We are just about to leave the delightful town of Monson and get back on the trail. Our last leg rendered us nine days out without phone service, wireless, texts, meetings, netflix and email chains. Although it has felt surprisingly lonely and/or isolating being without these threads to our friends and family and community/work lives, it also has been pretty liberating.
I’ve listened to my thoughts a lot.
They often weave toward gratitude for these things I am missing and a desire to share them.
On balance, our journey through the 100 mile wilderness felt rigorous, exhausting, inspiring, fun. The second day was by far the worst. The day after our Katahdin summit, it was also the day we entered the “Wilderness”. First thing in the morning we took an accidental “blue blazed” side trail for an extra two miles – and realized it, but were like “oh well it meets up with the AT soon” and then when it did meet up with the AT, we took a left instead of a right, and after another mile we ended up back where we had started that day. Literally back at the campground we had slept the night before. *EXPLETIVE* That mistake added 3 miles to our 13.5 mile day. 16.5 miles was more rigorous than we had hoped for the beginning of the journey.
We stupidly blew off food all day – we were too anxious to get where we wanted to be that night. At the last store before the 100 mile wilderness we had 2 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon for dinner. PRIORITIES. We entered the 100 mile wilderness at 5pm and were IMMEDIATELY SWARMED by mosquitoes – not unlike a Biblical plague. There were 30-40 landing all over our necks and faces and hands and ankles. We had put on 70% DEET to virtually no effect, so had to put on windbreakers, long wind pants, silicon mittens and head nets in the 85 degree heat and hike the final 3.5 miles to our campground.
When we arrived at Hurd Brook Lean-to we were, as they say, unhappy. We set up and finally made dinner. Every time we raised the head nets to eat we were swarmed and getting bites on our faces. We also noticed some toilet paper strewn around our site, the last one available since we rolled in so late. We christened it the Poo Site. We finally attempted to hang the bear bag which weighed too much with 10 days of food, and the branch broke on Nko’s head.
It was a laugh or cry situation, so I cried.
We went to sleep around 9pm and honestly the next days were so much better. We now believe this was our biblical test.
We’ve seen some lovely views and SO MANY TREES… unbelievable numbers of trees. And most of all have met really generous and kind people.
The two little small towns that cap the 100 mile wilderness (Millinocket and Monson) are great – old historic buildings, charm, open and public spaces, small businesses, but the best part really is that the people are rad. So kind. They make eye contact with strangers, ask how things are and maintain that eye contact. Are unpretentious and open and warm to everyone.
When we finally were leaving the 100 mile wilderness, we hiked 10 miles before noon and were on Maine highway 15 trying to hitch a ride into town. About 20 cars passed us up, so we started walking. After about a mile in the blinding heat we stopped in the shade and put on sunscreen. We were bummed about the blazing heat and semi trucks blazing by.
I looked up the drive where we were stopped and there was a white van. The guy in the driver’s seat waved, then held a cold Budweiser out window. He offered us two beers and a ride into town. at that moment he was literally an angel… weirdly his name was Michael. Michael my guardian angel. Salt of the earth. He was so nice and chatty. A Vietnam vet who said he was hard of hearing because of riding his Harley the last 36 years (his longest term relationship he joked) and also his years with Nascar.
Monson holds 600 souls and a handful of buildings that must be around 150 years old. The town was founded in 1822 – and there’s zero new development. The hostel is in a huge old house and has a restaurant and bar, and is right on the lake with free kayaks to borrow and a warm lake to swim in. There’s a historical society across the street and sweet old church steeples framed by American flags running down the one main street.
Today we begin leg two of the hike – approximately six days to Stratton where we’ll quickly stop in to get a mail drop with new snacks!