Saturday, October 14 to Thursday, October 19, 2017

I rose with the sun and packed up my things and made my way to the front gate of Baxter State Park. It was just over 10 miles away.

I extended my thumb at each passing vehicle. Finally a nice man on his way to Belfast, Maine pulled over to grant me a ride. I asked him if he could drop me off at any big city between the park and Belfast. We settled on Bangor.

The ride was full of pleasantries and genuine conversation. We arrived in Bangor where he suggested lunch– his treat. We sat on the patio off of Main Street at a quaint cafe and sipped coffee, nibbling fresh bread and greens, and chatting long after the food was gone. Eventually we returned to his vehicle. I collected my pack and expressed extreme gratitude. We said goodbye and off he drove.

Just as his car pulled away,  a man on the sidewalk spoke to me “You look like you have a story!” I suppose it was the ragged nature of my clothes, and the dirt on my face in contrast to the the lightness of my smile, that suggested something out of the ordinary.

I smiled, and began to relay bits of my adventure along the Appalachian Trail. Soon his wife and kids stood by his side. They were all inquisitive and entertained and amazed. They offered to let me sleep in their art studio for the night. I could not believe my good fortune!

They walked me upstairs to the studio that stood above Main Street. They told me to make myself at home. They gave me a set of keys. With that, they left me to rest.

I collected groceries for dinner and lounged and called my loved ones.  I spoke to a good friend of mine who is from Maine. They suggested I head to Portland. As a congratulatory gesture, they purchased me a ticket for a Portland bound bus the following morning. I was ecstatic.

I rose early. The bus station was just over 5 miles away, and I intended to walk. I needed to be at the station by half past eleven.

On my way to the station I stopped for some coffee. I sat by a bench in a plaza and sipped the hot beverage and reflected and planned. I then tossed my empty cup in the bin and motioned to leave. As I walked away I made eye contact and smiled at a kindly looking couple that sat at the opposite end of the plaza.

“Where are you hiking to?” The wife called out.

I stopped and took a few steps in their direction. “I just finished hiking the Appalachian Trail.” I replied.

“Can we buy you a coffee?” they asked.

I thanked them and explained that I had just had a cup, and that I needed to hurry off to the bus stop.

“We can take you!” They said.

How lovely!

Freed of any need to rush, I joined them at their table. I told them stories of the trail and of my plans for the future. Then: they offered to let me shower at their home.

“Oh my goodness, thank you!” I said with unbridled enthusiasm.

With that I was driven to their home, and given a fresh towel and access to a hot shower. After freshening up they took me with them to brunch and treated me to a hot meal before depositing me at the bus station just in time to catch a ride to Portland!

With freshly washed skin and hair It became apparent how much my clothing, well, stunk.

Immediately upon my arrival to Portland I crossed the street and headed to a laundry mat. As I stood waiting for a $3 machine (the cheapest available) a man said jokingly “can’t decide which one?”

“I am waiting for the $3 one” I replied.

Moments later he walked over with $3 in quarters and dropped them in my palm.

“Thank you!” I exclaimed.

I was overwhelmed with all of the kindness. I felt I could float.

After I finished with laundry, I wandered the streets of downtown Portland.

As night fell, I found a spot behind a dumpster.

The dumpster held only wood scraps and the area was clean and out of sight; suitable. I laid out my ground tarp and mat and fell asleep.

In the middle of the darkness, as one day turned to the next, it began to rain. I pulled out my tent in a hurry and draped it over me. Fortunately it was not raining hard, and it soon ceased. I fell back to sleep. Again I woke to a loud beeping and bright flashing. What was this?! It was 2:30 in the morning. It was garbage collection! Startled, I watched as the dumpster furthest from me was lifted and returned. The dump-truck then backed up and pulled away. I had not been noticed. I fell asleep once more.

In the morning I headed towards the library. As I was walking I spotted a man with a pack. We smiled at one another. He walked over to me. “Ya hungry?” He asked.

He guided me over to the soup kitchen where I joined him over a meal of hot oatmeal and fruit. I had never been to a soup kitchen before. It was an amazing resource that the city was providing to those in need. I felt a twinge of guilt for utilizing such resources. I did certainly qualify as low-income, but I still felt a certain uneasiness. The experience and conversation, however, I greatly enjoyed.

After breakfast I spent time at the library writing. When night fell, I headed back to the dumpster I had slept behind the night before. As I returned, I noticed a parked vehicle. Shiny and obtrusive, it reflected the light escaping from the window of a nearby building. Darn it. I would have to find another place to sleep.

I wandered the streets for a bit before coming to an empty parking garage filled with construction material.

I scoped out the area. There was a back exit. I slid between a a large box that sat upon a wood pallet, and the wall. I was out of site and cozy. I drifted in to sleep.

At around 5 am I woke to a vehicle pulling in to the parking lot. The car parked, the engine stopped, country music filled the parking structure. Then another car arrived. I heard car doors shut. I peered around the box. I saw two men standing at the opposite end of the parking garage–construction workers.

Heart pounding, I slipped out of my sleeping bag and packed up my things as quickly and quietly as I could manage.

