Flip-Flop: Katahdin & The 100 Mile Wilderness
After a busy visit home, a day of sightseeing in DC and another day of trains and buses up the East Coast, we were wiped. We spent two nights in Bangor and a night at the AT Lodge in Millinocket before heading off to Baxter State Park to tackle Katahdin & the 100-Mile Wilderness.
Katahdin-Wowzers. I really had no idea what climbing Mama K was going to be like. I knew she was big, but I didn’t anticipate just how exposed I would be or how much edge there would be. So much edge. It was paralyzing at times. I’ve developed a bit of a fear of heights as I’ve gotten older and steep mountains with lots of exposure and edge are included in that fear. On the way up, I had racing thoughts about how I could just have myself superimposed in a blank Katahdin picture-haha. I didn’t think I’d be able to get over the next rock on multiple occasions. Snacks was great and helped me get through it. He had to take my pack on a few occasions as the climb was tricky and he coached me through those paralyzing parts.
I made it to the summit-but I am saving the summit pics until the hike is complete! The views were spectacular and I was super proud to be there, but I was also daunted with the thought of getting back down and there were dark ominous clouds blowing in quickly. It’s a 10.4 mile hike and it took me 11 hours to complete it. The challenge as with most of the trail is mental and physical. My body is sore today as I enter the 100-mile wilderness. Even with 800+ miles under me, I have new aches and pains.
The racing thoughts on the descent were around how long a rescue would take, haha. I talked to myself on the way down chanting, “each step is a step lower!” We had about fifteen minutes at the summit before the weather set in and we took off to get down. We managed to get the iconic pictures in, but it was hailing with very strong winds before the summit sign was out of sight. I was once again petrified, but knowing I’d made it up helped and again Snacks was super helpful. The hail turned to rain which cleared for the most part as we exited the table at the top of the mountain. The climb down was windy and yep, terrifying, but I lived to write about it. It’s funny because I spent so much time wondering if I could actually do it, without realizing I was doing it. The trail is also teaching me it’s not a race, and most importantly to HYOH (hike your own hike). My shakedown up in the Laurel Highlands of PA last year was a ten day trip with big mile pushes every single day and I ended up injuring myself from overuse and a fall. I didn’t listen to my body and just kept plowing through. It didn’t have to be that way, it was for the most part, my own making. I’m out here with that in mind, and also remembering that the (theoretical) truth is, ‘the last one to Katahdin wins’. As with so many things in life, it’s important to not compare, in this case, my hike to others and to continue to push and challenge myself on my journey through these magical mountains. Regardless, my hat is off to the SoBo’s who start their hike with Mama K. I had 850 miles under my legs and it was tough-so to start off the trek with that challenge-shew!
100 Mile Wilderness
That night, after summiting Mama K, we camped at Katahdin Stream Campground and set off into the infamous 100 Mile Wilderness of Maine the next morning. There are no road crossings or resupply points during the 100 Mile Wilderness and carrying that much food is heavy work. The AT Lodge knows this and have the option for a paid food drop so before we left the lodge we put food for the second half of the wilderness into a five gallon bucket, which was then hiked in and hidden in the woods by a member of the AT Lodge, for us to find with our treasure map about halfway through.
The first day (after Mama K) is supposedly the easiest day in Maine. It was sunshine and smooth sailing and we camped with the SoBo’s we met at the Lodge. The second day was misty rain all day and the temperature was much cooler than what I’d become accustomed to in Virginia. I stopped for the night at the Rainbow Stream lean-to which is right on the creek so a pretty, but damp setting. The third day was a little kinder on the feet. Less footy and rocky, more pine needles. We took a midday dip in the falls at Cooper Brook Falls. There is a shelter right next to the falls so it’s a popular spot. The falls even form a swimming hole, but Snacks spotted leeches so we dipped in the actual moving falls instead. That water was nice and refreshing, a great midday treat. After that we hiked on to our food drop, where we had our resupply hiding in the woods, thanks to the AT Lodge services. We filled up with water at the pond below and then hiked up to the top of the mountain and set up camp at a tent spot for the night. There was a ton of moose scat and I kept my eyes peeled but I haven’t spotted one yet. Fourth day was challenging but rewarding, as are most days. The views fro White Cap mountain were panoramic and just amazing. Pines, forest and lakes/ponds as far as the eye can see…and that’s how Maine has been for the duration. I didn’t keep notes the rest of the days through the HMW, but trust me it is gorgeous. Much more challenging than the South, but absolutely gorgeous.
To be honest, it’s been a little disillusioning-we were putting in miles in the mid-high teens before we flipped and now we are steadying around 10-12, but almost every North-bounder we pass expresses similar frustrations and assures us that once we get past the Whites in New Hampshire, the miles will come back. Chatting to the hikers we pass throughout the day is helpful for finding out about upsizing terrain, lodging/resupply options in the next town and for knowing that the feelings and struggles we go through are normal!
That’s said, another perk of flip-flopping is meeting all the NoBo’s as they finish their hikes. I pass about ten or so a day and it’s so cool to be a small piece of their journey too. I am looking forward to passing/seeing those that we met in the South again too!
Thanks for reading and for all the support!
P.S. For more pics of my journey follow me on IG @annemariesphere 😁
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