After the White Mountains I finally cross into Maine, the last state on the Appalachian Trail. I wonder if my body will make it to the end!
The White Mountains were one of the highlights of my trek. I hiked into the clouds and over the most epic mountains including the Presidential Range and Mount Washington. It was my favorite part of the entire trail. Check it out!
The day started off well. I woke up in the hostel after everyone had left and so I had waffles with the staff. One of the staff was actually a SOBO who’d broken his foot so he was working there until it healed in a month or so. It gave me more anxiety over the possibility of injury; I’ve come so far that I worry about injuries or illness or tick bites or something that might derail the completion of my journey.
I got a late start around 9:30am. It was a beautifully sunny, humid day. I had forgotten a box of 18 Clif bars I’d bought at Walmart and shoved the bars wherever they’d fit in my pack. It now weighed 45 pounds. I could feel the weight in the heat. It was already hard enough getting back on the trail after my zero day and now my pack was the heaviest it’s ever been. The hostel had given me loner clothes and I was sad to return them. They were very Walmart-chic and my shirt was fitting for my Crazy Horse trail name.
I don’t know why but it was just not my day. I never really got into the hiking groove. The terrain was steep rocks when uphill or downhill and when it was flat there were puddles and mud from the recent rains. I also got to experience what they mean by black fly season up here. These little flies, smaller than mosquitoes, fly around in your face and crash land on your body and eventually bite you. I was told that when it gets hot they go away so I’m assuming this is the end of their season.
My left knee hurt on the uphills. It frustrated me because I’d gotten this far and through the Whites with very little problems with my knees except general wear. I thought my day off would have been good for my knees but maybe the pack weight was irritating it. More anxiety about possible injury. I also developed a blister above the back heel of my left foot. Maybe all the soaks in Epsom salts the day before softened up my calluses.
Overall the day was uneventful. I was tired, hot, soaked in sweat, headachy, and had pain in my knee and heel. I listened to music to try and distract me as I slogged along. There were a few nice overlooks of the Whites as I left them behind. I wasn’t looking forward to Maine; I just wanted to finish the trail. I think it was the heat and humidity making me cranky.
There were some ridiculously tough descents over huge rocks. My pace was extremely slow in the heat. I was probably dehydrated but tried to keep refilling my water when there were streams.
Just before I reached the shelter I entered Maine, the final state on my trek. Soon after I set up camp. There were tent platforms. But there was a chance of rain and the platforms don’t let you stake out your rain fly very well. No one was in the shelter so I set up my tent inside. Trademark and Honey Bear had made camp nearby but I was too tired and irritable to want to converse.
I don’t know why the day was so rough and why I didn’t really get back into the groove. I’ve discovered I really don’t perform well in the heat; it just wipes me out. I used to think it was annoying when people made comments about me being from the Midwest, like “oh you’re used to the cold.” I always thought that silly since the Midwest experiences all four seasons. But now I’m beginning to realize just how much I do prefer colder weather in general and I’m not cut out for the heat! Too bad there are lots more hot and humid days ahead.
At least my health was still intact, even if it was just hanging on by a thread. I was finally in Maine; so crazy to think how far I’ve hiked. And just as I went to sleep it began to rain and I was high and dry in the shelter loft, hoping the morrow would be a better day.
Day’s Mileage: 17.0
Total Miles Hiked: 1,918.4
Remaining Miles: 281.3
It was a sunny morning when I set off. My body seemed to be in better spirits. I put a bandage over my blister. The terrain was still tough. I climbed up a steep mountain in the clouds. There was mud everywhere and wet, slippery rock faces to climb.
There were great views on top of the mountains I climbed but I was drenched in sweat and exhausted from the heat; I didn’t spend much time admiring the views. I stopped for lunch at a shelter and that renewed my drive. The next section was Mahoosuc Notch, the hardest mile on the Appalachian Trail, they say. It was time I stopped letting the heat wear me out and get my groove back. I was going to make the trail my bitch.
I descended into Mahoosuc Notch which consisted of enormous boulders in a small canyon. The trail had me picking my way through, hoisting myself up over rocks and contorting my body in all sorts of ways to fit through tight squeezes. It was a constant balancing act.
I ran into Honey Bear in this section and we hiked through most of it together. We laughed as I crawled through a cave that I could barely fit through, but was too lazy to take my pack off. I almost got stuck a few times as a I crawled about. I did have to take my pack off at least once. Honey Bear dropped a trekking pole and it fell into a crevasse. Luckily she was able to fish it out with her other pole because it was way down there in a dark hole.
It took me at least an hour and a half to get through the notch. It was fun and also difficult. I’m sure I gained a few new bruises and my hands were beat up from grabbing onto rocks constantly. My pack took a beating, scraping against the rocks.
