Return to the 100 Mile Wilderness

In August 2009, I set out to hike the 100 mile wilderness in Maine. This is the last big section that AT thru-hikers have to hike before they arrive at Baxter State Park, home of Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the 2,178 mile Appalachian Trail.

Maine is for Mangroves (Yes, that's the trail)
Maine is for Mangroves (Yes, that's the trail)

I didn’t make it through the entire 100 mile wilderness back in the summer of 2009 and had to call it quits at mile 74. I used to have a lot of problems with ITBS and my left knee had locked up making it difficult to walk. This was exacerbated by unusually severe weather, including 9″ of rain which had flooded the trail and turned my leather boots into virtual cinderblocks. I was disappointed, but determined to come back and hike the remaining 26 miles sometime in the future.

But last week, I returned and finished off the missing 26 miles (twice!) and hiked another 15 miles in Baxter State Park, including an ascent of Mount Katadhin. It was a great trip, though a little more relaxed than many of my other solo backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail.

On my way back north, I also  met some really nice thru-hikers  who I spent a few days with, named Vegan, Special Delivery, Moosehead and Captain Planet. They were easily a month ahead of most the other thru-hikers hiking the AT. Of course, they thought I was insane to hike south from Abol Bridge to the southern end of Nahmakanta Lake where I finished in 2009, and back north again over the same miles. Thru-hikers would never hike the same section of trail twice.

Camping at Rainbow Stream Lean-to
Camping at Rainbow Stream Lean-to

But I guess Section Hikers are a little OCD, at least the ones who go back to where they left off last and keep hiking the trail. Short of a amphibious plane or an expensive shuttle, there was no way to get back to where I’d left off in 2009.  Hiking the extra 2 days back again was kind of nice too, because I could do it at a leisurely pace, stopping to swim in lakes and hang out in camp for longer than normal.

The Trip Report

I thought about writing a separate trip report for the 26 mile section of the AT I hiked last week, but decided in the end to append it to my original 2009 trip report about the 100 mile wilderness.  I think adding my latest account to that old post helps illustrate the tenacity that AT Section Hikers have for hiking the entire trail, even if they have to backtrack years later to complete a missed section.

If you only want to read about the section I hiked last week, click here, and you’ll be taken where it starts in the longer (7500 word post.) There are some great photos there from my trip last week that you should also check out.

Hike on.


  1. I'm primarily a day hiker, but I know how you feel. If I'm unable to complete a section of trail for whatever reason, I feel compelled to return until I've finished it. Day hiking isn't as epic as some of your hikes, but some of us are just as OCD.

  2. Phil,

    This is one of the nicest parts of section hiking. You can clean up those parts you missed and feel oth the accomplishment of the trail AND of being finished. Baxter is a real nice place but it still isn't the High Peaks in the ADK's. No. You are NOT crazy for yoyoing. The trail is never the same twice!

  3. You'll be happy to know that I'll be back in the High Peaks in mid-October and will probably stay around a bit longer to do some REAL backpacking. I'm going to take a class on how to teach LNT at the ADK Loj. Just booked it yesterday,

  4. Jeez. It doesn't seem like that was two years ago. Glad you had a better time this time around. Don't you ever get the urge to go back to sections you've already done to get some better weather or different seasonal views? I certainly do!

  5. I do that mostly in the White Mountains because they're closer. My current passion is to hike the 4000 footers on as many different trails as possible. It's great fun. But, a lot of my AT hikes are sufficiently long drives, that I'd rather invest the "limited" free time I have doing new miles & longer hikes as they get farther away from home.

  6. Phil,

    Good job! LNT is good.The ADK people (Adirondack Mountain Club) are pretty good at what they do. Enjoy!

  7. I continue to find myself jealous of your escapades. Found myself looking for jobs in Maine too.

  8. Dude – Get a CDL and a learn how to use a chain saw. Not much else to do up there in this economy, sadly. Maine would be an excellent place to live.

  9. Pretty much the reason I'm calling myself an expat Mainer living in the south (aka New Hampshire) right now. Sigh…

  10. Glad to see that you went back to finish the 100 miles. I hiked it two weeks ago and thought about your experience the whole time!

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