55 responses

  1. Hendrik M
    August 2, 2009

    Great photos and report! I hope you're getting well soon, and are able to take off from where you dropped out.

  2. Earlylite
    August 2, 2009

    Thanks Hendrik! Now that I understand more about where you can get shuttles into the Wilderness, I'm sure I can restart from where I left off. But I may wait for a drier year this time. The good news is that I got all of really hard mountains out of the way and that the last 25 miles should be cake.

  3. Jolly Green Giant
    August 2, 2009

    Really excellent write-up Philip, very nice work. Much like you, I section hike and would have a difficult time doing much more than that solo. Physical ability is one thing, but my mind has a tendency to eat me up. My wife always says I come home a little nicer after a few days out by myself. Now if I could only find a good hiking buddy here in Virginia, well then I could yell at my wife all day long! :) I also wish there was an easier way to stay in "hiking" shape as daily/weekly standard exercise is a lot different than what is required of someone on the AT with a pack. Consider using one of the BPL Pertex bivies (or Titanium Goat) for multiple day treks. They are light, breathe well, and do wonders against moisture. They make the different of preserving your down loft and having a great trip or spending all your free time drying out your bag and being cold.

  4. Earlylite
    August 2, 2009

    I'm still processing the emotional stuff that came up after being alone for 6 days. It was a very different experience that on a 3-4 day trip. Regarding the bivy: I bought a <a hef="http://www.backcountry.com/outdoorgear/MontBell-Breeze-Dry-Tec-UL-Sleeping-Bag-Cover/MTB0092M.html?CMP_ID=SH_FRO001&CMP_SKU=MTB0092&mv_pc=r126&quot; rel="nofollow">Montbell Breeze shortly before I left for use with my tarp but didn't bring it because I didn't want the extra weight (7 oz) and hadn't tested it yet. I've read good things about it on BPL and it is astonishingly breathable. It would have been too hot to sleep in on this trip, but with a quilt, it could have been a great combo. Do you have any quilt preferences?

  5. Martin Rye
    August 2, 2009

    Hard conditions to walk in. The big river crossings and mud underfoot could all have contributed to your injury. who knows? You'll be back and you did a great section anyway. It looks real wild and I would love to hike there. Kit wise the tall guy has a good point with a bivy bag. I would suggest trail shoes and Gore-Tex socks. Working a treat for me in the damp old UK.

  6. Jolly Green Giant
    August 2, 2009

    Quilt preferences, well probably like everyone I'd go with a Nunatak. To save money (and weight), I also use a Western Mountaineering Caribou MF long which you can find on sale. I took out the zipper and the other frills and use it as a quilt because the removal of the zipper still left a footbox. I then sewed in two removable elastic straps to go around my pad and I essentially have a highly functional, less expensive, and lighter quilt that what Nunatak offers. I usually pair it up with a Pertex bivy from BPL and I've never had a problem with rain, condensation, etc. I think it is roughly 20 ounces (quilt alone) and I've had it in the 30's without a feeling chilled. The warmth down creates is really amazing to me. Often I actually sit in camp and start wondering if I'm delusional, if it is from a big meal, if I'm going to wake up in the middle of the night freezing, etc. And yet each day comes and goes and it has yet to disappoint me. Really amazing stuff.

    Don't be discouraged about your trip. You handled more miles and conditions which would have made many turn around much earlier than you did. I'm a big supporter of the "hike your own hike" theory as backpacking is all about enjoying yourself and nature. If the goal was to be miserable, heck I could find endless ways to make that happen. So whether you made it some of the way or merely part of it, in the end…WHO CARES!! As long as you're having fun, being safe, and returning home with good stories, then consider it a good life.

    I meant to ask you if you would mind publishing (or sending me) your food list, assuming you wrote it down. My biggest gripe is never gear. It is either food issues or physical issues which usually affect my knee and calves much like you described. I'm not sure what is more humbling, leaving the trail early or being unable to walk for several days. People can't believe it is merely from hiking alone and assume it was either a sports injury or auto accident.

  7. Earlylite
    August 2, 2009

    I may ultimately end up doing that, but I really use my boots on the mountains for braking on wet rock and to prevent ankle twists. I've ordered two different pairs of Asolos just today to try that are lighter weight and made with synthetic materials so they should absorb less water. I want to see if they'll work first.

    Regarding the TGO, I think I will try to really come UL and do a lot more resupplies than I had planned to keep my pack weight down. Need to do a little more planning to see if I can work that into my current route. Cheers.

