Nearing the End

We woke up early at White Wolf Inn feeling some of the affects of perhaps one too many rounds from last night’s 2000 mile celebration. Thankfully, we just had to walk downstairs to a fantastic breakfast and hot coffee. After eating, we returned upstairs to pack our things and made a call to Fat Man Walking. The slackpack offer made over last night’s beers was still on the table. We readied ourselves and piled into Fat Man’s RV.

Fat Man had day packs he lent us, and we returned to the AT. With plans in place, we set out to climb the Bigelows, one of the last big climbs we would have before summitting Katahdin. We were just 188 miles from the long awaited finish line and estimated an additional 11 days on the Appalachian Trail.

It was another beautiful day in Maine. Actually, since crossing the state line, we had seen nothing but beautiful weather. From what I’ve gathered, we were extremely lucky as many hikers trudge through the state soaked in rain and near drowning in mud. I am nothing but grateful.

Our slackpack day was set for 16.7 miles with lots of climbing in between. We had been hoping for one more chance to slackpack, and we noticed right away that this was the perfect stretch to do without a big pack. With last night’s residuals and this day’s tough trail, I’m not sure we would’ve completed the near 17 miles without Fat Man’s help.

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Unbelievably beautiful day.

The tough day came to an end when we returned to the previously designated meeting point. Fat Man and his pup were already there. Fat Man was quick to offer us sodas and provided water for cooking. We enjoyed a great conversation with this all around awesome guy and eventually crawled into the tent for the night.

In the morning, we said our goodbye’s and so many thank you’s to this amazing trail angel. We set out down the trail with our full bags in tow for a 17.3 mile day. All day it seemed like we were consistently hiking next to some beautiful body of water. At one point, the trail even turned to sand, and we were on the shore of a lake.

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This is the same body of water we saw from the top of the Bigelows pictured above.
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Stop, drop, and swim.

We were glad for a relatively easy day, happy that we could maintain a good pace. We arrived at Pierce Pond Shelter for the night accompanied by many hiker friends. We were all happy to be at such a beautiful spot for the night, and several hikers even took a quick dip.

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When morning came, we hiked 4 miles to the Kennebec River. The Kennebec is the largest river on the AT without a bridge to cross it. Too quick to ford, the river must be crossed by ferry. When we arrived at the Kennebec, a few others were waiting ahead of us. We filled out our liability form while watching other hikers take their canoe rides across. Soon, it was our turn. I let BigFoot do the paddling and took the free ride.

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There was even a white blaze painted in the canoe.

Now on the other side of the river, we were just a few minutes from a highway crossing. BigFoot and I grabbed a quick hitch to Northern Outdoors, a nearby outfitter, lodge, and brewpub. We also had a couple important packages waiting for us there: our final resupply box and BigFoot’s new sleeping pad.

Upon arriving, we didn’t really intend to stay for food. But when we entered the building, there was no way we were turning down a hot meal. We checked with the desk about our packages, and they told us to have a seat and that they would bring them to us. While waiting on our food, our resupply package arrived. They were still looking for the other one. Not really what we wanted to hear.

Meals arrived and the food shoveling began. Well, at least there was food in front of us when the bad news was broken. No other package. No new sleeping pad.

Over the past week since the Therm-a-explosion started, the sleeping pad had now gone full beach ball at one end. Basically, BigFoot had been sleeping on the ground all week and really didn’t want to go without it for another 10 days.

We began contemplating if we needed to take a zero day to wait on the mail to arrive tomorrow. However, it’s really the last thing either of us wanted to do. BigFoot made a call to the company and found some interesting news. For whatever reason, the package still had not been sent out. But, the customer service rep had a new idea. If we could make it to Greenville, we could pick up a replacement at the outfitter.

Frustrated, we bought a couple beers and sorted our resupply. We decided it was really our only option, and BigFoot would deal with sleeping on the ground for an additional 60 miles.

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Our final dropbox.

Packs ready to go, we hitched back to the trail. A very nice Australian man picked us up. He asked about our trip, and we were thrilled to say we only had 150 miles left.

