Hiking Maine is something I definitely don’t recommend doing solo if at all possible. And if solo is your only option then carry a GPS device such as the InReach or Spot which will allow you to send an SOS. I’ll admit I got off trail near Saddleback but luckily found my way back to it by following the sound of the stream. It gave rise to the thought ” What if I REALLY did get lost?”. I’ve seen online comments that nobody can get lost on the AT in Maine because it’s well marked. Wrong! I passaged several areas in the Western Mountains where the blazes were faded and almost unrecognizable. It’s early in the season and NOBO’s are arriving slowly and SOBO’s just starting so one doesn’t see a myriad of footprints in the bogs etc. to indicate you’re on the correct path. To date I’ve seen two SOBO, two NOBO, a family of four day hikers and Mr. Magoo’s twin brother. So when I got off trail I just relied on sound because every time I looked at my InReach it told me a waypoint was “.2 miles” – no matter where I was or what direction I was headed. Then I sent a test message from the InReach and it took almost an hour to send leading me to the conclusion that GPS was sketchy. BUT at least it finally went so even if just used for an emergency it’s well worth the cost in my opinion. Several times while navigating the rugged terrain I thought ” What if I fall?”which again made me thankful I had a GPS transmitter. The other day a man from Texas fell and broke his ankle. It took rescue crews over 4 hours to get him out because the area was so rugged. Sad way to end his hike that began in GA. I wish I had a partner for the rest of Maine but since I don’t it’s carry on Quickie. Two more days of hiking and I’ll be done with the rugged terrain – for a little while. I estimate I’ll summit Katahdin around July 12 – give or take two days. Usually the AT in Maine takes about one month to traverse so my time is on target considering I had some missed opportunities. I’ve decided however to take BB home and leave her there until I’ve completed Maine. The terrain is just to difficult and I don’t want her getting hurt. When we walk through bogs she sinks almost to her tummy.
Having her tethered to my waist is difficult because the lead gets caught on roots or rocks requiring me to free her multiple times. It’s hard to take pictures because I’m never really hands free. I’ve also noticed more wildlife activity in the woods after 3pm which frightens BB. I hear noises that I don’t hear earlier in the day, especially the eerie scream of fishers.
I’ve also come to the conclusion that peakbagging the 3000 and 4000 footers carrying my backpack is really hard. I was concerned about my “fake knees” but it’s the metal in my ankle that seems to ache with the activity/extra weight. So I’m tackling the mountain ranges as day hikes carrying a lighter day pack. I’ve always complained because living in the Western Mountains of Maine means a lengthy car drive for most things. For the AT however it’s manna from heaven because I live right in the middle of them. I know; I’m getting spoiled by being able to return home at the end of a day but that luxury is quicky coming to an end. I’m ready!!!
I’ve done 89 miles since June 7 which isn’t too bad considering the terrain. The AT is somewhat convoluted in Western Maine as it seems to weave and crisscross. The good thing however is that after being on it for almost a week, AWOL’s Guide finally makes sense. Previously it felt like reading hieroglyphics whenever I tried to study it but once I started hiking and got a visual feel for the trail, the guide made sense. (💡) .
So far I’ve been doing a combination of day hikes and a few overnighters because my daughter has been joining me but can’t do overnights. However I’m almost to a point where coming home at the end of the day would involve a lengthy drive so towards the end of the week I’ll start staying out until I’ve completed Katahdin. After that I’ll return home to get on the trail where I initially started only this time to go SOBO.
Today I spent quite awhile in the Sugarloaf area where I saw a young moose. Of course he appeared as I was digging through my stuffed pack and by the time I was ready to take a picture he’d disappeared. I’m sure there will be many more sightings as moose are common in Maine. While I was hanging at Sugarloaf I decided that my backpack was too heavy and both ascending and descending inclines were more difficult because of it. With my 3 L bladder full and several days of food it weighed 40# ~ too much. Last week Matt, owner of Tumbledown Brewing in Farmington, helped adjust the pack and gave me valuable insight as to the most efficient way to pack. Today after returning home I touched base with another hiker and she helped set me on a lighter course. That, coupled with the advice from Matt, made a huge difference. My self made first aid kit had so many items that it probably would have worked in a war zone; definitely an overkill. I ordered a lighter but equally efficient water filter from REI which will hopefully arrive soon. Based on my hiking friend’s suggestions I swapped out a lot of clothes. Then came the really hard part. It was “very difficult” to thin out the assorted hair products I’d packed to maintain “The Bush” but it had to be done. I’ll just have to stop every once in a while to have it weed whacked. End of that problem.