“Ya ready?” One man said to the other.

Then, the lights came on.

My things were all packed. I lobbed my pack a bit ahead of me, behind another pallet closer to the door.

Ok, I thought. Just stand up and walk out. If they say anything, just apologize and say you needed some place to sleep.

I stood, my top half clearly visible from behind the pallet. I threw on my pack, and quickly walked to the back exit and up the stairs to the top level which led to the street.

To my amazement (and proud, child-like delight), they did not even notice me.

Again, I roamed the city and spent my day at the library writing.

I decided, since I had gone undetected, I could certainly sleep in the same parking structure again. So, after the library closed, I made my way back to that spot between the pallet and the wall. I presumed that 5 am was when their shift started, so if I woke at 4:30 am and got out of there quickly, there should not be a problem. Wrong.

The next morning a car pulled in and parked just after 3 am.

I packed up my things and moved for the back exit. It was barricaded. I had not checked it again. You’re slipping, I thought.

I had no choice but to pass directly in front of the vehicle to exit.

I would not be returning.

That evening I discovered Deering Oaks Park. I set up my tent in the darkness, tucked between two trees, at the base of a down-slope, out of sight from passerby. I rose quickly with a sun.

I was warned that a rough crowd with a taste for hard drugs hung out at the park after dark. I felt the tent was a good deterrent, however…you never know who or what is inside. I also carry pepper spray.

The next day I received a care package sent to the local post office by the same good friend of mine. Among its contents was a large pack of hand warmers and a knife. I would stay one more night in Portland. Friday afternoon, I would begin my hitch-hiking journey across the country to California.

I slept in the park again that night. I set up my tent just as night fell. I rushed to throw myself inside before two people with flash lights could identify me as alone and female. Later in the night I heard voices and watched beams of flashlights illuminate my tent.

I was glad to be leaving in the morning. It was time to move.

Appalachian Trail Mile 2189.8; Katahdin

Friday, October 13, 2017 (Day 164)

I woke, I laughed, I grinned until it hurt…today was the day I would complete the Appalachian Trail.

It was surreal.

I set off for the mountain, full pack on my back.

The climb was steep and challenging. At one point I had to remove my pack and lob it ahead. There was rebar and scrambling and amazing views.

The weather was spectacular.

After clambering up to a false summit, the trail turned mellow. It was a gradual smooth ascent. The northern terminus was just over a mile away.

I reached the top and began to approach it very nonchalantly.  But as I waited for the day hikers to finish posing for their pictures with the sign, the terminus, it all just hit me…and I started to cry. The weight of the distance travelled over the last 5 months and 10 days, the land I gazed and slept and trudged and frolicked through, that picked me up and taught me things; the changing seasons and the changing self… it all, it all just washed over me.

“I’m sorry.” I said to no one in particular. “I did not think I would get so emotional.”

“Where did you start your hike?” A lady asked.


“You hiked the whole thing!?”

“Yes.” I smiled.




After I climbed down from the sign, two men came up and asked to shake my hand. Katahdin may as well have been the top of the world.

Next…Knife Edge.

Though it looked quite, uh, harrowing in its beauty, I was up for the challenge. Though many thru-hikers turn around and head back the way they came, back tracking is not my style. I would take Knife Edge to Pamola Peak and descend via the Helen Taylor trail. This would bring me to the Roaring Brook Campground, where I planned to hitch in to town.

Knife Edge was certainly a challenge. I could not decide whether to laugh from the thrill or cry from fear. In the end I both laughed and cursed in bewilderment and strange admiration.

I made it over the edge and down the connecting trail to the Roaring Brook campground. It was too late for a hitch. It was dark. I hobbled in to the ranger station and asked for a campsite. He asked if I had a tent. I told him that I was carrying my full pack. He looked at me like I was crazy and told me that there was one site available that I could have.

Two men from Montreal had overheard my conversation and invited me to join them for Spanish wine. I smiled and left to find my site.

I could not find the site in the darkness.  I liked the idea of company. I found the men and asked them if the offer still stood. We all sat around their fire and sipped wine and they made me dinner and we had lovely conversation. They asked what was next. I told them that I planned to hitch-hike across the country. They offered me a ride to Montreal if I was still there on Sunday.

I was so happy.

When it was time to retire, one of them helped me locate my tentsite.

“Thank you! Good night!” I said.

I set up my tent, crawled inside, and fell asleep…dreaming of my next adventure.

Appalachian Trail Mile 2184.5

Thursday October 12, 2017 (Day 163)

It had grown terribly cold in the night. The frigid air pulled me mercilessly from slumber. I shook hand warmers to activate their warmth and placed them inside my socks, under the arches of my feet. I turned and huddled, pulling my body inward, fighting for sleep.

Then, morning came. I slowly slipped my covered head from beneath my sleeping bag, as a frightened child slowly lifts a bed-skirt in anticipation of a monster. A very cold monster.

I glanced at the time: 8:30. 830!? I wanted to start much, much earlier than this!

I packed up my things in a hurry and was on my way.

