“There are no places to obtain supplies or get help until Abol Bridge 100 miles north. Do not attempt this section unless you have a minimum of 10 days supplies and are fully equipped. This is the longest wilderness section of the entire A.T. and its difficulty should not be underestimated. Good hiking!” reads the sign at the beginning of the 100-Mile Wilderness, the last section before the final climb up to Mount Katahdin.
“We should’ve bought more food,” I say, turning over to my dad. “I’m hungry already.”
My old man decided to join me on the last week of my adventure, and to be honest I was glad he was there. At least someone in my family was able to witness the insanity of walking thousands of miles in the woods.
“Is it going to be easy?” He kept asking me on the phone the weeks prior his arrival.
“That’s what people told me,” I kept answering. “A couple of climbs but nothing too crazy.”
To briefly summarize our 100-Mile Wilderness experience I decided to refer to some of the highlights that characterized each day of our journey together.
Day one: 8:30pm, the sun is already gone which means we’re forced to hike our last miles to the shelter in the dark.
“We have one mile left,” I announce after consulting my guide book.
“What?! The book is wrong!” my dad angrily responds.
“Or you’re just really slow,” I think.
Day two: We’re hiking through the Chairbacks Mountain range, which people described to me as the roughest part on the 100-Mile Wilderness. But I couldn’t imagine it was going to be a super-steep climb and descent on massive rocks and slippery roots.
I could see the concerned look on my dad’s face. He carefully measured every step, trying really hard not to get hurt. He must’ve thought I was trying to kill him.
“This shit is not for everyone,” he said while while eating dinner. I smiled, happy for the fact that he realized that already, just on his second day.
“We should have told grandpa to come with us,” I tell him jokingly.
“He would’ve died probably.”
Day three: During a calm and enjoyable morning of hiking, my dad decides to update me and Dubs on current world news.
“Trump, and the economy, and China and blah blah blah,” (I wasn’t paying much attention, sorry).
I stop in the middle of the trail, turn around and walk up close to him. “Does all of this matter now? Here where we are in this particular moment?” I say while looking at him straight in the eyes.
“Fuck you,” he responds and walks away.
Day four: we’re sitting in the shelter, wrapped in our sleeping bags and eating breakfast. It’s a chilly morning and nobody is in a rush to start hiking. Actually, I’m more concerned of finding ways to make my breakfast more enjoyable.
My dad turns towards me while I’m busy dipping a chocolate protein bar in a jar of Nutella and gives me a look which is halfway between disgusted and concerned.
“Are you going to stay with your mom when you’re done, right?” He asks, breaking the silence.
“I don’t know, maybe.” I mumble with my mouth full. “Why?”
He takes a sip of coffee from his mug and then replies: “I don’t want to take out a loan just to feed you.”
Day five: Dubs has to leave us. He’s meeting his family in two days and has some miles to catch up. However, he decides to stay with us until lunch.
The morning is characterized by a few uphills, a little harder than we expected. After a mile we lose track of my dad and we decide to wait for him at the top of the mountain.
When he arrives he’s visibly tired and apparently upset.
“You told me we were done with climbing,” he says as he unbuckles his pack and collapse on the ground.
Dubs and I smile. “We’re proud of you,” I tell him. “You’re doing great,” Dubs adds. “You’re doing a lot more than we did on our first weeks out here. And on much harder terrains!”
Day six: We left Dubs with the agreement of meeting each other again at the Katahdin Stream Campground on Saturday. Friday night, if we managed to keep a good pace on our last two days.
We’re hiking around a lake and the sky is clear from clouds. We see an area free from trees that allows us to fully enjoy the view in front of us. The clear water, the vegetation all around and straight ahead, surmounting everything like a silent giant, Mount Katahdin.
I look at him once, twice, three times. I need to make sure it’s real. A little over four months and I‘m only a couple of days away from the completion of my biggest adventure yet.
My dad sits quietly in the back. I’m sure he understand the importance of that sight for my morale.
Day seven: We complete the 100-Mile Wilderness and to celebrate we indulge in a burger with fries and a huge beer at Abol Bridge Campground. I’m happy my dad reached his goal, but I also need to think about finding a ride for him to the next campground and hiking the last 10 miles to the base of Mount Katahdin.
We’re sitting at the restaurant of a campground placed on a side of a dirt road in the middle of nowhere in Maine. Even the people working there have no idea how to reach Katahdin Stream Campground, to the point that we need to look it up on Google.
Fortunately for us, after a hour of asking around, we manage to find a man that for $30 will give my dad a ride. It’s 4:45pm and the car with my dad and the random guy departs from the campground, leaving a trail of dust behind.
I have 10 miles to hike and I’m not willing to hike in the dark again. I try to move as fast as possible, I even run in some occasions. Unfortunately, my full stomach is not happy with all that movement and forces me to take a necessary break in the bushes.
Nevertheless, I manage to arrive at the campground before dusk. I see my dad sitting at a picnic table and we go to the ranger station to register for the night.
We arrive at the designated shelter for thru-hikers but there’s no trace of Dubs.
“He must still be with his family,” I think.
We eat dinner and quickly it gets dark all around us. My dad decides to go to sleep, while I want to take a moment to sit there contemplating what’s coming up the next day and waiting for my friend to show up.
But after 10 minutes I give in and decide to get some rest. I slide inside my sleeping bag and close my eyes. I can’t fall asleep immediately as my mind is a whirlwind of thoughts. Dubs hasn’t showed up but what keeps me awake has nothing to do with it.
Clouds start covering the sky and a few raindrops fall on the ground.
“It’s a big day tomorrow.”