Ace: A Woman of Dogged Determination

As Dad (what soon became his trail name after summiting Katahdin) and I stumbled into Bald Mountain Brook Lean-to, we were greeted by my mother, Ace. She had brought food that qualified above and beyond that of the “trail” category. Corn bread, salad (what, vegetables??) and strawberry shortcake (!!) filled our bellies that night as Dad and I happily chatted with Ace about our grand adventure through the 100 mile wilderness. We updated her on the friends we met and the lakes in which we bathed. Our time in the wilderness of Maine exceeded our expectations.

Rewind some decades.

In 1981, Ace hiked the same section that Dad and I had just walked, probably experiencing very similar things (terrible black flies, grand views, whipping our “trail legs” into shape). Her incredible adventure had only just begun. However, due to an unfortunately timed fever, she needed to take a couple weeks off while her friends continued hiking. She missed about 35 miles from Caratunk to Stratton, Maine. When I decided to hike southbound, Ace thought this was the perfect opportunity to hike the section she missed.

Now that you’re caught up…

We said goodbye to Dad in Caratunk and headed off for some mother/daughter outdoor adventure time! After a terribly wet, dreary day of hiking (and I’m talking there-was-a-shower-head-in-the-sky rain), we got to a Lean-to, crawled in our sleeping bags and refused to leave. About an hour later, someone else stumbled into the camp in the downpour. I started scoot over to make room for her but she waved her hand and said “Oh don’t worry about it, I’m going on.

I was shocked. When I walked through the rain not 2 hours before, I was counting down the seconds until I could be in a dry place, yet here was this wonder woman before my eyes. She had already walked 17 wet miles, passing 2 other shelters and was still choosing to forge ahead.

We started chatting and she introduced herself as Fjord, seeming to express a pretty positive attitude despite the conditions. She was talking about other parts of the trail and I asked “So what’s been your driving factor to keep going when things get tough?” (*cough cough* *torrential downpours* *cough cough*)

And then Fjord said something that’s stuck with me. “I don’t know, I guess dogged determination.”

Dogged Determination.

The next day, Ace and I climbed a horrendous mountain (Avery Peak if you’re wondering) and as I got to the top, I thanked the small amount of strength that my legs had acquired over the previous weeks that helped me get there. Not long after, my strong mother also summited and I looked at her and it hit me. ‘Ace has only been hiking for 3 days while I have been hiking for 2 weeks. She is doggedly determined too.’

We sat on the summit, with the sun setting and took in the beautiful view. I looked at my mom in awe.

“I’m glad we’re made of the same stuff,” I said to her, “because it makes me think I will finish this journey after all.”



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Comments 2

  • stealthblew : Jun 28th

    What a touching account of hiking with your Mom. This account brought back many memories for. For I too hiked the hundred mile wilderness with my Mom only to watch her quietly accumulate blisters along the way. She opted to take hiking boots instead of sneakers (it was a wet week). She never informed me of any hot spots en route, only of her new blister at the end of the day. While walking all inquiries regarding her feet were disregarded with a reply along the lines of, “oh they are just fine.“ We started at Monson and by the time we reached Abol Bridge her feet were a mess. To me it was a no brainer, have Mom wait in camp while I climbed Mount Katahdin and then head back home. Upon receiving this suggestion, she gave me an ultimatum. Either we both hike the final mountain together or not at all. And she meant it. She absolutely refused to wait around in camp to allow me to finish my adventure.

    Mind you I had started in Georgia and was ecstatic to have her company in Monson to finish my adventure. At the time I couldn’t believe Katahdin was out of the question, but reluctantly made the right decision to forego the final accent. This changed my thru-hike into one of the longest section hikes on record. Only my Mom could have stopped me from climbing Katahdin at the end of trip. And she did it by insisting on not leaving my side. It was her dogged determination both on the trail and towards life in general that made this decision quick and easy. Looking back, there wasn’t too much pleading as I knew she would wholeheartedly stick by her words. She was more than willing to climb if that is what I wanted to do. It was basically up to me. That was almost 20 years ago… while a bit resentful at the time of our decision to leave the trail at Abol Bridge, in hindsight it was the only option. She had used her vacation time to hike with me and needed to return back home on schedule.

    I have never regretted the decision to stop where we did. We had a wonderful time that week, and a climb under those circumstances was simply out of the question. I am so grateful we had that week to spend together in the woods. It was far more valuable than climbing any particular hill.

    • Scrunchie : Jul 4th

      Wow! How generous of you to make that decision! Time with our mothers is definitely time to hold close to our hearts. It doesn’t slip away easily.


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