I awoke to a buzz of activity of other hikers packing up and hurrying downstairs for breakfast. I followed suit. I sat down at a table with some hikers I had been seeing intermittently. They were talking about the end of their journey and how they weren’t ready to go back to sleeping inside and in a bed. I didn’t feel like I could quite related just yet so I ate in silence. The owner of the hostel Poet, gave me and 4 other hikers a ride to the trail. Poet recited some poignant poem about the life changing site of Katahdin and what it is to reach the top of it. I can’t remember it now because I was too preoccupied with my nerves about starting the 100 miles wilderness. It felt like the first day of school and I was about to enter into a chapter of this hike I was not so confident about. There were rivers to ford. There were no easy bail out points if I started to feel ill or got injured or ran out of food. What if I ran out of power on my devices. All of my hiking crutches were about to be thrown out the window.
The sign at the beginning is a bit unsettling too. I hoped it would take me less than 10 days to get through it. I was told thru hikers average 5 days through the 100 miles, but I couldn’t walk 25 miles a day. I had planned for about 7 days. There were still a few big climbs to tackle. The 100 mile wilderness is not flat as I kept hearing from a lot of hikers. Wishful thinking. I was thankful though that Verizon was mostly accessible in the region. Poet reassured us that we could just call him and he would come get us. I turned off my phone to conserve battery.
I began walking with a heavy heart. I had not met anyone that I could stick with to finish with. I met Brook Trout at once. He took my photo and I took his. He carried a fishing pole in is pack. I began walking as quickly as I could since we started at 9 which is rather late and I was trying to do 15 miles today. I quickly caught up with a trio of hikers Braveheart, Click and Click’s husband. Click’s husband had joined her in the beginning in Georgia and now rejoining her for the finish. It was a lovely sentiment and I longed for a partner to do that with. I continued on passed the trio as I was walking faster than they were. At 11, I stopped at Leeman Brook Lean-To for a snack and water break after 3 miles. I encountered a Southbound thru hiker still in their sleeping bag in the shelter with vape pin. They looked pretty ragged. I wished them good luck and worked my way around secluded ponds and rocky ledges to a water fall called Little Wilson Falls. I was surprised to see a gaggle of tourists in fashion sneakers, baby strollers and babies in them. I thought I was supposed to ford on the top of the falls but when I got to the other side there was no sign of a trail so I turned back to rock hop across the fast flowing creek again.
I climbed down a pile of rocks to get a better view of the falls. As I climbed back up looking for the trail a young hiker with an old external pack saw I was confused. She said, “trail’s that way” and point down the hill by the falls. I thanked her and scrambled away from the crowd. At the bottom of the hill is where I needed to ford. Luckily, I could rock hop across. I stopped on the other side for lunch. I sat a while to gather my nerves, turn on my phone and check on my progress. 6 miles down. As I was about to pack up I saw the young hiker come down the hill looking for the trail. My phone map showed the trail just a few yards upstream and so I pointed that way.
The trail was not too difficult. It ranged from a gentle pine needle covered path to manageable rocky boulders to climb over. Nothing too spectacular about this stretch.
At around 3 o’clock I came to my first big river crossing. It was Big Wilson Stream and there was a rope that went across it. The flow looked fast. Faster than the other streams I had crossed. I took off my pack, boots, and socks and put on my crocs. I sat for a minute to plan my route. The young hiker from before walked up as I was about to make my way. I looked at her well worn tennis shoes and old pack and worried she might have trouble crossing. She didn’t have any trekking poles. I offered to take her pack across. She declined. She took off her shoes and picked up a stick and wadded in. I watched her cross, holding my breath.
The water was knee deep and the current strong. I waited until she was half way across before I made my way in. The current was vibrating my trekking poles. I could not make a misstep. I moved slowly and deliberately. When I got to the other side I apologized to the hiker for underestimating her. She said, “that’s okay, I’m Em.” Em was 24, a nurse assistant from Portland, ME and an avid hiker. She grew up in Maine and had hiked up Katahdin several times. She took off a week from work to hike the 100 miles wilderness for the first time. The pack was her dad’s hunting pack, a Remington. I said goodbye to Em and I set off to knock out my final 5 miles of the day.
I made another stop at the Wilson Valley Lean To rest for a minute and eat a snack. I saw a hiker there in a red and black buffalo check flannel and jeans with a huge pack. 70 liters it looked like. And it was packed full. It looked heavy. He had draped a pair of soaked jeans on the top of his pack, assumingely the ones he had just forded in. He shouldered his pack and then began to walk toward the woods behind the shelter. He looked confused and then I shouted “the trails back this way” and pointed toward the stream in the opposite direction. His name was Jerod or “Sparky”.
After a pretty boring walk through the woods I reached my final ford of the day. I prepared my feet and began to cross the cold icy stream. I saw Em approach the stream as I was putting my boots back on. I threw a stick across to her to help with the crossing. The sun was beginning to set in the woods giving the forest a golden glow. It was just after 6 when I arrived at the Long Pond Stream Lean-To. There were a big group of guys there and all the good tent spots were taken so I squeezed in to the last spot in the shelter. The guys weren’t thru hikers, just out for a few days. Em arrived shortly after and put up a hammock. Jerod came in at about dark and set up his tent precariously on a hillside.
The group of us gathered around the fire that evening cooking our dinners and talking about hiking. Turns out the Em had done the Rim to Rim trail of the Grand Canyon and canoe portages across Maine lakes. Just below the shelter was a waterfall and so the evening was quite a pleasant with friendly company and I felt good even though my legs, knees, and hips hurt.
Miles: 2077.5 – 2092.6 (15.1)