The 100 Mile Wilderness
 
Day 2: Day started at 4:30, it’s hard to go back to sleep when there’s light outside and I’d been camped since nearly 4pm the day before. Dawdled and didn’t get moving until after 5:30, including 10 min unpacking and repacking my stuff because I didn’t check the correct outside pocket for my watch, ugh.

The fun part came shortly afterwards as I was hiking. I had to ford some streams. The first one was about knee deep, I mentally prepared myself, moved my phone from my pants to my shirt pocket, and then proceeded to step into a 3 foot hole and fell forward into the water. It was refreshing in between the “oh shit”s. Well, soaked now. A couple miles later, came to another Ford site. I game planned slightly better to move from stone-to-stone. It would’ve been a lot easier with a pole or stick to maintain two balancing points against the current. But when do I do things the easy way?

As I was getting near the park exit, I ran into a trail stewart (ridge runner) who was responsible for being ambassador for that part of the trail. Super nice guy, retired Navy, he walked with me to the Abol store where I grabbed a Coke (no Dr. Pepper there!) and ate lunch with three NOBOs about to finish, Scooby, Jeeves, and JC Penney. The restaurant had a caveat in the end of their menu regarding their high prices; there’s no electricity in the park, the store and restaurant run off a diesel generator for 16 hours a day. Server was super cute, too.

Then it was time to head into the 100 mile wilderness. The rugged, boggy, and uneven terrain continued. I hit the Hurd Shelter at about 14 miles on the day, and it was already packed. I just kept walking. It was kind of cool because I got to play hopscotch from rock-to-rock across a nice size pool of water. Still, I was dragging. Ate a power bar and then found a nice stone almost in the shape of a bench at the top of a hill where I made my dinner. Felt like a pro.

Then I contemplated cowboy camping (tentless) until the sky contemplated raining. I took off in a hurry to find the first tent-able location I could find. Setup was Rocky, but it got done. And my tent smells really bad. I was sure I dried it out last time I used it…ugh. Hoping it will air dry overnight. Here goes the first night in a tent. And the rain.

On a disappointing note, my Altra Lone Peaks are already peeling away in the front and the insoles are all over the place. At 26 miles. Yes, they’ve been flooded, multiple times, but disappointed for a trail shoe. I have had a previous pair of Paradigms do the insole shuffle, but it was the last 12 hours of Vol-State, that’s almost 300 miles before the issues began. I’m thinking maybe I’ll try super glue on the soles? Only 90 more miles until I get to a store.

 
This is what i woke up Day 2, open shelter facing a steady stream. Awesome.
Altra disappointing. Front of the shoes peeling with less than 30 miles.
Like this in both shoes. That’s fun.

Day 3: Started strong, although I didn’t sleep much as my tent seemed to collapse around me all night long until (I realized in the morning) that I pulled the tie downs off the back two stakes. Rookie move; need to place the stakes at better angles.

And then came the mud that devours men’s souls. At first it wasn’t bad, there were pretty stones to jump over and then WHAM. 100 feet of mud, no aid. After which I willy full plowed through a lot more mud.

I hit a beautiful shelter for lunch, right on a stream, and rinsed my socks, shoes, gaiters, shirt, and part of my pants. Ate my oatmeal cold, but directly in the packets meaning no mess! Even met this crazy guy that was obsessed with bears and bear attacks; primarily grizzlies, but a nice guy, nonetheless.

After lunch, things spiraled quickly. Just ran out of steam after the first 10 miles it seemed like. I did meet Papa Yeti, friend of the NOBOs I met yesterday. He was out of snacks and hiker hunger was hitting hard. Being the generous guy that I am, I gave him about a pound of trail mix (yes, conveniently that also took a pound out of MY bag). The rest was just a spot up another hill that had a view 16 miles line of sight to Katahdin. That’s great, it only took me 36 miles to get there.

My knees started killing me on the down hill so I called it quits at the next shelter. Had dinner and shortly after came Matt and Ryan (the brothers from the first night). I pass them them early in the morning and they overtake me at night. They’re hoping to escape the wilderness Friday morning. Their game plan actually sounded pretty good, I might try to link up tomorrow.

Still, I’m amazed at what my body consistently does. No training and I’m putting up as many miles as some of the NOBOs coming through. Even thinking back on spring break to Key West. Just enter the grind and go, even when everything is failing you, the legs continue to pump, miraculously. Oh yes, and don’t skip leg day at the gym. 3 days of climbing and my legs are destroyed! Grind, grind, grind.

