Katahdin and 100-mile Wilderness

6 Jul

Well we made it out! If we could describe our experience in 3 words or less we would say: “muddy, challenging, gratifying”. While we loved every minute of hiking, we were also really happy to finish up an incredibly tough first section. The easiest way to describe it is to break it down a bit. So here goes:

Trail conditions:
In a word: gnarly. The previous week had been very rainy in Maine, creating a wet mudpit of a trail. We use the word “trail” very lightly, as it was mainly a root covered path, often with knee-deep mosquito infested bogs and some waist-high river crossings. Our previous 3-5mph pace became a 1-2mph pace if we were lucky. There was rarely a discernible path, mainly we just looked for the precious white AT markers on the trees and tried to follow them as best we could. The ups and downs were relentless, often made even more challenging by the wet rocks covering the trail. We tried to count the amount of times we fell each day, but it became too difficult to keep track after awhile. So far none of the spills were trail-ending, and we were even able to laugh at ourselves most of the time.

Physical status:
Though we had done the best we could to train ourselves on “tired legs”, nothing prepared us for what it would really feel like when your legs just fail you. We started off strong on Katahdin, knocking out the brutal 4500ft climb in 3.5 hours. Due to some logistics, we were forced to continue on and do a 20mile day that first day in order to get Bear with us. While the trail conditions were not optimal, we were still able to knock out a 15-mile day the following day due to fresh-ish legs. It wasn’t until the 3rd day that we started feeling the effects of starting with such high mileage. Emily took a spill day 3, wrenching her knee pretty badly. We cut the day short at 10.7 miles and stayed by Nahmahtaka Lake so we could “ice” our legs in the water and try to rest a bit. This seemed to help as the next two days were able to do 19 and 17 miles. During the 17 mile day 5 Emily started getting really sick during the last part of the day. She had a fever, was dehydrated and was forced to whimper down the trail to the campsite. Lots of Tylenol, electrolytes and some excellent cheddar broccoli soup brought her back to life so we could continue on the next morning. By day 6 the elevation changes of the trail combined with our general aches and pains and forced us to cut back our mileage. Day 6, 7 and 8 we did 11.7, 12 and 13.5 miles respectively, while Emily babied her knees and Jen took care of a gimpy right ankle. We arrived in Monson bruised, swollen and a bit haggered, but still laughing and making fun of ourselves.

Food:
Overall our food was pretty good. Our big error came when we originally packed our food up at Emily’s parents house. We were packing all our food for 2 people for 7 days and when we looked at our pile of food we both thought “it is TOO HEAVY!”. So we decided to not bring breakfast, but keep all the dinners and the snack foods and thought we would be ok.

We were wrong.

Neither of us could have imagined how hungry we would get so quickly. While training we had eaten little to no food and had been fine. But by day 2 on the trail we were ravenous morning til night. Our snacks consisted of fig newtons, mixed nuts, tortillas, nutella, snickers, fruit snacks, dried fruit and animal crackers. We carried snacks to eat as we walked and then had a mini “lunch” each day until we ran out of food. Dinners were Mac and cheese, Spanish rice, ramen with dried veggies, cheddar broccoli rice, and cheddar broccoli potato soup. Each night we had a handful of m&ms for dessert. Nighttime was basically the only time of day we felt “full” and it was lovely. The rest of the day we had a gentle gnawing hunger that never seemed to truly go away. When we realized our mileage was going to have to decrease we quickly leaned upon the kindness of strangers. A bag of trail mix, a couple of extra tortillas and a bag of couscous were amazing gifts for which we were incredibly grateful (thanks Mike Carr and Southside!). Still we were very happy to arrive in Monson where a giant box of food (including breakfasts) awaited to get us through the next 3 days!

Personalities:
We have already had the opportunity to meet some great folks on and off the trail. Our first night at Abol Bridge Campground we met Papa Tats who have us some great information after applauding our “speedy” 20 mile day. We then made a little trail family on day 3 with Southside, a section hiker with tons of trail experience, Mike Carr/Yellow Wolf, a SOBO from Iowa who is as nice as them come, and Matt, a SOBO hiking in minimalist shoes after giving away his boots on day 4. They all fell in love with Bear and kept us entertained at night in the shelters and camps. We even got to see Southside and Mike in Monson so we know what they look like clean!

Georgy Bear:
Before the trail we went back and forth about when and where Georgy should join us on the trail. We knew Maine would be difficult, the White Mountains challenging and Pennsylvania rocky and tough on paws. But in the end having Bear with us to build up mileage and be there from the start won out. Emily’s husband Gil was very gracious and stayed an extra day to wait with Georgy while we hiked out of Baxter State Park were no dogs are allowed. From then on Georgy carried his own weight in his dog pack and worked hard shepherding our little threesome down the trail. He rarely let us out of his sight, and was constantly running back to make sure we were ok. We think he will end up doing the trail at least twice with all his back and forth running! So far we have had great interactions with other hikers- everyone has loved him. He is so tuckered at night he just lays down at camp and doesn’t move for 12 hours so there have been no issues with him in or out of shelters. We have made sure he knows he can sleep under the shelter if he wants, but not in it. He is too tired to care anyway!

In summary, we have had some ups and downs but in general our spirits our high. Neither of us doubt we will make it to Georgia, so keep watching out for updates as we make our way south!

3 Responses to “Katahdin and 100-mile Wilderness”

  1. Judy July 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    So far, so good! It is wonderful to read this — I never thought that Maine would be that tough but, whew! Keep at it. I just drove to Ann Arbor for 2.5 days with Alison and Nirav, bringing my new pup, waldo, along. He tolerated the long drives but loved jumping from bed to bed in the cheap hotel I stopped in on the way….. Judy

  2. Kara July 6, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    You guys are amazing. Thanks for writing such a detailed update! I think about you three daily, especially as temperatures soar here in VA. Keep safe. Keep healthy. And, keep truckin!

  3. Alison K July 7, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    Wow! That sounds incredible! Thanks so much for your detailed account. I savored every word! I miss you!

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