I moved quickly. The next thing I knew I was at The Golden Road, then Abol Bridge. I stood at the bridge, gaping at the beauty that was Katahdin.

I stopped in at the general store to resupply. There was not much to choose from. I selected Clif Bars and Oreos and sugary oatmeal packets…a tummy ache waiting to happen. It did not matter. Nothing mattered but the mountain.

Outside the store, the “Dirty Thirty” had gathered. One of them was celebrating a birthday. They were planning to hitch in to town and drink whisky at the McDonalds. They invited me along. I kindly declined. I could not imagine leaving the trail now.

The mountain was calling. It was palpable. It was intoxicating. I had to go.

I reached the entrance to Baxter State Park, and to my relief, I was only number three to sign my name.

Yes! It was official. It was happening.

Entering the park felt like entering a magical wonderland.

It seemed like an eternity before I reached the ranger station and The Birches Campground. I registered with the ranger, paid the fee, and with great jubilance, made my way to the campground.

At the benches sat four hikers. Three flip-floppers, and one that also came through from Georgia. We chatted for a bit before retiring. There were two shelters. I had one all to myself.

After making myself cozy in one of the shelters, headlights appeared. A single hiker then approached and asked if they could join me in the shelter. I wasn’t thrilled, until I realized that it was a hiker I had met in Vermont who I was quite fond of.  Also, more body heat.

I cannot believe I am actually here.

The summit of Katahdin was just 5.3 miles away.

It was surreal. I did not need to sleep to dream. But, sleep I did, under a thick blanket of sweet anticipation.

Appalachian Trail Mile 2171.2

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 (Day 162)

I wanted to rise early and make the 22 miles to Abol Bridge before dark. I opened my eyes and checked the time. Not quite 7 am. If I left straight away, I could make it before the store closed. I turned in my sleeping bag so my face lay flat against the down-filled hood. It’s too cold, I thought, quickly rejecting the idea of rising. I hate to rush, anyhow. 

When the woods grew warmer, and I no longer cringed at exposure of fingers and toes, I rose. I immediately noticed that in the dark of the night I had inadvertently chosen a spot that was very near the beach of a large lake. No wonder it was so cold.

I considered my situation. Yes, I was very low on food, but even more of a concern was ‘The Sign-in Sheet’. After Abol Bridge, the trail enters Baxter State Park. Within the park, there is no camping allowed outside of the designated campgrounds, of which there are two: Katahdin Stream Campground and The Birches. Katahdin Stream Campground is available to the general public and costs $30/night. The Birches is a campground for long-distance hikers only, and is $10/night. Only 12 hikers are allowed to camp at The Birches each night. To reserve your spot, you list your name on the sign-in sheet posted at the entrance of the park.

I wanted to summit on Friday. I only had $11 in my wallet. I  had to get my name on that list!

I set forth on the trail.

I viewed Katahdin from a distance for the first time. How marvelous! How majestic!

I felt great, I felt motivated, everything was as it should be…then I stopped for a break.

I followed a side trail for a short distance, removed my pack, and fetched the painfully small portion of rice and noodles I had rationed for the day. I added them to a pot of water. Then I pulled out my stove. Since the terrible fiery incident, I have managed to use my stove. It was apparent that the cannister fire was caused by a fuel leak. While exercising extreme caution, ensuring a complete seal, and not taking my eyes off of the cannister for a moment, I have successfully prepared hot meals since the mishap. However, now I could not get the stove to screw in to the cannister at allI spent a good 30 minutes screwing and pressing and twisting, trying to force my stove on to the cannister. Each time, it popped off and sprayed fuel. I whimpered and pouted to myself. It was cold. I desired something hot. I had been looking forward to an afternoon cup of coffee. Finally, I gave up, and ate my rice and noodles cold and crunchy. Then, I was officially out of food.

I continued on. It seemed I became hungrier than I had been before eating. My thumb began to throb in pain. My mentality grumbled: brooding, grey, and glum.

I stopped for another break at the Rainbow Stream Lean-to. I removed my pack and laid flat on the bench that stood in front of the shelter.  I stared at the sky. “You can do this.” I said to myself aloud. “Everything is temporary. The pain will subside. You are almost done. You have to get your name on that list.”

I stood up and continued walking.

Soon, night fell. As I continued in the darkness, I heard voices from behind me. I stopped and turned. A collection of bouncing headlamps approached. It was what remained of the “Dirty Thirty”. We had been keeping a similar pace through the 100 Mile Wilderness. At first this was a bother, as they were a very large group. As time passed, however, they began to grow on me.

“Is that Giggles!?” One asked with enthusiasm. “We were worried about you!”

Yesterday I had briefly mentioned to a member of their group that I was trying to make it to Abol Bridge. That I was nearly out of food and was going to try to hike through the night.

Obviously, I had not made it.

“Do you need any food?” One asked.

“I mean, If you guys are offering…” I responded.

All at once, the five of them removed their packs and shuffled through in search of spare food. I was given tortillas and ramen. I was given kindness and energy and support and hope. I was so very grateful.

“Thank you so much!” I exclaimed.