Next I climbed back up Mahoosuc Arm, a very steep mountain. It was exhausting and my headache returned. I was dripping with sweat. It was annoying because the terrain was sheer rock faces. I get so nervous I’m going to slip on the slippery slopes. I was constantly using my hands for extra support or grabbing onto trees. It was a very slow climb.
At the top was Speck Pond. There was a shelter but I’d only hiked ten miles. It was already 5pm, that’s how slow and difficult the terrain had been. I decided to push on. My goal was to do 20 miles but now I’d be happy if I even made it to the next shelter before dark.
Luckily, the terrain changed from scary rock faces to much more gradual or stair-like ascents and descents. I climbed down from the mountains to a road crossing. My knees were tired, my blister hurt, and I was pretty banged up from the day. Because of all the mud and puddles, my shoes had been wet most of the day and my infected toenail seemed to be returning post-antibiotics.
Nevertheless I pushed myself up one last mountain. Halfway up was Baldpate Shelter where I pitched my tent and made dinner. I took two Aleves before bed.
It was a better day than the one before but still had its trials. The trail has definitely become a mental game for me as I try to maintain a good attitude amidst the heat and fatigue. The SOBO hikers have also arrived; I ran into almost a dozen of them today. They all look clean and unscathed with a pep in their step. I look like a homeless old man who’s body is slowly shutting down.
Day’s Mileage: 16.4
Total Miles Hiked: 1,934.8
Remaining Miles: 264.9
It was going to be another hot day. I got on the trail and it was foggy up in the mountains. The humidity was off the charts. Of course none of my clothes completely dried out during the night. I put a bandage over my blister and some neosporin on my cut wrist. This last injury is from when I snapped my trekking pole in the Whites. It was healing just fine until this heat. Now I sweat so much it gets all over the cut and messes up the healing process. Oh, and with my antibiotics over, my infected toenail still seems to be, well, infected.
It looked like a terrible climb up Baldpate Mountain but it proved not as difficult as I expected. The top was sheer rock faces but they weren’t too steep and everything was mostly dry. It made for an interesting change in scenery. The views were ruined from the fog, though. In fact, the fog made it more fun. On the rock faces I had to follow the rock cairns that marked the trail. The fog made it hard to see very far so it was fun trying to find the trail.
The descent was a bit treacherous but I managed. The fog burned off and it was heating up. I stopped at a shelter for lunch and to rest a moment. The heat makes it so hard to climb these mountains.
I continued on down the mountains to cross a river and then back up into them. Even high up on the slopes there seemed to be mud on the trail constantly. I tried to be extra careful to keep my shoes dry as to not aggravate my blister or infected toenail. Being stuck in a sweaty sock all day was bad enough for them. I should be given a gold medal in gymnastics for avoiding all the mud and puddles today, or at least bronze. It was quite the balancing act jumping across rocks and logs to avoid stepping in the bogs. I could see some people walked right through them but not me. I was told Maine is a very muddy state and they seem to be right.
All the mud and heat also brought about lots of black flies and mosquitoes. There was no use putting on bug spray since I would sweat it off instantly. The bugs weren’t too bad, just irritating.
I stopped for several short breaks. I was exhausted after 14 miles but I wanted to get four more done. The last part of my day would consist of a descent to cross a river and then ascending over 1,000 feet in less than a mile before descending to a river again.
I ran into several SOBO hikers who were dying of the heat. One of them was a leaking faucet of sweat, just completely drenched. He said the high was 85 today with 70% humidity.
My blister was hurting badly but I continued. The ascent up Moody Mountain was rough. I stopped many times to catch my breath and let my headache go away. I wondered how far I could push my body. I figured there was a big climb for the next day so might as well get this one out of the way now so the next morning I’ll only have one big climb, not two. I praised my knees for all their hard work so far. “Come on boys, I just need you for 250 more miles.”
The top of Moody Mountain was unrewarding. The descent was pretty easy though my knees were sore and my blister very painful. At the bottom I set up camp and went to the river for water. The mosquitoes were insane. I cooked and ate dinner in my tent to avoid them. My blister had popped and there was a huge area of raw skin. I wasn’t even sure how I’d bandage it up in the morning. My toe wasn’t great but it wasn’t the worst. Just keep it together for two more weeks.
I reflected about my hike after dinner. It had been fun and enjoyable up until now. I wondered if the heat and tough terrain was bringing me down or if I was simply fatigued and ready to be finished after nearly 18 weeks on the trail. Would I feel better if I slowed down and stopped pushing for an arbitrary end date goal? Then again I like to plan. And I get restless even sitting at an overlook for more than ten minutes. I think it’s just the heat and humidity getting in the way and I’m getting anxious to return to the rest of the world. I don’t belong in this heat! I went to sleep with heat lightning flashing in the sky.
Day’s Mileage: 18.1
Total Miles Hiked: 1,952.9
Remaining Miles: 246.8
Daily Average: 15.6
THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES
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