Tales of the Wild: From the Maine 100
I’m writing this post in a warm bed at Shaw’s Hiker Hostel (literally hiker paradise). I cried when I got my first bites of real food for dinner last night. I thought I might’ve died and landed in hiker heaven. My hair is clean for the first time in 11 days. I have so much to recap over the first days of my thru hike I’m not even sure where exactly to begin.
Katahdin was a beast, and I’d be lying if I said I got up there without some tears shed and an asthma/panic attack at the top. It’s probably one of the most fun days I’ve had on the trail, but by the time I got to almost the top I could barely move my legs. This may have been in part to the cold winds blowing me almost off the mountain, and the fact that my body has never attempted a climb so strenuous before. The summit went on forever, but finally after what seemed like miles and miles of people telling us “you’re almost there” we made it to the top. After a short photo op and snack we scrambled right on back down to avoid hypothermia. I highly recommend full rain/wind gear, hat gloves, and puffy jacket to layer over your clothes for summit day. It was cold! I almost lost another finger (and then there were 8?!)! Surprisingly going down was the easy part. I had a lot of fun scrambling. I’m terrified of heights, but the climb up was much scarier.
It felt like SOBOs ruled Baxter that night, we took turns walking to each other’s campsites to eat and converse about our climbs. I’ve seen very few of the same people since.
The day after Katahdin was probably one of the hardest for me. It seemed every other day my legs rotated from good to bad days, but the soreness from Katahdin brought me to an all time low – especially with hearing that the terrain for the next two days would be “easy” and “flat.” We did 13.4 miles that day, but while they were not the hardest of the wilderness, for me I was overcoming the thoughts that I couldn’t do it.
I think that’s what I gained most out of the 100 mile: confidence. I kept telling myself if I could climb Katahdin, I could do anything. And slowly but surely I did. My body surpassed my fears, and showed me its capacity to show up each day, to fight the pain, and resilience. I was honestly amazed at what my two legs could cover in a day. It hurt so badly. I cried pretty much every day from the overwhelm, the lack of food, the bugs eating us alive, or just the circumstances at the moment, but I did it. Each day my legs and feet discovered new parts to be sore and I was amazed what happen if I just got up, stretched, and slowly started walking. Surprisingly, I realized as long as I could get myself moving, my legs would warm up. I took a max of 1 Advil a day which is more than I ever take because the pain was at times a solid 10/10 and I was unable to move without it. Normally, if I was in a non secluded part of the trail and had a place to resupply soon, I would’ve taken a rest day, but my trail friends and I quickly realized that’s probably one of the hardest parts of starting SOBO: the 11ish day contract that signs you up for a nonstop ride from Katahdin to Monson. Not dying out there was my main source of motivation. It was hella hard. And I was definitely not fully prepared.
The other SOBOs that I’ve talked to and I are in agreement that nothing you could read online will prepare you for the 100 mile wilderness. It’s a learning experience, and we all fumbled through it together. That’s probably what made it such a bonding experience for us all. At one point we had like two working water filters for our entire crew.
What I wished I knew is that YOU NEED LOTS OF FOOD. My hiker hunger set in on day 1. Especially if you have food allergies, you need extra food. It’s better to have too much than too little. I was lucky to meet another gluten free-er who happened to have dairy free food who literally saved my ass. But that’s pretty rare and you need to have extra snacks! You never know when you’ll need them! My hiking partner and I wouldn’t have made it without the kindness of trail goers. While I had enough meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 11 days, I quickly discovered that I could not keep my chia porridge down for breakfast, or my protein powder down for lunch without gagging it back up. This left me with the dilemma of only having 1 snack bar to share between breakfast and lunch, and a tiny portioned meal for dinner with two packets of coconut oil. I drastically underestimated how much I would need for each portion size for dinner. Food bars and some peanut butter were gifted to me for lunches and it made all the difference. I’ve never felt so close to starving before. At first I could push through, but as the days went on I began to cry more and more as my blood sugar dropped and moving became increasingly difficult. I could feel the days with lack of calories catching up to me in the end. Moral of the story: bring lots and lots of snacks, portion bigger dinners, and if you have a tendency towards hypoglycemia at home, it’s like 1000 times worse on the trail, so plan accordingly.
We summited Katahdin the 5th – 5 miles up and 5 miles down, we hiked 13.4 out of Baxter the next day to our first lean-to, the next two days we did 15s, and slammed a 20 the next day because we didn’t have enough food to make it to 60s mile marker where our food drop was, and then another 4 to get out of a nasty thunder storm on the mountain. The next few days we slowed down our mile days. My body was fried from lack of calories and moving pretty slow. My toes were wrecked from my feet swelling and rubbing against the end of my shoes, so I ended up in my Luna Sandals half the time. While I need new shoes, I’m avoiding buying and trying out my Luna’s for awhile to cut down on costs.
Other things I learned on the trail: keep track of your shit. So many of us lost things. My bug net got snagged from my pack to a tree day 2, then my hand sanitizer and toilet paper followed suite. It is not a fun time to hike 11 days without having and sanitizer, and I drove my hiking partner crazy always asking to share. My glasses also broke day 3. Go figure. I about lost my shit that day.
When passing day hikers we’ve learned to ask the day of the week and the weather forecast and confirmed that they do smell just as amazing as we’ve heard.
Another thing my group realized was how different each person’s perspective was when it comes to distances. So often we’d be passing someone who said “not much farther” or “easy terrain ahead” and it would be hard as hell! We’ve learned to take everything we hear with a grain of salt because trail conditions depend on so many different things. It’s amazing how word of mouth travels on the trail though! I love how everyone has each other’s backs out here. I’ve never felt more safe.
I’m headed back today and I’m excited to see what the trail has in store for me. Now that I’m out of the time crunch I’m planning to take it a bit slower to give my body some time to adjust and enjoy the trail. I’ve learned a lot and I’m still growing and learning as I go.
Until next time
Love and snap peas,
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