They continued on and so did I. I stopped and sat upon a large boulder and ate some tortillas and put the noodles in an empty peanut butter container with water to soak. I could feel my body convert the calories to energy, I could feel my spirits lift.

I climbed up to the Rainbow Ledges. It was a gorgeous clear night. The stars were magnificent to behold as I traversed the exposed slabs of stone.

The trail descended once more. I stopped at a campsite just before the Hurd Brook Lean-to. Abol Bridge was a little over 3 miles away. Close enough, I thought, and fell asleep.

Appalachian Trail Mile 2150.2

Tuesday, October 10, 2017 (Day 161)

In the morning, my thumb was again enormous. I wondered if I should be worried about infection. I decided to trust that my body would take care of itself. I did not carry a first-aid kit, anyhow.

I was getting very low on food. I was also getting very close to Abol Bridge, where there was a small store. I entertained grandiose ideas of hiking through the night.

It was a beautiful morning. The sun shone radiantly. I laughed with glee.

Day turned to night and the sky remained clear. I stopped by nearly every water source and drank large amounts of water to stave off hunger. I had found turmeric supplements in a hiker box. I broke open the capsules and let the powder fall into a pot of water to form a sort of turmeric soup.

I trudged forth until near midnight. Then, my determination turned frail. I passed a large pond and gazed up at the starry night sky. I decided if I were to stop for the night, I should try to steer clear of the water and the cold that inevitably surrounds it. I continued a bit further before coming to a flat space covered with bright leaves of autumn hues.

I will have to sleep at some point anyhow, I told myself. I stopped for the night, still 22 miles from Abol Bridge.

Appalachian Trail Mile 2132.1

Monday, October 9, 2017 (Day 160)

When I woke, my thumb no longer pained me. I glanced down at my hand. Atop my thumb lay the most gigantic blister I have ever seen. I poked it gently. It was entirely numb. So fascinating and remarkable is the human body!

I collected the scattered, partially cooked noodles I had spilled the night before. I would eat them later, I could not afford to waste food. I packed up my things and headed down the trail. I was careful not to pop the blister, fearful that if the liquid barrier was broken pain would ensue.

I gripped my trekking poles. There was no friction or irritation. The placement of the wound could not have been any better. I was thankful that the burnt thumb, some small holes and charred fabric on the right sleeve of my puffy, and a slightly frayed and crispy braid of hair, was the extent of damage from last night’s mishap.

Then, maneuvering down some slick rocks, I fell. I popped the blister. Darn It! Fortunately, I felt no pain, and continued on.

The day was gray and hazy. Rain is coming, I thought.

I crossed streams and skirted ponds and climbed Little Boardman Mountain.

By late afternoon it had begun to rain. First in spurts, then growing heavier and more consistent.

As the sun moved further west and slid down beneath the horizon, I passed the Cooper Brook Falls Lean-to. I was determined to travel much further, no matter the weather. The rain persisted, and so did I. There were not any low hanging clouds, so my vision was not terribly skewed. I pressed on in to the night.

As 9 pm approached, a haze set in. It hugged the earth and drifted through the trees. It became difficult to see through the rain and fog. I was growing more wet and cold by the minute. Water had soaked through my rain jacket and top. I decided it was time to look for a site. Finally, I came upon one that was suitable and pitched my tent.

I crawled inside and changed in to my dry clothes. The rain thrummed and beat the outside of my tent. Harder and harder it fell.

I decided that setting up camp had been the right decision. Warm and safe from the rain, I hugged my food-bag pillow and fell asleep.

Appalachian Trail Mile 2119.3

Sunday, October 8, 2017 (Day 159)

It did not rain through the night. I rose, packed up my things, and set on my way.

I came to the West Branch of the Pleasant River. I removed my boots and socks and rolled up my pants in preparation to ford. The water was shockingly cold at first, but my body was quick to adjust.

Two other hikers and an employee of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC), whom I had met once before, greeted me on the other side.

I sat with them and chatted. The topic of water came up. I mentioned that I did not have a filter. The MATC employee suggested a water source up ahead, just off the trail, would be best for me to collect from.

“How far off trail?” I asked with a smile. At this point in the game, detours did not sound appealing. “Is there a sign that says ‘water’?”

At that, a day hiker who had just made it to the banks of the river, laughed to herself and offered sarcastically “Honey, this is the wilderness!”

I was hot with shame and embarrassment and guilt. “There often is a sign.” I said, in my defense.

“She’s right.” said the MARC employee.

Thoughts of society and the woods racing through my head, I continued on.

I quickly came to a stream that flowed directly on trail. I pulled off my pack, and squatted beside it to collect water.

The hiker who had made the eye-opening comment passed by with her hiking partner. “I see you found the water” she jested.

At this point I had to say something. I told her that I was a thru-hiker and that her comment had made me feel quite badly. I told her that this close to the end, one is racing to the finish line and any detours are painful. I mentioned that the focus needed to spot a slightly beaten path leading to water, as opposed to a sign tacked to a tree are different, and I wanted to be aware of what I was looking for. I confessed to how it is somewhat sad, however, that even out here it is not ‘wild’; that there are signs, and pipes, and that the romance of searching for a source is rejected in favor of an easily labeled trail. The wilderness was infiltrated, and I was using it to my advantage to race to the end.

