The road less traveled…

Just another WordPress.com weblog

100-mile Wilderness to Katahdin

So many people were worried about the 100-mile wilderness, but there was nothing to worry about. As far as difficulty, the trail in the 100-mile wilderness was really easy-going and enjoyable. However it is 100 miles of trail that has no civilization or opportunities to re-supply along the way. For some this means bringing 10-12 days of food, for me…more like 6-7.
I was actually on a pretty tight schedule to meet up with Joe on the other side of the wilderness, and because of the rain I was a little behind. Therefore, I booked it through the wilderness like a crazy person, doing it in 5 days. There were a couple of times that I ended up night-hiking and got to a shelter after dark, but otherwise it was easy terrain and I had no problems doing 25-30 miles a day. The scenery was awesome, but to tell you the truth it just made me think of my home on Parker Pond and made me want to hike faster so I could go home.

On the North side of the wilderness you come out on a road and have to cross a bridge and there’s an amazing view of Katahdin. Joe and I stayed at the Abol Bridge campground right there on the water and had the same view from our campsite, it was quite spectacular. I “slackpacked” another 10 miles to get back to the campground so that all I had to do the next day was summit.

It was really weird thinking that I only had one more day left of hiking, and then I was done. It felt surreal. Most of my fellow thru-hikers that I knew had already summitted in the previous week, so I was gonna climb Katahdin solo.

Katahdin (August 18):
I woke with the feeling that it was Christmas morning. I was so excited to finish my hike! It was a gorgeous clear day with hardly a cloud in the sky when I started up. I didn’t get going until 8:30 and it was a Saturday so I knew that I would run into a lot of weekenders/day-hikers, but nobody could rain on my parade! I felt like I was flying up the mountain, constantly passing people and climbing over the boulders like they were nothing.

About a mile from the summit is the “tableland” where you come over a ridge and it flattens out for quite a while and you can see the top of Katahdin. It was at this point that the reality of my journey ending suddenly hit me. I think I might have stopped walking for a while, and of course I started crying. So I suddenly became the hiker that was passing everyone and wiping tears from my eyes at the same time.

It was actually very anti-climactic reaching the top of Katahdin. I got to the sign and just sat down, watching all of the people around me. My eyes were still leaking and the emotional chaos I was experiencing is honestly too difficult to describe. It was overwhelming. I took out my celebratory summit beer, popped it open, and started taking my summit pictures that I had been dreaming about for 5 months now. I spent about an hour on the summit, soaking in the fantastic view and reflecting on the crazy path I took to get there. A past thru-hiker was on the summit and congratulated me, I guess he could obviously tell I just finished my hike, maybe it was the beer…or the tears. And then I decided it was time to go home. I flew down the mountain just as fast as I climbed up it. Even after sitting on top for an hour, I still passed people on the way down that I had also passed climbing to the top, they were still trying to get to the top. I got to the parking area, celebrated with Joe over another beer, and then we drove home.

I hope that over the last few months you have enjoyed these glimpses into my journey from Georgia to Maine. I’ve met people and experienced things that have changed my life. I’ve seen complete strangers show me their sincere kindness and it has restored my faith in humanity. I can’t begin to explain the things I’ve learned or how I’ve grown while I was out in the wilderness. I’ve spoken to other hikers about this and we’ve talked about how challenging it will be when we go home, trying to describe our experiences, and not being able to do so. I believe it is something that I will always share with those I met on the trail, whether it was for a short or long period of time. It’s a completely different culture of people who can thru-hike the A.T., and I am proud to be a part of that family, even if some of them are a little on the crazy side, myself included. Thank you all for your support and prayers.
-Sketch

“True commitment begins when you reach the point of not knowing how you can possibly go on, but decide to do so anyway.” -unknown

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

September 16, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rain = Wet EVERYTHING!

It started in the Bigelows, and it didn’t stop for days. There was so much water on the trail, there was nothing else to do except stomp through it. There was a certain level of fun splashing through the puddles, but after being soaked for hours and hours, the fun quickly wore off. I had to cross streams that went up to my waist, and balance on wooden planks that were no longer touching the ground but just floating in a large amount of water. After hiking for 20 miles one day I was just hoping to get into a dry shelter, but once I got there it was packed full of boy scouts and there were so many people tenting already, so I joined them, and I crawled into my wet sleeping bag in my wet clothes.

I’ve always told people that I don’t really make plans on the trail because they always end up changing, and here is a perfect example. My “Plan” was to keep hiking until I got to Monson, ME where I would take a day to get ready for the 100-mile wilderness. However, I was miserably wet and needed a day to dry out my gear so I decided to stop over in Caratunk in the morning.

So the next day I hiked about 4 miles to the Kennebec River and waited for the ferry service (a guy in a canoe) to bring me across as the Kennebec is too dangerous for hikers to ford. Once across I was basically in Caratunk, ME…which literally consists of a Post Office and a couple of different lodging places. The only reason that there are a few lodging places is because a little farther north is a rafting business.

I luckily managed to grab the last room at a B&B type place called the Sterling Inn. I ran into a couple of hikers there that I had not seen since Pennsylvania and we had a relaxing afternoon spent in front of the T.V. while putting together a puzzle. It was a time when I most needed a place to stay and recuperate from the storms of the last few days. It felt great to be dry and warm!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

September 12, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My ‘ol stomping grounds…

I’ve been living in Maine for about 2 years now and I’ve done a lot of hiking in the area. It was fun to be back in the Mountains that I recognized and the section of trail that I’ve already hiked. So I quickly zoomed through Saddleback, Sugarloaf, North and South Crocker Mountains, and tackled the Bigelow Range. The Bigelows were pretty much the last major challenge before reaching Katahdin as the trail really started to level out and go around ponds and through bogs. Enjoy the photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

September 8, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Few Pictures

Here are a few pictures that missed the previous post: Sketch almost dies, Back Door saves her life…but not her hair.