 
This was one of the nice bog crossings, rock-to-rock.
Some random nice view up the mountain. Mile 35.7?
Almost ready for bed…
Day 4: So, I knew today would come eventually, although I hoped not yet. This was a grind day. I had a headache that started last night and around midnight I took two ibuprofen, which didn’t help much, but I tossed and turned some more until 5:30, my latest wake-up yet. I pounded food and water most of the day, but to no avail, the headache continued.
 
I can’t help but wonder if it has to do with differences in nutrition, sugar, and/or caffeine. I packed fairly healthy food, outside of the fish and chips I ate a few days ago.
 
It’s unfortunate because the terrain today was far and away the most walkable I’ve done yet. Most of the day was walking along a river with two small fords which, had I not misplaced my foot, would have been crossed dryly. To aid with the fords and the hills, I adopted a walking stick and named him “Bo.” Tom Hanks had Wilson; I have Bo.
 
However, today was also the day of blow-downs. Down trees everywhere! At one point, I lost the trail and did circles for 20 minutes trying to figure out where I was going. Rather than continuing this senseless course of action, I took an hour siesta with a snack on the side of the trail. About 40 minutes in, hikers heading northbound came through and said stay to the river. Duh. There were a lot of other bypasses today.
 
Miraculously, after a break in the afternoon, I put on music and suddenly got a little burst of energy. My headache vanished to just lingering in the back of my skull. I could live with that. Of course, the black flies and no-see-ums wrecked havoc on me today. Already feeling terrible, they went to town landing consistently in my hair or flying into my eyes.
 
And then, I turned a corner and got my first trail magic! Two blue buckets full of snacks, ramen, etc dedicated by a local boy scout troop. I was dreaming of cheezits and then there they were. I also took a chicken ramen for dinner and it was so so good. After eating, I was terribly thirsty and finished all my water. Around the next corner, a little stream going down the hill. Jackpot. The trail will provide.
 
Then it was trying to find a place to sleep…and up came Matt and Ryan who I’d passed earlier that morning, per our routine since Katahdin. However, today we all set up outside a shelter with gorgeous cascades. Unfortunately, it is packed to the brim, and there‘s a lot of trash. Dirty NOBOs. Here’s to hoping no little critters visit my tent today. And that my tent doesn’t fall over!
 
21.5 miles today and a mountain ahead tomorrow.
View in front of Cooper Brook Falls Lean-To
Bo says “hi.”
Day 5: The Grinder… I think of the book Armor (fantastic book!). In it, there is a main character Felix. In the beginning, he’s a member of the empire army going to invade an alien planet (think Starship Troopers almost). His first mission is as a scout on the initial invasion; long story short, his whole unit is wiped out, he KNOWS he’s going to die, and yet a primal instinct he refers to as the engine kicks in. It’s almost a total psychological break, and the engine is the ultimate survivor mechanism that gets him through as the lone survivor. Due to a system glitch; however, he continues being redeployed in on nearly every mission and this instinct continually takes over.
 
Where that is relevant is in comparison to distance running or, in this case, hiking. I can’t fathom the distances that I do, nor do I know how I’m going to do it. At some point, this instinct just takes over. My body goes on to autopilot while my mind is merely a passenger to the repetitive left-right left-right, even when it feels like all energy and resources are exhausted. Similar to Felix, that instinct just takes it, and I think there is a primal sense to it. I imagine if you talk to another long distance runner, they could explain it.
 
However, sometimes it’s not just running, but life that goes on autopilot…and that’s when I need to figure out how to plug back in and things become problematic.
 
As for today, it was a struggle. Lots of climbing and two mountains. The first mountain I was actually watching a cloud pass over the summit while I was there; granted, that’s all I was seeing. Still, very cool.
 
The unfortunate part was on the way down. I took a nasty fall that could’ve been really bad. Fortunately, it just appears to be a jammed left wrist. Paired with the troublesome shoulder, I figure that’s fitting.
 
Now, I pushed hard today with the goal of getting to Monson Thursday night, take a full day off Friday, and continue on Saturday when the body has had a chance to recover. Here’s hoping that plan holds up.
 

Oh, and I forgot Bo by a tree. He’s with family now, and he suffered a fatal injury prior to that. Was going to be a slow death; now I’ve got a much sturdier stick, but he hasn’t claimed a name.

Top of White Cap. Clouds passing over.
Day 6:
 
Respect: Their names have the word mountain in them for a reason.
 

