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AT 2017: Day 170, ME Hwy. 15 (Monson) to Abandoned Logging Road

Gonna wade across rivers gathered in the stream from the mountains that rise above the plain

Hike with Gravity

The distance from Monson going north on the Appalachian Trail to Abol Bridge, which is located at the foot of Mt. Katahdin, is 99.4 miles. It's called the 100 Mile Wilderness.

The emphasis here should be on the word “wilderness,” not the inexact distance. This section is said to be the wildest, most remote section of the trail.

The 100 Mile Wilderness crosses only a small number of roads, and most of those are primarily used by logging trucks.

Weather Foggy, then becoming mostly sunny with a high temperature in the mid 70s
Trail Conditions Not especially difficult
Today's Miles 13.5 miles
Trip Miles 2,069.6 miles

The truth is, this wilderness is a relatively narrow strip of protected land, which is surrounded by large logging operations. Take a look at a satellite view of the trail’s route and you will see what I mean.

Logging roads make it more accessible than might be presumed for a wilderness. In fact, because of these roads, we were able to arrange for a portion of our food supplies to be delivered to us three days from now.

I don’t wish to minimize the risks involved in hiking through the 100 Mile Wilderness. I simply think its reputation is overstated, especially now that cell service is available on some of the higher ridges along the trail.

Our stay at Shaw’s Lodging included a delicious breakfast, with eggs, bacon, fried potatoes and blueberry pancakes.

Minutes and Bartender were part of the crew to help prepare the meal and keep things moving efficiently so we could get on the trail soon. I met them back in Pennsylvania.

After they reached the summit of Mt. Katahdin about a week ago, they didn’t want to leave the trail community right away, so they came here to work at the hostel.

After breakfast, Stick, Tengo and I put our food for the last half of the 100 Mile Wilderness in large buckets, which Poet labeled and set aside until it was time to deliver them to us.

He told us about a hill on the trail where we should be able to get a cell phone signal. We were to call when we got there and confirm we will be at the drop off spot at the appointed time.

Just to be safe, we were carrying an extra dinner in case we couldn’t reach the drop-off spot in time and had to reschedule for the next morning.

Poet was like many of the hostel owners and other business people on the trail who think of their business as more than just a way to earn a living. He and they are giving back to the trail community and they want every hiker to be successful.

After dropping us off at the trailhead, Poet made a short, inspiring speech and recited a poem.

A sign and hiker registry box were located a short distance from the trailhead. The sign warned that hikers should carry a minimum of 10 days of supplies. Perhaps this kind of preparation was necessary years ago, but the warning seemed exaggerated by today's circumstances.

Still, we didn’t have a reason at this point to disagree with the sign's last words of caution, which said this section’s “difficulty should not be underestimated.”

The trail was easy to walk when we started at 8:30 a.m. on this foggy morning. It was mostly flat as we passed several ponds and streams in the first five miles. The first pond was called Spectacle Pond.

We also crossed a road called Old Stage Road, which was once a stagecoach route. More recently, the AT followed that road until the trail was rerouted away from it.

Another pond we passed was called Bell Pond. I stopped to take photos here because the trees along the banks were barely visible in the dense fog. This delayed me, but I caught up to Tengo and Stick by lunchtime.

We passed by Little Wilson Falls where it poured over a 60-foot drop, then followed Little Wilson Stream for four-tenths of a mile.

The trail crossed the stream where it was easy to rock hop. This was the first of several places where the trail crossed or followed the stream. This was an especially scenic part of the trail today.

Between these crossings, the trail began a climb up a ridge also called Big Wilson. After going up part of the way, I went past a large beaver pond.

The trail then followed a ledge along Big Wilson’s ridge line. This offered a few views of valleys and ridges.

After descending from the ledge and heading to one more crossing of Big Wilson Stream, the trail passed through a spot marked as a former timber harvesting camp.

A crudely-carved sign identified the site as A. Bessey Lumber Camp, which operated here in 1949 and 1950. The camp is said to be the last logging operation in the area.

The trail followed a tote road where lumber was hauled to Wilson Stream. Then when the stream’s flow rose in the spring, the logs were floated to a mill down stream.

When I arrived at the stream, Stick and Tengo had just finished crossing it and were putting their hiking shoes back on.

This was pretty spot. Stick and Tengo didn’t wait for me, so I took my time putting on my water shoes and preparing to cross.

After I crossed the stream, Jason and Maple arrived, and made the same crossing. Maple showed only a little hesitation when she reached the stream’s edge, then swam across in the chilly water.

Boomer, Special T and Scout also made the crossing as I dried off and put my hiking shoes back on.

I lost time at the stream crossing and soon the sky was beginning to darken. I considered stopping early and not trying to get to where Tengo and Stick were camped.

There weren’t many options for where to camp, though, so I decided to keep walking until I saw a place to stop.

My first order of business was to stop at a stream to get water. Barely a few yards beyond the stream I came upon an abandoned logging road. Jason, Boomer and Special T were setting up camp there, but Scout wasn’t with them. The guys said he had elected to look for a cabin that was reportedly a spot for trail magic.

As soon as I spotted them here I decided to stop.

At around 8 p.m., just as I was finishing my dinner and preparing to crawl into my tent, lightning began to flash in the distant sky. Thunder rumbled too, so it seemed like my timing was good for turning in for the night.

The storm passed by without raining on us. Then another thunderstorm came through at around 2 a.m. This one brought with it some brief, heavy rain.

I enjoyed listening to the thunder and rain from inside my dry tent. This was just the third time rain had fallen since I’ve been in Maine. Each time, it fell at night when I was either in my tent or preparing to get in it for the night.

The weather has continued to be one of the best parts of hiking through Maine.

Gonna ride with the rolling thunder
Let the sky crack asunder
As lightning cries out of the rain
Gonna wade across rivers
Gathered in the stream from the
Mountains that rise above the plain


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine." ref.