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AT Section Hike: 100 Mile Wilderness

View from White Cap Mountain, Maine Appalachian Trail
View from White Cap Mountain, Maine Appalachian Trail

I started a 9 day trip on the 100 mile Wilderness section of the Appalachian Trail last Saturday, but ended up getting shuttled out after 6 days and 74 miles due to a knee/quadriceps overuse injury. Staying out for 6 days on a solo really pushed me mentally and physically in ways that I’ve never experienced on a shorter section hikes. Uncomfortably so, even. Yes, it’s a bummer that I didn’t finish, but as a section hiker, I can always pick up where I left off, another day.

Day to Day Mileage:

  • Day 1: Spectacle Pond to Long Pond Stream Lean-to (15 miles)
  • Day 2: Long Pond Stream Lean-to to Chairback Gap Lean-to (11 miles)
  • Day 3: Chairback Gap Lean-to to Sydney Tappan Campsite (12 miles)
  • Day 4: Sydney Tappan Campsite to East Branch Lean-to (9.5 miles)
  • Day 5: East branch Lean-to to Antlers Campsite (15.5 miles)
  • Day 6: Antlers Campsite to Wood Rd/South End of Nahmakanta Lake (11 miles)
Pond in 100 Mile Wilderness
Pond in 100 Mile Wilderness

Day 1: Spectacle Pond to Long Pond Stream Lean-to (15 miles)

I started a little late on Saturday by my standards, only getting into the trail at 8:20 AM. But I had decided to be mellow and enjoy the breakfast experience at Shaw’s Lodging, which was fantastic: great food and great company. Sometimes, online, you can get the feeling that thru-hikers don’t respect section hikers, but there I was sitting with thru-hikers, south bounders who had just started their hikes, and other section hikers chatting away like best friends. It felt really comfortable and goes to show that there aren’t any barriers between hikers when they all get together in person.

When I had finished my breakfast, I was eager to bolt, and to their credit, Shaw’s shuttled me to the trail by myself, even though there were easily a dozen or so other thru-hikers and section hikers who planned to start that day. Before I left, Dawn, the innkeeper, gave me a short, serious talk about some of the dangers ahead. She warned me that the rock in Maine is made out of slate and is very slippery when wet. In addition, she warned me about fording rivers, something I’d never done, and the fact that the streams were all running higher than normal from the 2 inches of rain we received the day before. Finally, she explained that they’d be happy to come pick me up if I got into trouble and I was near one of the logging roads that cross the trail, and that the best cell reception, if any, would be from mountain tops.

100 mile wilderness sign - Maine Appalachian Trail
100 mile wilderness sign – Maine Appalachian Trail

A lot of people will tell you that the 100 mile wilderness is not a true wilderness anymore, and there’s a certain amount of truth to that, but it’s still not a good place to have a bad fall, break a leg, or have a serious medical emergency. While I was there, I witnessed one serious rescue operation and heard about a second. While there are gravel logging roads that bisect the trail every 10-20 miles, cell phone reception is very poor and it could easily be over 24 hours before a SAR team could reach you. Even after that, the terrain is so difficult that extraction would likely have to be manual over a very rough trail. In a worst case scenario, I was carrying a Personal Locator Beacon at the request of my wife, so as long as I was conscious to operate it, I knew I’d have a better chance at getting help than someone relying just on a cell phone.

Regardless, I was eager to get some miles under my belt and when I was dropped off at the trail head, I set off hiking at about about 1.5 miles an hour in light rain. I was feeling good, but my Mariposa Plus backpack was stuffed to capacity with 9 days of dehydrated food and weighed a bit over 36 lbs including fuel, and 2 liters of water. That’s about 12 or 13 more lbs than I’d normally carry on a 3 day section hike and I was looking forward to eating down the load as the days progressed.

The trail was pretty muddy, but I managed to keep my boots dry for 2 hours. After that I fell off an un-anchored log bridge into a muddy bog up to my waist! That was special and pretty much set the tone for the next 6 days. Having hiked the Long Trail in Vermont last year, I thought that the Green Kingdom had the worst mud in New England, but I can assure you that Maine’s mud is far worse and there’s a lot more of it, despite the excellent trail maintenance work performed by the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and the Maine Conservation Corps.

Swearing at my stupidity…I could have hiked around the mud pit…I continued on to a beautiful waterfall called Little Wilson Falls (see video above) which is the tallest waterfall on the entire 2,172 mile Appalachian Trail, reaching over 100 feet in height. It drops into a narrow slate canyon that is about 300 yards long and it was really cranking from the recent rain fall.

The trail parallels the falls down the south side of the canyon to Little Wilson Stream which has to be forded. This was the first ford I ever can remember doing with a backpack, so I was a little nervous, but luckily there were 2 thru-hikers on the other side of the stream that I knew from breakfast and they just waived me over. The crossing was pretty easy, even with the extra water in the stream, and it came up to my knees, completely soaking my socks and leather boots. I had brought some camp sandals which I had hoped would work for river crossings like this, but they weren’t going to provide me with the support I needed to cross rocky rivers full of waves and holes, and by the second day, I gave them away to some kids to stop carrying the extra 11 oz.

