Final Weeks on Trail and Water in Maine (Better Late Than Never!)
“Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” by Kathy Mattea played in my earbuds as the Golden Road came into sight coming out of the Hundred Mile Wilderness. I had listened to this song daily since it was shown to me in Rangeley. Despite the immense struggle of the last several weeks of my thru-hike, I was hit with a huge wave of sadness. I was sad that the hike which I had battled with for the last month, was finally coming to an end.
A Wet Summer
Just like most other hikers on the AT this past summer, I had a really tough time with the flooding as I made my way through New Hampshire and found the worst of it in Maine. I had lost my already small hiking crew back in New Hampshire near Pinkham Notch. Zeroing for wet-foot problems set me behind, and I got back on trail at a much slower rate than I had been going. It was tough to keep myself motivated without traveling with others, so I made a routine of hiking 10-15 miles to eat under my tarp. This lunch break usually turned into my camping location when the rain continued and I realized I was warm and dry. I’m grateful for the couple of weeks I spent solo, and as tough as those weeks were, I had gained a new appreciation for the awful trail conditions, lack of functional devices, constantly wet clothes, and damp sleep wear.
Moments like this sunset captured before a storm on some of the (very rare) unsubmerged bog bridges in Maine are ones I hold very close to me. It was extremely peaceful to hike and camp alone after crossing into the home state, Maine, and to be able to experience and witness nature with every part of myself.
Making Memories in the Home Stretch
I knew I still had to make it up Momma K, but my last full day and night on trail was coming to an end as I approached the Golden Road on July 1st. I was extremely lucky to finish my thru-hike with a group of six: Buzz, Sim, Canary, Shade, Draggin’ and myself. We hiked the remainder of the trail together and had an incredible time! Hiking with a group was a great change of pace for me.
High-Waters and Time off
I found this group when I had to get off trail for about five days when a stream crossing of the Orbeton river went poorly and I was swept quite a ways down. At the time, I had to use my SOS on my Garmin Inreach, and was very grateful to have been near an old logging road which was accessible by ATV when the incident happened. I had no layers or gear other than the spandex shorts and my rain jacket, which I had been wearing upon (foolishly) getting into the river. My backpack, which I had thankfully unclipped in the water, was far upstream from where I exited the river on a rocky island it had stayed caught on. I’m so glad I made it through that experience to share my warning, and to learn a lesson in river fording that not everyone is so lucky to get a second chance at.
Trail Community Getting Me Back on Trail
During my week spent at home, Canary reached out to me to let me know they were approaching the spot I left trail. She told me I was more than welcome to hike with her, Sim, Buzz and Draggin’ if the timing worked out. Without this invite, I don’t think I would have had the personal accountability to get back on trail. Other groups I knew were two weeks behind, and I knew a two-week pause would have been too long for me to wait and readjust to hiking. I also knew that I wasn’t going to continue solo blazing after that experience for both my own concerns and my families. I really felt a sense of trail community between everyone that reached out to me or invited me to hike with them. It played a huge part in me returning to trail when I was at this low point. Even now, having been off trail for several months, I still stay in touch with many of the hikers I met along the way, and very much feel a part of the community. I’m proud of everyone who hiked in New England this summer before and after me, and it’s been so exciting to see Sobos and Nobos completing their hikes!
To anyone reading, may I reiterate what should be common knowledge: if you are questioning whether a crossing is safe and you are alone, do not attempt to cross. It’s always best to be with other hikers for any river fording event in case something goes wrong. Being prepared to camp and wait for lower waters, or backtrack, is also important. This happened to a lot of hikers this past summer that I’m aware of, and the general flooding conditions in New England made for unsafe, swollen water all around. Stay safe out there!
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Gurrrrl, congrats Moon Pants! I met you at a shelter in Vermont where you were stopping for a snack before jetting off again. I think you ate like an entire bag half bag of bagels with Nutella or something, and I’ve never been more inspired. We had this awesome chat about me being discouraged and lacking motivation on the AT for a LASH after being an PCT section hiker, and I was so impressed with your insight and groundedness. So happy you got to finish during such a wack weather season. I went to do the Maine section in early fall and the state of the trail and crossings alone made me decide to call it. Have had amazing time doing shorter trips all over Maine instead (living here for a bit). Anyway, couldn’t believe that was you and when I saw this blog pop up on my feed, congrats again and happy you survived the craziness!