Showers are forecasted again tomorrow but I have a pack cover so am headed back out. I actually find the woods somewhat tranquil during rain but not sure if Bailey B will feel the same. So far she’s been a champ but…….
Glad to be home but anxious to return. I’m grounded for rest of the week but for a good reason – I am loved. Apparently a black bear attacked a teenage boy in the Smokies a few days ago. Young man is so lucky he didn’t lose an eye. My daughter is concerned because Maine has a black bear population so she ordered bear spray from Amazon which is scheduled for delivery Friday. It’s going to add another 11 ounces to my weight but who am I to complain? I feel blessed to have a daughter that loves me so much. My friend came over and assembled the tent in a matter of minutes. How many ways can I say Duhhhh@me? I’m going to set it up several times before going back out to make sure I’ve mastered it. He also looked at my JetBoil and it has a broken igniter wire. I could just continue to use matches but considering it was over $100 I think I’ll exchange it at LL Bean. I’m just tired of gear replacements and shopping in general; I’d rather be hiking. I do have one more thing to buy though, a life jacket for BB. I’d feel better with her wearing one when we ford. She’ll be attached at my waist and if for some reason I drop her she’ll be safe with a jacket until I can scoop her back up. She looks small but she’s actually 25#.
Finally being on the AT was exhilarating, even if for just a few days. I hadn’t figured out my UL Big Agnes tent so had an older one. It’s funny how our minds perceive certain things; I’d looked at that tent dozens of times, watched a a You Tube video, and still couldn’t figure it out. Sometimes the simplest things confuse me the most because I think as a society we’ve grown accustomed to intricate directions written in a plethora of languages and online tutorials. The days of “connect A to B” are long gone.
My iPhone really used a lot of power taking videos even though I kept it in airplane mode. It’s in a Mophie case which I turned on by the time I’d reached Saddleback Stream. When I left that morning I didn’t plan on staying out so didn’t bring the battery charger. Big mistake which I won’t make again because I want to capture as much of the trail as possible either in photos or video.
Setting up the old tent was a breeze as was inflating the Big Agnes Q Core. I was glad that I’d chosen a down sleeping bag with a rating of 15 because I’m a cold sleeper. My hard work dehydrating foods paid off because the meals I’d brought rehydrated beautifully. Here I was in the middle of the woods of Maine eating Spanish rice & beans while BB chomped down on her rehydrated Honest Kitchen food. I’d brought sleeping pills as suggested in case the night sounds bothered me. They did spook me a bit but I was afraid if I took a sleeper I wouldn’t wake up if there was a problem (like Bigfoot stopping in for a nocturnal visit). I’d decided before the hike that I’d keep BB leashed to my waist strap during the night in case she decided to get up and sneak out but to the best of my knowledge she didn’t even try. We woke around 0600 and had breakfast. Gotta love the JetBoil Mini Mo – heats water quickly and efficiently. Only problem is the “sparker” isn’t working so used matches. Hopefully my friend who’s going to help me figure out my tent can look at the stove as well. I cleaned up camp and decided to try and make it to Saddleback and Route 27. By this time I was berating myself for not configuring my inReach correctly because I was encountering glitches. I’d spent so much time cooking and dehydrating that I shortchanged my gear. No big deal though because I’d fix it when I got home. This trip wasn’t about sweating the small things; I do enough of that at home with my AAA personality. This trip was about not caring about anything but the present. I refuse to get agita over things out of my control, worry about what ifs or has beens.
