canada africa partner reservation Fall in Southern Maine might be my favorite

Fall in Southern Maine might be my favorite


Author’s Note: I completed my trek in October 2023. Welcome to my very belated trail update. I wrote notes daily along the way to remember what I wanted to write about. Longer days on the trail and then life at home after the trail have delayed the completion of my story. I have another adventure I want to write about soon, but I don’t feel like starting that story until I finish this one. I have four more blogs to go after this, and two of them are already written. Get ready to read about fall in Maine faster than anyone except the runners can walk across it!

Day 185: 3,580 feet ascent, 16.3 miles

Erik and I originally planned to relax and stay another night at the Cabin. The shuttle back to the trailhead was uneventful and we quickly climbed Grafton Notch to the top of Baldpate Mountain. The climbs in this region were tough, with quite steep drops from the valley. The best part of them should have been the extended views we earned at the top. The autumn leaves made the climb beautiful, but the view at the top was non-existent. The Canadian wildfires had struck again, obscuring all the insights we should have had.

A nice AT sign at Grafton Notch

Smoke from Canadian wildfires obscured the view.

The path: “straight through here please.” Us: “Okay, no problem, straight up a rock wall seems like a great idea.”

This plate looked ragged.

More views of the autumn colours!

The leaves looked nice now, but I was hoping we could get through them before they really started falling. The wet leaves would make the path extremely slippery.

Erik carried all our supplies in his backpack, so I could hike with just my hiking poles. The day still lasted much longer than expected with the light load. We were done around 5 o’clock.

We called for our shuttle back. While we were waiting at the trailhead, there was a camper parked just down the road. It started to rain, but we weren’t too worried even though we didn’t have rain gear. A woman in the camper was concerned about us and brought out some hand warmers to keep us warm.

It was one of the strangest acts of trail magic we had experienced. It was easily in the 70s temperature-wise, so we weren’t worried about frostbite. And these weren’t just any hand warmers; they were oversized warmers that you might be sitting on? I don’t know, but they fit on my lap. She had already cracked them open and started warming them up, so we accepted them and waited for our ride back.

Day 186: 1,980 ft ascent, 9.0 miles

We drove back to the trailhead in the morning with a full van. A group of three guys did a 20 mile slackpack, covering what we had done the day before plus what we planned to do that day.

The ponds in Maine are beautiful! Every time I reached one, I looked across to see if there was a moose in the water. I wanted to see one from a safe distance, focusing on the distance part.

The weather was perfect, but our 6 days of food took a toll on us. The terrain was gentler that morning, but we were exhausted. Erik especially had a hard time, which was very unusual because I normally rode the struggle bus more than he did. By 1:30 PM we had only gone about 6 miles.

I’m sure Osprey made these belts for potato chip bags?

We decided we would stop there for a day. Were we a little crazy? Maybe? There was still no guarantee that Katahdin would still be open when we arrived. Today was October 1st. I predicted we would end on October 19th, 4 days after the recommended scheduled end date to ensure you would be ready. We knew we were in a race against winter, but we also knew we wanted to finish our walk true to ourselves. We stopped when we were in pain so we could enjoy it when we felt good to go. So we stopped, after a six mile day. It would be a tough five days to get to our next scheduled resupply after that, so the break would do us good.

Erik spent the afternoon napping, I spent the afternoon eating and catching up on my blog. As I sat there, I was struck by how little time we had left for this adventure. I was motivated to keep going, but also grateful for how far we could have come.

The three guys from the morning shuttle passed us at about 5pm. They would get close to completing the remaining four miles before dark. It seemed like they knew how to walk fast, so I wasn’t too worried about them. I thought there was no chance we’d ever see them again at their pace, another group leaving us in the dust.

Day 187: 4,710 ft ascent, 12.8 miles

We had another day of steeper climbs before our maps showed things leveling off. Not flat (there’s always more on the AT), but not as many steep climbs. After half a day of rest the day before, we got the feeling early on that we were ready to leave.

A stream hop.

The animals on the path really stood out to me today. There were toads everywhere. The squirrels seemed extra aggressive as they raced to gather their winter nuts. We saw lots of elk tracks, but still no elk.

Erik fills water in a well at a shelter.

We felt like we had pushed all day again, but the miles still weren’t coming as quickly as we had hoped. Campsites were further apart than we would have liked, and stealth locations could not be relied on. We had to end the day earlier than we wanted to make sure we had a campsite that would work before dark.

The three boys from our shuttle from a few days earlier ended up in the same shelter that night. It turned out that they had not left the hostel early and ended up at the same place as us. We didn’t really communicate with them much, but Erik and I enjoyed keeping up with them.

Day 188: 3,380 ft ascent, 28.8 miles

The terrain became easier – the climbs weren’t as steep and the tread was easier to walk on without so many rocks and roots. Between the course and the weather we were able to get back to higher mileage than we were used to before the White Mountains. We walked past many ponds throughout the day, which added to the flatness of the trail. The fall colors over the ponds were an incredible sight. I read nightmare stories from other hikers about insects along the ponds. Being late helped us again: there were no black flies or mosquitoes around.

Sunrise from our tent site.

We were hiking on the trail as the sun rose over the ridge.

The three boys passed us mid-morning. I thought again that this would be the last time we would see them. They just moved so much faster than me.

We couldn’t have wished for better weather. Temperatures were 15° above average, with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s. Erik and I knew we had to take advantage of the weather window while it still existed. The weather forecast was expected to remain stable for a few more days, but a hurricane was coming down the coast that could be headed our way. Yes, in Maine. And yes, the second hurricane (or remnants thereof) that could hit us on the way in the Northeast (looking at Hurricane Lee). We got to enjoy the perfect weather while we had it.

Campsites again had a hard time with our timing that evening. We crossed the road that leads to Rangeley, right at dusk. The only hostel in Rangeley was already closed for the season, so we would move on to the next town. Normally we don’t like to stay near an intersection for safety reasons. Tonight we made an exception. We found a flat spot just off the wide gravel road. The trail had temporarily passed the road less than a quarter mile. It should work. It was right next to a stream, so the water could drown out the nighttime truck traffic from the road. We had to use our headlamps to set up the tent. The sunlight disappeared for about 5 minutes a day, which was painful because we needed every second we could get.

Day 189: 13,360 feet ascent, 13.4 miles

We started the day with a long climb to the Saddleback Mountain Range. The Saddlebacks were above tree line. Once we climbed to the top of the first ridge, we could see in the distance the next few ridges that we would be hiking on. I really loved walking this way because I could see the progress as we walked. Maybe that means I should walk more west? I just know that my corner of Tennessee back home doesn’t have views like that. I’ll let my photos speak for themselves here.

The stream where we slept the night before.

Do you see the top of the next mountain in your mind? That’s the next photo. After reaching the top, we walked to the right.

Another rock hop. I read several comments in my guide app that this crossing was wet. I was glad we hit all these low flow streams!

That evening we pitch our tent at a place where the forest road crosses the path. We didn’t look where the trail left that area, we just pitched our tent and went to the nearby stream to soak our feet. The trail had been pretty empty that day, we hadn’t seen anyone else all day. Towards evening we entered our tent.

Not long later we heard some voices… it was the three boys! Apparently they had gotten a ride to Rangeley and had come up behind us again! Our tent turned out to be in the middle of the path, so they caused a bit of a commotion as they walked around our tent and continued on. I wondered again if we would see them again. It had been a while since we had consistently hiked around others, a stark contrast to the beginning of the trail.

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