Miles from Springer Mountain: 1971.6
Miles to Mount Katahdin: 220.4
Thinking Maine would be easy can go in the books as one of my biggest underestimations on the Appalachian Trail. I’ve been completely getting my butt kicked over the last few days and my body has taken a beating. My knees constantly ache, my joints keep popping, my toes remain swollen all day long, my appetite is insatiable, and my pace has slowed tremendously. I understand that all those things that may be expected after living in the woods and hiking for four months, but my bodies lack of positive response over the last week has been unprecedented. My pace has slowed, but thankfully I’d already had built in extra time before my summit date of July 18th, so I’m still in shape to finish just as long as I don’t halt from here on out. That said, I’m mentally and emotionally stronger than ever, I just wish my body would catch up!
I left my beautiful shelter spot at Gentian Pond in a spatter of rain, ahead lay what is considered the toughest mile on the AT – the Mahoosuc Notch, a mile long stretch of bouldering and crawling that can take up to 3 hours on the worst of days. To put that into perspective, my normal pace is 2.5 miles an hour, I completed the mile long stretch of the Notch in an hour and 45 minutes. Before reaching the notched I crossed the border into Maine, I’m now in my final state! It was pouring rain, the slightly melted snow had iced over the night before, another problem thrown into the mix. At one point I lay flat on my stomach on a wet rock face, tucked under a massive boulder, I wondered what the hell I was doing there – even after 1900+ miles I still question myself! After the Notch I called it quit and rested in my tent, it wasn’t a long day, but it was a rough one.
I woke up to dryer weather on the 1st, sore and dry is a heck of a lot better than sore and soaked. On top of the Baldpate peaks I got my last look at the peaks of the Whites, as I head north I can officially kiss them goodbye, now only about 3 major ridgelines stand between Katahdin and I. Of course my pace is slow, but being this close to the end I’m able to breathe and not worry about mileage as much. It still sits in the back of my mind, the looming thought of accomplish x amount of miles, but more so now I can focus on enjoying the trail.
The 2nd was a rough day on the legs, at lunch I sat at a lean-to for about two hours just snacking, thinking of ways to get where I needed without using my legs – almost impossible in life and on the AT, what a shocker. There were some rough inclines, steep ascents with rocky ledges and rutted paths. Two things are to a benefit on rough, steep trails – a lot of the trail clubs have bolted metal or wooden aids to assist in the climb, and sometimes sweat acts as a natural bug trap, the black flies and mosquitoes can’t constantly follow you if they die entrapped in sweat. I know it’s gross, but it’s better than eating them. I stealth camped at the base of Old Blue Mountain, ready for a big day on the 3rd.
My body has taken a beating, with the positive of more time to complete less miles I have been able to stay at more hostels. Getting to and planning a stay at a hostel is a game in and of itself – on the 3rd I needed to do a 20-mile day to have a breezy walk into a hostel on the 4th. With my slowed pace this meant a later day of walking, but it doesn’t bother me, the cool temperature of evening hiking is a relaxing break from the beating sun. I arrived at the Little Swift River Pond camp site about 30 minutes before sunset. After a long, hard day of walking I prayed to the Trail Gods that there would be a group of loud, screaming high school girls camping at the same spot, for once they answered my prayers. (I’ve hiked with some bad eggs on this trail, I wouldn’t wish that upon my worst trail enemy.)
In reality they weren’t too terribly loud, I’m not positive about that because I just put my headphones in and turned them up louder. After a long day I relaxed, ready for an easy day when I woke up.
The trail has beaten me up the last four days, she is getting in her final shots as my time winds down. Everything is starting to come together, Katahdin plans are being set, and I’m starting to mentally prepare for life off the trail. As hard as it has been, as bad as most of my experience has been, as much of a let-down thru-hiking the AT has been, I really will miss this and I know I’ll come to enjoy my experience. For the next two weeks I’m taking a personal pledge to relax, enjoy my time, and savor what the trail has to offer in its final miles.
Thanks for following along!