They did not say much, just nodded in agreement and marvelled at how long I had been in the woods.

They left, and another couple with two small children hopped along the stones over the stream by which I sat. “I see you found the water!” they said smiling.

Oh, goodness. I repeated the same spiel, and watched them head on their way.

I journeyed on over Hagas, Hay, and White Cap Mountain.

Night fell. I stopped and sat on a leaf covered clearing just off of the trail, not far passed the Logan Brook Lean-to. I decided to stay.

Tucked inside my sleeping bag, I dropped a handful of noodles in to my cooking pot, added water, lit my stove, and left it to boil.

Moments later I turned to see that the mixed fuel cannister had caught fire! I was at once shocked and terrified. I jumped out of my sleeping bag, knocking over the pot. I grabbed the base of the canister and ran with it to the center of the trail. The flames were ablaze and growing. My puffy and hair caught fire. I sat the canister down on the trail and ran to grab one of the two liters of water I had with me and a boot to stomp it out. I tossed a liter over the flames. The fire ceased but for a moment before reigniting with a vengeance.

I was horrified. Leaves began to catch fire. I looked around me. Not enough dirt to suffocate it. Nothing to put it out. My mind raced. Is this how I am going to die!? How do I warn other people!? When is it time to run!? Is it going to explode!?

I quickly realized that I had to reach in to the flames and unscrew the canister. I took a deep breath and gripped the base of the cannister through the fire, unscrewing the stove. The fire stopped instantly.

I stood, in shock and relief. Then my headlamp flickered rapidly and died. I stood there in complete darkness in the center of the trail in my socks, hand badly burned, mouth agape, as I processed the situation and willed my eyes to adjust to the blackness of night. I clumsily felt around for my nalgene and boot and stove and canister. Fumbling and awkward, I found my way to my sleeping bag and located my external power bank that also served as a flashlight.

My body was flooded with adrenaline. I had a spare set of batteries. I considered hiking on. My eyes were very sleepy, however, and my thumb began to scream in pain. I decided to rest and let my body heal.

I took some aspirin, burrowed myself back inside my sleeping back, listened as my racing heart began to quiet, and fell asleep.

Appalachian Trail Mile 2103.8

I opened my eyes to two beams of light reaching towards me from a distance. Footsteps, and crunching leaves, and conversing voices grew louder as the light beams bounced closer.

Embarrassed of my shameless place of slumber, I quickly rose and pulled myself from my sleeping bag.

“Are you alright?” They asked when they reached me.

“I’m fine, thanks.” I paused, then spoke again. “Where are you guys headed?”

“Abol Bridge.”


“We are trying to finish really fast.” Said one.

“We both have mental problems we are trying to work out on the trail.” Smirked the other.

Abol Bridge was over 80 miles away. I was dumbfounded.

They continued on.

I watched the light of their headlamps disappear, their footsteps and voices fade, before glancing at the time. It was just after 3am.

I imagined my body capturing some of their energy. I imagined following behind them and absorbing it like floating gold glintz of motivation, little wave-lengths of power left in their wake.

Just after 4am, I set off as well.

I stopped for breakfast part way up the side of Barren Mountain.

The views to the top were stunning.

Next, was the Chairback Mountain Range. The 100 Mile Wilderness is not to be underestimated. Beautiful, rugged, and wild, its mountains certainly pose a challenge.

When I came to the Chairback Gap Lean-to, it had begun to sprinkle in quick, short spurts. There were upwards of five hikers huddled in the little shelter. It was just past 4 pm. Many of them were planning on staying, on letting the rain pass. I had to press on.

I reached the top of Chairback Mountain. The clouds sat thick on the horizon.

As I descended, I came to a rockslide. Jumbles of boulders in varying sizes and shapes, heaped in mounds of chaos at a descending angle.

Oh my.

I proceeded with caution, as I hopped and climbed and scooted from stone to boulder to frighteningly unsteady rock. I turned around and back again, checking on south bound blazes to help guide my way. Finally, I made my way to a solid strip of trail.

My legs ached with each step. I came to a clearing across from a spur trail to East Chairback Pond.

I raised my eyes to the sky. I took a moment to sense the heaviness, the moisture in the air. I did not think it would rain again. I unfurled my ground tarp and mat and sleeping bag and fell asleep.

Appalachian Trail Mile 2088.7

Friday, October 6, 2017 (Day 157)

I opened my eyes to an enchanting display of light. Golden beams penetrate the translucent yellow leaves, thin like rice paper. Leaves, backlit by far-away fire, quiver with light like the stars of night; soon to tumble and loft and flit their way down, down, down to the earth. The spellbinding death dance of fall.

I rose and began.

I passed ponds and logging roads and ledges and cliffs.

I came to the crossing of Big Wilson Stream. The stream was wide. There were no stones or logs on which I could make my way accross. I removed my boots, stuffed my socks inside them, and tied them to my pack. I then strapped on my camp shoes, rolled my wool leggings up passed my knees, and stepped in to the cold water.

