles of trail but it made us earn every one of those miles the hard way. As opposed to many of the other mountainous sections where we would make a big climb and then attempt to follow a ridge line, the Mahoosuc’s did not have a ridge line to follow. Making it through them and getting to Andover took five days of long and difficult hiking, with never-ending steep ascents and descents on rock ledges, boulder fields and a few stone steps if we were lucky!