Tag Archive '100 Mile Wilderness'

May 12 2015

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Maine Book Reading

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UT coverJust a quick note to let all of you know that I’ll be signing my new book, The Unexpected Trail, at the Eloquent Page in Saint Albans, Vermont this coming Sunday. That’s May 17th, between 1 and 3 in the afternoon. I’ll be reading a few excerpts from it as well. Even if you already have a copy, come on down and listen to a few stories that aren’t in the book.

Unfortunately, my canine companion Matika will not be there. She’s gotten a little grumpy in her old age.

Truth is, I’d rather be hiking than promoting my books about hiking. But it’s always a pleasure to read to attentive ears. So come on down!



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Jan 28 2015

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Maine Hiking Narrative

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UT coverFinally the Maine hiking narrative has reached print. A lot of readers have been waiting for it, I realize. I’ve been busy promoting my Adirondack book during the past year and a half so I’m just now getting around to publishing this. At any rate, The Unexpected Trail is now available both as a paperback and a Kindle download at Amazon.com. Those of you would like to purchase it directly from me can go to woodthrushbooks.com. I’ll have copies in-house and ready to ship in a week or so.

The Unexpected Trail is a detailed account of my trek through the 100 Mile Wilderness, located in northern Maine. It’s the most remote section of the entire Appalachian Trail, where supplies cannot be acquired. That means anyone hiking it has to carry provisions enough for ten days, at least.

Fording rivers, traversing two mountain ranges, and slogging through bogs – yeah, it was a tough hike to be sure. But Maine’s sprawling North Woods is lush, wild and beautiful.  Most of its backcountry lakes and ponds are pristine. Well worth the effort, even for a chubby, old woods wanderer like me.

Matika, my longhaired German shepherd, accompanied me on this trek. She carried a few things in her doggie backpack and provided lots of comic relief along the way. I was worried about her ability to navigate the toughest sections of trail, but she stayed out of trouble for the most part.

This narrative is similar to previous ones that I’ve written yet it has its own distinctive flavor. I’ve done my best to capture the unique character of the Maine Woods – it’s history and ongoing land-use fight as well as its flora and fauna. I hope you enjoy reading it.



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Mar 03 2011

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Journey’s End

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Eighteen months ago I leaned against a big rock, making one last entry in my field journal.  I was exhausted from a punishing hike across north-central Maine on a section of the Appalachian Trail known as the 100 Mile Wilderness.  Judy came along and took this picture of me.  Not very flattering, but telling in more ways than one.

I remember feeling both a deep sense of satisfaction in that moment, and tremendous sadness.  These are predicable sentiments at journey’s end.  But I also remember thinking that the easy part was behind me.  Now the hard part – the telling of the tale – lay directly ahead.  Or maybe it’s the other way around.

This morning I reworked to completion the final chapter of the Maine hiking narrative, thus finishing the journey in another sense.  The physical effort of hiking and the mental effort of writing are behind me now, and all that remains is publication.  That’s always anticlimactic.  So now the trek truly is finished.  Once again, I feel both satisfaction and sadness.

I don’t really know whether I hike in order to write or vice versa.  The two are so much a part of me that I can’t untangle them any more.  What I do know is that I love to hike as much as I love to write, and that journey’s end – actual or literary – always leaves a void in my life.  No doubt there’s another book in my future, along with another trail.  But there are times, like now, when it seems like a crazy way to live.

At midday I went for a walk along the Rail Trail despite a biting cold.  The trail had been groomed for snowmobiles so I walked in the tracks of those fast-moving machines.  Occasionally I stepped aside to let one of them zip past.  And it seemed like the perfect metaphor for the literary life – especially one steeped in wildness.  I plod along at a snail’s pace while the rest of the world races by.  How very Thoreau-like of me.  Am I the lucky one or a pathetic creature?  I know what Thoreau would say, but I am not he.

I’m still on the greatest journey of them all and have, as the old poet said, “miles to go before I sleep.”  That means I’ll be an old man before I can answer that question with anything approaching certainty.  Even then, I might not be able to sort it all out.  Perhaps it isn’t for me to say.

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Sep 04 2009

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Weighty Matters

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Supply is the great challenge of the 100 Mile Wilderness.  This seems a rather abstract and unimportant consideration until you lift an all-too-heavy pack to your back and try to hike 10 miles with it.  Like many of those who have taken on this challenge over the years, I trimmed what I could from my load then shouldered the weight.  This decision set the tone for my trek.

