AT Week 1_Katahdin to Monson

This week was a lesson in patience and listening to my body.

I started strong the first four days on trail, averaging 18 miles a day through some hot and humid Maine weather, but sleeping on the ground is taking some practice and has led to waking up not fully recovered.

My screaming quads finally forced a double zero to allow for rest and repair but provided a learning experience to take it slow and allow my body to recuperate. Passing by dozens of NOBOs who all were battle hardened from months of thru-hiking, my excitement kept building for the miles that lay ahead of me and led to overworking my muscles before gaining my full “trail legs”.

Laying in the shade on one of the hottest days so far by the shore of East Chairback Pond I read, napped, and soaked in the healing beauty of the 100 Mile Wilderness. The remoteness and isolation allow for a clearer mindset where the daily essentials of life fall into finer detail. When the only requirements are food, water and shelter, minor outside stresses become petty, bringing the task of survival to the top of the list.

Reminding myself that a zero day…or two was not an admission of failure but more an acceptance of the new life I have chosen for the next few months brought me a calm that has helped to ease the tension of rushing through this grand adventure.

Asking a million questions of the friendly hikers that I encounter, I am steadily gaining the knowledge needed to keep a positive mental attitude and the skills to bring my pace up.

Poet and Hippie Chick, proprietors of the Shaws Hiker Hostel in Monson, are the most welcoming and insightful people I have met on trail. Getting a proper gear shakedown to lighten the load I will be carrying, having family style meals including moose burgers and lobsters, all while bumping elbows with and soaking in as many tips as possible from all the accomplished guest hikers I have met here – 40 Ounce, Ben, Newton, Raisin, Ragnar, Hagrid, Blacklight, Time Keeper, Feather, Ketchup, David, and Picnic Basket – plus countless others whose names I am forgetting here.

Well Hello

I am glad you made it because I have some things I really wanted to show you.

Soon I will embark on my southbound Appalachian Trail thru hike (SOBO AT) starting at the top of Mt Katahdin in Baxter State Park. A lot of steps and turns have lead to this junction and I plan to put my best foot forward while sharing the experience with you.

Quitting a secure job to live out of a backpack in the woods was a major life decision that came with many restless nights but the endless sense of wonder for a pilgrimage along the Appalachian Trail has been with me since childhood. I hiked with my family as a kid but it was through my twenties when I steady gained more drive to get out and summit the mountains of Maine.

A typical day hiker, my passion for the higher summits accelerated last summer during pandemic shutdowns of 2020. With most social events cancelled and normal activities stifled I decided to get outdoors by hiking the Maine 4000 footers. That goal only took a month and a half to complete so I then turned my sights on the New Hampshire 4000 footers.

Through the winter and spring as the list dwindled down the dream of the AT began taking over. As summer grew near I knew my only option for this year was to hike southbound.  The Appalachian Trail Conservancy states that, “ Extremely difficult terrain to start. A southbounder or “SOBO” begins with the hardest part of the Trail first. Unlike starting in other more moderate sections of the Trail, you do not have a chance to get your trail legs under you before hitting the steepest mountains.”

Unsure if my body was ready for the heavy weight of a pack and extended miles needed to finish a thru hike I began to hike with my large overnight bag loaded with everything needed to survive in the woods. These hikes averaged from 17 miles carrying 27 lbs on my back but even with one day spent hiking through 5 hours of rain I kept wanting more.

Maynard James Keenan, the lead singer of the band TOOL, penned the lyrics that have stuck with me and continue be a driving mantra, “Spiral out, Keep going!” I believe in pushing yourself to learn and grow because that is what makes this life worth living.

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