Maine Became a Mental Challenge
After the incredible White Mountains, I finally reached Maine, the last state on my journey. Check out the video:
Licking My Wounds
It was day 121 on the trail as I awoke to a drizzle of rain. There were only eight miles separating me and my tent from the Rattle River Hostel. I made quick work of it and was at the hostel in no time. My feet were as sore as could be and my infected toenail looked disgusting. The arches of my feet were bruised from hiking down Madison. I was grateful for the nero day and after a good night’s rest extended into a zero day. I switched out my winter sleeping bag for my summer bag, which had been mailed to the hostel. A trip to Walmart resulted in an overzealous resupply. By the time I was ready to hit the trail, my fully loaded pack weighed 45 pounds! After the spectacular White Mountains, I was ready to be done. My body was frail and suffering from 1,900 miles of hiking. But there were less than 300 miles separating me from my goal.
Maine Hits Hard
Reluctantly I left the hostel and entered Maine. My first day in the new state was not my day. I had always heard how tough the Whites were but no one had told me how hard Maine was! It was a hot, humid day, the bugs were out, my knees hurt, and all the sweating led to chafing. My ridiculously heavy pack wasn’t helping me and soon I had developed a blister on my toe.
I had discovered I don’t perform well in heat; it just wipes me out. I used to think it was annoying when people made comments about me being from the Midwest, like, “Oh, you’re used to the cold.” I always thought that silly since the Midwest experiences all four seasons. But now I’m beginning to realize just how much I do prefer colder weather! Too bad I could only look forward to more hot and humid days in the future.
After a good sleep I was in better spirits for my second day in Maine. This day brought the excitement and challenge of Mahoosuc Notch. I met up with a hiker called Honey Bear and we helped each other mentally through the notch. She laughed as I constantly shouted expletives at the never-ending bouldering puzzles. We had some laughs watching each other get stuck crawling through small holes and hurling our bodies over giant rocks. Honey Bear dropped her trekking pole down a crevasse and thought it was lost for good. With a little skill and a lot of luck we managed to pull it out.
By the end of the day I was pretty beat up. I had mud, scrapes, and sweat all over my body. The cut on my wrist from when I broke a trekking pole in the Whites was not healing because my body kept sweating away any new skin that tried to grow. The SOBO hikers in camp were unscathed. They had no idea what was coming their way.
I had been expecting after the Whites to be getting back into the 20-mile a day range but the mountains of Maine were proving to be formidable beasts. I did my best to overcome the heat and humidity. Climbing over one peak and the next I slowly hiked over the mountains of Baldpate, Moody, and Old Blue. My infected toenail was continuing to be a nuisance and I was constantly in pain whenever it got stubbed or knocked against a rock, which was often. I wondered how far I could push my body. I praised my knees for all their hard work so far. “Come on boys, I just need you for 250 more miles.”
I always knew the biggest challenge on the trail would be mental. I just didn’t expect it to occur at the end. I thought it would’ve been on a week of rainy days or something. I honestly thought it would be an easy last few weeks but boy was I wrong. The trail was making sure I still had obstacles and challenges.
It had been fun and enjoyable up until now. I wondered if the heat and tough terrain was bringing me down or if I was simply fatigued and ready to be finished after nearly 18 weeks on the trail. Would I feel better if I slowed down and stopped pushing? Then again, I get restless even sitting at an overlook for more than ten minutes. I was ready to be done with my hike. I had proven to myself that I can physically handle whatever the trail throws at me. Now I had to prove that I could mentally handle the fatigue, monotony, and remaining obstacles and finish what I’d started.
Though Maine was fraught with grueling days, there were little moments that grounded me and rejuvenated my body and mind. As I arrived at Long Pond the sun was a few hours from setting and there was a sliver of sandy beach that was begging for me to enjoy. I stripped down and waded into the warm water and swam, letting the water wash away all my troubles. It was bliss. I was reminded me of how beautiful the world is and not to take any moment for granted. I was only going to have this experience once so I best make the most of it.
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Only Way to Go Is Up
After Long Pond I eventually made my way to Rangeley, ME, for a quick resupply. I was able to pick up a pair of new trekking poles but I had to carry my broken poles with me to get my refund. What was an extra few pounds at this point? I spent Independence Day climbing up and over Saddleback Mountain in beautiful weather. No fireworks, though.
After a quick resupply in Stratton, the temperature dropped into the 60s. Finally, Mother Nature was giving me a break. I scaled the Bigelows in 30 mph wind and was happy as could be. The views from the summits of Bigelow and Avery Peak were mesmerizing. I could see the giant lakes of Maine and forests in all directions. The wind nearly knocked me over but I felt so alive. These were the moments that made it all worth it.
Soon I made my way to the Kennebec River. The crossing was easy, the weather sunny with blue skies. The Caratunk bed and breakfast was the perfect place to sit and enjoy some Wi-Fi, milkshakes, and pulled pork sandwiches. Afterward I hiked on to beautiful ponds where I could wash away any bad vibes from the past. I was on the up and up and finally enjoying Maine.
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