Tuesday, September 1st: Gentian Pond to Speck Pond-14.7 miles
Pictures: Gentian Pond View
The last state. I’m in the last state of the trail. I’m really beginning to sense the end and mentally I’m ready to push hard to the end. I got a nice start and made good time in the morning. It felt great to get to the border. I spent some time there just drinking in the reality that the end is near. It’s so close I can taste it.
As soon as I hit Maine the terrain got noticeably tougher. Primarily it was that the trail turned into climbs up steep rock faces or across large boulder fields. At lunch I stopped at a shelter just before the famous (or infamous) Mahoosuc Notch. The guide calls it “the most difficult or most fun mile on the AT” and it is pretty accurate. Only in the loosest of terms can the notch be considered a trail. Essentially you are funneled through a channel strewn with rocks and boulders piled haphazardly by the forces of nature, and you have to pick a way through it. It was a great challenge and I tackled it as an adventure and enjoyed it greatly, even when my body was pushed to its limits. The more difficult aspect for me turned out to be climbing up 3000 ft following the notch, having expended most of my energy and motivation already. I drug myself up it though and made it to the campsite with about an hour and a half of light remaining.
I did a minimum of camp work, essentially just setting up and eating, before going to bed tired, but proud to have conquered the Notch and excited to be in Maine.
Wednesday, September 2nd: Speck Pond to Andover- 14.7 miles
Pictures: Bald Pate Summit
Maine continues to be both strenuous and delightful. I’m being treated to some wonderful weather. Today, however, it quickly got hotter than I anticipated and I sweated up a storm as I climbed Bald Pate Mountain. Exposed to the sun, I think I got mildly dehydrated and my body was struggling until I made it back down to a stream, where I sat and drank a full liter on the spot and filled up the rest. At that point I was close to the road and I finished my hike sitting at the roadside and drinking more water.
The trail head was along the most remote road I’ve yet tried to hitch on, and sure enough I was waiting quite a time. Thankfully another hiker arrived shortly and had called ahead for a shuttle and I jumped in with him to go to Pine Ellis Hostel in the tiny town of Andover.
Andover meets my perception of the quintessential Maine small town. Its population is under nine hundred, almost all of whom are involved in forestry somehow. Andover’s downtown consists of a general store, a market, one restaurant, a post office, and, impressively, a library. The general store serves as the hub with a great number of cars perpetually in its lot; it is the local hang out spot.
I got a bunk at the Pine Ellis Hostel one street over and found myself utterly spoiled when I picked up my mail. I got my normal mail drop, to which Dad had added a card and some Ghiradelli’s chocolate; I received a box of brownies from my grandparents; and I got a package from my beloved with all sorts of goodies including chocolate chip cookies and a stuffed orca.
After unpacking the treasure trove I ate dinner at the general store and then spent the evening doing laundry and talking with my beloved. I didn’t want to deal with sorting all my food, so I’m deciding to do a shorter day tomorrow, just to the next road and to spend another night at the hostel.