The fording was refreshing. The flow of the stream was not strong. I moved cautiously. With each step I gazed through the clear, gentle waters to the scattering of rocks that comprised the stream bed. I watched as I lifted and dropped each foot, avoiding the large slippery rocks in favor of the smaller stones that provided traction. I stabilized each step with my trekking poles, jostling them to ensure the security of their position before shifting my weight. At its deepest point, the water did not reach far above my knees.

After reaching the north side of the stream, I perched on a rock and dried my feet in the sun, toes rejoicing. I then pulled on my boots and continued.

I came to a railroad crossing. I looked both ways, gazing down the strips of metal that snaked in to the distance. I have always felt some sort of industrial magic and romance in the presence of trains and their tracks; a certain power, and rust, and grit, and freedom, and possibility.

I worked my way east down the tracks, out of sight of the trail, and stopped for a break beside them. I wanted to let the other hikers pass me. I wanted to be free to wander down the trail alone.

I did not wander much further before night fell. I stopped, once again, just off of the trail. The night was clear, the moon bright, eyelids heavy. Sleep overcame me.

Appalachian Trail Mile 2078.3

Thursday, October 5, 2017 (Day 156)

I woke before the sun, contemplated hiking, and closed my eyes once more.

Hours later as my eyes fluttered, eyelids aglow with the light of the sun, I heard heavy splashing.

I had passed a tent last night. It was pitched at the banks of the south side of the river. They certainly are making a lot of noise,  I thought to myself. Fording was not even necessary.

The loud splashing continued.

Still tucked inside my sleeping bag, I sat up at a 90 degree angle. In that very moment, I beheld a large black bear heave its heavy body in to the river and begin swimming–rather swiftly–in my exact direction. I was in awe. What a spectacular sight!

As I lifted my phone to take a picture, I must have startled it. The large beast came to an abrupt stop mid-stroke, made an about-face, and lumbered off hurriedly in the direction by which it came. It was bear hunting season in Maine. I had not seen a bear since Virginia.


Now, to make it to the town of Monson. Monson was just 6.7 miles away.

After passing Lake Hebron and various streams and dirt roads, I came to Route 15.

It was early afternoon. I stood no more than 10 minutes, thumb extended, before an SUV armed with two soft spoken, silver haired ladies, pulled over to grant me a ride.

“Oh, thank you!” I said with glee, as they popped the trunk for my pack.

It was a quick ride in to town. They dropped me off at the general store and bid me farewell.

I made myself comfortable in the stores outdoor seating area, plugged in my things, and stepped inside to resupply.

The store was small, but contained everything I needed, including fantastic fresh coffee.

I returned outside and began the repackaging process, swallowing large quantities of caffiene in between each redistribution.

I made small talk with locals. The ones who had experienced the trail were especially encouraging, and eager to share their knowledge.

As the sky began to melt in to a soft display of pastels and pinks, it was time to find my way to the trail.

I crossed the street and barely extended my thumb before a very friendly middle-aged couple stopped to give me a lift. They were fascinated with my lifestyle, and eager to hear stories of my adventure.

Then, I was at the south entrance of the 100 Mile Wilderness.

Oh, what joy! The final stretch!

After a mile or so, my pack began to feel tremendously heavy. My shoulder ached under the full resupply. I stopped for a break on a log that stretched across the trail.

I continued just a short while longer, before coming to a nice clearing beneath a tree. There, I stayed for the night.

I lay tired, yet astir. My mind dances with anticipation of completion, a desire for it to never end, and a thankfulness to be tucked within such beautiful woods; to sleep amongst the wild-things on a night when the moon hangs heavy in its fullness, suspended in bright glory, illuminating the grey haze of the clouds above.

Appalachian Trail Mile 2068.6

Wednesday, October 4, 2017 (Day 155)

I rose to the sound of a passing southbounder. “Nice spot” They said. I smiled. I sat and sipped coffee and had a breakfast of noodles.

I set off.

The day began with beautiful views near the summit of Moxie Bald Mountain.

After descending, I sat beside Bald Mountain Pond for lunch. The weather was splendid! The sun burned brightly, the wind blew cool and strong accross the shimmering water.

Oh, how I don’t want this journey to end!

I felt sleepy. Why, oh why was I so sleepy? Was it the late night last night? In truth, it did not matter. I lifted myself and continued.

The trail undulated up and back down in seeming endless motion. There were many stream and river crossings. I managed to stay dry on each one, utilizing branches, logs, and stones to make my way accross.

At around 7 pm I reached a very small stream. My eyes were so heavy. There was a small, person-sized clearing beside the trail. There, I settled in for a nap. Just until 8pm, I thought. Okay, maybe 9…9:20pm.

Another hiker, the one I hiked to Kennebec River with, walked by in the dark. We chatted. They commented on the warmth of the night, and wondered if it was a sign of coming rain. Rain!?

They planned to camp somewhere near the upcoming lean-to. I assured them that I was just taking a break.

After their departure, I looked to the moon. It was nearly full. I asked it for strength to carry on. I fell asleep.