“150 miles! You two are crazy!!”

“Well, we already did 2040.”

The look on his face as he slowly turned to the back seat to look at us was priceless.

“Bless you.”

Well, back down the trail we go. After our stop, we completed 12 miles for the day for a total of 16. We were again happy to see consistent increases in our daily mileage after the slow go over rugged trail in the Whites and Southern Maine.

The next day was a successful 18 miles over relatively easy terrain. It was also our first time that we actually had to take our hiking shoes off to cross a river. There are many places in Maine where fording a river or stream is necessary. That means changing shoes into our Crocs, unbuckling our packs, and slowly crossing through the moving water over slippery rocks. Because the area hadn’t seen much rain, the swells were down allowing for many to be crossed by Frogger style rock hopping.

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Twice this day, though, we had to do whole fording process. When we forded the second, we were at our finish spot for the day. BigFoot and I set up our tent and went back down to the river to get our evening’s water. We casually sat and filtered water enjoying chatting with Macklemore, Pocahontas, and Tick. While resting our feet, we noticed some big clouds rolling in but were hoping our no rain streak would win. It didn’t.

Just as I had all the food in the pot for dinner, a downpour burst over my head. Thankfully, our tent was pitched and our things protected. I stood in my rain coat, shorts, and crocks in the pouring rain monitoring our food. Hey, a little rain wasn’t going to stop me from eating. Even a lot of rain wasn’t going to stop me. By the time the soup was ready, the rain slowed down and eventually stopped. I didn’t even mind. I had dry clothes to step into and my dinner was ready to eat!

We got a little more rain overnight but nothing crazy. When morning came, we began our hike. We were 6.7 miles to the road that would take us to Greenville. Thankfully, the morning hike only took us just over 2 hours to complete. When we arrived to the highway, a man was letting out three hikers and cheerily offered us a ride to town, though he apologized that he could not take us back to the trail after our town stop. No worries, we knew we would find a ride back.

The man took us directly to the outfitter. Therm-a-Rest had called ahead for us and the store employees were very helpful. Soon, an exchange of one broken and filthy sleeping pad was made for a brand new one.

I also picked up some trekking pole tip replacements which completed our town chores. Though do you really think we left town without going to a restaurant? Clearly you haven’t been playing attention 😉

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The moose in me recognizes and loves the moose in you.

We stopped into a local diner and got big breakfasts. All of the clients and employees were discussing only one thing: fly-in weekend. Apparently, Greenville is the host to an international fly-in weekend once a year. During the weekend, hundreds of sea planes would fly into the town and land directly in Moosehead Lake. Oh, that’s all the noise we’ve been hearing.

After eating, we grabbed our packs and were stopped by an older gentleman.

“You two need to check out Robert Redford’s A Walk in the Woods. It’s what your doin!!” (don’t forget your best Maine accent)

“Wait, what was it called?”

A WALK IN THE WOODS, Robert Redford!!!!!”

“I’ll try to remember. Thanks!”

Ok, it was definitely not the first time someone had mentioned Bill Bryson’s book that was just now appearing on the big screen staring Robert Redford. We both read the book last year, and we both knew the movie was coming out before we stepped foot on the trail. This was probably at least the millionth time someone had mentioned this book / movie to us, and we were pretty over it. I’m sure similar feelings come about when someone mentions Wild to those hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

We walked around the small town, making a couple stops, and enjoying watching the planes fly overhead and land in the lake. I decided this would probably be my last chance at reliable cell service so I called my parents to confirm the final details of picking us up. Yep, my parents are so cool that they were driving all the way from Indiana to Northern Maine to pick us up from this long journey. With our final plans set, we hitched our ride back to the trail.

It was finally time to enter the well known 100-mile wilderness. This 100 mile stretch of trail through Maine is so-called because, you guessed it, there are 100 miles of trail without access to any towns. The few roads you do cross are unmarked, gravel logging roads that could maybe save you in an emergency. We left fully prepared for these 100 miles which would leave just 15 more to the summit of Katahdin. This was it – the final stretch of our journey on the Appalachian Trail.

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