Current miles hiked - 2066!!! Mike has only the 100 mile wilderness to complete before reaching his final destination of Mt. Katahdin. This will probably be our last Q & A with him before he's done with his journey. I'm looking forward to our final interview because it will mean he hiked the entire trail. I don't know about you, but I have goosebumps. Here's this weeks Q & A:
Your last state is Maine. How many miles is that section of the trail?
281 miles. And it is rugged.
You mentioned that there are very few towns along the trail at this point. How does that change your food/water supply?
I have to carry a lot more food because I can't bail out in a town if I were to run out. It has also motivated me to hike faster and longer hours. For example, I hiked over 60 miles in the past 3 days to get to Monson. If I had hiked that portion over 6 days instead of 3 then I would have needed to carry an additional 5 pounds of food. Believe me, you will feel an extra 5 pounds in your bag every day! Water isn't a problem because there are lots of river crossings.
The next portion of trail is known as the 100 Mile Wilderness. It is 100 miles without a town, paved road, or place to resupply. I'm estimating it will take me 6 or 7 days to make it through this part, so I'll be carrying enough food for a week. Many people don't feel like carrying that much food so they will pay someone at the hostel to do a "food drop" 30 miles into the 100 Mile Wilderness. The people at the hostel will drive up a little-used gravel road and hang your food from a tree in a bucket.
Also, there are people who will pay a lot of money to "slackpack" the 100 Mile Wilderness. They will leave their pack at a hostel and then call the hostel to come pick them up whenever they're near a gravel road or logging road at the end of the day.
Personally, I think these people are wimps. Paying people to carry your food for you, or hiking with a cell phone and constantly calling someone to come pick you up is not what most people envision when they picture a thru-hike. I'm old-fashioned, and I have never slackpacked. I will be carrying my food on my back through the entire 100 Mile Wilderness, and I've never hiked with a cell phone so I certainly won't be calling people to come pick me up every 15 miles. I almost consider that to be cheating! lol
Brooke’s section of the trail is finished and she’s gone home. This leaves you alone with your thoughts for the last few hundred miles. What things are going through your mind?
You don't want to know. The other day, I was wondering if I had gone nuts. I asked myself, would I be crazy if I were to talk to a squirrel? I eventually decided that talking to a squirrel wouldn't necessarily make me crazy, but I should be worried if the squirrel started talking back.
What is your average daily mileage now compared to the first week on the trail?
In southern Maine, 10 miles was a good day. The past three days though I averaged slightly over 20 miles per day, simply because the weather was nice (no rain!) and I really want to go home.
Your final destination is Mt. Katahdin. How high is it? Do you plan on climbing it alone or will Brooke re-join you?
I will climb it alone. Baxter Peak of Mt. Katahdin is 5,268 feet. You begin at around 1,000 feet so the climb itself is around 4,200 and the elevation profile shows that it is quite steep. Word-of-mouth is that Katahdin is quite strenuous, with hikers hanging from rebar, climbing up and over ledges, etc. I don't particularly like that kind of hiking, but it does make me feel tough, like I'm Bruce Willis in a Die Hard movie.
Tell us what the countryside in Maine looks like.
Lots of ponds and rivers, some of which must be forded. Maine is the only state that requires fording. The trail also has lots of rocks and roots and it's easy to twist your ankle. I wouldn't be surprised if I sprain my ankle in the 100 Mile Wilderness. If I do, other people can watch as I limp up Katahdin. People are always shocked when you hike injured. Just last night, I stumbled into town and could barely stand. A guy offered me a ride but wanted to chat first. This was fine, but I literally had to sit on the ground while he talked because otherwise I would have collapsed. I have never been the athletic type, and even with all the weight I lost I still feel like I'm walking wounded most of the time. So Maine is a rugged, remote trail with lots of ponds and river crossings and a guy named Standing Bear gamely making his way north :)
I don't know about any of you, but Mike inspires me! He is so strong willed and amazing. Let's all pull together and send some good thoughts and prayers his way for a safe journey on his final 100 miles.
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If you'd like to make a donation to Mike's organization "Hike4Kids" please visit his website. He's collecting money for underprivileged children who have been neglected and abused. Mike is no stranger to childhood abuse and has taken up the cause to help children in need. Will you consider making a donation?
(all photos courtesy of Mike McLaughlin. Do not reproduce without permission)