SOBO Tips for Katahdin and the 100-Mile Wilderness
JD and I are enjoying our first zero day in Monson at Shaw’s Hiker Hostel. We slept in, ate some fruit, soaked our feet, and have not put on our boots once. Man, does it feel good to be here. With almost 115 miles behind us, we feel like we are starting to settle into the thru-hiker lifestyle, but we have a lot to learn. We are happy to have the 100-Mile Wilderness under our belt, but humbled by what is yet to come.
We find that life in a backpack is much simpler than we had ever imagined. Everything takes twice as long to do, but we are focused now on the essentials – safety, shelter, food, water, and less on everything else. It’s kind of nice to take a breather.
Although we are not experts, we thought we’d share some tips that would’ve been helpful to know prior to our start at Katahdin.
Starting at Baxter
–As soon as you set your start date, make a reservation for a campsite. You will need a reservation for two nights. The night before you summit Katahdin, and the night after you summit Katahdin. You have a solid nine miles to go after Katahdin before you reach the 100-Mile Wilderness.
–Take the Abol Trail at least one way. We camped at Abol Campground and hiked Abol to Hunt to summit Katahdin. After that we took Hunt to Katahdin Stream Campground and hitched back to Abol. This provided us a chance to see different scenery, and avoid having to hike the tough, rocky section twice. Remember, this is your first day on the trail, and there are plenty of rocky sections in Maine and New Hampshire to look forward to.
–If you are lucky enough to have a ride to Baxter State Park, make yourself a damn sandwich for your first day on the trail. Then don’t forget said sandwich in the cooler.
–Be prepared for minimal resources at Baxter, including no cell phone service or potable water. Make those goodbye calls ahead of time and get ready to use that new filter.
–Baxter is a carry in/carry out park, so plan accordingly.
–There is an Abol Campground inside Baxter and an Abol Bridge Campground just outside the park before the 100-Mile Wilderness. It is very easy to get these confused.
–We would recommend making your first day a 12-miler and staying at the Hurd Brook Lean-to. It’s just three miles past Abol Bridge Campground and it’s free. (Abol Bridge costs $25 per person for tenting).
–If you have a ride to Millinocket then you might as well drop some food at the AT Lodge for a resupply halfway through the 100-Mile Wilderness. The cost is $35 and it is well worth it. Make sure you have enough food to get halfway. The majority of the big climbs in the 100-Mile Wilderness are immediately following the resupply, so plan to have lighter food for the second half of your trip.
–Pack plenty of toilet paper. We started with a half roll and had to rely on the kindness of others to get through.
–The bugs are no joke. Anything with 20 percent Picardin or 100 percent Deet will work, but we found the combination of the two to be the best. Still, don’t expect to get out without bites unless you plan to wear a full bug net suit. My bug bites had bug bites by the end of our trip.
–Pack plenty of Band-Aids and blister support. Remember, this is your first week on the trail, and it is very hard terrain. It doesn’t matter how well you’ve broken in your boots, you will most likely get blisters. (Unless you are JD and have “pretty feet.”)
–You are going to be hiking with other SOBOs, some faster, some slower. Don’t attach yourself to people who don’t hike at your pace; there is plenty of time to find your tramily.
–Don’t rush your trail name. It’s OK to come out of the 100-Mile Wilderness without a name; it will come.
–Water! Get to know your guidebook and plan ahead. The start of the wilderness is covered with great water sources near the lean-tos. As you get toward the end you will encounter a few with unreliable water sources. It’s best to fill up a little before camp and carry a heavy load than wreck your filter on murky water.
–Smelling terrible is your new normal, so get used to it. That being said, there are plenty of opportunities to swim in rivers. A little cleanliness can really change your perspective.
–Stay at Shaw’s Hiker Hostel in Monson. It is a great introduction to the hiker lifestyle. We met a lot of great NOBOs that offered sound advice. Plus, it’s affordable, $25 gets you a bed and a free beer or soda upon arrival. They also have a great breakfast for $9 with all you-can-eat blueberry pancakes and free shuttles to and from the trailhead.
–Even if you go for a shakedown hike you won’t truly know what you will need or use until you are on the trail. During the wilderness, think about what you are using and what you are not to figure out what can be dropped to save weight. Poet at Shaw’s does a great shakedown and can help you mail your unwanted items home.
Aside from all of of this, try to keep a good attitude and remember why you are out here. Even if you have a down day just know that a good day is right around the corner.
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