Thursday, August 23, 2012

Insane Maine, the Trail of Blood

Here I sit waiting for the last supper.. well at least the last good meal I'm going to have for awhile.

I'm over 2000 miles and in the last state of this most awesome and yet painful trip... and I'm loving every minute of Maine. Ok so this wasn't always the case.

When I was going through the plans for the White Mountains in New Hampshire, I figured that 13 miles a day was conservative yet doable. I was right. That was what I had averaged through the Whites. After that though came southern Maine... the brick wall. I struggled to do anything over 10 miles through the southern portion of this beautiful state. This wasn't just because the terrain became harder, it was because I got pelted by the rain gods for days. Everything I owned was always wet. My tent was wet. My clothes were wet. My bag was soaked. My hiker's umbrella seemed to have giant holes in it. Nothing was safe from the H2O that blessed me and the trail. Oh yeah that's right, there was a drought and we needed it... but let's be honest, this wet monkey did not make a happy camper.

On the day I had to go through Mahoosuc Notch, unarguably the toughest mile on the entire trail, it had rained and poured. There was't enough sun to ever dry those rocks out. Still I gritted my teeth to bare the tough task of climbing over and under giant house sized boulders. In some places the only way to get from one rock to the next was to jump three, four or five feet to next table top rock. THAT'S what I call fun when they're wet. The in-between spaces had nothing in them but deep holes sometimes filled with ice that would require a crane or helicopter to climb out of in those conditions. It was quite a challenge with my pack on. I had to get creative a few times and take my pack off and toss it to the other rocks so it wouldn't hamper my leaping abilities. Throwing my 30 pound pack reminded me of one of those ring toss game booths you find at a carnival or the Jersey Shore, except there was no prize... and if I missed (and I did a couple times) I had to climb down to get it.

Then after the notch, I followed that up with rock climbing up the Mahoosuc (or "MahooSuck") Arm. That's basically a rock faced mountain that should require at least a rope and grappling hook in wet conditions. All I had was my flimsy shoe laces and a desire to not slide down the mountain on my butt, back or any other uncontrollable part of my body. I had already learned this in the notch. Once I was hanging on to a rock with just a few finger tips while the rest of me dangled down with my feet slipping off a smaller rock below. It was like a fast Fred Flintstone foot shuffle with no apparent traction and a lack of movement of the rest of my upper body. It was amazing how much strength I had to pull myself and pack back up to where I started, sans a couple scraped knees.

Now that rock climbing on the Appalachian Trail has become second nature, the terrain has changed... AGAIN! Now I'm dealing with rocks, tree roots and mud. Doesn't sound so bad, does it? Well if God places them in a particular order like mud, root, mud, rock, then it can help build a rhythm to keep going. Problem is this is the AT and God is not that nice. I have to deal with root, mud, rock, root, mud, root, root, mud , rock... enough already.

This terrain has taught me a few things. One, trees in Maine are BIG and so are their roots. Two, muddy ground here is very common even if there hasn't been rain because the trees are so big they block out the sun. Three, rocks here all have mud under them and hence move around the trail while you step on them. Slips and falls are all a part of my daily life now. You can't hike too well when you're on the ground.

The rivers in Maine are a new feature too. Well ok, we've had rivers all along this trail, but none that we had to ford because there wasn't a footbridge. Apparently the trail clubs here don't build footbridges anymore because every year they get washed away by heavy currents and torrential rains. This just means that I have fun getting my feet wet. I do love going across these cold rivers because it does feel awesome on the toes and ankles. Very refreshing! But when the river is swelled... well that's another kind of fun! (REREAD Wet Clothing and Wet Bag section earlier).

My next and last adventure on this trail is the 100 Mile Wilderness. Basically it is probably as scary as it sounds... 100 mile of nothing. No towns to resupply or sleep in. No roads to get out and hitch on. No police. No rescue. And fewer and fewer hikers. Sounds like fun! I just hope that somewhere in this 100 miles there's a moose that doesn't mind if I get a picture. God help me if they do mind. That would be all I need... to get mauled by a moose.

I tell other northbound hikers, "I will finish this trail even if it kills me. So if you should get lost, just follow my trail of blood."

Creepy thought! But now that my second dinner has arrived, I'm starved!

This will be my last post until the trip has ended. I'll post my favorite pictures here and on facebook for everyone to see once I have finished the trail. Cross your fingers for me. I'm almost there and Mt Katahdin is in site!

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