Goodbye, Maine. Hello, New Hampshire!
Well, we did it. We completed our first state. And it was a biggie – 281 miles. I thought it would be good to reflect a little on Maine and on what I’ve learned so far.
Maine, while it is awesomely beautiful is also incredibly difficult. To phrase it more colloquially, Maine is wicked hard core. It took way longer than I thought and it was tough – but it was worth it.
Being from New England, I’ve done quite a bit of winter hiking and camping. I know what it’s like to “posthole” in snow up to my thigh. But I’ve never “posted” in mud before – until Maine. I felt very lucky to get my foot out with my shoe still on, cause I could tell the mud wanted to keep it.
I’ve never walked through so many alpine bogs before. They are absolutely beautiful, and they make you wonder how such delicate things live in such a harsh environment.
I’ve got to learn patience and to stop expecting to keep up with 20 year olds. I naively thought if I was in shape I could keep up with anyone. I’m beginning to realize that this us not the case. I have my limits. I need to respect them or I will get myself in trouble. Ian keeps reminding me it’s where you finish, not when you finish.
Maine is easily the wettest state I’ve ever visited – at least in May/June. Water is everywhere. You never lack a source. I think this has spoiled me and I will be disappointed in water availability as I move south.
Due to the water, your feet are never really dry. Every morning you get up and put on your wet socks and shoes. If by some chance they are not wet – don’t worry. They will be in the first mile. Making camp in the evening consists of switching from wet to dry. Then you switch back to wet in the morning.
Mahoosuc Notch and the peaks of the Mahoosuc Range where my favorite. They seemed to be the most challenging, the most beautiful, and the most fun. Saddleback, however, takes the prize for most windy.
I have forded rivers I never would have tried in the past. What an unbelievable experience. Just you, fast water up to you waist, and a rope stretched across the river over your head! Scary, but what a sense of accomplishment.
I was surprised at how many casualties the trail has claimed already. I have met at least five people who are no longer on the trail. I am also surprised at how their leaving has resulted in a period of mourning. I knew some of them for only a few days, but the bond you feel when you are on this – endeavor? quest? pilgrimage? – is incredibly strong.
Planning has taken on a whole new approach. I can’t believe how optimistic I was. My original plan has me in Vermont right now. Your actual movement is driven by: trail conditions; weather; elevation; injury; and all-you-can-eat places. We’ve taken a more immediate approach to planning – never looking more than a few days forward. You’re plans are not that firm, but you have the flexibility.
Trail towns, and the people who run hostels are the best. I have never felt so welcome by a community than in Monson. Until I got to Caratunk, or Stratton, or Rangely, or Andover. I expect this will continue see move South, but Monson will always have a special place in my heart.
I have a trail name now. I’m Dos Equis, presumably because with my beard I look like “the most interesting man in the world” from the Dos Equis commercial. I have also been told I look like Robert Redford and like Willie Nelson.
Ian and I were joking that we should compose a “Dear Maine” letter now that we are moving on. We’ll have to work on that.
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