Day 157: The Last Mileage Milestone
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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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