Day 144: Breaking point… or maybe not

Andover, Maine [some mileage or other]

Today was IT. I woke up and could see my breath, and I was done for good. I figured I’d hit some mountain or other, hopefully find a signal, call the hostel, and see how I could start the process of getting home.

Done. The Appalachian adventure was over. But there were 9 miles to go before that could happen.

Nine miles.

I packed up and kept thinking ‘That was it. That was the last night on the trail. Today is the last day on the trail.’ And I was fine with it. More than fine. I was so angry at Maine that I just wanted those last 9 to be done! Finis!

It was a cold morning, of course—hat, gloves, long pants, long sleeves. The whole breath-seeing bit. And the mountain turned out to be a little more challenging than I’d anticipated.

First, though, the bogs! The bogs, the bogs, the bogs, the mud-tar-sewage pits of Maine! Miles of them today. Miles. Rivers of mud. Places where the mud had firmed up enough that it had a solid skin, then one step and splurch… in up to the ankles.

I used language today that shredded the bark off trees. Literally. I watched it happen. Rocks melted.

There’s nothing worse than having decided that your thru-hike is finished, then still having 9 miles of Maine to go through before you can actually be done. Torture! Also, on pretty much no food. I think I had a Spam Lite and a handful of almonds.

It eventually warmed up enough to switch to short sleeves. Almost balmy! But I growled every time the trees snagged my pack and everytime I had to bypass another mountain of moose shit and everytime the wind picked up again and everytime I came to a stretch of trail that was a lake, or a sea of mud, or a stream.

There were some beautiful spots. I came to a turn in the trail and some maintainer had built a bench. I had to go take a look; it faced a beautiful view of the mountains. ‘My last view,’ I thought, without any nostalgia at all, and snapped a picture.

The last mountain of the day turned out to be rough. Old Blue Mountain, I think it was called (my book is packed away): a steep climb up, a mile of sliding boards on the other side (steep enough that there were rebar handholds and railings in spots), then the piece de resistance—bogs, then a mile of downhill that was so steep you might as well just parachute off the edge! Except there wasn’t an edge. Just forest. At the top of one of the steepest sections, somebody had mounted a plaque on a tree: ‘Ole Bitch.’ I grabbed that one for the journal. 😉

So I made it to the hostel. David, the proprietor, told me to take a zero or two before deciding. And Emperor is here! He’s two days ahead of me (doing Mahoosuc tomorrow, bless him), and he’s urging me not to quit.

I went down to the only food source in town—the General Store. And I ate a half-pound cheeseburger with fries. I brought home about a pound of candy and two pints of ice cream, most of which I’ve eaten. HUNGRY. And now I’m rethinking the whole quitting thing. Go figure. I’ll decide tomorrow or the next day. It’s all so… nebulous.

My socks were so muddy that I had to run them through the washer twice to get the caked filth off.

And guess what? David’s hobby is to make moose poop jewelry! Like he says, Maine has long winters.












Categories: Appalachian Trail | Tags: | 32 Comments

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32 thoughts on “Day 144: Breaking point… or maybe not

  1. Ann

    Karma take a day to decide. Don’t let the moment dictate your actions. Maine is a bitch, but I know you can do it. The hostel is good. The food at the convenience store is pretty good. You can do it. Maine is almost behind you. Hang in there. Birch

  2. janetg96

    Who said you can’t string shit? I hope your zero or two give you clarity. You are my hiking hero!

  3. Is that moose poop necklace a big seller?
    Well, you know what someone said to LBJ during Vietnam? Declare victory and go home!
    Whatever you do, we’re all behnd you.

    • Thanks, Anne!

      He says he’s sold a lot this year, lol! If you’re interested in taking up a hobby, I know where there’s an unlimited supply of raw material. Maybe I should tell Regina.

  4. Judy

    Karma, soak up that zero day or two. Plus another half-pounder with fries. And more ice cream! NH will be so worth the Maine.
    BTW Billy mentioned the Ol’ Bitch sign, too… a clear sign of hiker humor — or determination!

    • I can’t decide whether the Ol’ Bitch was a warning for SOBOs or a value judgment after the fact for NOBOs. It was funny! But that hill was horrifically steep! I hope Billy’s knee was OK afterward, because mine were killing me!

