The Trail Provides, Part Four – The Final Chapter
Day three in Maine started off with a sense of calm. I only had one hike to do and it was only going to be a nine-mile day. I allowed myself to sleep late 8 a.m. and then set out for the Fire Warden’s Trail and the Bigelows. Once again, it was hot and muggy but I had mountains to hike, so I strapped on my pack and set off into the woods.
Slow and Steady
The first few miles of trail leading to the Bigelows is flat. I pushed along at a good pace, but as the climbing started I found myself slowing right down. The heat and humidity takes a huge toll on my body, so I knew I needed to pace myself and not overheat. Eventually, the trail started to climb steep up the side of the Bigelows and after a relentless hour I reached the junction with the Appalachian Trail.
I chose to summit Bigelow Avery first and then headed over to Bigelow West. The views were incredible, and although it was really hot and humid, I felt strong. After reaching the summits, I began my descent. It was an uneventful day in the woods, filled with sun, black flies, and blue skies.
Day Four: The Crockers and Redington Attempt
Throughout the time I was in Maine, I was constantly checking weather for my upcoming hikes. I was lucky to have perfect weather except for the short thunderstorm I encountered on Abraham. Unfortunately, on my final day, when I was supposed to complete the Crockers and Redington (a bushwhack), the weather didn’t cooperate.
After hiking in the winter, you tend to believe that there’s nothing the summer can throw at you to make you not hike. I wanted to believe that a day of steady rain wouldn’t stop me from hiking the Crockers/Redington, but I was wrong.
Trying My Hand at Thru-Hiker Mentality
I set out from the parking lot and it was good weather. The skies were overcast, there was a nice breeze – and no rain. For the first mile the trail gradually ascended and then it began to climb in earnest. After four straight days of hiking, I was in the groove with my earbuds in and pushing through the muscle fatigue. It’s amazing what your body is capable of and how much discomfort you can become accustomed to after just a few days on trail.
As I reached two mile marker the rain started to fall. Fat drops plopped off the ground around me and I debated whether to put on rain gear. After about ten minutes, the rain grew heavier and heavier until it was no longer a steady rain but a deluge. At that point I was thoroughly soaked in my rain gear. I stopped on the side of the trail and assessed the situation. Should I push on with another eight miles to go in my hike or should I call it and turn around.
Calling It Quits
The decision was easy – I would turn around. A few minutes into my descent, the rain let up. The thought of turning around and trying to climb the mountains passed through my mind, but I brushed it aside and called it a day. As I continued down the mountain, I ran into a few hikers – all thru-hiking – but didn’t see any other day hikers on the trail.
Back at my car, I stripped out of my soaking wet clothes, put on my PJs and happily climbed into the car to warm up. I was glad to be back at my car and didn’t regret my decision to turn around one bit. I was out there to have fun and hiking in the pouring rain would’ve made for a miserable experience on my last day in Maine.
Reflecting on My Time in Maine
I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the four days I spent hiking in Maine. When I think about those days, a sense of calm comes over me, but when in Maine, I was anything but calm. Every day in Maine I felt varying amounts of anxiety. I felt anxious for different reasons – while in the thunderstorm, or on day one when I wasn’t into my hike mentally. Mainly, though, I felt anxious because I didn’t think I was strong enough to hike for four days straight.
I’ve never hiked more than two days in a row before and going to Maine and hiking for four straight days was completely out of my comfort zone. When I scheduled my trip and even when I was driving up there I didn’t know if I would be able to do what I was setting out to do. But every day I got up and even though my feet were sore and swollen, and my muscles in my legs aching, I hiked.
How much do we limit ourselves because of self-doubt? How much more could I have accomplished in life if I had stepped out of my comfort zone?
In the days and weeks since returning home from Maine, I’m still in awe of what my body is capable of. I climbed over 14,400 feet, summited seven mountains, and hiked over 40 miles in four days. I discovered that hiking alone no longer scares me at all and I’m even comfortable enough to wear earbuds while hiking now. I realized that there is never enough food to keep me full for more than a few hours, drinking filtered water is no big deal, and if you wear sunglasses the black flies can’t get in your eyes.
More than anything, though, I found a sense of peace by spending a few days in the wild. When all you have to do each day is focus on walking, eating, and drinking, you realize how little you need to be happy. Stripped down to the bare necessities, you find what’s really important, what really matters, and you realize that all of the things the media throws at you are not what you need.
I came out of my time in Maine with so much more experience and more confidence in myself, but most importantly, I discovered that being in the woods is where I feel most at peace. There is nothing that I could buy in a store or watch on TV that could bring me the sense of joy and belonging that I get when being in the woods. The Rangelely Lakes Region of Maine will forever hold a special place in my heart because of all that it taught me. I wonder what I’ll learn on my next adventure.
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