Days 125-128: I’m in Maine!
Day 125, 8/31/23
Rt 2 to Stealth Campsite
16.3 miles, mile 1,916.2
It was a sad morning because this was the last night in my bed until I’m done this thing! We are too far from home to keep the slackpacking up. I’m currently in my wool layers, puffy, and hat in my sleeping bag liner in my quilt missing my warm bed because it is cold and windy out!
We stopped at the McDonald’s in Gorham for another quick coffee to chug before we started hiking. Right after we pulled out there were two hikers with their thumbs out so we pulled over and I asked if they were going to the Rattle River Trailhead where we were also going and they said yes. The girl was thru hiking and her boyfriend was joining for a few days. When we got to the trailhead, Dad walked across the street with us to see the 1,900 mile marker and we gave him a hug and started walking. The first mile was very nice on the road and then a flat trail, but then the elevation started off steep. The total for today was around 6,200 feet. With 5 days of food on my back after slackpacking for so long I’m astonished I made it. We are at a great stealth site 0.2 miles from the Maine border!
The hiking today was steep, and the trail was popping with thru hikers who also took zeros yesterday. We met some new people, and saw some familiar faces. As we continued past the first shelter the number of thru hikers went down a lot, I think the majority stopped there. I don’t blame them because that last climb up Mt. Success (it should just be Mt. Succ) was not fun. The summit is an “Alpine Bog” which means if you step in the wrong spot or slip off a log you are going hip deep in mud. It was extremely windy up there too.
I think tomorrow will be slow going through Mahoosic Notch, the “slowest mile on the AT” because of all the boulders. I’m going to go in with the mentality it will be fun to climb over them and it’s like a playground. I’ll see if that sticks tomorrow when I’m actually hiking it.
I’m so excited to be entering the final state of this thru hike! There is still a ways to go, but this is definitely a huge step.
Day 126, 9/1/23
Stealth Campsite to Grafton Notch
14.8 miles, mile 1,931
It got chilly last night! The temperature was down to the low 40’s but I was nice and toasty warm with my sleeping bag liner. That makes all the difference for sure. I did not sleep well but at least I wasn’t cold!
Man oh man was I on the struggle bus today. It took us just over 10 hours to hike 14.8 miles. The “trail” that wasn’t really a trail was rock scrambles, and boulder fields all day. The day did start off on a good note though because we entered Maine! Then we were greeted with vertical rock slabs to go down, and waist deep mud in poorly maintained bogs. The Appalachian Trail took two of the most fragile ecosystems- alpine zone, and wetland, and thought ah yes, what a great place for the trail to go through! The wooden slabs through here are in rough shape, and my trekking pole went all the way up to its handle when I stuck it out in front of me into the mud. Thank goodness I checked, or I would have been waist deep. We saw a hiker in front of us go up past his knee because he didn’t check with his pole first.
After Goose Mountain where there were lots of iron rungs and ladders to climb up, we reached the shelter right before Mahoosic Notch. At this shelter we met the first brother and sister duo (other than us) on trail! They were so excited when we said we were also siblings. She is 4 years older than her brother, and I am 3 years older than mine. They are section hiking and are finishing this year after starting 5 years ago.
After talking with them for a bit, we proceeded up the trail and went through the notorious Mahoosic Notch. Right before we entered the notch, a southbounder was coming up the trail. I asked her how long it took her to get through and she responded “three hours, but I have a cat” and both Kevin and I were confused until she unzipped a pouch by her stomach and a kitten popped it’s head out at us. He was so cute and enjoyed getting some chin scratches. We are used to seeing dogs, but not cats!
Then we went down to the notch, and this part of the day was pretty fun and we made it through the mile in an hour, which I think is average for that stretch (without a cat). Then the climb up out of the notch up Mahoosic Arm was the opposite of fun, and consisted of straight up rock slabs covered in water. I was thankful for the trees to grab onto to pull myself up on the side of the trail. I needed to sit down for a break after that climb and before the last climb of the day up to Old Spec. We saw a total of three grouse throughout the day today! There were some gorgeous views up here and we could see Mt. Washington in the distance.
I think these past 30 miles have been the physically hardest of the whole trail for me. I also didn’t sleep well last night (shocker) and I was extremely tired today which does have a huge impact on how good I feel hiking. We have two bigger days planned for this area and then we will be to the cabin for a bit!
Day 127, 9/2/23
Grafton Notch to Sawyer Brook
17.7 miles, mile 1,948.7
Today was less rock climbing and more hiking. The hike up out of Grafton Notch was not as bad as the previous days of uphills. There was a bit of a scramble up to Baldpate West and East Peak, but it was a cool section. We had beautiful views and the sun was shining. The top was all exposed rock which made for some cool scrambling. On the way down the East Peak, an older black woman named Foxy was coming up. Her goal is to be the oldest black woman to thru hike the Appalachian Trail! The wise words she spoke to us as she passed going up the steep rock slabs to the East Peak where we came from were “this mountain is a bitch” to which I agreed.
We didn’t see a single northbound thru hiker all day, and hardly any day hikers. I think we pulled a bit ahead of the small bubble that had formed in the Whites. The last climb of the day up to Wyman Mountain (cue the “why man!?” jokes about hiking it) which to my delight was an ‘easy’ climb in comparison to what we have had the last couple days. After reaching the Hall Mountain Lean-To and taking advantage of the cell service, we descended 1,500 feet in 1.3 miles down to Sawyer Brook where set up our tents. Kevin has been persistent in trying to get a fire going with damp leaves and sticks for over half an hour now, and he finally has some flame going! I collected some sticks beforehand. This is a neat area, we are really down in a ravine. On our way down a southbounder was making his way up the very steep climb and stopped to let us know there is some serious trail magic that we will hit tomorrow. Old Buzzard is a man who thru hiked in 2008, and apparently he has lobsters as trail magic! I’m really hoping we catch him tomorrow because we are getting out of camp early to meet Dad at Height of Land around 4:30pm. Then we will head to a good friend’s cabin to enjoy a shower, real food, beds, some zeros, and slackpacking for about 100 miles! The cabin is within an hour of the trail for that long, and we will definitely be making the most of it.
Day 128, 9/3/23
Sawyer Brook to ME Rt 17
16 miles, mile 1,964.7
The hiking today was a 0/10. The end of the day at a cabin in Maine with real food for dinner was a 10/10. I didn’t sleep much last night yet again, and when we got up there was a 1,300 foot stair master climb awaiting us. Then a 2,200 foot climb up Old Blue mountain. Old Buzzard said they called it “Old Bitch Mountain” when he thru hiked which I have to agree with. Over the day there was about 6,000 feet of elevation gain and I’m really feeling it after these last couple days.
Before our climb up Old Blue, Old Buzzard was set up with the lobsters we heard about yesterday, and I ate a cold lobster out of a cooler at 8:30am from a man wearing a cartoon bird hat. I don’t think many people can say they’ve done that! He had his old black lab named Otis there, who was very happy for some attention.
After 8:30am the day went downhill for me. I took a couple hard falls and snapped my trekking pole. I’m okay, but it’s very frustrating to keep slipping and falling and tripping when you are already hiking slow and being careful. I miss being able to just walk. Even when it’s flat you need to be very careful about where you step. Then my foot slipped off a rock during a river crossing and my feet got soaked which didn’t help with my mood.
I was thinking about the thru hike as a whole today because it is coming to an end. I unfortunately am not one of those people who has had the time of their life out here. I’m extremely proud of myself for staying on trail and finishing, but it has definitely been hard. Being able to stay at our friend’s cabin and slackpack is the biggest morale booster to get us to the end!
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