The struggle is real as I reach the 2,000-mile mark on the Appalachian Trail. Maine is beautiful but hot and I am ready for the end. Enjoy reading my latest journal entry as I backpack the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. If you missed it, here are my previous entries and videos from the trail.
If you missed it in the last post, here’s my latest video featuring the White Mountains, 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.
I woke up at 5am and kept falling back asleep until 7ish. I didn’t want to get up and it was already warm. My clothes were damp from the humidity; nothing had dried overnight except maybe my sock liners. I wrapped the blister above my left heel in the last remaining bandage tape I had. I’m glad I didn’t send that home after I stopped needing it back in Virginia. I used some body glide in areas prone to chaffing as well.
I set off and climbed up Old Blue Mountain. It was a hard start to the day and I was soaked in sweat by the top. There wasn’t much of a view but I stopped at a clearing and took my pack off. I then proceeded to spray Gold Bond powder in my armpits since they had begun to chafe from perspiration. I decided to take my shirt off and wring out the sweat. As I rested a bit, it began to sprinkle. I was never going get dry, I thought.
So I decided to hike shirtless and wore my shirt over my hat. I called it ‘hiker sheik.’
The rain didn’t last long and the bugs didn’t seem to bother me so I kept hiking sans shirt. Heading down the mountain there were large flat rock areas where I had to follow the rock cairns. It was kind of fun and made the trail interesting. Of course there were puddles and mud obstacles mixed in.
I stopped at a shelter for lunch. The sun was beating down on the metal roof so I laid out all my wet clothes to dry in the heat. Database came along and we talked over lunch. I told him how the heat, mud, bugs, and tough terrain were making me just want to be finished with the trail. He shared the same sentiment.
With my clothes finally dry for once, I put my shirt back on and continued. The rest of my day was mostly downhill. There were more rock faces where I followed the cairns. There was a beautiful view of the mountains in the distance and I paused to admire the moment. As frustrated as the current trail conditions were making me feel, I had to remind myself that I’m only going to have this moment once. I have to stay in the present and enjoy it.
Eventually I made it down the mountain, crossed a stream, and began to climb back into the mountains. There was a cooler full of trail magic just before the uphill. There was cold water, snacks, and beer. I grabbed an apple, some snacks, and a water; there was no way I was going to drink a beer before climbing uphill in the heat! Can anyone say dehydration?
Near the top I crossed a state highway with a gorgeous view of some nearby lake. Earlier in the day I had been making good time and thought maybe I’d go farther than I planned. By now I was just excited to be getting close to the shelter where there was supposed to be a lake to swim in.
Eventually I reached Long Pond around 7pm. It was a beautiful lake with a private house on one end. There was a sliver of beach that the trail passed and a campsite. I had hoped for the latter but someone had already claimed it. The beach was narrow and secluded by foliage. I stripped down and waded in. After a short bit of debris the bottom was sandy. I walked out far and it was only knee deep. Nevertheless I splashed around, rinsed off, floated, and enjoyed the moment. It was perfect: the water temperature, the sand, the setting sun. It had been a tiring day but the trail magic and now the lake had refreshed my mind and body.
A little ways past the lake was the Sabbath Day Shelter. I pitched my tent and then ran into Transformer and a girl named Blazer who was hiking only the Maine portion of trail. I had dinner while talking with them. We shared our frustrations with the heat and how the terrain had been slowing us down. Looking ahead I wasn’t completely sure I would meet my goal of summiting Katahdin on July 17th.
The following day I was going to pick up my new trekking poles in the next town. Transformer was going there as well to resupply and use the library internet. Blazer then reminded us that tomorrow was July 4th, a holiday. Thankfully I had mailed the trekking poles to a hostel and not the post office (closed on holidays) but I wouldn’t be able to mail the broken poles back to REI. Oh well, I could just carry the broken poles until the end and return them in person. What was a few more pounds anyway? I was running low on food and wasn’t sure the grocery store would be open on the holiday. It’s funny how life throws you curve balls and your plans have to change and adapt.
I went to sleep listening to the sounds of ducks on the lake and loons in the distance. In the cooler evening air, Maine isn’t so bad.
Day’s Mileage: 17.4
Total Miles Hiked: 1,970.3
Remaining Miles: 229.4
I woke up at 6:30am and decided to get ready. Transformer and Blazer were leaving just as I was and so we hiked together.
It was a short and mostly easy nine miles to the road. We ran into a lot of SOBO and day hikers. Blazer was having a family friend pick her up from the road and take her into Rangeley. She said it was likely we could get a ride as well. Sure enough we all piled in to Jim’s car. He and his wife live in Rangeley and love helping hikers out. They dropped Transformer and I off in downtown Rangeley where I ate a 16-inch pizza at Sarge’s Pub. We then got some Gifford’s ice cream across the street where Jim picked us up again. He drove us to the grocery store for resupply and then to the Hiker Hut Hostel. I had planned to stay at the hostel but it was such a hot day and the hostel consisted of some shacks with no WiFi or electricity. Not worth it, no thanks. Instead I picked up my new trekking poles that had been mailed there. I had to pay $5 to pick them up because I wasn’t staying the night; I could handle that.
Though it was tempting to stay in Rangeley longer, the few hours in town rejuvenated me. Transformer reluctantly decided to continue on with me into the heat; it was 88 degrees. We climbed up Saddleback Mountain and took many breaks and drank at all the streams we crossed.
At the top was a beautiful view and I think we could see Mount Washington way off in the distance. I’m sure we could see Canada as well. It was over 4,000 feet so we were above tree-line in the alpine zone. This view was making up for the last few days. I was in a much better mood and it was Independence Day.
