Monson, Maine

What a way to start our journey. Jared and I have made it to Monson, Maine, a tiny little town at the end of the 100-mile wilderness. We got in last night but were so tired and had so much to do that we didn’t get a chance to post anything. We’re staying at a little hostel called Shaw’s – the owner/operators are amazing, and so nice. They even came and picked us up from the trail (where it intersected with Maine Highway 15). We’ve completed 114 miles of the 2189.2 miles on the Appalachian Trail – about 5% of the way there! We’ve heard from many sources – including the owners of this hostel, which have thru-hiked themselves – that the part we just did was the hardest of the whole trail. We can attest to its difficulty, if not its comparison to the rest of the trail.

Pictures will be posted en masse after this post!

Day 1
Slept at Katahdin Stream Campground
10.4 miles
This day was amazing. We left our packs at the ranger station and summited Katahdin – due to some confusion and delays, we ended up starting the hike around 10:30am, and finishing around 4:30pm (which is pretty fast, according to some locals). If you’ve ever done Old Rag in Virginia, Katahdin is like a much harder and much taller Old Rag. Half of the trail was hopping on rocks up creeks and streams (the trail itself was the stream). About a mile and a half in, the trail becomes a scramble.. Well, actually, more like a climb. There were literally places where steel rebar was hammered into the rock to give you somewhere to hold/step. This was by far the single hardest summit/hike I’ve ever done, and it was also my favorite. Unfortunately, the top was extremely cold, so we got our pictures and got out. That night was pretty buggy, and we were figuring out all of our gear.

Day 2
Slept at Hurd Brook Lean-To
13.3 miles
We hiked through some crazy woods and bogs, forded two rivers, and walked on planks through swamps. The terrain changed numerous times. The last three miles were the start of the 100-mile wilderness. We expected to show up the to the shelter alone; instead, we found a roaring fire and 11 other southbounders. It’s crazy because we expected to be alone for a large portion of the trip – instead, we’ve found ourselves in a cool group for hikers! One of the guys always says how much his gear is worse than everyone’s – because it was, he had like nothing – and so he got the trail name Downer. Another guy tells long convoluted stories; his name became Homer.

Day 3
Slept at Rainbow Stream Lean-To
11.1 miles
This was by far the most beautiful shelter that we’ve stayed at so far. We pushed it a little a fast to get here, and relaxed the whole day. Jared smashed some logs with a huge rock to get big pieces of wood for the fire, and so someone started calling him Hulk. I call him Banner, instead (for Bruce Banner, the alter ego of Hulk) because it’s a little less intimidating.

Day 4
Slept at Potaywadjo Lean-To
18.~ miles
This day was so hard. We started hiking at 8:30am, and didn’t get there until 8:30pm. There were crazy swamps and bogs that we had to hop and jump and step through all day, and the trail itself was not well kept or maintained. It got so bad a few times that we got a little lost and had to backtrack. Once we got to the shelter, though, we met up with 4 of the guys from the original 13 – Brandon, Josh, Jake and Homer. They were super happy to see us make it – they said it was a huge morale boost. We end up sticking with them for a good long while.

Day 5
Cooper Brook Lean-To
11.4 miles
The hike was pretty easy and straight-forward on this day, but the pains in my knees were horrible. It took forever for them to warm up -over three miles – so I was walking like a cripple for hours. We met Ben and Melissa, a southbound thru-hike couple that are really really nice. We also got to hang out with Slingshot, a guy who brought his slingshot to kill small animals and eat. By this day, he had already eaten 4 (which is illegal, but hey). I got the name “Rabbi” today.. I’ve grown to like it!

Day 6
Logan Brook Lean-To
11.6 miles
Pretty typical day going between lean-tos. Hike some miles, sleep, repeat. At this point, Brandon got the name Double Tap: he was lying down in the lean-to, and when he went to sit up he bonked his head. Then, when he went to lie back down from the pain, he hit his the back of his head too. Banner and I started calling him Double Tap and it stuck!

Day 7
Campsite
13.~ miles
My knees and feet kill. The up hills are easy, but for some reason the downhills are so painful. We made it through fine, but it didn’t feel good. People are starting to call Jake “Lieutenant Dan” (people had before, but it just now started sticking). I started calling him Lute because that’s way easier to say – that started to stick too! At the hostel we’re at now, people were asking me if I had seen Lute and stuff. It’s cool to see a name you make propagate.

Day 8
Long Pond Lean-To
15.~ miles
This was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The wind was howling, the rain was pelting, and it was very cold. In addition, we had to hike at least 10,000 feet of total elevation change. It was so hard. The mud and the water really get at your feet, too, and blister them. At the lean to, we met up with Weirdo and Dawn, who we had met before. They were super stoked to see us. Dawn ended up giving me a bunch of stuff – Ramen, meds – so I started calling her Magic (short for Trail Magic). It stuck! I made sure the other hikers at the hostel heard me call her that, and so now it’s spreading around!

Day 9
Shaw’s Hostel
15.~ miles
Today was even rainier than yesterday. Additionally, we had to ford 6 rivers. We were so soaked to the bone from the rivers and the rain that we just sloshed through the swamps and bogs and puddles and kept at it. We had to go much slower than anticipated due to Banner’s Achilles injuries, and so we didn’t get to the highway until 5:30pm. We called Shaw’s (with 5% battery left and a single bar of service that came and went) and they happily came and picked us up.

Day 10
Shaw’s Hostel
Zero
Today, we relaxed. We also made some “zero shoes” which are basically just vibram soles and paracord. They are going to be our lightweight camp shoes. We’re trying to get a ride into Greenville today to pick up some groceries and some trekking poles – we’ll see how that goes.

We’re aching but good! We’re thinking about taking another zero day tomorrow to fully recover, but we don’t know for sure. Picture dump coming soon!

The next PO box is Stratton, Maine – PO 04982. Make sure to write “hold for AT hiker Ian Leake” on it!

Rabbi

6 thoughts on “Monson, Maine”

  1. When you post your upcoming PO boxes, please let us know when you expect to be there. By the time I was ready to pack up a box to send, I realized you would already be done with the stop. Also, can you post a list of all the upcoming PO boxes? Then I can send ahead based on your tentative plan.

  2. Fantastic update, Ian, THANK you! Except you shared every naming backstory but your own – ‘Rabbi’ is pretty great…

    Tell Jared to let me know if there’s anything y’all are craving, I’ll try to send some.

    1. Well, my backstory is a little dumb. One day, when Banner and I were making quinoa, I said “it’s the day of quinoa!!” in a weird voice. Josh said “that sounds almost like a Jewish holiday..” so I replied with “yes, followed shortly by the Day of Couscous” in the same weird voice. He started calling me Rabbi after that and the rest is history!

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