Just after midnight, I woke to gentle wisps of moisture tickling my cheek. It was raining! I packed up my things in a rush, donned my raincoat, and set off. The rain did not grow heavy, if anything it lightened, then dissipated completely. I smiled. I felt it was a gentle nudge from nature, from the moon, to carry on.

I was still very tired, but I was determined to get closer to the town of Monson.

I passed the lean-to. I rolled my ankle. I moaned. I stopped, trying not to wallow, and continued.

I crossed the East Branch of the Piscataquis River on a little dam of collected logs and branches.

On the north side of the crossing there was a pine needle covered road bed of sorts. I followed it down stream for a bit. There, I called it a night.

Appalachian Trail Mile 2052.2

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 (Day 154)

At 9am a group of hikers, including myself, shuffled down to meet the ferry. We followed pink ribbons through the mud to where the little boat would pull ashore. Everyone had to sign wavers. I can not tell you what the waiver said, as I just blindly signed my name, but surely it was something about bodily harm.

I was in the second group of two to glide across. I was positioned in the front of the boat, and was given an oar and instructions to assist with the paddling to the other side. I was delighted! At first I thought, I most certainly could have forded this. But as I watched the depth of the waters grow, I understood that it would have been a challenge.

Safely on the north side of the river, we were greeted by a shuttle parked alongside US Route 201. The shuttle was for the Sterling Inn. One of the hikers, who intended on staying as a guest, had phoned for the ride. The Inn was said to have a small resupply shop on site.

I debated. I did not really need to buy more food, though I was out of anything that did not require cooking; charging my things would be nice.

To help me in my state of indecision I strolled up to the driver and posed some questions. The driver was in fact the owner, and from him I learned that I could charge my things, shower, and do laundry…all free of charge. He would even give me a ride back to the trail when I was ready.

Oh, wow! I was sold.

The Inn was nice. I purchased some snacks, showered, gathered and presented my things for washing (they did the laundry for you) and sat in the dining area charging my things and sipping coffee.

Sometime after 2pm I was dropped off at the trail. It felt wonderful to be showered and in clean garb.

I watched the sun set and the moon rise, on the summit of Pleasant Pond Mountain.

I continued on under the light of the moon.

After descending and following Moxie Road for a short while, the trail crosses Baker Stream. In the dark of the night, I could not see clearly to the other side, but I was determined to make it across. The water was low, with many exposed stones, so a fording was not necessary.  I carefully hopped across, safely making it to the other side.  All that greeted me there was brush and trees, however. So, I turned back to where I began. This time I followed a more direct route of rocks, and found my way to the trail. I dropped my pack and carried my empty water bottles back out to the middle of the stream, collected water where the flow was most strong, and continued on down the trail.

I did not travel much further before my body grew weary and my motivation waned. I spotted a flat, leaf covered space just to the right of the trail.

This will do. I extended my ground tarp, sleeping mat, slid in to my sleeping bag, and fell in to sleep.

Appalachian Trail Mile 2038.1

Monday, October 2, 2017 (Day 153)

I had yet to camp with anyone on the trail. I was pleasantly surprised when, free of communication, we both woke, executed our morning routines, packed up, and were ready to embark on the days adventure at precisely the same time.

The day was full of pleasant conversation and pleasant terrain. Smooth, flat, and earthen. How lovely!

Part way in to our quest to sleep riverside, we stumbled upon trail magic. Beer, soda, nuts, chocolate, and homemade cupcakes. How kind! How unexpected! We sat and chatted with the two other hikers that were also enjoying the magic. I drank a beer, and ate a handful of nuts.

Slightly buzzing, we continued on.

The goal for the day was very important; a checkpoint of sorts. The Kennebec River is a 170 mile long river, that is approximately 400 ft wide at the AT crossing. I have been told that there is a dam that releases a rush of water in to the river at unpredictable times. Therefore, there is a man in a canoe that ferries hikers to the other side, two by two. The ferry currently only runs from 9am to 11am. If we camp riverside, there is no chance of missing it.

Day morphed to night as we moved along the strip of trail. Roots, gnarled and prominent, slowed our pace; as did the frequent yet small changes in elevation.

I did not recall 20 miles making ones body feel so very sore! Was it the use of different muscles, now that we were walking normally rather than climbing hand over foot? The terrain was so much easier, but this aching was definitely real.

A feeling of victorious relief washed over me as we arrived at the banks of the river.

I found a nice spot amongst the fallen leaves, to retire. Tired and filled with excited anticipation to cross the river in the morning, I fell asleep smiling.

Appalachian Trail Mile 2018.2

Sunday, October 1, 2017 (Day 152)

Oh, how I adore October! The beautiful colors that waft from the trees and blanket the trail, the crunching of leaves beneath my boots, the crisp air, the sound of the wind through the naked trees, the curious squirrels with their mischevious stares and full cheeks and bellies.

Last night, it did not freeze with the absence of sun. To the contrary, I found myself removing my gloves and hat and lifting my head from the hood of my sleeping bag in search of cool air.

I rose late, anyhow. But I cared not. I am brilliantly happy, enlivened, filled with childlike wonder, and excited to climb the Bigelows.