Fording Big Wilson Stream, Maine Appalachain trail
Fording Big Wilson Stream, Maine Appalachain trail

Once across, I took off my boots and squeezed the water out of them. Then I took off each outer wool sock and sock liner and did the same to them. I repeated this ritual for the rest of the trip each time I had to ford a river. This made my leather boots a lot lighter, but my boots never dried out completely after that and there were times when I felt like I was wearing cinder blocks. I am now convinced that I have to give up leather boots for this type of terrain.

After that I continued across rolling woodland fording another three streams, two of which had ropes for hikers to hold onto, like the one above. While emotionally comforting, these lines were not well placed in my opinion making the crossings more hazardous than necessary.

Despite the crossings and the delays caused by wringing out my socks, I made pretty good time the rest of the day passing two shelters and arriving at the third, the Long Pond Stream Lean-to, by 7:15 pm. My thru-hiker buddies were in the lean-to which looked a little scuzzy, and there was a son and father camped out in a tent who I would become good friends with in the following days. I scouted around and ended up picking a tent site above the shelter. It wasn’t perfect, but I wanted some privacy and peace and quiet my first night out.

Next, I cycled through my normal make camp routine. I hung my two heavy bear bags, almost breaking my jaw in the process when the rock came back at me after snagging on a branch and hit me in the face. I thought I tasted some blood, but there was no way I was going to quit a hike that I had been planning for 7 months, so I just took a big Ibuprofen pill and hoped the pain would go away. Next I filtered water, pitched my tent, cooked dinner, changed into my sleeping clothes, recorded a audio diary entry, and went to sleep.

Until 5 minutes later, when 11 young hikers and their counselors came in from the dark with headlights from Barren Mountain and proceeded to make camp directly behind me! They went to sleep 2 hours later and I finally got to sleep at about 11 pm, a little pissed off you might say. They only shut up when it started to rain.

Climbing the Barren Chairback Range - 100 mile wilderness
Climbing the Barren Chairback Range – 100 mile wilderness

Day 2: Long Pond Stream Lean-to to Chairback Gap Lean-to (11 miles)

After the Long Pond Stream Lean-to, the Appalachian Trail continues north over the Barren Chairback Mountain Range, a series of 5 named peaks that are all under 3,000 feet in elevation. I’d been told that some of the best views in the Wilderness are along this range, but the trail was completely socked in by cloud both of the days that I was climbing it, with intermittent showers during the day and torrential rain at night.

After leaving the previous night’s tent site, I had a long climb, just under 2,000 feet to the summit of Barren Mountain (2,670 ft) where there are remains of an old firetower. Surprisingly, treeline on the range starts at about 2,300 ft, quite low by New Hampshire standards, where it usually starts about 2,000 feet higher up. The other peaks in the range include Fourth Mountain (2,383 ft), Third Mountain (2,061 ft), Columbus Mountain (2,326 ft), and Chairback Mountain (2,219 ft).

During the day, I became friends with John and Matt, the father and son duo that had been camping at Long Pond Stream the night before. We had been passing each other during our respective rest stops all day until we both got to Monument Cliffs on Third Mountain and formal introductions were made.

They were from Northern Rhode Island and had some good section hiking experience on the Continental Divide Trail and in the Rockies. We would end up hiking from shelter to shelter for the next 4 days at the same pace and I got to know them a little better each day. John is a carpenter in his mid-fifties and Matt goes to college down in Virginia. I came to admire and even envy their companionship during the hike: it’s gets lonely hiking solo on a long trip and it would have been nice to have a partner along to break the tedium.

Fourth Mountain, Barren Chairback Range
Fourth Mountain, Barren Chairback Range

I arrived at the Chairback Gap Lean-to at about 5 pm which had a really odd layout. The shelter is at the top of a steep hill that descends about 150 feett to a tannic bog which is the shelter’s water supply and produced nasty, brownish water. The tent sites are about 75 yards above the shelter on another steeply eroded slope.

The shelter was full of men with dogs that liked to growl at other hikers, so I gave them a wide berth and ended up camping above the shelter area in a half-stealth location that was blissfully flat and protected from any more late night arrivals. I had a satisfying pasta dinner and crashed before 8 pm, sleeping once again through another night of torrential rain.

West Pleasant River Ford - Maine Appalachian Trail
West Pleasant River Ford – Maine Appalachian Trail

Day 3: Chairback Gap Lean-to to Sydney Tappan Campsite (12 miles)

I woke up the next morning at 5 am, but it was thundering and raining hard so I went back to sleep for another 90 minutes, breaking camp at 8 am. With all the rain we’d been having at night, my sleeping bag was beginning to get soaked from internal condensation in the Squall 2 tarp tent that I was using on this trip as a shelter. I wasn’t that concerned about warmth even though it is a down bag, but I knew that it was getting heavier to carry and I needed to dry it out somewhere.

The fog and intermittent rain continued as I walked over slate ledge to Chairback Mountain, the final peak in the range. Chairback is so named because the north side is a near vertical drop down onto a slide of giant bolders, followed by a steep walk through woods to the West Pleasant River (above) and another ford. This would be the longest ford of my trip and the water was running high, coming up to my waist during the crossing.

After ringing out my socks, I continued along the Gulf Hagas Stream which is wondrously beautiful series of cascades, waterfalls, and rapids, bordering Gulf Hagas, a unique slate canyon that extends northwest of the trail. By now the weather started to clear up a bit and the sun was finally coming out when I caught up to John and Matt and we ran into a rescue that had already been underway for 3 hours.