  8. Earlylite
    August 2, 2009

    JGG – thanks for the kind words. It was a good outing and that's how I'm trying to view it. I was just looking at the Nunatack and it is intriguing. I have a big birthday coming up, so maybe it will make the list. :-)

    Here is a link to my final food list, and the original planned one, which has hyperlinks to the actual recipes.
    Having field tested these recipes, I would probably drop the hot breakfasts and replace them with cold ones so I could leave camp faster in the morning, and add more salami for lunch. It really hit the spot on this trip and helped keep up my salt levels.

  9. Hikezilla
    August 2, 2009

    Hi Philip. When I attempted my 2006 thru-hike I thought I was in really good shape. I hiked well over 200 miles in endless day trips leading up to Springer Mt. Usually I would go out with 20lbs in my pack but I really underestimated what the actual conditions would be like in Georgia. It's difficult to convey to people how hard a challenge being alone and hiking 10 hours a day really is. When I weighed my pack at Amicalola it came in at about 38lbs. That extra weight and the stress of 2000+ feet of elevation gain & loss each day made my feet go numb. Something I had never experienced. 10 years of planning were over in 12 days. Yet, it was something I'll never forget and I still want to attempt again someday. Thanks for the great photos and the trail journal. Loved it!

  10. Earlylite
    August 2, 2009

    HZ. Glad to see that you've finally come out from lurking. :-) We should do a weekend section in the whites this autumn. I only have about 40 miles of the AT left in NH and I'm determined to complete the state this year. It'd be good to go hiking with you.

    Regarding the challenge – one of the guys I met last week in Maine summed it up like this: it's like doing a half marathon every day while carrying a 40 lb pack. He had middle aged knees like me (and you.)

  11. Desert Dog
    August 2, 2009

    Philip, thanks for the report. Makes me miss the east coast mountains. Somehow the rocks, dust, and endless shades of brown out here just aren't the same.

    Sorry you weren't able to finish, but as the others have already said, it's no big deal. Pushing through injuries can lead to worse problems, and in the end it sounds like you had a great trip.

    I've gotten away from leather boots for the most part for exactly the issues you have brought up. Weight and ankle support are always a balancing act, but I favor lightweight boots especially in the desert.

    I'm just getting started in terms of lightening my gear and can't tell you how much I've learned from your site. Cheers!

  12. Tom Murphy
    August 3, 2009

    Great report Philip. As you know, Adam amd I have put off the LT until next year because we need to build up to 3-4 days of backpacking in a row. So from our perspective, you are a hiking machine. I bought a training book for progressing from walking to running, to 5k, 10ks, to half marathons, and, finally, to marathons. I don't plan to start running but I felt the basic training principles would be applicable to hiking. From what, I have read the general consensus is to not increase your work load by more than 10 % a week. I think that backpack weight is one way to increase workload, as is elevation (both up elev and down elev which are really tough on the knees), and, of course, miles. Not sure yet of the relative weights of each of these components but I think if you look at how much more of a workload this trip was for you in terms of all the various factors, you will see that you really ramped up past what you had done before. Good Luck!

  13. Sarah Kirkconnell
    August 3, 2009

    Rain sucks…especially when creeks become rivers!

    Still, it sounds like you had a good trip :-)

  14. Earlylite
    August 3, 2009

    Tom – good observation. I hadn't thought of it like that.

    Sarah – It was a good trip and I've very glad that I took it. Sometimes I get a little too goal-oriented though, and a trip like this helps remind one that "striving" too much can cause anguish. That's really what I'm working through now. Plus that fact that I have the mind and enthusiasms of an 25 year old, trapped in the body of a middle-aged man.

  15. MikeR
    August 3, 2009

    Hello Philip,

    I like your hiking blog – it’s my favorite. You call it like you see it and hike your own hike. Sometimes you eat the Bear and sometimes the Bear eats you. You were well prepared and worked your strategy when things did not go as planned. By being flexible in the face of adversity it allowed you to overcome the challenge. It’s about how you meet life. It’s an inside thing. You did good.

  16. Earlylite
    August 3, 2009

    Thanks Mike – I feel real good about the decisions I made on this past trip and on my preparation. While the weather was an unexpected challenge, I knew exactly how to mitigate its impact and when to retreat. Still I appreciate you're saying so. Thanks for the comment.

  17. baz carter
    August 4, 2009

    Cracking report Philip! And I know what misery a wonky knee can bring :( Like Martin I ditched boots a couple of years ago and haven't looked back.

  18. Earlylite
    August 4, 2009

    Writing a 5000 word trip report almost took as long as the trip, but my new digital audio recorder/journal has been a life saver for remembering the details. This is a good piece of kit.

