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Cbliss10 - Pacific Crest Trail Journal - 2015

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Chris Bliss
City: New London
State: CT
Country: USA
Begins: Apr 15, 2015
Direction: Northbound

Daily Summary
Date: Tue, Jul 15th, 2014

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 1,568
Journal Visits: 7,480
Guestbook Views: 516
Guestbook Entrys: 4

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What I learned on the 100 Mile Wilderness

My friend Don and I just spent a week hiking the "100 mile wilderness" in Maine. For those who are unfamiliar with it, the 100 mile wilderness is a 100 mile stretch at the very northern section of the Appalachian Trail. Although the trail crosses several logging roads, access is very limited and it is considered to be the most remote section of the AT. It begins in the small town of Monson, ME and ends at it's intersection with Golden road in northern Millinocket, ME. I didn't expect this hike to be easy but I could not have imagined how hard it actually ended up being. To start with, we knowingly chose to hike northbound which is agreed upon to be the harder way to travel. It throws you into the rougher mountainous terrain off the bat with a full pack and legs not yet adjusted to the trail. Don and I considered ourselves experienced and wanted to hike Mount Katahdin at the end of our trip so we agreed we could handle heading northbound. Knowing what we know now we might have hiked southbound. To make matters worse, the remnants of hurricane Arthur were just finishing up as we left Monson. Phil, the man who shuttled us from the truck we parked at the end of the trail back to Monson, warned us that the stream crossings might be dangerous with the high water levels due to the rain. He informed us of several detours around the bigger crossings and we gratefully took note. We explained our planned schedule to Phil and he made it clear that it was rather aggressive for the terrain. Oh, how right he was. Don and I started out Saturday, July 5th in the light rain on our way north. We were a mere 7 miles when we hit Little Wilson Stream. This was not one of the river crossings Phil warned us about but the fact was we couldn't get across. There was already about 10 people camped out at the side of the stream, waiting it out till the water level dropped. The following morning the level had dropped and we were able to get across. In fact we crossed 3 major streams that day. Things went well for the rest of that day but half way through the following day we came to the realization that our original schedule was not just aggressive but absurd. Over the roughest terrain of the 100 miles and during our third day hiking, both Don and my knee's started hurting from over use. By the end of the 4th day (a 20 mile day at that), when Don and I were through the mountains and officially in "lake country", we both had a solid limp. Now, Don and I were actually pretty well prepared. Our packs were slightly over weight with the addition of some items we thought we would get more use from (small speakers for music and fly fishing poles) but were otherwise packed well. We had proper shelter, warmth, rain gear, footwear, and enough food. Although we had enough food, we both agreed that in hindsight we would have packed a different variety. I personally came to realize that my food selection had almost no fat in it and a large majority of it was meant to be cooked. I now have the belief that the 5 key trail foods should be Bagels, peanut butter, chocolate, dried fruit, and beef jerky. Our goal on our 5th day was to take it easy, hike a relatively flat and easy 10 miles to a campsite at the northern end of Nahmakanta Lake where we would call it an early day and get some fly fishing in. The 7.5 miles to the southern tip of the lake was the longest of the trip. The trail was relatively flat but the combination of roots and our bad knees make for a loosing combination. We arrived at the lake to see a family cooking on a grill and drinking beverages out of a cooler, something we definitely did not expect to see in the "wilderness". It turned out that a logging road make the lake accessible and a common picnic and fishing spot for some of the locals. With 25 miles left to go and only 2 days vacation left to finish in, Don and I threw in the towel. We knew the remaining 25 would be just as bad as the last 7.5 if not worse as our knees broke down further. We wanted to end the vacation on a good note and we knew we wouldn't be having fun anymore if things continued like earlier that day. Defeated, we got a ride back to our truck. I had been dreaming of real food constantly for days, specifically a big, juicy, loaded cheeseburger (just ask Don, I wouldn't shut up about it!). When we got into town and I got that cheeseburger, it was only that inch in the back of my brain that we hadn't actually finished the full 100 miles that stopped it from being the best cheeseburger ever. In the end, we spent the next 2 days fly fishing and having a good time and we both agree it was the right decision (especially since both our knee's are still hurting pretty good).

So, lessoned learned:
-Don't rush, give yourself more than enough time to make the distance. If you have to rush, you won't have time to enjoy your hike and you will end up breaking your body down faster than it can recover.
-Expect to be lazy. I gave up cooking in the morning and would have in the evening if I could have. I will have to dabble with going "no cook". Don got pretty sick of the long set up and take down time of his backpacking cot. Neither of us did much fly fishing on the trail or listened to much music.
-Hike your own hike. I took that before to mean that everyone does things differently and that's ok. Don was willing to carry his cot, another hiker was sleeping in a hammock and these things are different but ok. I didn't take into account that Don and I would literally hike differently. Different paces, different breaks, stopping to look at different things, and more. I think hiking on "shorter" trips like this with companions is ok but I think I need to do a thru hike on my own.

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-Chris

 

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