They say that memory starts to fade with age, and at the ripe ol’ age of 25 I am starting to feel the effects.
Rewind to the summer of 2005, and there I am in the 100 Mile Wilderness of Maine successfully finishing up my first Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike. I remember the time fondly. I recall the AT friends that I finished the trail beside and the joy of having my family meet me at the end. I remember swimming in the expansive Maine lakes and being elated at my first moose sighting. Yes, it was all a very wonderful time.
Needless to say, with all these positive emotions it was with great anticipation that I began the Wilderness this week, by starting my hike with a climb up Katahdin the morning of June 20th. Katahdin was beautiful, my husband and I woke up at 4 AM to begin our climb. When we rose above the timberline we could see the sun rising in the distance and a sea of heavy clouds surrounding the valley below us. It was everything I could have hoped it would be. Upon arriving back at the base of the mountain the real hiking began.
The discrepancy that caught me off-guard the first day was the myriad of rocks and roots that littered the trail. Had these really been here all along or had someone added them over the past three years? My toes received as much of a workout as my legs did by hitting all those rocks. Then that evening when the rain set in the rocks and roots became like slick ice under my feet. I didn’t remember this section of trail being quite so treacherous.
My second day in the wilderness, I was shocked to discover just how high the mid-Maine mountains actually were. I climbed for half the afternoon to reach the top of White Cap Mountain. That being said, I would have shaved at least 5 minutes off my time if I hadn’t been held-up by a porcupine that blocked my path and refused to let me pass. After White Cap the mountains kept coming- as did the roots and rocks- and by the time darkness set in I was still over 3 miles away from my campsite. Thankfully, my husband had hiked in to meet me at twilight and escorted me out by headlamp to our tent.
The third and final day in the wilderness, I was abruptly made aware of plentiful and forceful river fords that make dry-feet a losing battle and also make me wonder what the Maine Appalachian Trail has against bridges. Finally on the way out, rain and wet shoes brought to my attention how dangerous large slabs of flat exposed rock can be.
But you know, it’s funny… just like my memory slipped over the past three years, even within the past three hours I have started to forget the hazards of the wilderness and only remember the lush green vegetation, the gorgeous undisturbed lakes, amazing wildlife and incredible views. Even despite my swollen ankle, strained butt cheeks and bruised elbow, all I now recall of the Maine Wilderness is the beauty and the personal challenge.
And with fond memories of trail thus far, I look forward to the surprises, pain, and happy thoughts ahead.