Views, falls and trail towns – Monson to Stratton, Maine
So I have now passed the 300km mark on my southward journey to Georgia. I’m told that soon after leaving Stratton, I will pass the “2000 miles to go” mark on trail. So while I’ve come a far way so far, I still have a long way to go. I feel like I have adapted to life on trail, and gotten used to the routine. My pre-trail life definitely seems very far away, and so much has happened already. Below are some of my random thoughts on Maine so far.
The views are epic
I am starting to get into Southern Maine now, which is the home of the biggest mountains in Maine. So far I have climbed three “4 thousand footers” and many smaller mountains, each with an amazing view. The thing about the Appalachian Trail is that 95% of it is in the so-called “green tunnel”. That is, under tree canopy in the forest. This means that the views, even when climbing mountains, are few and far between. I think this makes the mountaintop views even more special. Emerging from the wilderness at the top of a peak, and getting a 360 degree view of endless green, mountains and lakes, makes the climb up there worth it. I understand that there are some decent sized towns in Maine, but from these mountaintops, it is as if civilization does not exist. It is very special.
Clumsiness is amplified on trail
When I was playing netball growing up, it was an ongoing joke that I had a problem with gravity. Our relationship was too close, and I spent a lot of the time falling over. The Appalachian Trail is filled with kilometers of tree roots and rocks, perfect for an unsuspecting clumsy victim. So far, I have had two bad falls, and any number of slips and near misses.
My first big fall I tripped on a small rock (after carefully navigating lots of large rocks and boulders) and fell with my knee on another small rock. The giant bruise on my knee has gone through a full range of colours, but seems to be settling down now.
My second big fall was on an uneven rock. I slightly rolled my ankle on a slanted rock so actually overbalanced and fell, properly twisting my ankle and grazing the side of my leg. I would not have said in the past that my legs were particularly photogenic but they are definitely looking like hiker legs now, with all the cuts, bruises and scrapes! I’m glad it hasn’t been anything too serious so far and am attempting to get better at this whole gravity thing.
Trail towns are amazing
I have stayed in three trail towns so far in Maine, being Monson, Caratunk and Stratton. Monson and Stratton are tiny country towns with a general store, a post office, a pub and not much else. Caratunk was barely a town (although still had the requisite pub). Each of these towns has a hiker hostel catering to those on trail, with options for resupply of food and gear, and showers and laundry facilities.
The hiker hostels also have shuttles to and from the trail, and two and from the grocery store and pub, if they are not walking distance. They are also kind and patient to the tired, sore and smelly hikers they encounter every day. So far I have stayed at (and recommend):
- Shaw’s in Monson (possibly the most famous hiker hostel on trail, run by an experienced and enthusiast hiker crew)
- The Sterling Inn in Caratunk (a small hotel that also hiker facilities)
- The Maine Roadhouse in Stratton (a hiker hostel run by two ladies both called Jenn, with plenty of welcome extras like foot massage machines)
One of the most unique features of these hiker hostels is the “loaner clothes” available while doing laundry. As hikers don’t carry a lot of clothes, when doing laundry you really need to wash everything you have with you. This gives rise to the obvious issue of what to wear while all your clothes are getting washed. The answer is loaner clothes, which is a random collection of clothes supplied by the hostel, in various sizes, styles and colours. I’ve had some pretty interesting outfits so far. I am currently writing this post wearing a loaner onesie, which is the best one so far.
Onwards to Southern Maine
The next part of Maine is going to be tough, with 4 thousand footers every day (and some with more than one a day). I am looking forward to the challenge though!
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