I’ve been visiting Maine since I was about 6 weeks old (my mom’s family is from Bangor), but it was either going to Bangor, spending summers at my grandparents cottage in Dedham or spending February vacations at the Samoset Resort. In my 36 years of life, I had never experienced Maine like this.
As mentioned in previous posts, David and I were going to attempt a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, going southbound (Maine to Georgia). Our plans changed though when our family needed us back home. We always said, our main priority is the kids, and when it was evident that they wanted us back, we came back, no question. (Eleanor even gave us the biggest hug and kiss and said “OK mommy and daddy, let’s go back to Eleanor’s house.”)
But we spent four glorious, back-breaking, breathtaking, life changing weeks hiking from Mt. Katahdin to Gorham, NH (just shy of 300 miles). Here are some of the stats, before I share some pictures:
Miles Completed: ~298
Average Miles per Day: 10.3 (with only one zero)
Mountains Summited: 15
Shoes Worn: 2 (started in Merrell’s, then switched to Altra’s in Monson)
Days it Rained on us: 2 (we were so lucky with the weather we got)
Memories Made: priceless
And two wicked sore knees and feet. (Even after a week of being home, my feet still feel cramped and sore. Luckily my knees are getting better.)
Make sure to check out my YouTube channel, Bliss on the Trail, for videos that I posted during our journey!
By going southbound, we were starting in the toughest, most rugged state out of the 14 states that the trail passes through. Katahdin was a beast to summit; the 100 mile wilderness is considered the most remote section (it didn’t quite feel all that remote, but unless you know someone who can navigate the logging roads, there’s no way to get anywhere for a resupply); and we even hiked the toughest mile of the whole trail, the Mahoosuc Notch (one mile took us 2 hours to complete.) So, even though our trip was cut short, we definitely have something to be proud of.
Where do I even begin on describing what we went through? After we emerged from Monson (after the 100 Mile Wilderness), we were greeted with the ups and downs of around 10 different mountains. Every time I saw a peak in the distance, I thought to myself “I know that the AT is going to find its way up there.” And sure enough, the trail made sure we saw every single peak and valley between Monson, ME and Gorham, NH.
I was obviously able to make it through the hike, but there were times when I didn’t think I had the strength or the guts to keep going. I would see a steep incline that was nothing but rock and would think “well, this is how I go.” Ha! But obviously I made it, even if I was super slow and took every step extra carefully. The descents were even worse for me, especially as we got closer to New Hampshire. The impact of going downhill was really doing a number on my knees. The trekking poles helped (a lot!) but I think that the Altra’s I was wearing didn’t have quite the cushioning that I needed. (If we had continued, I would have ordered the Altra Olympus which has a lot more cushion. I probably will end up ordering them in order to do some section hikes.)
The towns we passed through were Caratunk (no lie, population as of 2018 was 68. The people that owned the hostel owned the post office too), Stratton (had some really good food here and chatted with other southbound hikers), Rangeley (we had family there that we were able to stay with) and Andover (another tiny town; luckily the hostel was a short walk from the general store).
Every person we met along the way, whether in town or other hikers, was so kind, motivating, and accommodating. Aside from one time in Gorham, we were able to get rides from the trail head to wherever we were staying, or going to the store to get our resupply. We still maintained mask wearing, sanitizing, and social distancing, but we were also able to really experience what a thru-hiker goes through. We even had some wonderful trail magic on Route 17 (burgers, hot dogs, chips…thanks Bruce!).
It’s so tough to really put in to words what this hike meant to me. There were times when I was so excited to just be out in nature and to be challenging myself (both physically and mentally). Other times I just wanted to quit and find the first road out to go back home. This was always David’s dream, not mine. But after seeing the physical transformation and just knowing that I am capable of doing hard things, I’m excited to get back out there and hike more of the trail.
Or as David said in our wedding vows “I vow to take you on hiking adventures, if nothing more than to see a perfect sunrise.”