One in four hikers that attempt to hike the Appalachian trail succeed…and this year 2020 (COVID year) that number is even less. I have officially made it to Monson, ME and the iconic last hiker hostel on the trail. The day after tomorrow I will be entering the infamous 100-mile wilderness where a sign is posted “beware there are no services for the next 100 miles, do not enter unless you are prepared to carry 10 days of food!”
I plan to carry only four days of food then Shaw’s will drop another four days off for me halfway through…I’m not only prepared…I’m savy!
We have gotten really savy with our resupplies now and have found the perfect sweet spot in terms of length of time spent resupplying, effort at resupply, ideal pack weight after resupply, best foods for resupply as well as visiting local towns and iconic hostels along the way. (Which honestly really takes the trip to another level!) The pattern has been this…every two days!
We hiked 18 miles into Stratton and planned to resupply and quickly leave again but ran into old pals Always and Sunny and had a blast over dinner in the park with them. Meeting up with them opened up to great hiker resources like where the laundromat was and that it had a hiker box, etc. We checked it out and ended up grabbing food from the hiker box that lessened our cost for resupply. Then I chatted with a tenant of the building who told me where we could camp for free in a field nearby (who later even brought us a plate of food!) Then we resupplied, set up our tents and prepared for an early wake up to hit the trail in time for the 5am breakfast at the local minimart. It ended up opening at 6…which allowed us a bit more time to dry out wet tent flies. I met a nice couple in the store who agreed to giving us a ride back to the trailhead and we were hiking by 7am!
We were feeling strong and had planned two 18-mile days to Caratunk and the next hostel/resupply. But through the course of the day we were feeling strong and decided pull a longer day today and have more time to relax in the hostel. In spite of the 23 mile day (Aug 9, 2020) and summiting our last two 4,000+ foot peaks before Kathadin we made it in just after dark. The next day felt like an easy 14 into Caratunk and the infamous canoe crossing. We had to be there by 2pm before the canoes were closed down for the day, but we managed to arrive around 12:30 just in time for an easy hutch to the Sterling Inn.
This pattern of long day to short day into a hostel suit us even better now that all the major mountains are out of our way….this next section including the 100-mile wilderness is much much flatter than anything we’ve seen since Pennsylvania! A huge nice relief! And because of that…our energy is coming back! Or maybe it just took 2,000 miles for us to get our second wind! I seem to recover instantly these days and go on and on for miles! We make sure we keep the smiles even when making the bigger miles by always reminding each other to think better feeling thoughts or about things that feel fun to think about…especially if it does get challenging.
We had planned two more days of 18’s to get to Monson, ME then reassess our plans for the 100- mile wilderness. As the pattern would have it, we started off the day feeling strong and even more encouraged because it was getting “flatter” so we decided we would just see how far we could get before the sun went down! A fun challenge that we had been wanting to test. The morning was full of surprises in way of seeing hikers going south who we knew from other times along the trail! It was amazing to see familiar faces coming at us as well as faces we never thought we would see again (especially on trail!) (Diane, Pepper Jack and Pan as well as Raptor). Pan was today’s big news and all of our jokes about being on trail for “the quads” were even better now with Pan back in trail! By lunch around noon we had completed 15 miles and after a short refreshing swim we were back at it hoping for at least 13 more! We kept running into a group that at first annoyed us until a few days ago I decided to tell another story! Instead I told Kaleidoscope “I envision them at the next shelter talking to us and making friends with us and we all get along great!” During the last month we have had more and more encounters with them (we dubbed them the Posers) , and the last few days even more. Maybe we earned their respect because we were keeping up with them, or maybe my magic wish just came true….but by the time we got to the shelter at 8pm just before the sun set….they were mostly there and welcoming! We chatted them up and found out more about them and we had a great time sharing trail/nature knowledge. We completed a 28 mile day before the 100-mile wilderness and made some new friends…how much better could that day be!?
Today we had only 8 miles because of our push yesterday and thank goodness as the heat wave made it wicked hard! We were glad to have the big combs over with. We were glad to have the big days of pushing big miles over with, we are glad to be resting in a hostel tonight (a guy in the shelter last night kept cramping up and swearing and moaning and talking in his sleep most of the night…most notably saying “it is too heavy” ! His night mimics his day!) and we are excited what tomorrow brings! My son is one. This journey we are on has never had any interest for him. But he’s been cooped uo, he’s been watching us, he got curious, then he got determined. He called the other days asking me if he could join us! He’s 11 and a half and wants to walk 100 miles in the remotest part of Maine’s AT and then climb the 5,000+ foot Kathadin to celebrate his accomplishment! And how could I say no?
I mean only one in four that attempts the AT will finish…and even less in the year of the pandemic …and now Cambyr and I will beat the odds…and her brother will be there first hand to witness it…and possibly beat the odds himself one day!