Maine. The way a thru-hike should be. The reward for hiking almost 2,000 miles prior to arrival. The promised land.
There’s a good reason we got to Maine and proceeded to stay for almost an entire month. Sure, Southern Maine’s terrain is difficult, and almost 300 miles of trail stretch through this state, and we were just plain tired when we got there. But to be honest, none of this had anything to do with it. We stayed in Maine for almost a month because Maine is amazing.
After months of slogging through rain, mud, and humidity, after slipping on wet rocks every single day for weeks, after becoming accustomed to wet feet and clothes and hair, after clouded-in summit after clouded-in summit, after losing my tan in a summer spent living outside, the sun finally shined in Maine. Oh boy, did it shine! And it pretty much didn’t stop until we left.
And not only was Maine sunny; it also had incredible views, crystal clear river crossings, a diverse landscape that kept you guessing, lush pine forests, lakes and ponds and streams galore, the kindest people, and the absolute best campsites. In the 100-Mile Wilderness alone, we spent over half our nights sleeping at a water’s edge. My three favorite campsites of the entire trail were here, and happened to land three nights in a row – Antlers, Lake Nahmakanta, and Rainbow Lake Dam. All were on the water, all gorgeous, and all almost empty of people. I would wager that we swam over half our days in Maine. Some days, we swam multiple times in multiple places. And being that Ibex and I are both total mermaids, this made us incredibly happy.
We also got to experience the “most difficult mile of the AT” in Maine – Mahoosuc Notch. It is a mile of large boulders piled onto one another that forces you to scramble up, over, and down to make it across and back to “normal” trail. We hit it on a gorgeous, sunny day and had a blast finding our way through. It took us just over an hour. We all agreed – it’s not the hardest mile on the trail, but is certainly one of the most fun.
One of my very favorite mountain ranges of the trail was in Maine as well – the Bigelows. They were hard work, but they were SO worth it, with views that take your breath away. (And there are so many others as well – the Saddlebacks, the Horn, Katahdin…). I can’t stress enough how incredibly beautiful this state is.
On top of all this beauty, we also got back on track socially in Maine. Though we were never able to reunite our tramily, we were able to grow what was left and form a pretty spectacular Maine one. The four of us (Head Chef, Ibex, Baby, and me) became the seven of us, joined by our friends Moss and Dory, whom we met way back in Georgia, and Candyman, a section hiker who comes out to the trail for two weeks each year. All three had an infectious enthusiasm for the trail that just added to that already within our group. Some new blood was exactly what was needed to mend our loving but broken tramily, and it made our last few weeks on trail even more joyful.
I only have two complaints about the trail in Maine. Number one, even after all that camping at the water’s edge and often waking up by 6 a.m., I never saw a moose! Grrrrrrrr. And I was constantly on the lookout. Number two, the trail ended and I had to go home. I’ll write more in another post dedicated to my full experience once I’ve had some time to process it, but I will say, I was not ready for the trail to end. I know that time passes and there’s nothing we can do to stop it, but this was the most incredible summer of my life, and now it’s over. I feel like I’ve gone through another breakup, but this time with the trail. I’m still so deeply in love with trail life and I know it will get easier as time passes, but for now, it’s hard and it hurts. For those still on trail, please find the joy in each moment. Appreciate that you’re there every day. Because no one gets to stay, no matter how much you might want to.
So what’s next? I’m hoping to make a move out to Colorado (Denver or Boulder), so am job-searching there at the moment, looking for public relations positions. I can’t get enough of the mountains, even after living outside for the past six months!