Gorham turned out to be a great place to reset for the next leg of the hike. Meeting up with friends in town can make it hard to leave, and Gorham was no exception. There were plenty of hikers I hadn't seen in quite some time, including Huggy Bear who flip-flopped, so it was great catching up. I wasn't in a hurry to leave town. In fact, upon reaching Gorham, I learned that my tent poles hadn't arrived yet because the town is so small, you can't overnight packages there.
I thought about spending a second night at the hostel to wait for my tent poles to arrive the next day. There were two problems with that, however. I had no idea when my poles would arrive. I could very realistically lose another day of hiking waiting around for the mail. Secondly, Gin Gin was hiking out that evening, even if it meant a bit of night hiking. I really enjoyed hiking with her and was bummed about possibly losing another friend on the trail. After thinking about it, I decided I would hike out that evening with Gin Gin and call the tent company first thing in the morning to have them re-route my package to the next town.
We finally made it out of the vortex about an hour before sunset. As we hiked the last few miles of New Hampshire in the dark, I heard a loud noise just ahead. Bear? Moose? I stopped and listened. I heard some crashing, but it seemed to be moving away. I never did see what it was. I happened to stop on an exposed slab of rock. I looked up to witness a dazzling array of stars. Gin Gin and I stood there for several minutes, necks craning upward, completely immersed in the moment and the beauty of the world around us.
The next day, we hit two huge milestones: the 1,900 mile marker and the Maine border! The morning started off a bit foggy, but by the time we got to the 1,900 mile mark a few hundred feet up and 30 minutes later, we had climbed above the clouds. The newly clear horizon provided stellar views back to Mt. Washington where I had been a few short days ago.
Even though we had been hiking for all of 30 minutes, this seemed like a great place to take a break. I also had cell phone service, so I called the tent company and explained my predicament. They readily forwarded my tent poles to Andover, the next town on the trail.
The fog slowly rolled back in, and with it a light mist. We hiked our way through alpine bogs and horrendously rocky and slippery descents. Late in the afternoon, a small, white sign stood in a nondescript patch in the pine forest. Maine!
HOLY! FREAKING! SHIT!
I stood tentatively at the line demarcating the last chapter of this incredible journey, looking at this seemingly insignificant sign. What stories have you seen? What unexplainable emotions have you borne witness to? I had travelled through 13 states and was about to step into the 14th and final state! With immense excitement I stepped into the final frontier, loudly declaring to every one around me, "I'm in Maine! I'm never going back to New Hampshire!" Then I realized I left my trekking poles in New Hampshire. Silly EdBeard!
Full of excitement and overwhelming emotion, I danced my signature "old man" dance. I packed out bourbon from Gorham and decided the final border crossing seemed an appropriate place for a toast. Gin Gin and I celebrated with border bourbon before heading down the trail to the shelter for the night.
The next day brought more fog and mist. And more of the what would soon become the way too familiar ridiculously steep and slippery descents southern Maine is known for. While the down climbing wasn't too fun, I was looking forward to another iconic piece of the AT. Mahoosuc Notch!
Mahoosuc Notch is known as the most difficult (or most fun!) mile on the Appalachian Trail. Essentially, there is no trail. Hikers navigate their way up, over, under, and across massive boulders that fill a narrow ravine. Some people dread this section, as it often takes an hour or more to walk a single mile! I was eager and excited for the challenge though.
Rock hopping, scrambling, and climbing is so much fun! I really enjoyed the change of pace from walking. It was an entire mile of choose your own adventure! Gin Gin and I weren't in a rush to complete the notch, so we took our time and had a whole lot of fun with it. Hiking turned into climbing, caving, finding sudden drop offs and having to turn around. At one point I army crawled through a very small rock opening that most definitely wasn't the "trail." Sure, it took almost two hours to traverse this boulder field, but embracing the adventure allowed me to laugh and fully enjoy every step of the way.
Immediately after Mahoosuc Notch is a pretty steep climb up the Mahoosuc Arm. Tired from the rock scrambling, Gin Gin and I decided to camp at the base of the mountain and tackle the climb the next day. Again, there was fog and mist, but I didn't care. I was ecstatic to be in Maine and the clouds rolling across the landscape gives a sense of magical beauty clear skies can't offer.
Logistically, we were trying to decide which road to take into Andover. We could either go into town in one day or two. We wanted to take the second road, but didn't quite have enough food. At some point that morning, Gin Gin made a comment along the lines of, "It would be nice if we met someone at the parking lot who would offer to take us to town." Yep, sure would be nice.
