Day #79-Wilderness no more!; Miles hiked: 13.4

After a 3 mile walk, I officially exited the 100 Mile Wilderness! The first dirt road is appropriately named the Golden Road. I’ve never been so happy to see a road in my life.After paying highway robbery prices to eat at Abol Bridge, I cranked out the 10 miles of the AT that lie in Baxter State Park and arrived at the base of Mt. Katahdin.I’ve spent the afternoon eating my way through Millinocket and reconnecting with Alan and Mary while I wait for my parents to arrive tomorrow. Goodnight from a full Blueberry at the AT Lodge.

Day #78-Almost there; Miles hiked: 20.0

Today was the last full day of hiking in the wilderness. As nice as the beach campsite was, I woke up with so much dew on me and my stuff that it might as well have rained. But check out this sunrise I watched from my sleeping bag!After taking our time drying out our things in the morning sun, we got an even better view of Katahdin: The rest of the day was uneventful save passing this pond with a terrible name for the last 20 miles of the 100 mile wilderness.By this evening, I passed a sign that blew my mind–only 21 miles to the Northern Terminus of the AT. I still have over 1000 miles to go, but my how far I have come by the Lord’s grace.

Day #77-Manna from heaven (or honeybuns from Alan); Miles hiked: 21.1

I was scheduled to receive a food drop from a dear friend of ATOM this morning. Sure enough, I rolled down to Jo-Mary road with nothing but a snack bar left and there he was!

Thanks to Stephen Dean, I received a food resupply and 14 other hikers got some much-needed and completely unexpected trail magic.Pastor Stephen also offered me and a few other hikers Holy Communion-an incredibly special treat for all involved. I never would have guessed that the first time I receive the Lord’s Supper on my thru hike would be in the 100 mile wilderness. However, upon reflection-of course this is exactly where the Lord would bless me in that way!

As for the rest of the day, we got a much closer view of Katahdin and hiked in a conga line of 8 hikers leaving Pastor Stephen’s truck. We decided to play dance music on someone’s phone and did the Macarena down the trail for almost 5 miles. Oh how hikers entertain each other…Tonight we found a great campsite on a beach where I am able to see the Milky Way in all its grandeur.

Day #76-Eyes on the prize; Miles hiked: 18.9

As to always does after a rough few miles, today did get better! This morning we climbed White Cap Mtn and got our first real view of Mt. Katahdin!I am also the closest to running out of food that I’ve ever been which is a bit frightening at this juncture. However, he hiking community takes care of one another and my friends showered me in ramen noodles and tuna to bridge the gap. I’ve fed many a friend running out of food before, so it was nice to take my turn eating from the hiker pantry.

I didn’t take many pictures the rest of the day, but it was uneventful other than getting caught in yet anther thunderstorm downpour right before camp. Can we call it a tradition yet?

With a river as wide as the Nile running underneath my tarp, I bid thee goodnight.

Day #75-Chairback and further mountains; Miles hiked: 16.8

With the heat and humidity continuing, we stopped well short of our goal again today. But hey, it happens sometimes…

We spent the better part of the day traversing the 4.5 peaks of Chairback Mountain with endless steep ups and downs.After taking way more breaks than we needed to avoid having to walk, we finally passed the 2100 mile marker. These are the faces of weary NOBOs ready to be done with the trail:Even though spirits were relatively low today, I was able to learn a lot more about these two chicks. Both are around my age and all three of us are in the phase of life where we are contemplating what’s next for us.

After the last of the Chairbacks, it was down to another river ford and back up the mountain to a shelter.We got caught in a crazy downpour the last 10 minutes before getting to camp which was plenty to soak us and all of our stuff. What a perfect end to a rough day…tomorrow will be better!

Day #74-First day of wilderness kicks Blueberry’s butt; Miles hiked: 19.0

After a massive breakfast at Shaw’s this morning, it was time to enter the 100 mile wilderness. Let the games begin!The prospect of hiking 100 miles isn’t all that daunting…I’ve hiked over 1,000 to get to this point. The daunting part is having no way out and no way to get more food until the other side. Hope I brought enough!

It was also incredibly hot today! It’s been in the 40s at night and 60s during the day for the past week or so and today it was high 80s with humidity. Man, I thought I was done with that! Check out this sweat face…also, whoever said the wilderness was flat and easy was lying!Nineteen lonely miles later, I arrived at Cloud Pond and reunited with my crew. One day down, four more to go.

Day #73-Last of the luxury; Miles hiked: 9.0

Today was a short walk into Monson, ME–the last town before the famed “100 Mile Wilderness.” But what is a walk to town without a nice river ford?Upon arrival in Monson, I hitch hiked with a sous chef on vacation, ate BBQ (it was actually pretty good considering how far we are from the South), and checked into Shaw’s Hiker Hostel.Shaw’s is a famous spot on the AT-one of the longest running hostels on the trail. It was here that my friend Swimmer and I devoured a 2 pint container of Maine Wild Blueberry ice cream. I have decided my full trail name must be Maine Wild Blueberry!Tomorrow me and all of these fellows head into the 100 mile wilderness-the most remote part of the AT and the last stretch between here and Mt. Katahdin.See you in Baxter!

Day #72-Making miles in Maine; Miles hiked: 22.0

Today was my first day over 20 miles since Vermont, and boy it felt good to be able to move again! The trail has become much more gentle with only one big climb this morning: Pleasant Pond Mtn.I chose this picture as an ode the sun which has finally decided to stay out for more than a few hours at a time. It actually looks like I’ll have decent weather for an entire week! Coming from a bunch of hikers who have been constantly soggy for weeks, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!This afternoon I climbed up Moxie Bald where I got to have an extended blueberry-picking break. That’s my new favorite way to spend the afternoon, and they are abundant on open summits. This afternoon brought the first of a series of river fords. In Maine, it’s so remote that there aren’t bridges over rivers. Instead, hikers take off shoes and wade across.Monson and the last resupply before the 100 mile wilderness are tomorrow!

Day #71-Over the river and back into the woods; Miles hiked: 19.7

Today, I crossed a major milestone on the AT–crossing the Kennebec River. It is a very wide river with a dam upstream, making fording it very dangerous. To keep hikers safe, the ATC sponsors a ferry service to canoe hikers across the river and keep us from having to ford. The ferry service only runs for a few hours each day, so I had to bust out 14 miles by noon. The outcome? Mission accomplished!Also check out West Carry Pond that I passed this morning. If anyone would like a history lesson, look up how it was used in an early war against Quebec.After my big mile morning, I was ready for a lazy afternoon. I hung out at a hostel just across the river called the Caratunk House where I feasted on homemade pulled pork and milkshakes.Goodnight from the other side of the Kennebec!

Day #70-From the mountains to the valley; Miles hiked: 17.9

I often listen to worship music in the morning while I hike. It has become a very sacred time between me and he Lord to be both moved by both music and nature while I walk. There is a song by Housefires called Mountain to Valley that I particularly like, and today I got to walk from the mountains to the valley!

It was freezing cold this morning in the saddle right before the Bigelows and just as windy as the Whites on top. I had great views of Sugarloaf (ski mountain) that I walked across two days ago and Flagstaff Lake-a huge body of water!Because most of he hikers were either still in Stratton or had pushed on yesterday, I spent most of the day hiking alone. It actually ended up being a good time to reflect on all of the miles that have already come and gone. I passed mile 1000!

Check out this view of Flagstaff Lake when I got down to the shore.Tonight I’m camping with some section hikers who are physicians. It’s always fun to talk about medicine with others who have already walked the path.