A young girl, about 13 tears-old, had suffered anaphylactic shock as the result of a bee sting and was slowly being evacuated down the trail afer being jabbed with an EpiPen. Someone had hiked out to call the state police and they had her conscious and upright supported by 2 other rescuers. This was a camp group and the counsellors, young by my standards, were clearly trained in Wilderness Medicine and doing a good job.

We were briefed by one of the rescuers and when it was clear that we weren’t needed for assistance, we continued on to the base of Gulf Hagas Mountain (2,683 ft). This was a 750 ft climb, but I was treated to stone stairs that had been built by a trail maintenance crew almost all the way up. They had done a beautiful job and we ended up meeting two crews out doing trail maintenance on White Cap Mountain that weekend.

Steps Leading up Gulf Hagas Mountain - Maine Appalachian Trail
Steps Leading up Gulf Hagas Mountain

After you summit Gulf Hagas Mountain, you still have a walk about a mile to get to the campsite, mainly through blueberry bushes and jewel weed. I flew through this bit but could hear thunder behind me from an indeterminate location. I’ve been in situations like this before, so I was relieved when I made it to the Sydney Tappan Campsite without being zapped by a lightening bolt.

A crew from the Maine Conservation Corps had already set up an elaborate base camp by the time I arrived, taking up most of the good tent sites, hanging a mess tent, and a multi-rope bear hang just outside of camp. They were a very friendly group of young college aged kids who were doing trail work all summer and were on site for a few days to build more water bars.

I set up my tent and hung my sleeping bag out to dry in the sun and soon my gear soon dried out. What a relief. By then, John and Matt had arrived and we cooked up some dinner. But just as it we started to eat, it started to thunder loudly and it got eerily dark outside. I hurriedly finished my meal and hung my bear bags just before a huge thunderstorm hit us. It was really coming down, so we all got into our tents and went to sleep.

Hiking down White Cap Mountain - Maine Appalachian Trail
Hiking down White Cap Mountain

Day 4: Sydney Tappan Campsite to East Branch Lean-to (9.5 miles)

I woke up to showers the next morning, but I got my gear packed away and headed out by 8 am. My goal was to summit White Cap Mountain (3,654 ft), the highest peak in this section and the lesser peaks before it before descending to the East Branch Lean-to and trying to dry out my gear again.

I was mad at myself for not packing a bug canopy or bug bivy on this trip so that I could sleep in the shelters during the heavy rains. It’s a toss up really, because the shelters up to this point were very unappealing to sleep in, but a tarp, sleeping bag bivy and head net/bug canopy combo might have been more flexible system under the conditions. I still can’t decide if the Squall 2 was the right shelter to have brought along on this trip.

Always the optimist, I was hoping the the weather would clear a bit so I could get some views off White Cap. Given my pace, I had pretty much abandoned the chance of hiking into Baxter State Park and climbing Katadhin by this point within the 9 days I had available and I was just aiming to finish the 100 mile Wilderness section, ending at Abol Bridge.

Before, climbing White Cap, I had to ascend two other wooded, viewless peaks called West Peak (3,178 ft) and Hay Mountain (3,244 ft). West Peak was a 750 ft climb in less than a mile from the campsite, but it was a easy climb due to another beautifully built series of stone staircases. Next, I continued up the more gradual dome of Hay Mountain, and started passing a number of southbound hikers. They reported clear skies and great views on top of White Cap but insane mud to the north in the flat lakes region of the trail.

After another 2 hours of hiking, I summitted White Cap and the views were good. Many of the surrounding peaks were cloaked in a lingering haze but I could make out Katahdin about 75 miles to the north. John and Matt were just packing up when I arrived. They were covered in flies, so I didn’t linger. I quickly changed out of the rain pants which I had been wearing for the past 3 days into my normal long hiking pants, bolted down some food, and continued on.

Maine Conservation Corp Trail Maintenance Crew
Maine Conservation Corp Trail Maintenance Crew

After a short descent through scrub and krumholz, I reached treeline again and met another trail crew building stairs. It looked like hard, wet work, but they made it look easy: hoisting rocks from the slopes in the surrounding woods and moving them to the trail on a complex system of pulley lines. After waiting for a safe moment to pass, I continued down White Cap, and was soon walking though a beautiful section of trail starting at the Logan Brook Lean-to and continuing to the East Branch Lean-to, where I stopped early for the evening, arriving around 2:30 pm.

East Branch Lean-to Camp - Maine Appalachian Trail
East Branch Lean-to Camp

I had hours to kill before dark, but the first order of business was to dry out my gear again, repair my bear bag system which had been giving me problems all trip, and investigate a problem that I was having with my water filter.

I should clarify: this isn’t the bear bag system that I wrote about a week or two ago, but I second one that I threw together at the last moment to carry my food for days 5-9 of my trip. The chief difference between the two is the cord. In the new system, I grabbed some thin spectralite line that I had sitting in my cordage drawer at home. Although strong, it was so thin and slippery that I was having a hard time pulling it without it cutting into my hands and even burning them if I lost my grip. To make it more usable I devised a different way of using it by cutting it in two and tieing one end to the bear bag and the other to a tree, and then connecting the two using an extra mini-biner. This worked out much better for the rest of the trip.