Minutes after Back Door saved my life and tore out some hair…happy to be alive!

More interesting sections of the trail.

Reaching the state line of the final state in my journey, MAINE!

September 8, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sketch and another Emergency

When Kat left and I got back to the trail, there was a sense of loneliness that came over me. I was so used to hiking with Kat for so long that it was weird being on my own again. Even when I was in the Whites I was hiking with other people, but everyone else I had ever hiked with was way further on the trail since I had taken so many shorter/slower days.
My first day back proved to be difficult as I got stung by a yellow jacket. Nothing happened except my leg obviously hurt where I was stung, and I took a Benadryl right away. Later that evening after I had set up camp and was eating dinner, I noticed that I was getting a rash. After I finished dinner I started itching other places too. My back, my thighs, my stomach…I started checking and my entire body was starting to turn red and splotchy. I was having some sort of delayed reaction to the sting and was starting to freak out. I ended up taking more Benadryl and called my stepmom for advice. She kept calling every 2 hours to check on me, but bottom line was if it kept getting worse I would need to night hike to a road and try to get to an emergency room.

Now remember I am in the middle of the Maine wilderness, so not an easy thing to do. Also, I’m in the part of Maine that has a bunch of little small towns so the nearest E.R. was still a good hour away from any road I would come upon. It was indeed a scary situation. I was just happy that I had cell reception so I could contact anybody at all. I made a mud pack to put on the part that I was stung and waited until I could take more Benadryl. Obviously I finally fell asleep since I was poppin’ Benadryls left and right, but my stepmom called and checked on me and thank God the rash stopped spreading and by the morning it was all gone except where I was originally stung. Quite the way to get back on the trail…

September 5, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sketch almost dies, Back Door saves her life…but not her hair.

When Kat and I finally got back to the trail, we only had about a week before Kat had to get to Portland, ME to fly back home. Her vacation was quickly coming to an end so we decided to take it easy and just hike day by day and see where we got. Ironically enough this was actually during a really difficult part of the trail where even seasoned thru-hikers can barely hike one mile per hour, so needless to say, it was slow going.

We hiked anywhere from 5-12 miles a day, set up camp, played a huge amount of Phase 10 (I’m still undefeated, much to Kat’s dismay), and just had fun hanging out together. It was good we were going slow because my water filter also decided to stop filtering. It would still filter a little bit….but VERY SLOWLY. And water was scarce during parts so it made it even more difficult trying to get anywhere very quickly. One day we waited for over an hour just to get 3 liters of water filtered. Not cool. We scrambled through Mahoosic Notch, which is a mile of trail that is packed with boulders that are the size of cars and houses. Many hikers have complained so much about this section of trail, but we found it most enjoyable. It was like a playground for adults, just crawling over everything and jumping around on big rocks. After that we tackled “the arm” which is simply a really really steep climb on practically smooth rock making it difficult to get a grip with your boots, but it wasn’t as bad as everyone was saying either. At one point I was scrambling over a rock and almost slipped and Kat literally saved me from falling to a sever injury by grabbing the back of my pack, somehow pulling out a chunk of hair in the process and eventually laying on my back in a crevice with both of us laughing at the scary situation.

I’m sure you can tell there was some serious hiking/climbing in this section of the trail and any one thing could have gone wrong to completely end my journey. Thankfully I had Kat there to keep me in good spirits and save my life once or twice.
Eventually we got to a road outside of Bethel, ME (it was really like 30 miles away) and our original plan was to hike another couple of days and then Joe was going to pick us up and Kat was flying home the day afterwards. But when we got to this road after 5 days of intense hiking, I could tell that Kat was exhausted so I told her we could just go home. I knew where we were and could easily hitch back to Farmington. It did not take much convincing at all and we were filled with a sense of relief once the decision was made. The high chances of rain might have helped a little bit too. So we successfully hitched back, an adventure in itself with 3 different hitches and 3 very different kinds of people, and we enjoyed a fajita feast to celebrate our homecoming.

Our new plan was to just hang out on the lake for a couple of days before Kat had to go home. That plan did not happen. What did happen was the “Andover Bug”. The infamous sickness that so many hikers were complaining about getting at the part of the trail that we had just left finally caught up to us. I woke the next morning sick as ever and barely left the couch, the next day I felt 100% and Kat was the one on the couch. Ours was thankfully only a 24-hour bug, (other hikers were not so lucky), and again we were happy to be sick at home rather then sick in our tent on the trail, so we couldn’t really complain too much, it could have been much much much worse.

The next morning Joe and I took Kat to the airport and we said our farewells. I am truly blessed to have a friend like Kat who gave up the majority of her summer vacation to come wander around in the wilderness with me. It was a great chapter in my epic journey and I’m so happy that she is a part of my life. Kilimanjaro is totally on the bucket list for both of us in the future.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

September 4, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Parker Pond Pig Roast – July 21ish

The weekend of the Pig Roast and the days following were fantastic. I was able to see family and friends, have good food, relax in the sunshine, and not hike a single mile! A couple of other thru-hikers were able to come hang out for a bit, a large group of us went “tubing” down the Sandy River one day, and we had a great “Girls Night” out in Augusta before I eventually made it back to the trail.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment