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100 Mile Wilderness – Trip Planning

Maine Appalachian Trail

This summer I'll be doing a 9 day section of the Appalachian Trail in a very remote part of Maine called the 100 mile wilderness. The route I'll be taking is about 130 miles long, including a summit of Mt. Katadhin in Baxter State Park, the northernmost terminus of the AT.

This hike is going to be particularly challenging due to it remoteness and length. Most of section hikes that I do are 3 or 4 days long and I'm very good at planning out the food, fuel and gear required for this duration. But this hike will require me to bring food, fuel and gear for 9 days without a resupply: that's a lot longer than most thru-hikers go without stopping in a town.

I'm not to worried about the weight of carrying 9 days food in summer, but I've been giving a lot of thought to the gear that I plan on bringing, which will be a bit different than my normal summer kit.

Hiking in the Rain

For example, the section of Maine that I'll be hiking is full of ponds, lakes, and rivers and requires a fair number of stream crossings. Many sections of the trail are elevated on boardwalks to prevent overuse damage in wet and boggy areas. Plus, rainy weather is likely to be a factor.

When I hiked the Long Trail in Vermont last year, conditions were wet too, but hiking for 2 or 3 days in wet leather boots is a lot different than doing it for a week or more. So, I've been experimenting with Inov-8 Men's Roclite 370 Hiking Boots to see if it makes sense to bring them to Maine instead of my Asolo TPS 520's. After a bout of plantar faciitis a few years back, I am in mortal fear of wearing any boot except my Asolos, so you can't imagine what a big step this is for me.

This shoe is made without Gore-tex and is supposed to dry very quickly when wet. I've been wearing them for the past week and they feel great, but I haven't had the opportunity to do much hiking with them so far. I plan on jumping in some mud puddles with them next weekend in New Hampshire to see how they feel when they're wet and I have to hike on real mountains.

Rain Gear

In addition to boots, I'm probably going to bring a different shelter on this trip than my MLD Grace Duo tarp. With all the water, I think I'll be better off with a tarptent like my Squall 2 which has a vestibule for cooking and storing wet gear, and better bug protection than my tarp. My Squall 2 is very snug in heavy rain but I'll probably seal the seams this spring just to make sure I don't spring a leak in Maine.

In addition to extra food, I need a bigger bear bag to protect it. I currently use an XXL Spintex stuff sack from Mountain Laurel Designs to hold my food, so I've bought a second one so that I can balance them on a tree branch.

Finally, there's the issue of fuel and other personal care items. I will probably bring a canister fuel stove, despite the fact that I won't be able to resupply, simply for the convenience of having a fast fire. I often don't cook meals in summer, so bringing my stove is more of a safety decision in case I get chilled and need a warm up.

On the personal care side, I'll probably add a few ingredients to my first aid kit, like more zinc oxide to prevent thigh chafing and ibuprofen. In addition, I'll triple the amount of toilet paper, wet one's, hydropel and purell that I carry for the 9 day duration and I may add another pairs of socks and underwear to my clothing list to be on the safe side. I'm sure I'll be able to wash clothing along the way: the question is whether it will ever dry if the humidity remains high.

Other than that, the only additional item I may bring is a Gossamer Gear bug net in case I need to spend the night in a shelter to avoid heavy rain. This is a definite possibility and it's worth a few extra ounces to keep the shelter mice and mosquitoes off of me.

Have I forgotten anything else that you can think of?

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15 comments

  1. Get some Gore-Tex socks for them boots on the worse days, and I reckon that kit set up would do for Scotland as well. Scotland is wet, windy, wet, and more bogs than you could count. Bit like that place your going to.

  2. You'll love the 100 mile wilderness. When I hiked it, there was a road about half-way through and an easy walk to a campground with a small store. It's nice to know about this in case you have emergencies.

    You should just use the boots that you love and know work for you and not worry about the water too much.

    If you don't cook meals in the summer, don't bring the stove. We never had problems finding dry fuel for free, despite having hiked in '96 when people printed tee-shirt with the slogan, "We swam the AT in 96." I remember waking up one morning on a waterbed in my tent. Fond memories. :)

    Anyway, my advice is that if you have a system, stick to it, you'll be fine.

  3. plantar faciitis – I have read on hiking boards that green Superfeet help this

  4. Of course everyone should hike their own hike, and below is based on my experience in '04. I think you can probably shorten your hike in the 100 Mile Wilderness by about 2 days. Except for Katahdin the hiking from Monson is easier than the stretch before Monson, you're in shape, and lightening your pack by 2-days extra food will help make it possible. Extra socks, underwear…hmmm…nice to have but why add to the pack total. Thank you, by the way, for maintaining such a wonderful backpacking website.

  5. Matt, Bryan – thanks for the feedback about this section – what you say makes perfect sense. 3 more weeks to my first AT section hike of the season. Can't wait to get back out there. Cheers.

  6. Martin – ordered some gore-tex socks today. Still going to experiment with the lite boot option this spring.

  7. Hmm, have you forgotten anything that I can think of? Camera? If the trail looks anything like your teaser shot at the top, there will be plenty of opportunities to expose some digital film out there!

  8. Jeffrey – you caught me out. That photo, which I also like, is from the Adirondacks, not the AT. It is close to what I expect to find in Maine, so I dropped it in here. Hiking in the Pharoh lake area in Autumn is quite beautiful, if you ever get the chance.

  9. I have a friend who became quite sick hiking south in the 100 mile W.

    He had a signal mirror and got the attention two people fishing out of a canoe on one of the large lakes. They were way out of voice range, but he alerted them with the mirror. They responded and evacuated him out. (He later realized he had overdosed on some persrcibed meds he was taking) Anyway, just a thought on something you might add to your list. An old CD would work as a mirror, too.

    You should also check out the White House Landing Wilderness camp. They sell ice cream by the pint along with huge hamburgers and homemade pie, all you-can-eat-breakfast, yes even hot showers and a bunk house. They are located about 40 miles south of the Park, off the Mahar Tote road. The "purists" will hike by, but you will not regret a visit there.

    Be sure to swing a short ways in towards Gulf Hagas to se the Auger Falls. Antlers campsite is a sandy beach area by the lake with views of Mt. K. Many of the shelters are on ponds or next to streams. Beautiful. There are many other peaks to climb in Baxter. Spend a week there if you can. (Double Top, North Brother, Owl, Travellers, Hamlin…)

    The level of the Big Wilson, Thompson Brook, and W. Branch of the Pleasant can rise rapidly in an all day rain, but it will also drop fast in another 24 hours.

  10. I do not bother with waterproof socks in the summer. They are hot, take a long time to dry, and smell like…well, like wet rotten socks. In the fall, however, they take that shock of cold that hit your feet when stepping into puddles!

  11. In July 2010 I set out to hike from the south end of the Bigilow Range in Maine to Mount. Katahdin. I'd never had a knee problem despite running marathons and other abuse. But by Monson I had a swollen left knee and pain. Never-the-less, I continued into the 100-mile-wilderness. As anyone who's been there knows, there are lots of steep, slippery rock slabs to go up and down— with tree roots adding to the fun. At 40 miles short of Katahdin, knee pain forced me off the trail at a tote road crossing. Turns out I tore a meniscus and did other damage requiring knee surgery. Point of story: Don't start into the 100-mile-wilderness if you have a swollen knee or any other injury. Use poles too. "Tattoo"

  12. get firm all leather boots. not lite boots, like the ones you picture, which wont support feet in all conditions.l

  13. I agree with the thought to go with the boots you know. Having completed 10 to 14 day hikes in the Sierras and in north Alaska having gear I know and trust is very important. I will be moving to Maine this summer and have on my hike the 100 mw. I look forward to reading about your trip.

  14. Thank you all for great postings in this site. I live in New Jersey. I'll join my son at Monson the day after tomorrow (8/11) to start 100 mile wildness towards Mt. Kadahdin. I have one more day to opitmize my food/gear. I just got shoes like beach shoes but stronger ($70 from EMS). I'm not sure if they are strong enough. I have another pair of hiking boots, which are not water proof. Should I just need one pair of all weather boots instead? Thanks.

  15. Hi – you don't need a heavy boot for the wilderness, but you need footware that drains very well. I'll be up there myself in a few days and I'll be wearing trail runner *without* a waterproof lining. Maine has few bridges and you will be doing a lot of stream crossings. Don't wear leather footware. The last time I did that in Maine was the last time I did that period.

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