After that I went down to the stream to wash out my clothes and diagnose a problem that had just cropped up with my First Need water filter. The problem first started the evening before on Gulf Hagas Mountain. The First Need has a 2 stage filtration system: a prefilter for filtering out particulates that is attached by a long hose to the main filter responsible for filtering out organisms and toxic chemicals. I knew from experience, that if you tear a hole in the hose the productivity of each pump goes down and the pump makes a sucking sound, which it was doing now. I couldn’t find a hole by visual inspection so I cut the hose in half, reattached the ends, and found the hose with the hole on the second try.

I thought that this had fixed the problem, but the next time I used the pump the problem was back and I was forced to use my back-up chlorine dioxide tablets to purify my water. By pure luck, I did find a workaround which was to keep the filter parallel to the ground when pumping. I suspect that a simple backwash will fix this problem, but I’m glad that I always carry a few days of Micropur chlorine dioxide tablets in my gear repair kit as a fallback.

After that I relaxed, recorded another audio journal entry, and hung out in my tent watching my feet de-prune. They were still holding up well despite the mileage and wet boots. After a while, I ate a huge pasta dinner with genoa salami and was asleep by 6:30 pm.

Fording the East Branch Pleasant River - 100 Mile Wilderness
Fording the East Branch Pleasant River

Day 5:  East branch Lean-to to Antlers Campsite (15.5 miles)

With the mountains finally behind me, I knew that I’d be able to pick up my pace and crank out some more mileage. So I broke camp by 6:30 am the next day and headed out. John and Matt were just packing up as I left – they had also stopped at this campsite to dry out the night before. But, of course, we had another river to ford just outside of camp and here is a photo of John (above) up to his knees in the river. I had gone in up to my waist just moments before.

After ringing out my socks, I continued on, climbing a small hill called Little Boardman Mountain (approx 2,000 ft) before heading down to the Crawford Pond area and starting the section of the trail that would continue at about 600 ft of elevation for the next 60 miles, past numerous ponds and lakes, all the way to Abol bridge.

Mountain View Pond - 100 Mile Wilderness
Mountain View Pond

The weather was great and I was finally able to turn on some speed over the level ground despite my wet boots. I made it to Cooper Brook Falls Lean-to, a distance of 8 miles in just over 4 hours, and stopped for lunch shortly afterwards. My right knee had started to hurt, badly enough that I was limping, so I took a 600 mg Ibuprofen before I hiked another 8 miles to the Antler’s Campsite arriving exactly at 3 pm. The trail up to this point had just been beautiful all day. I has been walking parallel to Cooper Brook for much of the way on an easy trail cushioned by pine needles and largely void of mud, roots and rocks.

I sat down outside the entrance to Antlers which is the location of a former fishing camp on Lower Jo-Mary Lake and had a snack. I could have easily continued on to the next shelter or beyond and cranked out a 20+ mile day. But my limp had worsened and I decided to call it an early day and have a bath in the lake instead.

Antler's Campsite - 100 mile Wilderness
Antler’s Campsite – 100 mile Wilderness

No one else was at this campsite that whole evening, so I had the place to myself, and I picked an incredible tent site surrounded on 3 sides by the lake on an isthmus surrounded by red pine trees. People hike in the 100 mile wilderness to camp at pristine locations like this.

I set up camp as usual, and then went skinny dipping and had a good wash with some Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap which I had brought along for just such an occasion. This was my first wash in 5 days and I felt refreshed to be clean again. I rinsed out some clothes and then lazed around for a while, barely clad until dinner, watching the ducks and goslings paddle around the lake and trying to predict the weather from the clouds. There had been a brisk breeze all day that had blown out the big cumulus clouds and I was hopeful that I’d have fine weather the next day.

I made a great dinner that night and went to sleep early again but woke up at about 8 pm. The sun hadn’t set yet, but I could see that  the lake was fogged over completely. I suspected rain, so I dropped the front vestibule of my tent and went back to sleep until morning.

Nahmakanta Stream
Nahmakanta Stream

Day 6: Antlers Campsite to Wood Rd/South End of Nahmakanta Lake (11 miles)

I didn’t hear a thing after that until I woke up the next morning, but it had apparently rained at least 2 more inches overnight and it was still pouring when I woke up. I lingered in the tent as long as I could stand it and then packed up all my wet gear again and set off.

My limp had grown worse overnight and I was not doing so hot when I arrived at a small stream crossing. The only problem was that the rain had turned it into a roaring river full of downed trees and other hazards. I scouted for a better crossing and even considered sitting there for half a day to let the water level drop. In the end, I figured a way across, but was unsettled by the experience. John and Matt had not camped at Antlers the previous night and must have continued on to the next lean-to. I knew that there was no one behind me for at least a day to pick up the pieces if I got into trouble.

After the stream crossing, I started climbing Potaywadjo Ridge. I have been down the knee and quadriceps injury road too many times and was really questioning my ability to last another 3 days with the pain. I knew that this would be my best chance to get cell phone reception for the next 24 hours – this being an elevation highpoint close to 1,000 ft, and decided to try to call Shaw’s for an extraction. It seemed like the best option to prevent any further damage to the knee and as I sit here writing, I now know that it was the right decision. I can barely climb stairs at the moment.