Of course that's exactly what happened! Shortly after making that comment, we ran into Frank and Joe on top of a mountain. We chatted with them for a bit and learned they were out section hiking. We wished them happy trails and hiked on. They caught up to us a few miles later while we were stopped at an overlook. They asked us if there was anything we needed. They decided to cut their trip a couple days short and offered to give us a ride. No freaking way!
We met them at their car in the parking lot, where they emptied their packs of their extra food. What they gave us was the perfect amount we needed to cover the next two days! The offer to go into town still stood, so we hopped in their car in pursuit of real food. We saw a brew pub up ahead, a perfect place to grab dinner. Frank and Joe pulled over, but they weren't going to get dinner. They had chores they wanted to get done before dark. And then more of the unexpected happened: Frank pulls out his credit card, gives it to us and says, "Get whatever you want!" And he was serious about it too, so I took him up on that offer. A burger, fries, two beers, spinach-artichoke dip, and some carrot cake later I was ready to head back to the trail. They picked us up and brought us back to the trail. I still can't believe the way this experience unfolded. I had only crossed one road in Maine, but already the state was competing for best trail magic state on the trail.
The highlight of the next day was Baldpate Mountain, a series of rolling rock slabs that offer spectacular views. It happened to be the first really clear day of Maine so far, and despite being mid-September the weather remained in the upper 70s. Absolutely perfect. It was glorious! To top it off, blueberries covered the trail in abundance. Maine blueberries are a treat every thru-hiker looks forward to, but because I was there so late in the season, I resigned to the fact that I wouldn't see any. I'm sure glad I was wrong! I foraged for quite some time, savoring each plump, juicy berry. In delight, Gin Gin said we were the luckiest hikers. Considering yesterday's incredible trail magic, the gorgeous warm weather, and the unbelievable bounty of berries, I couldn't disagree.
The term luckiest hiker would soon take on a whole new meaning.
The road crossing to Andover is quite remote, and I was fully expecting to have a hard time getting into town. When I arrived at the road, a group was at the trailhead about to leave. They didn't have room in the car, but the guy driving said he would come back in about thirty minutes. It might be a bit of a wait, but I was feeling good that I had so easily secured a ride in a place where I thought it would be difficult. Besides, the wait would give me an opportunity to nap, so I took my shoes off and reclined on my pack in the shade.
Then, Gin Gin caught up to me. I'm about to explain the ride situation when a truck pulling a boat appeared. Without breaking stride, she walked to edge of the road, thumb up. The truck stopped and offered to give us a ride. Gin Gin looked over at me, huge grin on her face as if to say "See, that was easy!" Dumfounded, I picked myself off the ground, threw my pack in the bed of the truck, and jumped in.
Have you ever felt the cool breeze blow through your hair on a warm autumn day while cruising through back roads in the bed of a pick up truck? If not, you should. It's glorious. I laid my head back, watching colors of yellow and orange contrasted against a deep blue sky rush in a blur overhead, messengers to an ancient history, an unstoppable force. Contentment.
Suddenly, the back window of the cab slides open. One of the passengers passes back ziplocks full of snacks: cherries, cookies, chips, almonds! Un-freaking-believable!
The trail magic continued in Andover. After picking up packages, (yay new tent poles!) we headed over to the local diner. We didn't know where we were going to sleep that night, but heard that this diner lets hikers pitch tents on their property. While debating what to do over dinner, a man walked up to our table and introduced himself. Jeff and his wife, Tracy, owned a camp nearby and wondered if we wanted to go there for the night to relax. This seemed a bit strange. Why were we going to a camp? I was a bit hesitant to accept the offer. A few minutes later, Tracy showed up and clarified things. Turns out a 'camp' in Maine simply means a vacation home or cottage, and there was plenty of space. Doobie and Holy Smokes were already there, and another hiker we were hanging out with also came along.
Jeff and Tracy were unbelievably hospitable. On top of offering showers and a bed, they had a solid resupply option. They obviously put a lot of thought into what hikers need. All for free! It continues to blow my mind the kindness and thoughtfulness I received that night. Jeff and Tracy are two of the nicest people I've ever met. They ended up hosting five hikers that night. We stayed up late drinking beer, eating snacks, and taking turns for the shower. In the morning, Tracy cooked up a feast, and loaded us up with food to go. Jeff took us back to the trail head. Luckiest hikers ever!
I am a filmmaker. I am an adventurer. I believe in children. My friends are obsessed with my beard. I am obsessed with beer. I want to embrace and fully live this life I’m blessed with. I want to be known as someone who loves deeply.
On May 16, 2017 I set out on my dream, the adventure of a lifetime: a 2,189.8 mile trek of the Appalachian Trail. I want to push people to live their dreams and pursue their passions.