Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Day 154: Into the 100-Mile Wilderness

August 8: It was a big day. I was heading into the infamous 100-Mile Wilderness and wouldn't get off the trail again until I had finished it! Monson was my last trail town.

A lot hikers seemed nervous about the 100-Mile Wilderness. It just sounds somewhat scary, doesn't it? One hundred solid miles of wilderness! Guidebooks recommend that people carry at least 10 of food to get through, but few thru-hikers actually carry that much. We're in excellent shape at this point and can get through in half that time without too much trouble.

A scary-looking sign, don't you think? =)

But, if you want my opinion, it's reputation as a "wilderness" has a lot to be desired. There are actually quite a number of roads that cross this so-called wilderness, albeit unimproved dirt roads. We'll cross a railroad track, and from the higher elevations, can stay in contact with the outside world with smartphones. Although--generally speaking--it feels like a wilderness experience for most of the trek, it's rather deceptive because the corridor of the wilderness is actually fairly narrow. When you're in the middle of the 100-Mile Wilderness, it doesn't mean that civilization is a minimum of 50 miles away. No, it means each end of the wilderness is 50 miles away, the north-south route the AT largely follows.... and civilization might be a mere 10 miles away to the east or west.

It's not nearly as remote or treacherous as its name would imply, but I don't think most thru-hikers realize this when they get here.

But this was also the last leg of our journey before we reach the sacred Promise Land known as Katahdin. So even though the wilderness designation didn't concern me, I was still anxious and excited. My journey was coming to an end!

For breakfast, I had another hearty breakfast at Shaws. I filled myself with blueberry pancakes until I felt like my belly would pop. The more I ate now, I figured, the less I'd have to carry later.

It was Saturday morning and the post office wouldn't open until later in the day, but Bearfish--who was taking the day off--offered to mail it ahead for me after I left for the trail. I packed up my laptop in a priority mail box I had picked up at the post office the previous day and gave him that and $20 to mail for me. And I gave him my email address. "Send me the tracking number once it's in the mail," I asked him... just in case the laptop wasn't at the correct post office when I arrived, it would be nice to know where it did go.

Hikers were headed all over the place today. Some had slackpacked about 20 miles into the 100-Mile Wilderness already and were therefore getting a ride back to the trail 20 miles up. Others had walked down the two miles from Pleasant Road and were getting a ride back there. I needed to get back to the trailhead on Highway 15, along with Axon and Shrugged (a couple of French Canadians--they're everywhere, I tell you!), and Poet drove us all back to the trailhead.

He seemed a little misty-eyed at our departure, telling us how much we were going to love this next section of trail and wanting a group hug before we started on our way. I really like Poet. He's got a heart of gold and really loves the hiker community.

Goodell Brook Falls
Almost immediately, I took a slight detour to Goodell Brook Falls because hey, why not? It was close to the trail and it's a waterfall!

The trail passed a scary-looking sign warning about the remoteness of the 100-Mile Wilderness, an exaggeration at best.

Then passed a series of pretty lakes. There were two streams that I had to ford, both of which had ropes set up across them, and both ropes I avoided when I decided that there was a better place to cross nearby.

The hiking was rugged. Besides the two river fords, we had the usual steep ups and downs, thick pools of mud and slippery roots, but it was nothing we hadn't done before. I was pretty well sick of, though. I just wanted a nice, easy walk in the woods at this point. I was so over the mud, roots and rugged terrain!

I'd only made it about 15 miles when I called it a day at the Long Pond Stream Lean-to. When I started the day, I had hoped to reach the next shelter another 4 miles ahead, but between my late 8:30 AM start and the rugged terrain, I wouldn't make it there before dark. Nope, I had to call it quits after 15 miles.

I'd share the shelter with Loon and Young Blood, both northbound thru-hikers that I only met for the first time recently. We talked about our after-AT plans, and Loon just about jumped up with excitement when she heard that I was planning to do the GR20 because she had done part of it earlier and loved it and wanted to go out and do the whole thing someday. She also told me about getting lost and eventually bailing out before reaching the end of her hike. "Have an up-to-date guidebook," she advised me. Will do!

Young Blood was talking about just turning around at Katahdin and hiking southbound. Crazy SOB. =) He didn't want the trail to end.

From the shelter, we could hear off-road motorcycles roaring around in the distance.

"Don't you just love the peace and tranquility of a wilderness?" I told them. They laughed. Young Blood expressed surprise about crossing the railroad tracks.

"Yes," I agreed. "Out west, we do wildernesses differently. We don't allow railroads in them. Or roads. Or motorized vehicles. It's pretty nice! You should check it out sometime!" =)

And at the end of the day, we had reached a big milestone: Katahdin and was a mere 99.4 miles away... we had less than 100 miles to the end of trail!

Little Wilson Falls (you should see the BIG one!)

Another creek, another ford!
The rope across the creek was pretty much useless (in my opinion, at least).
Deep in the wilderness.... it's not as wilderness-like as you might expect!

Another creek, another ford!
And other useless rope across the creek....
Loon (L) and Young Blood (R) set up camp in the Long Pond Stream Lean-to.


Karolina said...

Woo-hoo, we're almost there! Just a mere 99.4 miles to go!

Anonymous said...

So, is the useless rope there for you to hang your pack off a carabiner so that you can pull your pack high and clear of the raging Rapids while you for fording? 😉

Ryan said...

That's shorter than the distance of the TMB or GR 20! Woo-who! I really am almost done! =)