On a NOBO thru-hike, the last state to visit is Maine. The ultimate landmark during the adventure in the Pine Tree State is the wooden sign on top of the beautiful Mount Katahdin. In order to arrive at this iconic signpost a thru-hiker must traverse 281 very difficult miles. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy considers the trail in Maine to be the most difficult of all fourteen states. Beginner hikers are discouraged from attempting this part of the A.T. Even experienced hikers often average one mile per hour in some parts of this rugged terrain. Some sections in Maine require that the thru-hiker grab onto tree roots and limbs in order to climb up or descend through the trail’s obstacle course. Parts of the path are especially slippery and hazardous in wet weather making it necessary to slide down on the seat of one’s pants or crawl on one’s hands and knees. I am very nervous about Maine and yet I look forward to it at the same time.
The Appalachian Trail through Maine encounters numerous lakes, streams, and bogs. Such abundant water sources attract the magnificent moose and the mournful, crazy calls of the common loon (want to hear the loons? – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ENNzjy8QjU). The water also makes for muddy trail-ways and numerous mountain streams that must be forded. Some of these fords can be tricky and potentially life-threatening when water is high so common sense and extreme care are the orders of the day.
The 281 miles in Maine can be roughly divided into three segments: let’s consider the first on this blog and leave the other two for additional postings.
The southern section (technically the western section) is an area of extremely steep, 4,000-foot mountains, arguably the toughest part of the entire A.T. It includes the notorious mile-long boulder challenge of Mahoosuc Notch – up, down, over, under and around the rocks. There are several videos trying to capture the experience – this one is really short but I like it because it paints a good picture of hiking the notch with a full pack on your back – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pJnH30wB98
This southern section runs (although “crawls” might be a better verb to use) for 109 miles from the New Hampshire state line (NOBO mile 1904) to Bigelow Preserve (mile 2013). During this stretch of the trail there are 13 shelters (an average of a shelter every 8.4 miles) so there is plenty of safe places to spend the night but only four towns “close” to the path: Andover (9 miles east), Oquossoc (11 miles west), Rangeley (9 miles west), and Stratton (5 miles west). This section of the trail will take some wise strategy in planning a food resupply – my plan will hopefully fall in place once I figure out how many miles I can hike a day in this terrain. Hitch-hiking into town may be very appealing at the 1,965 mile marker.
Welcome Photo: http://whereswalden.com/2008/07/