Maine has some truly amazing scenery. Fields of mossy boulders, giant ferns, fragrant spruce forests, plants and trees growing on top of boulders, and beautiful clear ponds.
However, much of my attention has been on the trail surface itself, so it’s hard to appreciate the views while actually hiking. And although the weather has been fantastic so far, we know there may be some rainy weather coming in a few days. In dry weather the trail requires your active attention due to roots and rocks. But these areas will be quite a bit more difficult to cross in the rain.
The trail crossed a number of large granite outcrops. These were sunny spots with lichen and blueberry bushes covering the surface.
The trail looked like a concrete path through a field of blueberries. We found quite a few ripe berries and enjoyed them on the spot.
One of the outcrops was called Rainbow Ledges and had a great view of Katahdin.
We descended down to another pond with a small stream entering it. Beavers had been hard at work.
Troop Leader realized he had left his knife back at our last water stop which turned out to be 2.8 miles back. Because the knife had sentimental value to him, he decided to hang his pack and hurry back to look for it carrying just a day pack. We planned to see him again at the camp later and continued on our way.
We reached the lean-to around 4:30pm. It was situated next to a fast stream running along steep granite walls and was a stunning site. We crossed what the Guthook Trail Guide calls a “somewhat scary wooden bridge” to reach the lean to. We took a few minutes to catch up with Andrea who had started a day before us and was resting up at the lean-to. Later Goldie and Troop Leader joined us. TL had found his knife.
Pigweed, Troop Leader, That Guy, and I had our breakfast. That Guy decided to return with Ole Man to the AT Lodge to rethink his equipment. Goldie slept in. There are no trash cans in Baxter State Park but they allow SOBO hikers to drop trash before departure. I took our trash to the ranger station and said goodbye to Ole Man and That Guy. We departed around 7:45am. Shortly after departing the campground the trail traversed a very long wooden footbridge built over a bog.
Then we got a good view of Katahdin from the edge of Grassy Pond. We hoped to catch sight of a moose near one of the ponds but never did.
Around lunchtime we took a short side trail and stopped at Little Niagara Falls for pictures and a snack.
We also took the side trail to check out Big Niagara Falls, which looked impressive but was not as easy to see. After about 10 miles on trail we reached the park boundary—out of Baxter and toward the 100 Mile Wilderness!
But before entering the Wilderness we stopped at Abol Bridge Restaurant for a late lunch. I ordered a tuna melt panini with fries. It was a bit pricey at $15 but, as the last place to eat for 100+ miles we went for it.
Road across Abol Bridge
Just across the bridge the trail entered the woods and a short way in we found the classic
Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC) warning sign prior to entering the 100 Mile Wilderness.
The Hurd Brook lean-to was 3 miles further down the trail. There was a large group of hikers already camped when we arrived. There must have been 15 tents and all the tent sites near the shelter were taken. We looked around and settled on a nice site a short ways away near a pond. There was a creepy animal skull at the entrance of the site and we called the site deer skull camp.
At this point I was feeling quite exhausted and still a bit sore from the previous day’s climb. After setting up camp I had a snack for dinner, hung up my food, and went right to sleep.
We daparted the AT Lodge and Ole Man drive us to Baxter State Park to summit Mt Katahdin.
Because Katahdin is typically the end point for most AT thru hikers, it did seem a bit strange to be doing it first. But it is the start point for us heading southbound (SOBOs).
We stopped at the small ranger station, got checked in and registered to stay in Katahdin Stream Campbround (KSC) that night. Baxter is the one place on the AT you’re not allowed to stay without a camp site. I had reserved a tent site some time back that would accommodate 6 people. There were four other guys on the same day who weren’t able to get reservations. So we all planned stayed at my site.
The ranger station had loaner day packs so hikers don’t have to carry full packs. I chose the most colorful day pack in the bin and loaded up snacks, water, warm jacket, headlamp, and small first aid kit.
