100 miles of laughs, sore feet, a big pack and animal encounters
And so it was time for the serious business of hiking this trail. I farewelled my friend Tasha and shouldered my pack for my first full day of pack hiking the Appalachian Trail. The first half of the day involved hiking out of Baxter State, with a brief drop off at Abol Bridge Campground for my last “normal” food for 9 days. Then it was into the 100 mile wilderness.
100 mile wilderness
The 100 mile wilderness is the most remote section of the Appalachian Trail, passing no towns or roads (aside from logging roads) for 100 miles. This is a pretty daunting way to start the Appalachian Trail, which is part of the reason most people hike NOBO (north-bound) rather than SOBO (south-bound). I considered it a baptism of fire to my new life on the trail. Immediately prior to entering the wilderness, I chatted to a man who told me that his cousin had been murdered on the trail in 1979 by her ex-boyfriend. With that auspicious beginning, I passed the equivalent of the “abandon hope all ye who enter” sign and entered the wilderness.
That night I camped with 11 of the 13 fellow hikers who has summited Katahdin the previous day. Some of these people would go on to become my 100 mile wilderness tramily (trail family).
It’s amazing how quickly you can adapt to a new routine. I started waking up at 5-5:30am and by 6:30-7am was set and ready to go. I would then hike either solo or with another person, for about 4 hours before we would stop for lunch (with brief breaks for water and snacks before that). After lunch break, it was then more hiking for the afternoon, before arriving in camp between 2 and 5pm (depending on the distance to be covered that day). On arrival, I would make an electrolyte drink and have a protein bar, before setting up my camp, and making dinner. Around 7pm I would write in my journal and read a bit of my book before retiring at around 8pm. It definitely is a simple life as a hiker!
Getting my trail name
It is tradition on the trail to go by a “trail name”, rather than your real name. These names are generally gifted by fellow hikers, although they can be chosen. Often it is something the hiker has said or done that leads to the fixing of the trail name.
On the bus from Bangor, I had chatted with my fellow hikers about the climb we were to do the next day (Katahdin). Being from Australia, I knew how long the hike was in kilometres, and how high the elevation was in metres, but had little idea in miles or feet. A little bit of translation was therefore required. At the end of our second day of hiking, fellow hiker Turtlefish told me that he, Trouble and Tenacious had been referring to me as “kilo”, as in kilometre, to distinguish me from another hiker called Rebecca. I thought about “kilo” and decided I liked the idea, but wanted to go a bit broader. Therefore “Metric” was born.
The highlights of these 9 days are really too numerous to mention, but definitely include:
- meeting so many amazing fellow hikers (shout out to Cruise, Turtlefish, Trouble and Tenacious, my main crew for this part of the trail) and learning their stories
- all the spectacular mountain views
- seeing a beaver walking down the trail (which I, for a split second, thought was a wombat ;))
- seeing a family of river otters playing in one of the creeks
- more squirrels, chipmunks and frogs than I could shake a stick at
- Cooling off in lakes and waterfalls on hot days (and camping next to a waterfall one night!)
- trail magic from kind strangers (beers one day, snickers another)
- the day-to-day beauty of being out in nature
- the green-ness of Maine
Of course, there were some lowlights to come with the highlights. These were:
- the adjustment process in getting used to carrying a heavy pack all day. Lots of sore shoulders and feet, although this is improving
- the bugs. July is peak mosquito season in Maine, and mosquitos love me, so this was hard going, even with repellent.
- incorrectly estimating the right food intake. I severely underestimated my food intake on my third day, and by the time I realised I was in a big mental hole. Hopefully a lesson I only need to learn once
- filtering water. Not really a lowlight but definitely the most tedious task on trail.
Overall, it has been amazing so far, and has surpassed all my expectations. Onto southern Maine!
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