Just then I met a southbounder named Jared, who was in far worse shape than me. He had a bum ankle and knee and was limping very slowly down the trail. I told him that I was going to try to call Shaw’s and that he was welcome to join me if I could get a shuttle out. Amazingly, I did manage to reach Shaw’s, although my connection dropped 4 times during the call. I arranged a shuttle pickup 8 miles to the north at the southern end of Nahmakanta Lake for 5 pm, giving us 8 hours to get there. We actually make it there by 1 pm, which is amazing considering the trail conditions that we encountered along the way.

I don’t have any pictures from that day because my camera was packed away in a waterproof sack, but I can tell you that the trail conditions were horrendous. Every tiny stream we came to was in flash flood mode and hazardous to cross. I can’t even remember how many we had to ford. Incredibly, the trail looked a lot like the swamps of the Everglades in Florida or the bayous of Louisiana, minus the alligators, of course. Many sections of the of the trail were completely under water and after a while I just gave up trying to stay dry and sloshed through the calf deep mud.

We arrived at our destination several hours early for our pickup but our adventure was far from over. It turns out that the gravel logging road we were waiting on had been washed out the previous evening by the rain. We found this out from the assistant director of a girl’s camp located at the end of the road, who told us that they couldn’t get any trucks out for food pickups or trip shuttles. We couldn’t get any cell reception from where we were to call Shaw’s to warn them or to make alternate plans, so I suggested we just sit tight and see if they could make it through as planned anyway. There were several places where we could still camp out if we needed to wait another day for a pickup and neither Jared or I had what I considered a critical injury.

In the end, Gary arrived from Shaw’s at 5:05 pm, and had driven through the washout in a Honda CRV to get to us. We were so happy to see him. The washout was pretty impressive when we came to it on the way out and I could see how trucks or vans with longer beds would have a hard time getting through it. It was about 3 feet deep and maybe 5 feet wide. Gary got out and moved some rocks when we got there and then drove right though it. It was great. We arrived at Shaw’s by 7pm and headed south from there toward Boston in my car.

Jared and I had by this time become good friends. He’s a great guy and I hope to meet up with him again. He lives in Manchester, NH, so I offered to take him down to Portsmouth, NH on my way back to Boston, where he could get picked up by a family member. He was 7 days into a southbound thru-hike when he got injured, so he decided to bag his entire trip. I tried to talk him out of this, but he had decided to go in the spur of the moment after getting laid off from work, despite having little prior backpacking experience. I think he was glad that he did a 1 week trip, and learned a lot, but decided that he needed to ease into the thru-hiking experience a little more gradually. I really wish him well.

100 Mile Wilderness - Maine Appalachian Trail
Tree Roots


Before I started this trip, I felt like I was in great physical shape for backpacking and I’m stunned, I guess, at the realization that my body broke down under the circumstances. It would be easy to blame this on the weather. I’ve been told that there was an unusually high amount of rainfall the week that I was out. In fact there was not one continuous 24 hour window when I didn’t experience heavy rain on this trip. But honestly, I think there were many factors that led to my knee issue including my chronically wet and heavy leather  boots and all of the wet gear, extra food and fuel I had to carry.

I think another key issue was the duration of the trip. If I could have broken this trip into three, three-day section hikes, with plenty of rest in between, I doubt I would have had any issues. That’s a sobering thought since I’ve been planning longer trips abroad in Scotland and Japan.

However it plays out, it’s always useful to find your limits. But I’m not giving up so easily. I think in the short term, my mission will be to experiment with knee braces, like the Cho-Pat, that many of my older hiking friends wear religiously, to see if they can provide me with the extra bracing I need for longer hikes. In addition, I’m going to rekindle my efforts to find non-leather boots that I can use for fording rivers, but are still rigid enough for me to climb mountains with.

So, stay tuned. If you have any comments or feeback, and actually made it through this huge trip report, I’d love to hear from you, as always.

Tarp Pitch at Hurd Lean-to
Tarp Pitch at Hurd Lean-to

2011: Two Years Later

Tenacious nutcase that I am, I returned to the 100 mile wilderness last week (8-15-2011) and finished the 26 miles I missed when I had to end my hike early in 2009. This involved hiking from the northern end of the wilderness south to the place where I’d been picked up and back north again to get back to my car.

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. No worries though, it was good to be back in the trail again and out for a few nights in the Maine woods.

Day to Day Mileage:

  • Day 1: Abol Bridge to Hurd Lean-to (4 miles)
  • Day 2: Hurd Lean-to to Rainbow Stream Lean-to (11.5 miles)
  • Day 3: Rainbow Stream Lean-to South End of Nahmakanta Lake and back to Wadleigh Stream Lean-to (14 miles)
  • Day 4: Wadleigh Stream Lean-to Rainbow Spring Campsite (12 miles)
  • Day 5: Rainbow Spring Campsite  to Abol Bridge (11 miles)

Evening 1: Abol Bridge to Hurd Lean-to (4 miles)

I got a really late start after climbing Mount Katadhin earlier in the day, only getting to the Abol Bridge trailhead which is the northern end of the 100 mile wilderness at 6 p.m. That left me just 1 hour and 40 minutes to hike 4 miles south to the Hurd Lean-to where I wanted to spend the night.