Hubris: No water for two-plus hours in the middle of the day because it was ONLY two miles.

Exhaustion: I don’t know where I am, but I’m sleeping here. And I didn’t set up the tent.

If I survive the night, Monson is the goal for tomorrow.

Day 7: Zombie mode.
 
Energy was low all day, even as I hit Barren Mountain which was my last high point in the 100. Of course, it seemed like I continued to climb the rest of the day, anyways.
 
Contributor to my dreary mood was my shoes, they finally broke me. Forded a river and the left insole immediately flopped up. Dried fixing it twice shortly after which got me another 15 steps. Four really bad miles followed. I think these are getting tossed in Monson unless we can come to some.sort of understanding.
 
Lowest mileage day yet, outside of Katahdin, at 12 miles and I feel fortunate to have made that. Warm dinner and last of my rice and beans (terrible!). Get some pizza tomorrow!
 
Fortunate to be landed in a shelter about an hour before a hard rain hit. Dry and recovering for 10 mile push out of the woods tomorrow. Met Stefan and a 79 year old trying to outrun his friends with a day head start. Stefan is a NOBO from Switzerland. He runs a four-course dinner theatre at Switzerland, where he also performs at times. Pretty cool guy. The 79 year-old has a badass military record and looks pretty strong for an old guy.
 
Speaking of shelters, cowboy camping without the tent was awesome – I might be ditching the tent and converting to a tarp with a bigger ground cover (instead of the tiny cut off one that I brought). Use the tarp when there’s some type of precipitation and maybe cut some weight.
 
Atop Barren Mountain beside the remnants of an old fire tower.

Day 8: Monson

Tossed and turned most of the night, not unusual, and got moving just after daybreak. The 79 year-old had already moved on, he figured moving one mph, he needed as many hours as possible so he was gone at 5.

I departed shortly afterwards, but the body did not want to go. Slowly got momentum, and then I got to another large ford. Figuring I would try to help my feet, I took off my shoes for the first time and went barefoot across the river holding a rope hanging across. Pretty good current. First step, I slipped and the bottom part of my pack fell in, including my shoes hanging off that side. Fuck. So, my shoes were damp all day, and I just went ahead and kept the troublesome insole out. I felt the roots and rocks a bit more, but better than a bunched up lump right in the middle of my feet. I just walked straight across the next ford, shoes and all, as I had done with the others.

Actually, it was pretty steady moving afterwards. There was some trail magic left out and I managed to get an apple. It was divine. I left the seeds and very little else.

Amusingly, while I stopped for lunch, a group of two man came up to the shelter and they were the friends of the older gentleman from the night before! They are trying to finish next Friday so one of the men can finish his final leg of the AT (done in sections) at Katahdin for his 70th birthday. Age means little. And, I told them how their friend was fighting to stay ahead!
I finally exited the 100 mile wilderness a little after two pm. Second dragon slain. Now to relax for a little bit in Monson. Lakeshore House has been awesome so far; great food, views, and even a rare Friday night live music!

 
The last 100 mile wilderness sign.
The Aftermath:
 
Dropped @ Mile 63: Lotion, Chapstick, Camp Socks, Rain Pants
Shipped @ 115: army jacket, notebook, aqua mira, gloves, boonie hat, some medical supplies, half AT guide book (to be reclaimed later)
 

Positives:
– Scenery and views were absolutely breathtaking. Some of the views off the mountains and walking along the top of the were cool. Even the cloud going over White cap that blocked any view.
– Lots of water and waterfalls; they’re my favorite. So relaxing.
– Met some really interesting folks on the way through.
– I survived due to flexibility, despite a total lack of knowledge of what I’m doing. Learning though.
– Held a strong pace, possibly too hard, but feet feel great, despite the plethora of issues.

Improves/Concerns:
– Intake more food (need to increase to more like 3500 a day, which is still a deficit)
– Right knee hurts, especially on the sharp drops. Need to slow down/rest as muscles acclimate. Worried about some of the big climbs left in Maine and New Hampshire.
– Need to drop excess weight; pack might just be -slightly- too large (seriously, if I can tighten a strap another inch), limiting my ability to tighten the weight against my back.
– Shoes need to be burned. Going to see if I can get new insole(s) and go from there. Worst case, I hike to Caratunk with one insole.
– Phone is glitching out. Replacement phone since Key West trip; new issues. LG G5? Suck it. Fortunately, not unusable.

About Scott

Writer. Teacher. Learner. Keen on process and individual improvement. And running really, really far.

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