AT Mile 750: “What Am I Capable Of?” High Highs and Low Lows in Maine
On Tuesday, I hit the AT at the road crossing of Maine highway 27 for my first southbound miles of the entire journey. My heart was full of positivity and love, and my belly was full of trail magic spaghetti. These are the moments that make the struggles worth it.
We are finally one-third of the way through our Appalachian Trail journey.
A legendary trail angel called Fresh Ground set up shop at the trailhead for the ME 27 road crossing. Fresh Ground runs the Leapfrog Cafe, a passenger van he drives the entire length of the trail throughout the season to shower hikers with love in the greatest way: delicious food. Fresh Ground is supporting a group of hikers that are already coming to the conclusion of their northbound hike. Among those hikers is Hawk, a popular YouTuber who is attempting a yo-yo this year. We stayed at The Hostel of Maine with Hawk last night and enjoyed his stories.
Speaking of The Hostel of Maine, I need to take a moment to rave about them. This hostel is hands-down, no contest, the nicest hostel on the trail. In fact, it’s one of the nicest places I’ve ever stayed, even compared to swanky Nashville and Atlanta hotels. Many hikers fondly refer to it as the “Hilton of Hostels,” and for good reason. The owners, Justin and Melanie, are absolutely lovely, and more than willing to offer a work-for-stay, at least for now before the busy season takes off. Isaac, being a trained horticulturalist, was able to get some landscaping and tree work done for them. I did some gardening for them as well. In turn, they offered us a beautiful private room for the rate of two bunks. Melanie is currently four months pregnant and they’re bringing in staff to help them for the year, but I’m thrilled we were able to lend a hand. I really recommend stopping in to see them.
We summited Katahdin this weekend, this ending the northbound section of Maine we did instead of starting there southbound. Our original plan was to finish our hike going south from the Northern Terminus, but the mountain was closed until June 15. We compromised by hiking north from Stratton, ME. We covered 188 miles in the past two weeks, then finally climbed the mountain on June 16.
Descending Katahdin on the Abol Trail (we went up the Hunt/AT) we met an awesome guy named Ramen, who was kind enough to take us into Milinocket. We had dinner together and Ramen drove us to the grocery store to resupply, then dropped us off at the AT Lodge.
The Appalachian Roller Coaster
That section of our journey was amazing, but thru-hiking is an ever-changing emotional roller coaster. Tuesday was wonderful, complete with trail magic and a stunning view to end the day. That high ended quickly. Wednesday day culminated with 11.5 miles, a short day relatively speaking. Now that we’re in Southern Maine, the trail has become increasingly challenging.
Thursday was one of my lowest lows of the trail thus far. It sprinkled all morning, then started pouring in the afternoon. That day we needed to hike over Saddleback Mountain, which includes almost three miles of exposed ridgeline. We were in freezing rain and high winds for over an hour. It was the kind of situation where a misstep could easily lead to hypothermia. As it was, once we had traversed almost the whole miserable ridge, I was shivering uncontrollably and I was emotional. Add to that the slippery, rocky trail coursing with water, and we had a pointedly hellacious afternoon. At one point I slipped (for the seventh time) and hurt my knee, and I completely fell apart. Isaac had to show me a little tough love and urge me to get my shit together and suck it up. We had to keep moving. We had planned to push another two miles to the next shelter, but I was miserable and couldn’t stop shivering. Isaac finally found a viable flatish spot in the woods and we set up camp.
Hiking with a partner is both a blessing and a curse. At this particular moment we were super miserable and stressed out, which we took out on each other. Setting up camp in the freezing rain quickly turned into a fight. We don’t fight often, but we’ve certainly had many struggles on trail. It’s very challenging to do this as a team. There are many days when we just get entirely sick of each other. We spend so much time together that it’s inevitable. We very rarely hike together, though, so that offers us space and freedom during the day.
Other times, though, I’m reminded of how grateful I am to be with my best friend. Sharing this experience makes it that much more special.
On Friday we hiked in to The Hiker Hut, a little off-the-grid place just down from where the trail crosses ME 4. We’ve spent the weekend hanging out in Rangeley, and we are having a great time. Rangeley is a wonderful little town. It’s got a cute strip with a bunch of locally owned stores, so we spent most of Friday afternoon wandering around town. We even got to kayak on Rangeley Lake!
On top of the town being awesome in general, my good friends sent us a resupply box to the outdoor store in town. We recently made an Amazon wish list for resupply stuff, and the support from family and friends has been amazing. We are SO lucky!
We only have about 50 miles left in Maine. Though I’ll be sad to leave, New Hampshire and the Whites will be an incredible new adventure.
When I’m having a rough time, I just ask myself, “What a I capable of?” So far, I’ve been capable of hiking 750 miles. Only 1,400 more to go.
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