I barely made it there before darkness fell at 7:40 p.m. The lean-to was full of sleeping thru-hikers, so I pitched my tarp and hung a bear bag out front on the only level area I could find. Amazingly, I found a good tree and hung a bear bag line with just one throw while wearing a head lamp. Obviously my lucky day.

I bolted down a cold dinner of cookies and trail bars and went to sleep, waking during the night to discover that my tarp was leaking rain into the unsealed threads of my bivy sack. I repositioned myself to prevent my sleeping bag from getting wet and made a note to reapply seal seal to the tarp when I got home. Maybe I’ll touch up the bivy sack too.

Rainbow Ledges
Rainbow Ledges

Day 2: Hurd Lean-to to Rainbow Stream Lean-to (11.5 miles)

The next morning, I got a late start out of Hurd and headed south climbing a stubby pair of hills called the Rainbow Ledges. It was drizzling most of the day but warm enough outside that I could hike without rain gear and still stay warm. Still there was plenty of water and mud on the trail and I was glad that I was wearing Inov-8 trail runners on this trip and not leather boots like in 2009.

The southern half of the 100 mile wilderness is very hard hiking over mountains, so I was curious to see if the northern half was any easier. It is thankfully, although there’s still a fair amount of mud and water on the trail. Still, the high peaks give way to lakes and there are ample opportunities to skinny dip in waterholes alongside the trail or lie on sandy beaches.

It took me 6 hours of hiking to get to the Rainbow Stream Lean-to which is situated at the end of Rainbow Lake. There’s a  bridge across the stream made up of two narrow trees about 20 yards long which is a bit shaky but low consequence since the stream isn’t very deep or fast.

Rainbow Stream Lean-to
Rainbow Stream Lean-to

I could have had the shelter to myself if I’d wanted, but I decided to sleep on the pine needle covered forest floor in the nearby woods. I wanted to sleep under my tarp and try some of the square tarp pitches I’ve learned this summer on a trip.

I’m really enjoying using a plain old 8×8 silnylon tarp these days instead of a catenary cut and/or cuben fiber one. Pitching it requires so much more skill than setting up a boring old A-frame. That evening, I used a Half Tetra Wedge Cover pitch, pitching the back of the tarp into the direction that I expected that night’s rain to fall. We had heavy rainfall that night, but I slept high and dry (I put duct tape over the leaking seam from the previous evening.)

Before turning in, I had a hot dinner using a Trail Designs Caldera Cone Stove that I’m reviewing, the first alcohol stove I’ve used in several years. On shorter trips like this I have a staple dinner I usually eat and enjoy: Ramen noodles, miso soup, and olive oil. I find it very satisfying, easy to make, and easy to clean up.

After dinner, I washed up and hung my bear bag before retiring shortly before sun down. It felt good to be back on hiker time again, rising with the dawn and sleeping when the sun set at night.

Crescent Pond
Crescent Pond

Day 3: Rainbow Stream Lean-to South End of Nahmakanta Lake and back to Wadleigh Stream Lean-to (14 miles)

My goal on this trip was to find the last point on the Appalachian Trail that  I’d gotten to in 2009, before I had to bail on that hike. I had a good mental picture of the exact spot, but I couldn’t remember exactly where it was.  I figured I’d just keep hiking until I got to it and hoped that my food supply would hold out until then. I broke camp early the next morning with hopes of finding it later in the day at the southern end of Nahmakanta Lake.

As I continued south The trail got easier to hike and the weather cleared up. This stretch of trail is exceptionally beautiful, running past beautiful Crescent Pond, up and over Nesuntabunt Mountain and alongside several excellent swimming beaches on Nahmakanta Lake.

About a mile south, I met another pair of section hikers, a couple, with the trail names Down and Out. They’d hiked the International Appalachian Trail last year and were doing the Wilderness this year, gradually working their way south along the AT.

I was hiking much faster than them, but stopping a lot to take in the views, and they kept catching up to me. They’re both into lightweight backpacking and so we talked a lot about gear.They were both wearing Golite Gust backpacks that were over 15 years old and in excellent condition, made in the days when Golite made still made UL packs with mesh back pockets. The Gust is a classic UL pack and was favored by mountaineers and alpinists as a high capacity gear hauler.

Mount Katadhin seen from Mount Nesunabunt and Nahmankanta Lake
Mount Katadhin seen from Mount Nesunabunt and Nahmankanta Lake

Nesunabunt Mountain was literally the high point of the day, with incredible views of distant Katahdin in clear conditions. The mountain is only about 1750 feet high, but towers above the blue waters of Nahmankanta Lake below.

A few miles futher south, I found it: the place where my 2009 section hike had ended and I’d been picked up by the Shaw’s shuttle. It looked exactly like it did then: a gravel logging road and the wood bridge spanning Nahmankanta Stream. This might sound anti-climactic but arriving at this spot meant I’d finally hiked all 100 miles of the Wilderness! I snapped a few photos and did an about-face, hiking a few miles back to the Wadleigh Shelter to camp for the night.