At 8am we started off on the Hunt Trail which is the official Appalachian Trail: in addition to myself, our trail group was Troop Leader, Pigweed, and That Guy. Another hiker called Goldie was also sharing my site but his father had dropped him off and he was spending some time with him before heading up.
It was a steady ascent below tree line for about two hours. Once the trees started to thin out the boulder scrambling started.
About another two hours of climbing we reached the plateau and could see the summit about a half mile further and another small climb.
There was a small group already at the top. We rested, ate lunch, and took a few pictures. By the time we finished nearly everyone had already started down.
We decided to take the Abol trail down. It was quite a long descent and took us nearly five hours.
I was quite tired when we reached the camp site. I set up camp, had a quick dinner, and went straight to sleep. It was a perfect weather day and seemed like a fantastic first day on the trail.
It’s two days before my Appalachian Trail start day and I have arrived to Bangor International Airport, Maine. Man, this airport is old-school! In a good way, I think.
Being a smallish airport and serving an even smaller group of travelers heading to Katahdin for a southbound start, there don’t seem to be many options. I wanted to share what I settled on and why.
I first considered the easiest path: hiring a hiker shuttle or taxi to pick me up and take me to Millinocket. I had already decided to take the AT Lodge (appalachiantraillodge.com) up on their SOBO Special (including one or two nights at the hostel plus breakfast and shuttles from Medford and to Baxter State Park). I inquired about adding their shuttle from the Airport. It would add another $100 or so to the bill. But the proprietor, Ole Man, gave me some advice about another good option: purchase a ticket online via Cyr Bus Lines (http://johntcyrandsons.com). This service also mentioned in the AT guides.
A one way bus ticket from Bangor (Concord Coach Lines), to Medford/Irving was just $12. There were two minor complications though: 1) my flight would arrive 11:30am and the bus departed at 6:30pm. And 2), the bus runs from a location about a mile away from the terminal. So you have to make your way there, one way or another. But, on the positive side, I had plenty of time to get there…
Ole Man suggested heading by taxi or city bus into Bangor to the local outfitter—who might allow me to stash my pack there for a bit while I did some shopping for groceries/gear/supplies. This was a good idea, especially to have some better supply options than may be available in Millinocket.
In the end, I decided to skip downtown Bangor and just go on foot to Concord Coach Lines to rest for a few hours. I had carried quite a bit of food along with my gear so supplies weren’t urgent. And my travel day had started before 3:00am so rest was more appealing than anything else by the time I was leaving baggage claim.
On a side note, I decided to check my gear rather than mailing it ahead (another option Ole Man offered). I packed most of my gear and 10+ days of food into the pack. Then I put the pack into a large duffel—with down items loose inside the duffel to loft up and cushion everything. It worked well, thankfully. Though I might have had a different story if anything had gotten broken, been delayed, or lost. It was a bit of a risk but worked out well. I planned to mail the duffel home after arrival and before the hike.
So, carrying my pack and now on the way to Concord Coach Lines, I passed a big stand of conifers on airport property. It was a beautiful day and the trees looked fantastic. I went a ways in and hung my hammock there to kill time and rest.
I was well away from the terminal and out of view and was fine, though I did wonder if airport security might come and move me along at some point. They did not. And (regrettably) there was a good bit of trash scattered around in there, so it was apparently not an uncommon rest spot. And from my stealth hang I did see two other hikers with packs hoofing it toward the airport exit. It is probably a pretty well worn path.
Later, I continued toward Concord Coach and grabbed a bite to eat before heading in. There were a couple food options between the airport entrance on Union Street and the bus station.
The bus itself only took a little over an hour to get to Medford. And this bus stop is where rhe AT Lodge picks you up if you use their service.
So, that’s how I managed to make my way toward the SOBO start point. And, just to be clear, I don’t get any compensation from the businesses mentioned. They’re just the ones I used and can recommend. If you know of other good ways for travelers to get to the start, please share in the comments!