    I know I'm "digging in my heels" about the boot thing – trying to find a non leather boot now that gives me comparable support – but I can't tell you how much I rely on the "boot brake" for getting down wet mountains. This is where you jam the side of your boot against a rock in order to give you a better hold on a wet descent when there are no other handholds available. There are many other benefits I ascribe to boots: I have torn all of the ligaments in my leg from a bad ankle twist (6 weeks in a cast when I was 14), so I am also hesitant to give up the ankle support.

    I may leave boots behind eventually, but this trip was a wake up call that I need a solution. The stream crossing issue in Scotland will be 10 times worse.

    Looks like you had quite an adventure as well – epicural as well as physical.

  19. baz carter
    August 4, 2009

    I can understand your reluctance to give up boots. Regarding ankle support I'd suggest trying a day walk in a pair of trainers and see how you get on. If OK extend the mileage and varying the terrain this will increase strength or hilight any potential problems.

    I used a pair of Inov8 Roclite 315 is Spain and they were superb – scree, loose rocks or polished wet limestone they (and I) handled them with ease.

  20. Anne
    August 8, 2009

    Wonderful description! We just dropped off my son, 2 brothers, neice and nephew this morning for the 100 mile wilderness. They called already and are quite surprised at the slow going and mud! And one brother is having leg cramps already, so your report really hit home!! Keep your fingers crossed for them!

    August 10, 2009

    i'm a 85 year old with a 16 yr. grandaughter who is on a "outward bound"trip on the Penobscot river and into 100 mile wilderness.i pulled up your story and read it from start to finish! it was like reading a good book! i hope your leg is better and that you will be able to continue hiking-even with a brace. i'm hoping this 16yr is up to her trip home—bus to bangor,car ride to portland,bus to boston,train to new london ,ct walk to ferry.ferry to orient pt. n.y. bus to sag harbor where her family will be vacationing i think she may need a knee brace!!! peace to you, JEANNE "OMA" KROLL

  22. Earlylite
    August 10, 2009

    Jeanne, thanks for your note. The weather has been MUCH better the past week and I hope your grandaughter was drier than me. It's great that she was on a trip like this. My leg is much better thanks and I went for a short hike over the weekend using a cho-pat brace, which worked wonderfully. However, I'm back in the gym again working on my leg strength so it's not needed.

  23. Kevin
    September 20, 2009

    I truly enjoyed reading about your trip. I am a thru hiker and decided I wanted to wait for the fall colors before completing the last section of my journey. Long story short, I return to Maine the end of this week and will probably be in the 100 mile wilderness in about a week. I am mainly doing this for photography so if you have any suggestions on where to camp for sunrise/sunset pictures please share. I plan on staying on a mountain top or shoreline everynight if possible.


  24. Earlylite
    September 20, 2009

    Kevin – good move. You should have perfect scenery and no bugs. I really enjoyed everything from Gulf Hagas north. White cap mtn should be incredible with fall colors and I'd highly recommend the Antlers tent site if you end up there for the night. Being alone there on the lake was a real high point of my trip. My only caution would be not to tent in a depression in a pre-existing campsite. They fill up with water quick if it rains unless you are careful! Enjoy your hike. Should be fantastic.

  25. Tom Murphy
    September 22, 2009

    Hi Phil,

    I thought of this trip report when reading the following post on VFFT website.

    post # 141 – Pemi Wilderness Bridge Removal Project


    In retrospect, how do you feel about that fact that there are no bridges across all those streams in Maine?

    It added to the wilderness experience but also hinder your progress.


  26. Earlylite
    September 22, 2009

    There was so much rain that I doubt bridges would have kept my feet dry, plus I needed the practice fording rivers.

  27. Clark
    April 19, 2010

    First of I would like so say THANK YOU SIR!!! your run through of ur trip has been majorly helpful of in my planing to my trip! also big thanks to everyone else who has commented on this very well put together site.. prolly going to have a few questions but for now, i am looking to get a bigger bag because i am a section hiker only about two nights per usual, sorry if u put it on this site and i looked over it but what size bag did you use and do u recommend the size.. Thanks!

  28. Earlylite
    April 20, 2010

    I got by just fine with a gossamer gear mariposa plus. I think it's around 4000 cubic inches, but check with the manufacturer. Good luck.

  29. Seth
    September 8, 2010

    Great Trip Report on 100 Mile Wilderness

    I will be doing the 100 Mile Wilderness section soon.