Wadleigh Shelter is probably one of the most underused shelters on the AT. It’s located a short distance north of Mahar Landing which is where you can catch a boat to White’s Landing, one of the only possible places to resupply in the Wilderness. I’ve never stayed or visited there myself and I’ve only heard horror stories from thru-hikers about it (surly owners and food poisoning,) but some people stay there overnight and survive the experience. Anyway, the proximity to White’s means that the Wadleigh Lean-to is vacant most nights.

Adirondack Wind Shed
Adirondack Wind Shed

Rather than stay in the shelter, I pitched my tarp again, this time as an Adirondack Wind Shed. I was joined by another camper that night, a thru-hiker named Moosehead from Florida, who I was to see repeatedly over the next couple of days as we both hiked north to Abol Bridge, he for the first time, and me back to my car.

 Day 4: Wadleigh Stream Lean-to Rainbow Spring Campsite (12 miles)

One of the challenges with section hiking is that you often have a limited about of time to cover a set distance, unlike thru hiking where there’s a little more leeway in your schedule. But on this trip, I had a little more time flexibility than normal and decided to take my time hiking out. The weather was fine and I wanted to spend some time swimming in the lakes and camping rather than pushing myself to hike extra long days to finish sooner.

I broke camp the next morning and hiked leisurely up Nesuntabunt Mountain again to take in the view of Katadhin. There I met another thru-hiker named Captain Planet who is from Georgia. He was smoking a cigarette at the viewpoint, having stealth camped there to photograph the sunrise on Katadhin. We chatted for a while and I took off leaving him contemplating the view. My hike had definitely taken an unusual social turn for me, as I continued north.

After a few hours, I arrived back at the Rainbow Stream Lean-to where I met Moosehead again and another thru-hiker named Vegan. I took a water stop there and ate some nuts and dried fruit while we got talking. Captain Planet ambled in shortly afterwards, as well as a hiker named Nimblefoot, who was just starting a southbound thru-hike to Georgia.

Freshwater Bathing at Rainbow Lake
Freshwater Bathing at Rainbow Lake

Captain Planet and Moosehead were set on doing a long day to get to Hurd Lean-to that night. After that they planned to hike into Baxter and stay at the Birches for the night which is reserved for hikers who complete the 100 mile wilderness. The following day, they’d climb Katadhin and finish their AT thru-hikes.

Vegan and I decided to take it easy that afternoon and only hike a few more miles to the Rainbow Spring Campsite so we could go swimming in Rainbow Lake. Vegan needed to kill a couple of days in Millinocket to wait for his family to show up and climb Katadhin with him, and I offered to drive him into town, about 20 miles east, on my way back to Boston.

Vegan and I hiked separately to the Rainbow Spring Campsite which has an excellent swimming lake and fresh water spring. When I arrived he was already swimming in the cool clear water. I set up camp and joined him at the lake where we swam and hung out, talking along the rocky shore. There aren’t many people in the 100 mile wilderness, so you can have a lake all to yourself if you want.

Vegan told me that he’d been living in Germany and teaching business English before returning to the US in March, 2011. He’d just been divorced from his wife and decided “what the hell”, he’d thru-hike the AT. That turned to be a good move because he escaped all of the depression that goes with a marriage breaking up, instead waking up every day surrounded by good friends and ready to hike onward.

There’s probably a good lesson in there. Hiking heals the heart. He’s climbing Mount Katadhin today, as I write this trip report.

Day 5: Rainbow Spring Campsite  to Abol Bridge (11 miles)

The next morning we got an early start breaking camp around 7 a.m. We’d agreed to hike separately because thru-hikers hike a lot faster than most people and I like hiking alone anyway. Though, without the rain I’d expereineced on my first day along this section, I made pretty good time myself, hiking the 11 miles out to Abol Bridge in 4 hours. I’d clearly gotten my trail legs back.

Northernmost Section of the 100 Mile Wilderness
Northernmost Section of the AT in the 100 Mile Wilderness

I popped out of the woods and walked down The Golden Road to Abol Bridge where I came upon Vegan, Moosehead and a few other thru-hikers drinking beer outside the Abol Bridge store. I had a drink and some chips and hung out with them for a while, before taking Vegan into town and driving back to Boston. I’d really enjoyed his company and that of the other thru-hikers I’d met those last couple of days. I’ll remember their kindness toward me and their easy going nature for a long time.


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

  2. 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. 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. 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="; 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Rain sucks…especially when creeks become rivers!

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

  14. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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!

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

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

  31. 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. 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. What was the specific date that this hike began?

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

    • 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

  35. 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.)

  36. 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!

  37. 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!

  38. 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.

    • 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. 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.


    • 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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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,

  48. Hi — it was nice to read your description of the 100 mile wilderness. I completed it in 2007, many years ago. I have to say of the many highlights on that hike, visiting White’s Landing was one of the best! Sorry you missed out — I strongly urge anyone who is in the Wilderness not to miss out on this “side” event. The burgers served were great (I ate two) and the owners very nice, though very strict and curt about boots being left outside. Also, I took time to hike through Gulf Hagas — Maine’s so-called grand canyon. If it’s not crazy raining try to spend some time there too!

  49. Thanks for posting this trip report. It’s funny how the most problematic trips make the best stories.

  50. I have enjoyed your post! Fantastic photos and inspiring accomplishment! I am using this setting in a novel I am writing and wonder if communications using something like a trackimo would emit GPS signal in the Wilderness? I want my character to have lost any pinging of her location. Thanks!