  5. Marge

    Do I detect Christmas gifts? What’s the return policy? Seriously…Facts: you were sick. Fever, lethargy, the runs, etc. for quite a few days…..and you pressed on. Do you remember what we should do when we get sick? We go to bed, under warm covers with dry pj’s, warm tea, soup, crackers and ginger ale……UNLESS you are a thru hiker in 2013!! Rest.Rest.Rest and Recharge! A good nite sleep in a dry bed with clean, dry clothes and food in your belly can produce a physically healing Karma with a refreshed perspective on things. Was it Wiggy that told you something like the people that leave the trail leave for 90% in their heads and 10% real injury. You feel on your face, Karma! Every bone in your body hurts. Thank God you didn’t break your nose or glasses. You can do anything, and you are doing everything. Just keep comparing you to you. Today it does not matter how much faster anyone else is. You have hiked over 1250 miles, my friend. You were a success when you walked onto the AT. My dear madam, you did Katahdin! Karma extraordinaire!! You will know when you are ready to stop? Those whispers get really loud! God bless and thank tou for being such a great friend.

    • Marge, thank YOU! You know, I was out on the porch a little while ago and there was a copy of a certain book with a yellow cover. Coincidence? 😉

  6. The Postman

    I am starting back on the trail at Erwin, Sept 5th. Hope you stay with it, but there is no shame to finishing your hike in sections. Really enjoy your Blog! Take care.

  7. Lisa Milstead

    Karma, You got this! Rest now, and soon, you’ll be DONE with Maine. Then, you get NH under your belt, and then it’s all downhill from there ( just not so steep!).

    • LOL. It’ll be nice to get Maine DONE. Even the Mainers are talking about how off-the-hook wet this year has been.

      I’m probably hiking on. Who am I kidding? As soon as I get fed, I feel like ai can manage a few more miles. Every stnking time. 😉

  8. Karma, You already know what I think.

    My Linda and I were talking about you at breakfast this morning. She remembered one of those poster cliches that really does apply.

    It’s your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.
    – Unknown

    There’s an old Johnny Cash song that says essentially the same thing. It’s entitled “The Rev. Mr. Black,” and it’s on my AT playlist.

    May I suggest “This is a test. In the event of a real emergency, you would receive instructions from competent authorities.”

    Here’s a big hug. What ever you decide, we’re with you.

    • Thanks, Sisu!

      I’m now probably sticking, for a while at least. 😉 It’s all so moment to moment out here! But I swore at the beginning that I’d tell it like it is, warts and all, so I share the meltdowns.

      Thank you so much for your support! And right back at ya!

      • A lot of life is that way – minute to minute, day by day, week to week, and so on. Judging by the photos on TJ, Maine is overall a more difficult trail than NH. To be sure, they are different and NH has major league challenges, but after New effing Hampshire, it is truly a better pathway.

      • Northern Maine is less rugged than southern Maine, but there are so many roots and bogs that you still have to concentrate on where you’re putting your feet. And Maine is wet, wet, wet. I thought Virginia was humid! Not compared with this. And it’s not just this particularly wet year. You can see how easily the wood just rots away. I’m guessing that’s why there aren’t any bridges up here.

      • Remind me to bring a wet suit + knee pads, shin guards and a helmet with face mask. 🙂 BTW, just to cheer you up, the low in the Presidentials last night was 20*F. Arg!!!

      • Wish I had time to get my down socks and pants back. But I’ll work it out. 🙂

      • Don’t know if you saw my text from a newspaper article about ticks killing the moose, but here’s what Pom posted today:

        “After another massive breakfast I finally headed back to the trail. The first car that passed stopped for me; a forestry service employee off to the visitor centre who drove past his workplace in order to drop me at the trailhead. He told me moose numbers had fallen steeply in NH in recent years and the theory was that this was due to massive numbers of wood ticks; tens of thousands had been found on some corpses!”

        Don’t let the little critters get ya. For creeps sake, keep moving!

      • Oh, right! I saw the text but didn’t have enough service to open the link.

        Disgusting! I hate ticks.

  9. Jack Kerwood Rome GA Hiker Birch's dad

    After you finish the Whites New England to PA in the fall is a great trip. Rest a day or two then finish your dream.

    • Sounds perfect! 🙂

    • Pflug

      Hang in there. I can’t promise the N.H will be any less difficult but it should get better after that! One day at a time and just keep walking!

      • Thanks, Pflug! Now I’ll have no choice but to finish Maine, at least. And there’s a good weather forecast for a week!

  10. Shari wb

    Dear Karma,

    Don’t quit yet. I seriously think you have more trail in you. Try one more section. Just one.

    Of course you are beyond hero to me so any decision wont change that!! :-))


  11. jack

    Hang in there! Tommorrow will be better.Best of luck with the weather!

  12. Rackman

    U have invested time, energy & sacrifice into your journey. Your insight and comments will inspire others to take up the challenge to do what so many would like to do but for what ever reason we will never have the opportunity to take ONE step in Your shoes. I’ve read many journals/comments by others on the AP trail but I follow and Look forward to your postings. I/we who follow you cannot walk for you but we follow your every step and cheer your victories and suffer your defeats. Your determination is a Badge you should wear proudly.

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