Maine: It’s Not All Rain and Pain After All
The first week hiking in Maine was wet and confusing. Wet because the rain that started on my last day in New Hampshire continued for seven days into Maine. Confusing because after five rain-soaked days in Maine, the state I looked forward to the most and dreamed about for months, was surprisingly my least favorite state.
I definitely experienced cognitive dissonance, a psychological stress that occurs when your experiences are contrary to your previously held beliefs. Maine was my goal, the prize, and it was supposed to be the reward for those 1,900 miles hiked to get there. It was supposed to be awesome! But it sucked! I expected difficult trails, but the constant rain turned the climbs and descents into treacherous waterfalls, the low areas into mud, and the views limited to fog-shrouded peaks.
I was still hiking with Kenya, Gravity, Seven, and Double-tap. We just pressed on in the rain. Other hikers we knew skipped ahead. I never considered that or quitting but I did have to adjust my approach. I resolved to enter into a battle of wills with Maine. My thoughts were I’m going to finish this hike even if I have to slog ten miles a day through the rain and mud. I won’t like it but I’ll do it.
Maine, Take Two; I Do Love You
On day eight the skies cleared and the trail began to dry out. Suddenly Maine was amazing and met all my pre-hike expectations. We walked through green forests, enjoyed splendid views from the peaks, saw ponds like glass, and forded tumbling rivers. If you have to experience bad weather to appreciate good weather we definitely appreciated the good weather. The next five days were clear and dry. Between Pine Ellis and Shaw’s in Monson we covered 142 miles in 7.5 days. Finally, long climbs ended with stunning views.
114.5 Miles to Katahdin
I’m so close to completing this journey, it doesn’t seem real. The past three weeks have all been unique. Three weeks ago I reunited with my trail family after weeks of solo hiking. We experienced beautiful weather through the White Mountains. Two weeks ago we entered Maine and survived a crucible of treacherous trails and weather. Last week we were back to great weather and extreme camaraderie as we hiked toward Katahdin. Quietly, we knew the importance of these moments, all the more appreciated because of the earlier weather. While we all want to be done I feel a steady joy in being in the beautiful wilderness with such good friends. I can’t imagine ever recapturing these exact feelings.
I’m writing this from Shaw’s Hiker Hostel in Monson, a great stay. Next we start the hike through the 100-Mile Wilderness, the last significant section before Baxter State Park and Katahdin.
Double-tap and Seven joined us later in the day so the band is back together again. Our friend Maine Rain is falling again and expected to fall all day so we elected to zero. Why not? I’m ahead of schedule and would have to wait one end of the wilderness anyway. My son Nick is flying into Bangor on the 12th and we are going to summit on the 13th. In the meantime Kenya and I prepared eight fluffernutters each to get us through the 100-Mile Wilderness.
Over nearly 2,100 miles I’ve thought a lot about life after the hike. I’m ready for act two, whatever it brings. As I mentioned my son is coming out for the finish and we’ll get home somehow; plane, train, bus, anything but walking! After that it’s time to start a new life in Duluth. I moved there in February but only stayed five weeks until this trip started. I have some family there, maybe a few friends from the old days, but I’ll really be starting over. Fortunately, I can build around the best parts of my old life, my two sons, other family, and Dixie the dog. I do have some specific plans in the works but a few details have to fall into place before I make an announcement.
Thanks for following my adventure.
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I am so happy that the weather took a turn (regardless of how temporary it was) for the better so at least some of Maine met your much considered hopes. Shaw’s is indeed an oasis of cheerfulness smack dab in the middle of some tough hiking. But Poet and Hippy Chick go out of their way to make it that way.
I hope your fluffernutters last through the 100 mile Wilderness, just avoid any significant food purchases at the Abol Bridge Campground store. Their prices are outrageous. Hitchhike into Millinocket and stay at the AT Lodge, you will get a huge free breakfast and a fee shuttle back out to Abol Bridge (or Katahdin Stream Campground) in the morning to hike into Baxter. There are several full grocery stores in Millinocket for any food you need for your last day of climbing.
And when you get back to Duluth, the Superior Hiking Trail is waiting for you. And we always need new volunteers to help maintain it!
Awesome writing as usual, and great pics of the northeast. Doing Katahdin with your son will be awesome! You’re almost there, an incredible achievement. Kick butt!