We descended slightly and then summited The Horn. It was another Lord of the Rings-looking peak. From there we climbed steeply and dangerously down to camp. I was glad we pushed to do more miles. It was a gorgeous day and the heat wasn’t that bad with lots of breaks.
Trademark was in camp as well as a bunch of SOBOs. They were all full of energy and excited whilst Transformer and I were tired and sore. I didn’t even care to learn their names because I was never going to see them again. I suppose I remember when I first started and tried to remember everyone and talk about the trail. I feel like such a hardened yet frail old man now!
Day’s Mileage: 17.0
Total Miles Hiked: 1,987.3
Remaining Miles: 212.4
What a day! Transformer and I left camp at 8am. He was planning on hiking 17 miles and was going to start slowing down to give Willow a chance to catch up. His finish date was more open-ended than mine; I had a goal and a one-track mind.
We began hiking up Saddleback Junior. Not as tall as it’s counterpart from the night before but it was steep. From there we descended all the way down to a river. We ran into a SOBO couple swimming. They had been hiking a month and only hiked 200 miles. I know Maine is extremely tough to begin with but that was a slow pace. To each their own.
The girl was named Pelican and she told me we have Katahdin-vision. As in, we’ve only got one thing on our mind: summiting Katahdin. She was right. I have not been enjoying Maine as much as I would like. I’m ready to finish the trail and the heat and difficult terrain aren’t lifting my spirits.
It was tempting to swim in the river but there were lots of sharp rocks and we hadn’t hiked very far yet. We ate some lunch and talked with Pelican. Five butterflies landed on my backpack and trekking poles and decided to hang out. I considered this a good omen or at least a sign that butterflies like the color red. Therefore it was no swimming and more hiking. The butterflies were telling me to hike on.
Transformer and I got separated as I slowed down. We were heading uphill. I listened to music to pass the time. There were climbs today but no views and it wasn’t that fun. I passed a spur trail to a shelter but continued on. There were loads of fallen trees across the trail that no one had sawed through. This slowed me down as I bushwhacked around each deadfall. Transformer eventually caught up. He had been waiting at the shelter for me. Oops.
We hiked around some peaks. I was thankful we didn’t have to summit all of them. Eventually we headed down to a river where we stopped for a break and another butterfly landed on my head. I took this as a good sign to keep on hiking today. We met an Australian and a Canadian nearby who’d set up camp. Transformer is Australian and heading to Canada for two years after this hike. I could tell he was going to stay and talk with them a while. I bid him farewell, perhaps for the last time.
It’s funny how I’ve met so many people on the trail and thought I’d never see them again only to run into them later. But this time I felt it could be the last time. I was gunning toward the finish line and Transformer was slowing down. I thought about how many times in life does one says goodbye to someone and know that it will be the last time. Not many, I suspect. It was kind of a sad thinking about goodbyes. My journey was winding down and the finale near.
I hiked past the campground Transformer planned to stay at. It was 6pm but I decided against better judgement to keep going up and over North and South Crocker Mountains. I didn’t want to deal with them in the morning and then Bigelow Mountain in the afternoon. It was about seven more miles for me and would include some night hiking.
I was drenched and dripping in sweat hiking up the Crockers. I was trying to talk myself out of my funk with words of encouragement and thinking how crazy it is that I’ve hiked this far on an almost vagarious decision to hike the AT. Even though I wanted my trek to be over, I could still appreciate my accomplishment thus far and the challenges and obstacles I’ve overcome.
I always knew the biggest challenge on the trail would be mental. I just didn’t expect it to occur at the end. I thought it would’ve been on a week of rainy days or something. I honestly thought it would be an easy last few weeks but boy was I wrong. The trail was making sure I still had obstacles and challenges. My blister seemed to be healing but my knees were constantly sore and my left knee randomly would give me pain. My right foot may have been developing its own blisters but I think they’d go away. My infected toenail was continuing to be a nuisance and was constantly in pain whenever it got stubbed or knocked against a rock, which was often. I have big bites everywhere and get new ones daily. I probably killed six horseflies today and ripped their wings off just to make sure they wouldn’t try and pull some Walking Dead shit or something. They’ve even bit me through my shirt!
There wasn’t a great view from the top of the Crocker summits. I couldn’t get cell service either. I’m falling behind on my blogging in Maine because there’s never any service. The sun sank low as I descended. I was rationing my water because the springs were far away. As it got dark I had to pull out my headlamp.
I was feeling dehydrated and exhausted hiking in the black of night. I was going to cross a highway into the town of Stratton. I called two hotels and a hostel in town but no one answered or they were booked. I don’t even know how I would’ve gotten a hitch into town at 10pm.
Finally I arrived at a small stream and guzzled water. My water filter, after four months, has slowed to a trickle and it takes forever to filter water now. I filled up half a liter and continued on. I was almost to the road when I found a flat spot that was probably a drainage area where I set up camp. It was supposed to rain but hopefully not enough to flood the drainage area; it seemed dry. I had planned to hike to a camp a few miles farther but my body was ready to give out. I ate dinner and sipped the little water I had filtered. In the morning I could hitch to a grocery store from the nearby highway and buy some Powerade.
Exhausted, dehydrated, and still hot, I took two Aleves and went to bed. I hoped my blisters and various ailments would heal. What a long day. I had passed the 2,000-mile mark somewhere in the dark. I was told there is a sign indicating this but I missed it. Crazy to think I’ve hiked 2,000 miles and have less than 200 to go!
Day’s Mileage: 24.0
Total Miles Hiked: 2,011.3
Remaining Miles: 188.4
Daily Average: 15.7
With all my struggles and troubles on the trail lately, I often find myself singing this classic Miley Cyrus song to lift my spirits and get me up the next mountain.