One Hundred Miles of Wilderness: SOBO Days 2 – 11
Maybe from waking up dry or maybe from the excitement that I’d successfully summitted Katahdin or maybe just because I needed to pee, I was eager to get moving into the 100-mile wilderness. Like, trying-not-to-wake-up-the-whole-campsite-at-4am-eager. Luckily, I’d downloaded a book on my phone to keep me occupied until a slightly more human waking hour.
The 100-mile wilderness is a stretch of the Appalachian Trail in Maine from Abol to Monson. After hiking out of Baxter State Park the morning after summitting Katahdin and buying an ice cream at Abol Bridge, a SOBO hiker enters a 100-mile stretch with no towns, no major roads, no services. Warning signs at either end of the wilderness alert hikers about the danger of this section of trail, the longest section of wilderness on the entire Appalachian Trail. Talk about a big deal.
I was pretty freaking nervous to get started.
Greetings to the NOBO Hikers
But, hardly a mile or two into the wilderness, my nerves were eased a little bit when I ran into a northbound thru-hiker. I really had not anticipated running into a NOBO from Georgia that early in my journey, and I’ve been continually surprised by the amount of them I’ve seen since then. These people are seriously bougie-ing!
This particular NOBO happened to be in the middle of listening to a meditation and on the verge of tears when I ran into him. Apologizing for his emotions, I became emotional as well while listening to him describe how he was feeling at the exit of the 100-mile wilderness and the entrance to Baxter State Park, the last stop of his journey.
Further into the 100-mile wilderness, another NOBO would advise that I incorporate electrolytes into my water. He claimed it would help to stay hydrated and reduce the dramatic swings of emotion on trail. I don’t know for sure yet if this was sound advise, but I also can’t imagine any amount of Mio or Nune tablets could detract from the surge of emotions experienced during a thru-hike. But the electrolytes are definitely helping with hydration.
As I progressed through the wilderness, numerous NOBO’s shared stories and advice. In the following sections, a brief summary of their comments is included. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily endorse all of these comments and many are meant for satire (although they are real things I’ve been told). Be safe out there!
- Once you get through the White Mountains, the rest of the trail is a joke
- Once you get past Vermont, the rest of the trail is a joke
- You’re getting the hardest part over with first
- You’re going to have great trail legs after the White Mountains
- You’ll be pushing 25-mile days after Maine and New Hampshire
- It never gets easier
- The terrain is always this rough
The White Mountains
- Take the weather seriously in the White Mountains
- Plan for weather, not miles, in the White Mountains
- The White Mountains should be turned into a parking lot
- The White Mountains are the best section of trail
- The White Mountains are treacherous
- Vermont is just a mini New Hampshire
- If you run through the Whites without stopping, you won’t have time to get cold
- When you do get cold, warm up your hands using your Pocket Rocket
- Do not carry Crocs
- Do not carry any camp shoes
- Make your own camp shoes out of paracord and sneaker insoles
- Hike the AT in sandals
- Carry a bear canister if you hate tying up a bear bag
- Do not carry a deck of cards
- Don’t bother filtering water
- Get Poet at Shaw’s Hiker Hostel to give you a pack-shakedown
- Get rid of your stove and cold soak everything
General Stuff to Know
- Get the Trailblazer sandwich at the General Store in Monson
- Do not go through Mahoosuc Notch on a rainy day
- Do all the blue blaze trails, you won’t regret it
- Be careful of bears in New Jersey
- I’ve never heard of someone getting a snake bite, just don’t step on ’em
- Don’t be afraid to slackpack
- Only believe 10% of what you hear on trail
All of these comments, and more (if you can believe it) have served to either ease my mind or to terrify me. But, of paramount importance, I’ve learned that the AT is such a unique experience for everyone that a section cannot simply be deemed “easy” or “difficult”. It all depends on the individual hiker, the weather that day, the hiker’s headspace in that moment, the amount of mosquitoes buzzing in their ear. Any advice from fellow hikers really does need to be taken in stride (literally and figuratively) because everyone’s experience of the trail is different. What is true for one hiker is really not true for all hikers.
The 100-mile wilderness is allegedly one of the easiest sections of the trail. It did not feel easy for me. Sure, some flat sections were forgiving, but hiking up White Cap in a hail storm and sleeping on the side of the Chairbacks in freezing temperatures was no joke. And for SOBO’s like me, it’s hard simply because it’s the first section of trail that we hike. But just because it was challenging didn’t detract from the beauty of Maine. After reaching every summit, I immediately forgot my sore feet as I gazed out at the wilderness. As for the rest of the trail, I guess I’ll soon find out for myself.
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