Into the Notch!

Day 29

Today was the day we had been talking about for weeks…the day we would go through the Mahoosuc Notch. The hands down most technical slow moving mile on the AT. Eric had experienced the notch on his prior thru-hike but Hayley was going in blind. We left Speck Pond Campsite and began the steep descent down the Mahoosuc Arm. The hikers coming in the opposite direction all had a fatigued look on their faces. One told us we were approaching “the devil’s butt crack”. We laughed and prepared ourselves for what was to come.

Mahoosuc Notch definitely lives up to the hype, it’s just a mile of enormous boulders piled together from various geological upheavals. It’s a lot like being on a crazy jungle gym: balance yourself (and your massive backpack) on this large pointy rock so you can step onto another large pointy rock. Squeeze through two massive boulders that are abutting each other and blocking your path. Take your pack off so you can crawl down into the space below multiple large rocks and then pull your pack through. The trail markings are minimal, it’s very much a “get yourself through this mile in any way possible”.

This is the one time we will admit being a lightweight hiker has a major advantage. It’s hard enough pulling and pushing your own body through these obstacles, trying to get a heavy, bulky bag through just makes it that much harder. Time doesn’t exist when making your way through the notch, minutes fly by as you struggle to pull off an amazing gymnastic feat to get only three feet ahead. Eric checked the time and it took us almost 90 minutes to get through this one mile.

But we will say it was a very memorable mile, it was…dare we say fun at times? A lot of creative thinking does go into this mile, there really is no wrong way to do it. Try climbing up a steep slanted rock… doesn’t work? Try using this tree branch and pushing up with your left foot instead. The technical aspect of it is unlike the rest of the trail (some will say the whites are technical and they definitely are but the notch is just so concentrated in technical aspects). Just being in the notch feels slightly primeval, patches of cool air rise up from the ground. Patches of ice hide underneath large boulders. The small pools of streaming water were the most amazingly pure water we have ever tasted (and that is saying a lot since the springs in Maine are incredibly pristine).


We were happy to experience this challenge but we are also happy it is behind us and are glad we won’t be seeing anything quite like this again on the trail. We made it through with minimal scrapes and bruises, another testament to our increasing strength and skill throughout this hike. We were tired but kept hiking on to Goose Eye North and East peak and then skirted the summit of west peak, then over Mount Carlo. By the time we reached our tent site we were truly exhausted. We loved the ridge walking and sadly said goodbye to our last mountain peak in Maine. We ate our last mountain blueberries and prepared ourselves for our arrival in New Hampshire tomorrow.

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