Ten Nuggets of Wilderness Wisdom

I started my SOBO AT trek on July 9. I read many blogs about the 100-Mile Wilderness and what to expect, but was still surprised. Here are some golden nuggets I learned during my ten-day adventure from Kathadin to Monson, ME.

Inflatable sleeping pads are a multiuse item

I always dread having to blow up my sleeping pad at camp. It takes awhile and is annoying. However, I was 100 percent ridiculously excited to try it out as a flotation device in a lake. Didn’t work as well as I had expected it too but I was floating and that’s all that matters.
 

Laundry and lake start with the same letter, so they must go well together

Washing out your sweaty, dirty, haven’t showered in a week, hiking clothes feels so good. You don’t even need soap or anything to feel cleaner. Just stop by one of the many lakes or rivers over your lunch break and wash before you stop to eat. Chances are if you leave your stuff in the sun, it’ll be dry before you go to put it back on. Besides, the feeling of wringing out all that dirt is just so satisfying.

Leeches suck

Beware of mosquitoes of the sea. They’re quite creepy and although they probably won’t reallllly harm you, they’re still gross. Lakes occasionally have them, but colder moving rivers are less likely to.

Food is not a luxury item, so pack as much as you need

Pack enough food to eat. Snacks are a must. I packed about 3,000 calories per day because I knew my body wouldn’t amp up to need the extra fuel this early in the hike, but man, some days I was just plain hungry.

Food is also heavy

There are multiple hostels that will do a food drop in the wilderness for you. The AT Lodge is a great place to do it since you’ll already be in Millinocket. This allows you to carry only half the food you need to get through it at once. Highly recommended as it reduces your pack weight and lets you take as much time as you really think you’ll need. Your body will thank you when you make it to Monson.

Tramily

Tramily isn’t necessary, but it sure as heck makes hiking more enjoyable. Meeting new people is awesome and gives you something to occupy your time besides thinking about how hungry you are or how your body hurts because it hasn’t adjusted to hiking ten to 15 miles a day. Although you’ll likely switch groups and hiking buddies as the trail progresses, you’ll always have the “remember that one time…” memories with those initial friends.

Talking to NOBOs is inspirational

Well, at least the ones who don’t have complete blinders on to everything except summiting Katahdin. They’ve come so far and the joy they express is unreal… like a kid on Christmas morning.

What are luxury items?

The things in your pack that you haven’t used after ten days. I recommend either doing your own shakedown, or having Poet in Monson, ME, at Shaw’s Hostel give you one for free. Some things you may not have used yet… like rain gear if you’ve been lucky enough to avoid rain for the whole time. Other things, like a comb, your third pair of socks, etc., may actually be unnecessary.

Trekking poles are worth their weight in gold

I had never really hiked with trekking poles before my pre-AT shakedown. They make the ups and downs go so easily. Especially useful when there’s mud and roots and rocks and it’s been raining so everything is slippery. (AKA Maine) Walking feels more like stumbling home from a bar drunk, so two extra “limbs” really help the cause.

Starting slow is a great idea

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither can the AT be hiked in a day. You also won’t make it far if you give yourself an overuse injury in the first ten days. So many hikers cite Maine as their favorite state because of the solitude, untouched wilderness, and abundant lakes. Your body will thank you for taking it slow in the beginning. (Stretching and self-massage are underused ideas with hikers. You’re an athlete now, so treat your body for all the hard work you’re doing. I brought a golf ball for rolling out my feet after long days and it did wonders.) Your experience will be better taking it slow as well. Allowing yourself to be immersed in all Maine has to offer was a great way for me to start my AT journey.
If you’re interested in the day-by-day shenanigans happening on the trail, check out my Instagram here.
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