Day 157: The Last Mileage Milestone

Lean-To Life

I got to the Long Branch Stream Lean-To (Maine-speak for “shelter”) early enough to hang my wet clothes in a little patch of sunshine between the trees. Not that they dried out much, but at least they didn’t get any wetter. The lean-to was unoccupied, but since the forecast called for clear skies, I grabbed a flat tent spot just out of snore-shot from the shelter and set up for the night.

PBJ rolled in an hour later and told me that BAM felt terrible about sending me across El Rio de Baptismo. BAM? That was BAM (Bad A** Mom)? I hadn’t seen her since the Blue Ridge Parkway, when Northstar and I gave her and Witch Dokter (not the blogger) into Waynesboro in June. I didn’t recognize her. But then again, our encounter wasn’t conducive to eye contact or cheery conversation.


I heard PBJ’s alarm go off at 4:30 am, which must have been a joy to his shelter mates. I’d been reading since 4:00, the aftermath of going to bed at hiker midnight (7:00 pm) and was playing cards on my phone at 6:00 when he hiked out before dawn. I try not to climb out of my tent until I can see without a headlamp.

By 7:00, I’d packed up my tent and had stumbled over to the shelter to find a still-groggy Scout getting ready in the post-PBJ aftermath. We’d seen each other before but had not exchanged names. When she heard mine, she said he followed me on Instagram and liked my videos. “Oh, you’re the one!” I said. We like Scout.

It’s All Falling Apart

As I packed up, I did a gear inventory. My fuel cannister sputtered out its last gasps this morning, giving its life for my oatmeal and tea. My tent zipper is barely holding on, splitting apart at the slightest pressure. I bent my left trekking pole in a fall last week and the right one’s strap fabric has frayed through. REI will be getting me new ones when I get home.

A pointy stick took out the ankle hem on my otherwise bulletproof Teren Design Traveler’s Pants – I’ve worn the same pair every day since Amicolola Falls. My Columbia long sleeve shirt has multiple tears, mostly from close encounters with trees. My pack stinks like, well, like me and may need to be put down along with most of my surviving socks.

But my shoes took the brunt of the damage. I’ve now got three-inch tears in both the right and left ones, and chunks of the tread have fallen off. They were new at Grafton Notch, only 170 miles back and the last pair barely made it through New Hampshire. I’ll be having a conversation with Altra’s warrantee department when I get home. At nearly $200 a pair, I expect better.

2,100 Miles

Today’s 15-mile hike to the Katahdin Ironworks (KI) Road started out with a two-part climb, a steep 1,200-foot ascent followed by a slightly less steep 600-foot scramble to the deceptively named Barren Mountain (it’s tree covered). Weirdly, parts of the trail were flowing and muddy, despite having no rain for a week. In between the two climbs, just before the stunning views from Barren Ledges, I passed the 2,100-mile marker.

I stopped to make another silly Instagram mileage video, just as I’ve done every 100 miles since Albert Mountain in Georgia (Mile 100). Normally, I’m all alone and can be as goofy as I want. At the 1,400-mile marker I had a very serious German hiker watching me, dampening my silly-meter. At 1,700 miles, I shared the milestone with a Warrior Project hiker, which dictated a more somber script.

Today, just as I started to record, Hot Take walked up, asked if I was The Incident, and said she liked my Instagram videos. Lightning strikes twice in one morning! I asked if she wanted to appear in this one, just as County Fair, Chumbawumba, and Fireball showed up. So, they all made cameo appearances in my cinematic masterpiece, which premiers later today. And when I caught Scout taking a break at the Barren Ledges, I grabbed a shot of her to add, getting both my Insta fans for the LAST mileage marker video of my thru hike.

Last Things

I still can’t believe I’ve made it this far. Whatever else happens in the next 98.4 miles, I’m a 2,000 Miler, which is what the ATC traditionally called hikers who completed the entire trail. When I set out from Springer in April, I couldn’t even visualize myself hiking in New England. In the middle Atlantic doldrums, getting above the tree line in New Hampshire was the holy grail that kept me going, though it turned out I’d forgotten to consider what the weather can do to mountaintop views.

But now here I am, with six days and less than a hundred miles left. Finishing is all everyone wants to talk about. How many days? When will you summit? How are you getting home? What are you going to do next?

I have answers to all those questions, but I’m focusing on the next six days. Maine has been so beautiful lately; I don’t want to miss a second of it. This will all be behind me in a heartbeat.

Hiking On

After Barren Mountain, the trail saw-toothed over Third, Columbus, and Chairback Mountains, plus a few bonus unnamed peaks, before dropping down to KI Road. Along the way, I passed Chuckster, a very talkative southbound flip-flopper, as well as Pub and Thriller, who are now hiking south back to Rangeley after flipping up to Katahdin on my birthday.

But I didn’t pass any more northbounders after the 2,100-mile point until I saw Beans on the descent to KI Road. Somewhere in there, the trail passed through debris from a 2014 plane crash scattered in between the tall, undamaged trees. A volunteer at Monson’s AT center told me the father-son pair in the small plane survived the crash and hiked out, and that the 14-year-old boy had wrapped his head in his sleeping bag before impact to cushion himself. Smart.

Done for the Day

I hiked into our meetup spot about 4:00 pm. Somehow, Just Try had beaten me there, though I’m certain she didn’t pass me on the trail. She’s been adept at finding shortcuts lately, so I’d guess she’d found another one today. Alex said PBJ had hiked in an hour ago, grabbed some gear and hiked on. He wants to catch a shuttle into Millinocket by 4:00 pm tomorrow at Jo-Mary Road, which is 28.6 miles from KI Road. I wonder if we’ll see him again. Just Try hiked on too, hoping to shorten tomorrow’s 20-plus mileage to Johnson Pond Road.