  51. This is such a great blog…and so funny! My husband just finished a southbound thru hike and this broight back great memories.

  52. Thanks for this thoughtful blog. I am turning 50 this fall and my best friend will be 40. We have hiked much of the AT in NH and ME over the years but as a full time Doctor/mom/wife, have never gone more then 3 days. I have had 4 knee surgeries but none since 2010. Based on your blog I will be trying trail runners and work on my tarp/bivy skills. I will also ask my family to meet up for result at least near gulf Hagar where I know KIW has logging road in. Is there a summary you can recommend of other logging road crosses?

  53. Sorry, no. The logging roads change all the time, many are washed out by bad rains, and many are gated. Your best bet would be to contact a lumber company or just get a shuttle from a local company that is used to extracting hikers.

  54. I agree with one of your respondents; the best diaries are the ones where problems did arise and how you dealt with it. I’m intending doing this 100 mile section with my son this September. He’s in his thirties and I’m 62. We’re both from the UK. Really appreciated you taking the time to share it with us – thanks

  55. Earlylite. Great report. Going there in early August. What’s your opinion of a lightweight umbrella as part of your kit?

  56. One suggestion.
    Carry a pair of water sandals or water shoes for crossings., and make sure they can grip. Put your boots in a waterproof bag when crossing. The best water shoes are lightweight neoprene kayaking or paddling boots. Be careful of some of the popular water sandals. Many do not grip well to a wet surface.
    I would never risk getting my boots wet. I’m not a big fan of the cloth boots and they also soak up terribly when immersed in a stream.. Leather to me is king. But they should not be used for water crossings.
    When I had to ford rivers in Alaska in the old days, I would put on sneakers. They.were not as good as water shoes, but they dried out quickly. If my boots got wet in Alaska, I would be risking my life.
    Neoprene kayaking are the way to go. Lightweight with quite a grip for footing when crossing.

    David, Nairobi, Kenya

  57. I’d like to add another short comment. Lightweight hiking boots are OK if you do not carry much weightand are walking on try and are walking on dry to rain terrain . Personally, for any rough terrain, I prefer my hiking boots – leather Scarpas. They offer more protection for my ankles in terms of preventing scrapes and sprains. Having suffered many sprained ankle’s in the past, I believe that the benefits of a full leather hiking boot outweigh the potential of an injury. Lightweight does have its compromises.

    Nice write up, by the way. Thanks.

  58. I am full of admiration for anyone who thru-hikes the Trail! I along with a friend backpacked part of the 100 wilderness but he got sick and we had the good luck to run into fishermen who drove us out. What I am wondering is if there are experienced people who lead others through the Wilderness…. I was thinking there might be lots of older women who want an experience like that but are timid about bears, etc. I am 78 but still think I could make it – albeit slowly.

  59. me and my friend are in the beginning stages of planning a backpacking/camping trip through the 100 mile wilderness for next year. We are trying to determine our best options, as we may only be able to take a week off work (which would mean about 7-8 days of trail time). Would it be possible to do the 100 mile wilderness in this amount of time, or would you recommend doing it as a section hike, and schedule with a shuttle service (doing only half in this trip and half in a second one)?

  60. Bhimsen Bhattarai

    in my view, this trip is filled with more adventure. I will try on one day this trails. :)

  61. Hello again Phiilip. This post is awesome and I’m sure will prove helpful for me and my two other over-50 buddies as we’ll be hitting this Section this next August (2018). So it’s been 9 and 7 years since you tackled the HMW…how old were you at that time? We have 9 days available to us but we aint the fastest guys on the highway. Any additional comments you might have are greatly appreciated.

    • The last time I did it I was 52 years old and it took 6.5 days. We had to hurry because we were running out of food, but then again the friend I was hiking with was sick for most of the trip with a intestinal disorder. The longer you take, the more food you have to carry.

  62. Thank you for this great write upM

  63. Wow, what a great read. My partner and I are planning a section hike of the 100 mile wilderness in September 2020, for my 60th birthday. I’ve been reading alot about it, and have been training for the past year, and will continue for the next few months until the hike. I’m expecting the weather to be a bit dryer in mid September, the bugs to be less annoying, and the rivers and streams to be lower, we’ll see! We’re planning on allowing 10 days to complete, it but we have 14 days to play with, and I may need a zero day:) Keep on keeping on everyone, peace >)

  64. God Bless your wife for making you carry the Beacon. What did she say about your trip experiences? All that rain and mud!! It’s not really surprising that you had an injury. Genoa salami would be about the only thing that would have kept me going. What about greens?? I didn’t see any greens on your food list. Men need calcium too you know. I’m lying in bed possibly getting over COVID and I enjoyed your piece better than a movie. In fact, it increased my appetite. Now I know more about what section hike is and thru hike. I didn’t know folks had names. Is that a younger person’s thing or do people still do that , kinda like a trucker’s handle. What would I call myself? Raynaud’sToes, or
    MortadellaMarcella. The possibilities are endless!

  65. Having hiked the 100 mile wilderness and section hiked parts of it . Katadin ironworks’s to Monson south than go back to Katadin iron works and head to Abol . Allows for reloading of food clean cloths etc .Chairback range is better southbound .The northbound remainder of the hike goes generally downhill after White cap

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