Just a couple of miles in to my hike I came to a spur trail that led to a lovely view of Horns Pond.

As I returned to the trail, I crossed paths with a hiker I am quite fond of, who I continue to see at the most random of places. We have a similar hiking pace and lots to chat about (they also hiked the PCT in 2016), so we continued on the journey over the Bigelows together.

The views were fantastic. The day, beautiful and clear.

Many of the hikers I had seen that day had planned to camp at the Safford Notch Campsite, just before Little Bigelow West Ledges and Little Bigelow Mountain.

As darkness covered the forest and the stars began to dance in contrast, I fell out of step with my hiking partner. I was beginning to grow weary. I stopped for a break by the junction to the campground. Then, they appeared again. “Ready to night hike!?” they stated cheerily. I smiled. Earlier in the day we had discussed night hiking. It certainly was a beautiful night for it.

I took a few bites of peanut butter tortilla and chased it with a caffeine pill. I stood. “Alright! Let’s do this.”

On, we went.

The stars shone brilliantly above the ledges. The moon was heavy and bursting with magical light. The wind blew in heavy gusts, poking fun at our balance as we moved precariously along jutting slabs of stone. We often stood and gazed, shutting off our headlamps to bathe in the natural light.

Oh, what joy!

We then trodded down the north side of Little Bigelow, crossed a logging road, and came to a parking lot at East Flagstaff Road. The parking lot was next to an official campground. The campground was located 20 trail miles from the Kennebec River, where we both hoped to camp the following night.

Sore with satisfaction, I made my way to a flat spot tucked between some trees, yet still open to my beloved night sky. There, I drifted in to sleep.

Appalachian Trail Mile 2003.4

Saturday, September 30, 2017 (Day 151)

I awoke to a dance of little sprinkles in the night. It was not a terribly threatening display, but I did not wish to press my luck. I pitched my tent and crawled inside.

When I awoke again, I rolled about groggily as I listened to two day hikers passing by my tent. I checked the time. 11 o’clock! Oh my! How did this happen! I certainly must have been tired.

I packed up my things in a hurry and made my way to the road. I stood, thumb out, grinning widely in anticipation of a ride. Cars zoomed past. I felt a twinge of discouragement. Soon, however, a nice gentleman called Tom pulled over and bid me aboard. “Oh, thank you!” I exclaimed. I threw my pack in the trunk and hopped in.

He offered me a Gatorade and gave me a brief overview of what I might find in town. He dropped me off at Fotter’s Market, the local grocery store. Before departing, he collected a slip of paper–an old grocery list–and transcribed on its back side his name and telephone number. “If you need a ride back to the trail later today, just give me a call.” He said, handing me the note.

“Thank you!” I beamed.

The store was on the smaller side, but it’s narrow aisles were well stocked. I resupplied for the next few days, and purchased some bread, coffee, and fruit for immediate consumption. I sat, legs extended (it was painful to cross them for too long), on the cement at the store-front and repackaged my things.

There was a hostel across the street. I was curious as to how friendly they were to “drop-ins”. I had no intention of staying, but I certainly wouldn’t mind raiding a hiker box, gathering electricity for later use, and satisfying my social nature as a human (for just a bit).

They were certainly friendly. I was told I could even hang out inside on the couches and watch tv. Instead, I plugged in my external power banks and returned outside to the benches that stood along the side of the property. I chatted for a bit with the other hikers, then moved on to the laundry mat. At the laundry mat I wore my woolen undergarments and washed and dried everything. I even threw my sleeping bag and tent in the dryer. Satisfied, and with a significantly lighter load, I strolled back to the hostel where I had left my things charging.

I began to consider the cold. Developing a growing concern at the prospect of shivering through the night, I stopped back in at Fotter’s to see if they had anything that may quell (emergency blanket) or numb (whisky) my fears. All they had by way of heat retention were hand warmers. I purchased three packs.

By that point it was early evening. I needed to get back to the trail. I phoned Tom.

“You haven’t made it back to the trail yet!?” he jested.

He said that he would certainly give me a ride, and to meet him at the Fotter’s parking lot in 10 minutes.

Back at the trailhead, as I pulled on my pack, Tom checked the forecast.

“There’s a freeze warning tonight!” Tom warned.

“I’ll be alright.” I say.

I thanked him once more and made my way back to the trail.

I had held ambitious hopes of making it to the Bigelow Mountain Range. But freezing? I recalled how cold it was atop Lone Mountain.  Lone Mountain was wooded, and at a lower elevation than the Bigelows. There was a campsite just two miles from the road. It was already dark. It was tempting.

I passed a hiker setting up their hammock beside the trail. They said that it had begun snowing at one of the high elevation shelters they had slept at, just a couple nights before. Snow.

I came to Cranberry Stream Campsite. If it is cold and I can’t sleep, not only will I be tired but I won’t want to rise until warmed by the sun. If I stay here, I can get an early start…or so I told myself.

I set up my tent at the campsite, shook a handwarmer to release its heating magic, threw it in the toe-box of my sleeping bag, and shut my eyes.

I was ready to withstand the cold.