AT thru-hikers running north from Georgia travel with the minimum amount of food and equipment.  Most of them have ultra-light gear and that alone sheds ten or more pounds from the load.  Since they’re accustomed to hiking 15 to 20 miles a day, they traverse the 100 Mile Wilderness in 6 to 8 days, sometimes less, even though there are signs posted at both ends urging backpackers to carry at least a ten-day supply of food.  I encountered one fellow who had only a four-day supply.  He was resigned to hiking long days and going hungry –– a regrettable strategy if anything goes wrong along the way.

Some backpackers get creative.  They have a support team that drives up one of the many logging roads in the area and supplies them on the run, or they pay the folks at Shaws Boarding House to do this.  Others take a side trail to Pemadumcook Lake, where they sound a horn and the folks at Whites Landing motor over by boat to pick them up.  At Whites Landing you can pretty much get whatever you want… for a price.  The owners advertise it as “an oasis in the 100 Mile Wilderness” and many hikers use them that way.

Make no mistake about it, the Maine woods are magnificent woods, and the 100 Mile Wilderness – that section of the Appalachian Trail cutting through the heart of it – is as wild and beautiful as any sprawling forest can be.  But its remoteness should not be underestimated.  I started into those woods with a 65-pound pack and cursed this ridiculous load all the way, even as it grew lighter.  Then again, I was completely self-sufficient, never having to rely upon AT shelters or anything else.  In that regard, it was a bona fide backpacking trip.

The logistic challenge of this trek was interesting enough, but next time I venture into the woods for an extended period of time, I’ll do things a little differently.  My big regret is that I spent too much time pounding the trail, racing against my dwindlng supplies.  Next time I’ll hike ten or twenty miles into the woods and land somewhere for a few days.  After all, what’s the point of being out there if you’re not going to take the time to groove on the wild?

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Aug 31 2009

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The 100 Mile Wilderness

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After a couple nights sleep in a bed, hot showers and an abundance of fresh food, my excursion into the Maine woods seems like something of a dream.  But l have a swollen knee and aching ankles, along with plenty of scratches, bug bites, bruises and rashes, to assure me that it actually did happen. I also have a journal full of notes to jog my memory, so you can be sure I’ll be writing about this journey in great detail during the months to come.  That is, after all, what I do.

The 100 Mile Wilderness is everything it’s touted to be:  a long, winding trail through the wild, northern forest of Maine, full of pristine lakes and ponds, roaring brooks, huge bogs, and rugged mountains.  All very boreal, of course, so moss grows on everything, conifers create a somber mood, and the trail is easily worn down to roots and rocks.  My boots never completely dried out and some of my hiking clothes, well, it was best just to throw them away when I returned home.  This is not a trail for the faint of heart.

The 100 Mile Wilderness isn’t a wilderness per se.  It gets its name from the fact that you can’t obtain supplies on the Appalachian Trail north out of the town of Monson until you reach a campground at Abol Bridge a hundred miles away.  That makes it quite a challenge, logistically speaking.  Everyone hiking this section of trail is either overloaded or running short of supplies.  This is considered the wildest, most remote section of the entire AT, and that is precisely why I wanted to hike it.

Most AT thru hikers blasting north from Georgia hike the 100 Mile Wilderness in 6 to 8 days.  The average section hiker does it in about 10.  I hiked it in 12 days because that was the maximum amount of food that I could carry for my dog and myself – 30 pounds total.  Between this weight, the ruggedness of the terrain, and my dubious physical condition, the trek tested the limits of my physical endurance.  That said, I only wish I could have taken more time to be out there, so that I could have enjoyed some of the beautiful places I visited more than I did.  Among my favorite places: the sandy beaches of Nahmakanta Lake, the crystal clear East Chairback Pond, Gulf Hagas Stream, and North Pond.  I easily could have spent several days in any one of those places.  Each is a slice of paradise.

I now understand better why Henry David Thoreau was fixated upon the sprawling forest of northern Maine during the latter part of his life, and why so many other outdoors enthusiasts are drawn to it.  Nowhere else this side of the Mississippi will you find such big woods – not even in the Adirodacks.  There were times when, standing on a mountaintop or exposed ledges, the wild stretched before me as far as the eye could see.  Loggers are hard at work in those woods, and guide service float planes aren’t uncommon, but this country is wild all the same.  It’s a country meant for all those who want, for a few days, a week or longer, to run feral. Bear and moose thrive there and, for 12 days, so did I.

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