    Because I hike solo I will be using a street motorcycle and a 4 wheel drive truck daily, placed at each end of my section hike. I transport the MC in the body of my truck to the trail. This method has worked perfect for me this summer on the Maine AT.

  30. Earlylite
    September 8, 2010

    Fantastic shuttle idea. You really need it in Maine! How'd you figure out the logging roads in the wilderness?

  31. Seth
    September 9, 2010

    Most of the AT in Maine has a dirt/tar road crossing it every 15 miles or less, in most places. I plan where the truck is going to be parked by looking at The Maine Atlas (DeLorme) for my planned section hike. When I arrive at where I plan on finishing up the hike with the truck, I take the motorbike out of the truck body with ramps and drive it to the AT trail head road crossing and hike back to the truck via the AT. Then, I return to the motorbike with my truck and load it back on by winching it back into the truck body using my ramps.

    I began this spring by using a bicycle, but on hot days with a pack on it was to difficult. The motorcycle I got used for $500, so when I leave it at the trail head I don't worry about someone taking/damaging it. I would guess that a moped or motorized bike would work equally as well and would be better on gas.

  32. Phil from Maine
    February 11, 2011

    Excellent trip synopsis. It highlights many of the things I see too often on the Trail. I will be providing guest services to long distance hikers including resupply along the Jo-Mary road and emergency shuttles out if needed. Can I use a link to your trip on my site so that others will understand the difficulties as you experienced them? Thanks, Phil

  33. Earlylite
    February 12, 2011

    Link away. Good Luck.

  34. Travis
    April 29, 2011

    What was the specific date that this hike began?

  35. Earlylite
    April 29, 2011

    July 2009.

  36. Travis
    April 29, 2011

    Thank you for the prompt reply and the very detailed account! Im tackling maine in june and I expect much of the same experiences.

    • pam
      January 18, 2013

      Hi just wanted to say thanks for writing this. My daughter and I are dreaming of hiking a section of the AT when she finishes med school in a couple of years. We have never backpack hiked before so hopefully we will get ready for it. Your report sure does inspire one. Thanks

  37. Earlylite
    April 29, 2011

    Don't do what I did and try to carry too much food. Take the resuppply at that landing, if you can. Can't remember it's name offhand. Something like Whitehouse.

    I'm going back this summer, just just doing the section I missed (which should be easy.)

  38. Brice
    May 3, 2011

    Great account of the trip. Thanks for putting this together. I can't express how much reading this post makes me want to hike this section over the summer!

  39. Wystiria
    August 25, 2011

    Can't wait to get to this section!! Sherpa and I are almost done with everything north of Virginia so it won't be long! Love the update!

  40. Patrick
    December 2, 2011

    As a Newbie "wannabe" hiker who is gearing up physically and equipment wise for next year, this comment stuck out:

    "A lot has changed since 2009 and I am a much more experienced hiker. On hindsight, if I’d known what I know today about foot gear (using trail runners instead of leather boots), I’d have probably gotten through the entire wilderness, even with the insane 9 inches of rain we had in 2009."

    I've got friends who are helping me and they all swear by your typical hiking boot. Are they just too old fashioned with this advice? Time to warm up the search feature I guess. Thanks for helping to educate those who are trying to start out.

    • jbh
      April 20, 2012

      Hello, i did the 100 in 2007. I was a fairly inexperienced but is average shape 31 yr old at the time. I used a pair of approach shoes as they are called. low top, but have a solid shank sole i believe. I did very well. The 4 fellow hikers i was with , one used heavy boots faired well. one had sneakers and had bruised feet as well as the other. hope this might help. i believe in ankle support, but having a solid sole will help with the consistent roots and rocks. from the notes i still have of the trip the #1 must for the next trip was DRY SOCKS.

  41. Earlylite
    December 2, 2011

    It kind of depends on where you are hiking, how heavy your load is, what the temperature is outside (snow-wise) and whether you scrape your ankles against rocks a lot. I think a lot more people are moving away from traditional hiking boots for long distance hiking where you're going to be out for 5 days at a time. They can help if you have a very heavy load, but they also slow you down and make you work harder since they are a lot heavier. I don't wear hiking boots anymore for any 3 season hiking and I doubt I ever will again. I do wear them for winter mountaineering and ice climbing obviously, but primarily to avoid losing them to frostbite if I have to spend an unexpected night outdoors in -40 weather.

    I suggest you try them instead of boots and make up your own mind.

