It was nice to once again have a shelter to myself for the night and enjoyed a good night’s sleep despite temps dropping down to the low 30s. My vapor barrier worked but the warmth of my sleep system made me resistant to getting up. I got hiking probably around 530 but I couldn’t know with having my phone battery dead. The sky was clear for the time being but I knew rain was forecast. I would enjoy the dry weather for now. Continue reading Speck Pond Lean-to, Day 8, 31.9 miles
My camp last night ended up being one of my more favorite sites I’ve ever slept at. The soft ground made for a comfortable night’s sleep, the elevation kept me out of the cool descending drafts through the night but also sheltered from the wind and not so high the temps would drop. There were no bugs, wildlife, or noisy birds. It was so peaceful and I slept like a rock. Nevertheless, I had to rise after 8 hours to get going again. I could have laid there forever. Continue reading Bemis Mountain Lean-to, Day 7, 30.4 miles
I got an incredible night sleep and woke up around 5 with no alarm. First fantastic night’s sleep of the trip, likely because of the overwhelming exhaustion setting in. I was on the slopes of Little Bigelow Mountain, essentially the start of the famed grueling but beautiful section of south Maine Appalachian Trail. I started the morning working my way up the Bigelow ridge. The skies were completely clear, the air was warm, and no rain was forecast for the entire day. Time to knock out some terrific miles. Up on Avery Peak, I was reminded on the easy access for day hikers by a large man in khakis and suspenders up on the summit. We exchanged pictures and I got working down to the next peak. I was thrilled to be up above tree line and not have to worry about the weather.
I woke up before it was light, a first for me on this trip with the super long days of Maine just before the solstice. The other guy who had been asleep in the shelter when I arrived didn’t even budge as I packed up. I imagine he was exhausted because he hadn’t risen to say hello last night when I showed up after dark. I envied his ability to sleep through the torrential rain and me unpacking and packing but imagined it may come back to haunt him with some late night wildlife encounters. Continue reading Little Bigelow Lean-to, Day 5, 36.4 miles
Today I had to make the tough decision of whether to resupply in Monson or try to make it another 35 miles to Caratunk to pick up my mail drop where I originally planned to resupply. I was running low on food but Monson was a 2 mile walk into town which would add 4 miles to my day while Caratunk was only .9 miles off the trail. It may seem like a minor difference but adding 4 miles onto my day would be a pretty big impact this early on.
I was up early and decided I wouldn’t decide until I reassessed my food situation at the trail that led into Monson. Early in the morning I startled a young moose which bolted off on the trail ahead of me. Fortunately they’re usually the most skittish animals in the woods because otherwise they’d end up being quite the obstacle. Continue reading Bald Mountain Brook Lean-to, Day 4, 32.4 miles
I woke up at 430am, realizing that the sky was bright and I’d rather have a full day of light ahead of me. By 5am I was hiking and the trail kicked up quickly. I soon learned that I needed to eat a bigger dinner and have some semblance of glycogen stores for the following morning if I was going to hit a big climb so early on. My legs felt weak and I struggled with low energy. I ate several bars and got some candy into my system, hoping the sugar would give me the boost I needed to continue hiking up the mountain. But I essentially was bonking in the first mile. Continue reading Wilson Valley Lean-to, Day 3, 32.7 miles
I started day 2 at Rainbow Stream Lean-to, a beautiful little shelter right alongside a cascading creek. After a short conversation with the guys at the shelter getting started on their thru-hikes, I wished them luck and got on my way. The sun rose early in Maine and by 4am the sky was bright. But I didn’t get up until 5am and was hiking by 5:30. I usually preferred to sleep in shelters to save time from setting up my tarp but the snoring and late nights from other hikers often made it not worth it. And last night a full shelter had made the decision for me. Continue reading Logan Brook Lean-to, Day 2, 41.3 miles
It took two trains, two buses, two cars, and one plane to get me to Millinocket but I had made it. By tomorrow morning I would be beginning my Appalachian Trail unsupported record attempt. I had a wonderful stay at the AT Lodge for the night and ate a big breakfast the next morning. We were in the van, on the way to Baxter State Park, in the pouring rain. It would hopefully be my last ride in a vehicle for nearly two months. The unsupported record requires no assistance from vehicles. I must walk to all my resupplies.
The muddy roads jostled us four as we talked about our upcoming trips. Two other hikers, a couple from Tennessee, intended on section hiking down through New Hampshire, certainly the hardest but also the most stunning section of trail. Ole Man, the owner of the Lodge and former thru-hiker, told stories of others who had attempted the record who had stayed with him. He told me about a young guy whose record was ended from being assaulted in his sleep and knocked unconscious and having his boots stolen. Fantastic. As the roads worsened, my anxiety rose. Not because of the fear of assault, but because of concern over my preparation. I knew I was ready, ready as I’d ever be, having meticulously planned out every detail. But the trail is a hairy place and will throw unexpected challenges at even the most experienced of adventurers. Nothing was certain.
I was heading deep into the heart of rugged Maine with only 3.5 pounds of gear, and the weather was going to test it all right out the gate. Continue reading Rainbow Stream Lean-to, Day 1, 30.1 miles
I’m home. I can hardly believe it. I’m showered, clean, wearing clean clothes, clean cotton clothes. My ribs still jut out, my beard is ragged, remnants of dirt stain my ankles and toes, and my face shows the exhaustion. But I’m home. It seems surreal. I was supposed to be in New York somewhere, some woods, getting splashed underneath my tarp from the heavy raindrops landing next to my head, legs aching, asleep and ready for another 5am start in just a few hours. But instead I’m here, legs still aching, in the room I grew up in, sitting on my bed, clean, the Appalachian Trail many miles away.
Was it a dream? Were the sleepless nights all a fiction? The insane rain, the impassable blowdowns, the 37 mile day in the Whites, the late night raids from hungry porcupines, the exhaustion so extreme I was able to fall asleep standing? Did all that actually happen? The leg cramps so painful I couldn’t sleep? Wasn’t it just a couple days ago I announced to my closest friends and family that I wanted to go for this? Continue reading Home off the Appalachian Trail