Northstar hadn’t arrived when I got to KI Road, but I’d received a text saying she’d been held up at the pharmacy in Greenville. Trying to fill prescriptions along the trail has been a challenge. If daily medications are part of your routine, and you’re planning a thru hike, make sure to figure it out in advance. Northstar has made some long drives to find pharmacies, only to be told her pills wouldn’t be ready until the next day, that they’d lost the authorization, or that the insurance approval hadn’t come through.

Wilderness Camping

Northstar and Alex had booked a campsite a few miles away. Boondocking is not allowed along the KI Road, probably due to the frequent logging trucks. So, we drove a bit and found our spot tucked deep in the woods. Life in the wilderness.

Daily Stats:

  • Start: Long Pond Stream Lean-To (Mile 2098.8)
  • End: Katahdin Ironworks Road (Mile 2113.8)
  • Weather: Clear skies. Cool. Mist on the lakes and ponds.
  • Earworm: T-Swift made a play for my earworm, so I went straight to the audiobook. Whew!
  • Meditation: Lk 24:1-12 (thanks Jeff)
  • Plant of the Day: Pines (the smell)
  • Best Thing: 2,100 Miles
  • Worst Thing: Still haven’t seen a moose.

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Comments 21

  • Janet Richey : Oct 9th

    I am going to miss reading your journal-like entries. As a student of The Word, I enjoyed your references to the various baptisms and felt I was privy to some inside joke. Thanks for showing both your gentle sarcasm and your Christianity. It’s something I aspire to in my own blogs. Safe travels and Godspeed.

    • Jon : Oct 12th

      Thanks Janet. Where do you blog?

  • Jeffvench : Oct 9th

    Jon – You are welcome! Jeff

    Safe travels and Godspeed.

    • Jon : Oct 12th


  • Maxine : Oct 9th

    I will never understand how Altras came to be object of such hiker devotion. Even among their most enthusiastic adherents, I’m always reading/hearing about how the uppers get trashed in no time, how the tread fails, etc.

    I resisted the siren call for a long time, but I finally gave in and bought a pair. My first hike in them (in relatively easy, but very damp, deciduous terrain that included a fair amount of rocks) was my last. I had them laced up as snug as I could get them, but it still felt like I was hiking in bedroom slippers, lol, and the grippiness of the sole was distinctly unimpressive.

    I do love those wide toe-boxes, and the lightweight/quick dry factors, but for me, for every piece of gear, there is a “Job #1,” and if the gear fails at that job, then I don’t care how fantastic all of the other features are. For me, for footwear, “Job #1” is “keep me confidently upright and steady in (nearly) all trail conditions,” and the Altras didn’t do it for me.

    But the people who love them seem to *really* love them, so whatever floats everyone’s boat!

    • Jon : Oct 12th

      Good comment. Inspired me to write a bit about it in the blog. I feel like I’m kinda of stuck with them after making the switch to zero drops and paying for that with months of PT. And every time I’d found a shoe I like, the brand would either stop making 15’s or change the design to narrow the toe box or something. Frustrating. I may try the suggestions I got after an earlier post. But trying them on and taking them on a day hike is a lot different than using them for a months long hike.

  • thetentman : Oct 9th

    So people are recognizing the famous Incident. You are apparently famous. I am impressed and will not tell anyone the truth about you. I know that I am not worthy. I am glad that you are such a modest celebrity. Thanks for even talking to me.


    • Homeward : Oct 10th


    • Jon : Oct 12th

      Are you kidding? Meeting THE Tentman was the highlight of our hike. We were honored.

      And thanks for keeping a lid on the truth .

  • Scott Layman : Oct 9th

    RUSH! miles. Sorry couldn’t resist. As others have said, your updates will be missed. I’ve appreciated your biblical references, musical references and sense of humor. If your return trip brings you through south central PA, dinner on me.

    • Jon : Oct 12th

      Thanks Scott. It’s been a fun ride. Mostly.

  • Debbie Carney : Oct 9th

    Ditto. Will miss reading from a Christian brother.
    Stay connected in your next endeavor.
    Will we be honored to finally hear how you got your trail name?

    • Jon : Oct 12th

      Thanks, Debbie.

      You might regret asking about the trail name. But if the other witnesses allow, I may spill the beans.

  • Lori : Oct 10th

    Kudos on your use of Maine lingo (lean-to), Instagram videos, and evoking childhood memories for me, of hiking in this area.
    Darn about the worst thing: not that this is helpful now, but I’ve never failed to see a moose on the access road from Greenville to Gulf Hagas.

    Finally, if you have another multi-state adventure, Plushcare might be able to help.

    • Jon : Oct 12th

      I’ll look into Plushcare. Thx!

  • Lulu : Oct 10th

    This was a great journey with you. All the best!

    • Jon : Oct 12th

      Thx, Lulu!

  • Sasha : Oct 10th

    I will also miss reading your updates! I stumbled upon you somewhere around where there was a missing cat poster beneath a mile marker to Katahdin (somewhere around day 60?), enjoyed your writing so much I went back to read from the beginning and have been checking daily for posts ever since.

    Probably time to sling your books again! You’ve got a bunch of people who are addicted to reading your words! 🙂

    While I suspect you are in reality already done, I hope you were able to remain in the moment for these remaining few days.

    • Jon : Oct 12th

      Thx, Sasha. I’d forgotten about that cat. I was scared Northstar would adopt it and we’d have a cat pan in the van for months. Ugh.

      Hmm, another shameless book plug? Might happen.

  • Mike Nixon : Oct 12th

    If you haven’t already thought of it (and it’s not too late), your last meditation Scripture should be II Timothy 4:7.

    Stay safe & strong!

    • Jon : Oct 16th

      Great suggestion!


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