1100 Miles: Maine. Mahoosuc Notch. Moose.
2016 Flip Flop: SNP to ME/SNP to GA
The miles between 1100 and 1200 find me in Monson, Maine, the last town before reaching Katahdin, and a wifi connection, as I scramble to post this summary.
Mile 1100 placed me squarely in Maine, specifically Stratton. Just before reaching the town, an artistically arranged twig NOBO 2000 mile marker, is positioned squarely in the trail.
Unlike New Hampshire, I am loving Maine. SOBOs like to scare northbound hikers with its difficulty, but I don’t know—after New Hampshire, Maine has been wonderful. Maybe because it reminds me of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters and the shared Canadian Shield, but with mountains.
And not to downplay the warnings of SOBOs, there are tough elevations—Saddleback, Mt. Bigelow, Avery Peak—all 4,000-foot exposed summits with more boulder scrambling. It’s just that in between, there are flat pine-needle trodden paths. And lakes. And loons.
Mahoosuc Notch is reportedly the most difficult mile on the entire AT. Or the most fun. I stealth camped with two other women a short distance away from the start of the vertical-walled canyon into which car and house-sized boulders have tumbled. We tackled this rock maze first thing in the morning, on a sunny day. And. We. Had. Fun.
We saw ice in deep shadowed pockets. In August. We looked for, but never saw, the skeleton of a trapped moose, apparently now long-gone.
My guess is Mahoosuc Notch is mostly difficult when fast hikers are forced to slow down. It wasn’t at all like rock hopping in the Whites. Oh sure, there were a few sketchy places where hanging on to a tree and dangling across a crevasse anchored down by a 30-pound pack was necessary, but otherwise it was more about scrambling between, over and under the boulders. Only a few places required you to take the backpack off—maybe. It took us just under two hours—much of which was spent taking photos and laughing at ourselves.
Up until now, I hadn’t seen any moose, but word had it a cow and calf frequented Gentian Pond, near a trail side shelter. We were not disappointed. Around dinner, one of the section hikers camped there reported a sighting and we all rushed down to the pond to see mama swim across followed by baby.
I also took a dip in the pond, when it was moose-less, and it felt great. If every day ended with a swim, this hiking thing wouldn’t be half bad.
Besides moose, we had been sharing the established shelter and campsites with ever increasing numbers of Southbound hikers. And scores of recalcitrant, exuberant and/or entertaining late summer youth campers. One night I fell asleep listening to a camp counselor explaining how to do tick checks, that they did indeed have daily emergency evacuation plans if needed and that yes, the tents were all the same size and it didn’t matter which tent the campers were in, every night they were going to switch it up anyway. I slept really well that night, having now properly checked for ticks.
As I now approach the 100-mile wilderness, the number of SOBOs is lessening—and those I do pass appear to be struggling—after all it is their first 100 miles. Unlike my own start that began back in Shenandoah National Park, they have had to put in harder work—beginning with Katahdin. I look at them and wonder if they will make it all the way, but then again, there are moments when I still wonder if I will make it the full distance too.
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