Once I made a decision to hike the trail I realized that eating was going to present a problem because as the title indicates, I’m a vegetarian. I’ve had a few health issues in the past because of insufficient protein intake and knew how important it was to maintain good nutrition while hiking. Existing on ramen noodles, peanut butter and Clif bars wasn’t going to cut it so I started exploring my options and decided that cooking and dehydrating meals was the way to go. Since I’d never dehydrated before I had to turn to my buddy Google to tell me how. Picked up a dehydrator at BJ’s (on sale with $20 off) and began perusing other hiker’s blogs and backpacking sites for meal ideas and tips. I also turned to my own recipe files because I wanted to find meals I liked but that would be “dehydrator friendly”. Stacked with a fairly good collection the shopping commenced. Bought a variety of rices and quinoa in bulk along with several cases of beans – black, red kidney, soy and pigeon peas (gandules). I turned my kitchen into a mini assembly line, cooking, dehydrating and packaging. I love Spanish food but my family doesn’t so I happily cooked a variety of rice and bean meals in addition to Cuban and Guatemalan. I learned to sauté in wine because fats don’t dehydrate well. I made a LOT of rice cooked in a variety of milks – almond, cashew and almond/coconut. I stayed away from whole coconut milk due to the fat content. The method I used for packaging my food I learned from Chef Glen’s site. What a great source of information! Highly recommend checking it out.
I was so excited to be on the AT even though I knew it was only for two days. The first thing I passed was a small but tranquil water falls. Then as I walked ahead I saw steep rocks and gnarled tree roots. Now what I haven’t mentioned is that I had both of my knees replaced in 2011 and haven’t done much climbing since. I approached the rocks while trying to convince myself that they weren’t really that difficult. I grabbed onto some roots and up I went. Pheww! Even though small it was my first test and I’d passed. My hiking partner, Bailey B (trail name BB for Baxter Babe) scampered over rocks and roots as if she was frolicking in a meadow. This was her first outing in the forest and she was thoroughly enjoying it. As we walked through the forest I couldn’t help but think about the book that sparked my interest in the Appalachian Trail, Blind Courage. It’s the story of Bill Irwin, a seeing impaired alcoholic who, guided by his service dog Orient, was the first blind person to hike the trail. I thought back to the rocks I’d initially encountered and marveled how Mr. Irwin had navigated not just them, but far bigger and more dangerous obstacles along the way. He was driven by faith; both in God and Orient. I suddenly felt very small and insignificant for having panicked at the sight of a few rocks.
I rambled along the trail at my usual snail pace, loving the trees and tranquility. I was a bit surprised to see trees marked with a white rectangular shape as I’d always read about the “white blazes”. Nonetheless they were marked so I knew BB and I were heading in the right direction. Then I saw it – a bog bridge. Now logically I know that should I fall off a log the only thing that would happen is I’d get really muddy. I just wasn’t prepared to play Indiana Jones less than two miles in. Bailey took it in stride, leaving little wet paw prints on the logs. We finally reached the end where the trail exited onto a dirt logging road. We crossed it and continued on the other side. There were more bog bridges but at this point I felt like the Log Lady – I rocked those babies. Soon we came to Piazza Rock, a name I recognized from the trail guide which excited me almost as much as Starbucks.
I didn’t want to start my hike in Georgia otherwise known as NOBO because those typically start in March and April. My granddaughter’s First Holy Communion was in April, my grandson’s high school graduation June 5 and I definately wanted to be present for both. So I decided I’d start in Maine and head to Georgia thereby becoming a SOBO hiker. Technically I’m a “flipflopping SOBO” because I’m starting in Western Maine, working my way north to Katahdin, returning to my starting destination and heading south. Phewwww! That even confuses me. I wanted to begin my hike on June 7, my grandson’s birthday, because I knew it would be lucky and I needed all I could get. Few little problems loomed in front of me; I was waiting for replacement of a defective piece of gear and I hadn’t had the time to properly program my inReach Explorer, the satellite tracking device I’d purchased. Being a somewhat superstitious person, I was convinced that if I DIDN’T get on the trail on June 7, petulance, famine and warts would plague me. So bright and early (well perhaps not early), I took my first step onto the trail. Wow! Not sure what I expected but I was super excited.