It has been a week or so since we left the trail. I meant to post this sooner, but ....
First, let me say that the experience was amazing. I was honored to be a part of my daughter's team on this test hike. And, we supported each other though the days we spent in the woods.
For those who are not aware, Big Little Sister (BLS) plans to through hike the Appalachian Trail (SOBO) next year. Being an inexperienced long distance hiker, she chose to complete this test run on the 100 Mile Wilderness. She needed the first hand feel of the trail ... you don't really know anything until you do it (as we learned when we started to incorporate foraging into our diets).
It did not take too long for us to learn a lot of stuff. We spent a total of 72 hours on the trail from the time Wendy dropped us off to the time we were picked up by Bill (the husband half of the fabulous folks, Bill and Linda, from Whitehouse Landing Camps).
First, I mis-posted my starting weight. With the 26 lbs of food, 6 pounds of water, and the other 30 lbs of gear, my pack weighed in at 62 lbs starting weight ... way too much. BLS, weighing in at 110 lbs soaking wet, had over 50 lbs in her pack ... way too much.
The hike started as expected ... we hiked the 3.3 miles to the first lean-to and stopped for the night. We ate dinner. We then diligently hung our bear bags to save of food from the ravaging bears. By 20:00, we were in our tents for the night. It is incredible how quickly our bodies adjusted to the sun's schedule.
Morning brought a new threat! The mice, not the bears, ate a hole through BLS's waterproof bag and had a party in it. Mice are not particular where they do their business. BLS's paper oatmeal packages did not do much to keep the contents dry. Much to her dismay, it was a loss ... all of the oatmeal, but little else. So, she skipped breakfast and we packed up to go. LESSON: vacuum sealed food escaped the mice!
Not far along, she started feeling nauseous. I had her stop and eat something. While we were at it, I had her drink some water, too. As we continued, she began to feel better and recovered. Unfortunately, I started the day off dehydrated and, in spite of the gallon+ water I drank, never caught up. So, by the end of the day, I was dragging. We knew we were not going to make our intended camp site, so we stopped at Rainbow Lake campground (on the trail), which turned out to be a far nicer place than the Rainbow Stream Lean-to. We were short 4 miles for the day.
The second night was very informative. We met a few NOBO through hikers nearing the end of their trail. One struck a chord with BLS. He carried only 7 lbs of gear ... tent, sleeping bag, ipad, snickers, and peanut butter. He did not carry water ... he drank when he found it ... I assume he treated it. If it rained, he took a zero day (no hiking = zero miles). Clearly, he had learned a lot on the trail ... he admitted to starting out just as heavily burdened as we were. We were in the process of hanging a bear bag and were told ... "just sleep with your food, because the bears are not going to bother you, especially with a dog". LESSON: Bears are not really a huge nuisance in Maine, so hang one if you really want. NOTE: This does not hold true on other parts of the trail where the bag really is needed.
Day three was much better for both of us. We planned only to hike the 4 miles we were short, because there was a mountain that we would have to climb to make the next camping spot. Alas, we arrived at noon and decided that we would not wait to cross the mountain. We were making good time and feeling good. So, after lunch, we moved on.
While climbing the mountain, we noticed that Cheyenne was starting to limp. On the way down the mountain, a mile or two from the next lean-to, BLS twisted her ankle. We both knew that we could not stop. She continued hiking, crying the entire way, twisting her ankle a second time, hobbling all the way to camp. We got in at 18:30, a very short time before darkness fell in the deep forest. We had just enough time to set up our tents, listen to the huge contingent of NOBO through hikers talk about their plans for the next day, and start off to find water to filter.
Day four, BLS felt fine to continue and so did I. We started out and noticed that Cheyenne was limping worse. So, we started planning out extraction. We knew that Whitehouse Landing Camps was somewhere near the trail, but had no idea how to find it. We also knew that people we shuttled in and out of Jo Mary Road ... 20+ miles further down the trail. We planned to stop there and get picked up. Happily, we found a sign for the Whitehouse Landing Camps 32 Miles along the trail and took the option.
So, we finished only 32 miles of the 100 we had planned, but we accomplished that which we set out to do ... learn!
It turns out that there are many extraction points along this section of the trail ... logging roads for shuttle and resupply, campgrounds a mere mile off the AT that can be driven to, even friendly folks who will come pick you up in a boat and feed you a very large, filling hamburger!
I know I have more to say, but can't think of it now. Feel free to ask your questions. I will happily answer.
I am so grateful for this time in my MooseBoots travels.
Here is BLS's write up.
Special thanks to Wendy and the girls for their support!