Many people have asked me what the 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine was like. I hung out with Penobscot Indians, laughed so much my abs became sore, and did yoga on a beach as the sun came up. I also ran out of food and resorted to some pretty outrageous means to get fed. It was quite the adventure!
The 100 Mile Wilderness is a boggy mess at times, but I had the good fortune to slog through it with 3 really cool people: Tex, Amish, and Hippity Hop. Tex is a short, friendly Texan who also goes by the moniker “Screamin’ Yeti” and sometimes dresses like a ninja. He’s also a really nice guy with a big heart who kept me alive by generously supplying me with Mio so I didn’t go nuts from drinking nothing but pond water for a week. Amish is one of the friendliest people I met on the trail, an easygoing guy who kindly starts a campfire for everyone each night and hikes with a wooden staff which constantly made me think of Moses parting the Red Sea. Hippity Hop is a trail beauty, that is to say a female hiker. This means there was an army of guys breaking their necks to keep pace with her, as well as at least one guy who mistakenly thought he had a “moment” with her when they were going through Mahoosuc Notch… lol I think it’s admirable when women hike the trail, and Hippity Hop was so friendly that she became like the sister in our group.
This entertaining crew made one of the roughest, wildest sections of the AT quite a bit of fun. They moved pretty fast, and at one point I thought they were going to have to get the defibrillator out to bring old Standing Bear back to life. But they always waited for me to catch up and even take the lead at times so they could listen to my stories, of which I had a neverending supply We had so many misadventures together I don’t even know where to begin.
At one point Amish, Tex, and I ran out of food and I started flagging cars down in search of something to eat. It was just a lonely gravel road (Jo-Mary Road.), so there wasn’t too much traffic, but I was able to flag down one of the first cars we saw. It turned out to be a couple and their two kids returning from a camping trip. I told them we had hiked from Georgia and were out of supplies, and asked if I could buy any leftover food. The guy told us we could have the leftovers for free and hopped out to pop open the trunk. Unfortunately, all his food was either canned or required cooking (we didn’t carry stoves). Amish quickly eyeballed a can of kidney beans. He lacked a can opener but was confident he could get the can open if he became hungry enough. Nonetheless, we were a little disappointed that we couldn’t eat most of the food in the box. Then Hippity Hop spotted one of the kids’ paintings in the back seat of the car and said “what a beautiful painting!” Next thing you know the kids start passing back to us granola bars, chocolate, all kinds of good stuff… turns out the kids had been holding out on us! lol Hippity Hop buttered them up with her compliment and all of a sudden we’ve hit the motherlode in terms of snacks.
We sat by the side of the road and added the snacks to our pile of remaining food. Then a truck came by and I flagged it down. Hippity Hop started chatting with the guy, but she was beating around the bush and the guy was about to drive off when I said “Do you have any Gatorade or anything we could buy?” Next thing you know, he’s got the back of the truck open and I’m hauling out food by the armful. As it happens this guy does shuttles and resupply runs for hikers so we hit jackpot. I’m deep in the back of the truck digging out plastic bins of food, getting more and more excited with each bin I see. We struck gold when I saw the iconic words “Chef Boyardee.” I excitedly announced that we were having Italian for lunch and tossed cans to Tex and Amish. They even had the little pop-top tabs so we didn’t need a can opener or rock to open them. Tex spent several minutes hemming and hawing over a bag of Chex Mix, but meanwhile Amish and I were taking armfuls of Oreos, cookies, and anything that looked good and adding it to our food pile, which was now becoming quite substantial. Half an hour previous we were just about out of food, and now we’re eating a bag of chips with ravioli and drinking Tang, with oreos and chips ahoy for dessert. I gave some money to the guy and thanked him for his kindness, but then we were surprised to hear a car horn. What the heck? I look over and it turns out we had created a traffic jam, as two cars were waiting behind this guy’s truck. I couldn’t believe it, it must have been the first traffic jam ever on this road. As we feasted by the side of the road, a certain car drove by a third time and Amish noted that each time the car passed our food pile had grown larger
And that wasn’t even our wildest experience. At one point, we were night-hiking, secretly cursing Tex for encouraging us to push on a few extra miles, when we smelled a campfire. We started looking around, but didn’t see anything. Next thing we know we’ve encountered a gravel road which isn’t marked on our map. Where the heck are we? Then we see picnic tables, a campfire, and a large pond with a beach. We wander over to the campfire and it turns out to be a bunch of students from College of the Atlantic out on a college orientation trip. They gave us a warm welcome and invited us to hang out with them at the fire. All the students were female, a fact which was not lost on Tex and Amish who are both single and had been on the trail a long time. Tex told me, “I’m not going to tent next to your hammock tonight, for obvious reasons.” When I asked why, Tex said, “In case I score man!”
We sat down by the fire, and the students graciously offered us some lentils. I took the lentils and became excited when I felt the warm bag in my hands. I dug out a big spoonful and quickly resigned to never eat lentils again. Wow, if a hiker turns down a second helping you know it’s bad… lol But I really appreciated the kind gesture. We had a lot of laughs, and Tex was practically holding court by the fire, telling entertaining stories from the trail and making everyone laugh. Amish meanwhile was engaged in a deep conversation with a young coed which was going so well I feared he might just get off the trail and start a new life with her. Then the leader of the group invited us to do yoga on the beach at sunrise. Yoga didn’t seem like my style, so I was inclined to say no, but Hippity Hop said she would pay money to watch Standing Bear do yoga, which I viewed as sort of a challenge. Next morning bright and early I’m on that beach doing all kinds of odd poses, many of which include the name “dog” in their title. I’m sure it didn’t look pretty at times but the instructor said I did well for my first session, especially considering I’d hiked over 2,000 miles.
The end of the 100 Mile Wilderness is marked by a paved road that has a campstore, and I fantasized about that campstore for days. Visions of pizza and ice cream danced through my head. When we finally hit the road I wanted to break into a dead sprint for the campstore but knew I wouldn’t make it more than 10 feet before collapsing. We were essentially thrown out of the restaurant portion of the store for looking too dirty but not before I could purchase a ton of pizza, ice cream, Pepsi, and other goodies. We commandeered a picnic table outside and I downed almost 2 liters of Pepsi like it was nothing. As we were packing up to leave, Tex saw me filling my water bottles with a second 2 liter of Pepsi and was shocked. He warned that it would dehydrate me, but I told him that with all this sugar I’m going to come out of this place like a bat out of hell. As we were leaving, however, we all felt a little tipsy and after just a few miles of hiking we laid down for a break and literally passed out next to the trail. We were awoken later by a day hiker who passed by and said “Are you all asleep?” in a loud voice. We are now, buddy… lol
We finally made it to the last shelter, where we encountered some Penobscot Indians. We had met them earlier at the campstore and had a really good conversation, but we didn’t know they’d be staying at the same place as us. They kindly invited us to dinner, where we feasted on moose meatloaf, potatoes, and other amazing food. I also had a really good conversation with the person who seemed like the leader, a guy named Butch. It seemed odd to meet a Native American named “Butch” but I can’t think of a nicer guy. He told me a great deal about the history of the Penobscot in that area and about Katahdin. It was a great evening and a fantastic end to the 100 Mile Wilderness.
And then the next day I summitted Katahdin