  42. Patrick
    December 2, 2011

    As I sit here in the office with traditional hiking books on trying to get a feel for them, I'm fumbling around and just all around feeling awkward in them. I've never been a guy to wear boots for much and it will be a lot to get used to. I do know that the light day hikes I took this fall usually ended up with me rolling my ankles while wearing normal running shoes. Caused by old basketball injuries I suspected at the time, but maybe that part of my body just isn't "in shape" yet.

    I guess it's one of those things you'll never know until you try. Higher support with big heavy boots, or lighter shoes with less fatigue. I'd hate to spend the money on both, but I guess you'll never know until you try.

    Appreciate the response. I know newbie questions can sometimes be a pain to a site/communites, so thank you.

  43. Earlylite
    December 2, 2011

    No problems – I like newbies. It keeps the topic fresh for me.

    I had the same fears also with ankle turns due to ligament tears when I was younger, but they stopped happening when I started walking more in trail runners. In addition to better overall muscle development, I became far better coordinated in walking with them and it hardly ever happens now. But it's really a matter of personal preference. My trail runners cost $100/pr and last 6 months. If they don't work for you, you can always wear them for something else.

  44. 7stops
    January 19, 2012

    Very good trip log. Im currently planning a hike on the 100 mile for next fall, and am giving serious consideration on the hiker vs. trail runner.Thanks to all for the great info/feedback.

  45. Robert Chambers
    February 29, 2012

    I am planning on hiking the 100 mile wilderness in August of this year with a friend. I gave up my heavy hiking boots about 4 years ago and have begun some simple barefoot hiking in the summer. Your feet and ankles adapt to the lighter shoe by strengthening. I now where moccasins with no heel except in winter. I will be testing a par of Timberland Litetrace waterproof mid shoes for my Wilderness trip. Thank you for your blog it is informative, helpful and entertaining.

    • Earlylite
      February 29, 2012

      Maybe I’ll see you up there in August – I’ll be with a guy from England who wants to experience the Wilderness and Katahdin.

  46. Rabindra Adhikari
    January 21, 2013

    Great work !!

    Thanks for writing down your experience with pictures. This explains a lot and make it so easy to plan hiking. I am from Himalaya and will be in USA and Georgia in by the middle of this year. Me and my girlfriend are thinking of this hiking. I am glad that I found your blog.

    Keep up good work.

    • Earlylite
      January 21, 2013

      You realize that Georgia is about 2000 miles south of the 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine…:-)

  47. Steve Haley
    January 22, 2013

    I loved your stories about your adventures on the Hundred Mile Wilderness!

    I was raised in Maine, and I grew up hunting and fishing and canoeing and camping. After college and Vietnam I wound up in Florida, but I returned to Maine again and again, and always to the same place: the Hundred Mile Wilderness. My dad had retired to Sebec Village, so close to Monson, where I would go for day hikes.

    Here in Florida, I became a trip leader for Torreya State Park, which has very strenuous loop trails of 7 and 11 miles.

    My last trip to Maine was about fifteen years ago, and took me to Lake Nahmakanta. I pitched my tent on a bed of pine needles ten feet from the water’s edge. The next morning I woke up to a splashing sound, unzipped my tent, saw a bull moose foraging in the shallows 20 feet away. It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen, and there was no need to continue my hike. I jumped in the water naked, and I stayed naked all day. I had timed my hike for August, when I knew the black flies would be gone. I so wished that I had brought a fishing rod, for I am sure that lake was full of trout.

    I am a recently retired hiker and backpacker and I am looking forward to returning to the Hundred Mile Wilderness. At age 67 I do not have the stamina I once did, and I could not hike more than 5 miles a day. But I do have the skills — and most importantly, a very strong desire — to savor the wilderness.

    I am very interested in meeting an older and very experienced hiker who might enjoy sharing a wilderness adventure together.


    • Earlylite
      January 22, 2013

      Steve, great to hear from you. There are a few shuttle services in the wilderness that would be willing to resupply weekly if you could only hike 5 miles a day. In addition, the AMC has started building a hut system at the southern end to break up the hike into smaller segments. Skills are everything in my book…you should get back up here and go fishing in that lake! There’s actually a road that comes in pretty close.

  48. David Kirkpatrick
    June 6, 2013

    Myself and two others will be doing the Wilderness section in July so snooped around for writeups and found yours. It’s a very nice and informative writeup, thanks.

  49. Maggie
    January 29, 2014

    Read it all and enjoyed it. Thank you. I’m writing a piece of fiction that takes place in that area, so found your site by doing a search. The information will be helpful. Hey, stay safe & good luck on any future endeavors.

    Thanks again,

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