This is a long one – from Stratton in Maine to Katahdin. Finally, the trail for us smoothened out a little bit and ‘Soda’ felt good again after taking Doxycycline for some days to treat the symptoms of Lyme-disease.
Still, the trail was covered in rocks and roots and some mud and Mosquito’s but the miles had to be done now. After the whole trip took us longer than expected the time was running, I soon had to leave the country and we were so close to the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail, Katahdin.
Does it count as hiking if you take a boat?
3 miles before Caratrunk we stopped at the Pierce Pond shelter and met up with ‘Princess Bubblegum’ and ‘Monkey Man’. Settling in for the night another hiker joined us and it turned out to be Jan, another German hiker who I’ve known from Facebook. We’ve been hiking the same trails in the last year around the same time but never actually met each other in person until this night at the shelter. It’s great how the trail connects people and it was interesting to meet another German nerding out on ultra-light backpacking gear.
We fell asleep and woke up with Mosquito’s buzzing around our heads. It’s definitely an effective alarm clock! Waking up with this horrible sound made us leave and we reached the Kennebec River just in time for the first ferries. The Kennebec River is really wide (approximately 400ft) and fording it is not recommended at any time. Due to water releases by hydroelectric facilities the water level can rise faster than anyone would be able to cross it. So there is a ferry service for hikers in place and takes 2 hikers at a time across the river. Thanks to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy this service is in place.
This was a pretty fun but short ride, ‘Soda’ had to paddle too, and brought us to Caratrunk on the other side where we took an extended break to charge our electronics and eat a fantastic pulled-pork sandwich at the Bed & Breakfast which is also a very friendly hiker-hostel. They have a really nice hiker store set up in the basement where you could find anything a hiker would need in terms of food, reasonably priced too.
The wild wilderness
The way into Monson was really pretty and uncovered more options for swimming as we hiked for miles along a big river with deep swimming holes. Refreshed but again haunted by Mosquitos we reached town late in the evening. The next day we hitched out to Guilford for our last resupply before the 100-mile-wilderness and Katadhin.
Standing in the sun for a while before we got a ride was exhausting and a late start on the afternoon would have put us on a weird milage for the next days and reaching Katahdin so we decided to stay another night at Bett’s place (John Baptist Mission) who offers a place to sleep and food for hikers based on donation. Happy about that option one more night of proper rest would be nice before entering the wild wilderness without access to facilities for at least 5 days.
Water, water, and more water…
The first days in the 100-mile-wilderness still had some straight up and down mountains waiting for us and luckily we made it up and over Barren Mountain and to a shelter just before a big storm set in.
A couple of good weather days followed before the rain set in for the last days of our trip. Maine looked epic with clouds rolling through and fog hovering over the ponds.
Being soaked at all time, getting cold when stopping and having damp sleeping bags made the hiking moral drop easily though. Quitting the trail was an easy thought to come up with but there was no way out. We crossed many dirt roads on the way to Katahdin but neither of them would have gotten us anywhere. The end was so close and still seemed so far considering the rain was about to last.
Katahdin – last push
Of course, we were happy finding the last shelter before Baxter State park unexpectedly empty, only one other hiker joined us this night. We’ve been worried the whole day about this place being filled up, so it would be hard to find a place to camp too.
After some hours of sleep – the other fellow hiker was actually screaming in his sleep and kept waking us up – we got up at five and it finally stopped raining. All packed up but still sleepy we started our final hiking day. Some rocks and mudholes later I realized my phone was missing and I took off running back 0.6 miles looking for it along the trail and luckily found it lying somewhere in the dirt around the shelter where it must have slipped out of my pocket.
So easy to add extra miles to a hiking day! Finally taking off and getting close to the park entrance our mood lightened up again. Especially as we saw all our fellow hiker friends we met on this last stretch at the campground store. We had a coffee and a nice chat with them before we wandered off into the park heading up Katahdin which was hiding in the clouds.
There was still some hope for the clouds passing by when it actually started hailing on us just 1.5 miles before the top and still on the climbing section full of huge boulders. Together with ‘Critter’, ‘Zookeeper’ and ‘Yatzy’ we hunkered down, worried and hoping for the best. As the clouds were passing and the hail stopped, shouts of joy were hearable from all directions. Working our way further up, the wind picked up pushing the clouds over the top of the mountain, letting some blue sky appear but not last. Every step was a huge challenge as the wind also pushed me sideways off the trail several times.
On top, we all took our pictures and celebrated the other three guys for hiking all the way from Georgia to Maine. It was an amazing feeling to be a part of their adventure and see them finish together even though we only shared the last miles and days with them. They are a perfect example of a trail family and people who met on the trail, becoming true and maybe life-long friends.
We all decided to take the Abol trail down the mountain which is supposed to be steep but easier and less dangerous than the Hunt-trail (following the ridge) which we came up. Knifes edge was not an option in this weather although the minute we came off the peak and stepped on the Abol trail the sun made it through the clouds.
Not having an exit strategy from Baxter Park we were more than happy and thankful when ‘Yatzy’s’ dad and the whole crew were offering us a ride out of the park, all the way to Bangor and to stay in a hotel room with them for the night. It’s incredible how things can turn out to be so awesome and how helpful people are.
The next day we rode with them to Portland, Maine from where I took a bus to Montreal to relax for a few days and more importantly leave the US before my Visa was about to expire. Playing by the rules!
And that’s how this chapter ends. I’m very thankful for all the great people I met and the generosity I was able to experience during this adventure.