"Nectar" & The 100-Mile-Wilderness

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Appalachian Trail portal to the 100-Mile Wilderness near Monson, Maine, on Route 15 -- 114.5 miles from Mt. Katahdin & 2069.7 miles from GA's Springer Mountain. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

Question: How long is the Appalachian Trail in Maine's 100-mile-wilderness ?

Answer: A long dang way.

Many of us can trace our inherent lack of trust in statistics (pronounced: stuh-TISS-tuh-ss-TISS-stik-tuss-tuh-KISS) to the day we learned the "100 Years War" actually lasted 116 years (1337-1453).

If, however, you are willing to trust the Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers' Companion, 2012 Edition, the length of the AT through the 100-mile-wilderness is 100.1 miles -- from the boundary of Baxter State Park at Abol Stream to Route 15, north of Monson, Maine.

Our friends at 100MileWilderness.info describe the region well:

Surrounded by more than 15 million acres of virtually inaccessible woodlands, this is also one of the most remote sections of trail in the entire United States. This is the land that time forgot; unspoiled, uninhabited and seldom traveled. This is a land of harsh contrasts; pleasing to behold, yet unforgiving to the ill-prepared. Make no mistake about it; this is nature in the raw.

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The Appalachian Trail's "I'd turn back, if I were you" sign. My favorite part: "This is the longest wilderness section of the entire AT and its difficulty should not be underestimated." ~~ Photo by Bob Walker

Roughly 40 years ago, I drove the length of California and British Columbia, across the Yukon Territory, deep into Alaska. I would personally reserve such prose for that region; however, having no intention whatsoever of trekking the 100-mile-wilderness, I defer to my brethren and sisteren in Maine.

Another way to describe the 100-mile-wilderness might be: "A hundred dang miles of 'you're on your own, dude' unless you can convince a bear or moose to carry you and/or your pack."

There are bright spots all along the 100-mile-wilderness :

o Rainbow Lake

o Nesuntabunt Mtn

o Nahmakanta Lake

o Pemadumcook Lake

o Potaywadjo Spring

o Kokadjo-B Pond "Road"

o Barren Mountain

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Sunrise over the 100-Mile-Wilderness ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

As the father of two women who could probably hike this area in a day -- carrying one or two of my grandchildren, making meals, doing laundry and working full-time -- do not think for a moment the 100-mile-wilderness is no place for a "girl."

One fine day in June, we met Sarah "Nectar" Maes ... a few hours after she finished her stroll through the 100-mile-wilderness.

We met her at Shaw's on Pleasant Street in Monson, a favorite hostel for thru-hikers.

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Nectar's room at Shaw's in Monson ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

Hiking the 100-mile-wilderness gave Nectar a slight limp. She was exhausted and a bit shaken. She was spreading news of her survival on the phone with friends, family and loved ones. Her room at Shaw's was quite the contrast to her previous week in the wilderness.

Nectar earned her Trail Name when hummingbirds chose to hover over her instead of a few ... mmm ... odoriferous folks on the Trail. Suited her fine.

She was from Albuquerque, New Mexico. (I told her that was too hard for me to spell, but spell-check saved the day.)

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Nectar at Shaw's in Monson, on her way from New Mexico and Mt. Katahdin the length of the Trail to Springer Mountain in Georgia. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

"The worst week of my life" is how she described her wilderness experience.

Torrential rains caused creeks to rise, trails to flood and ponds to overflow. Nectar got wet and stayed wet.

Black flies. Mosquitoes. Fear.

No fires. No warm food. No warm anything.

How did she survive? By saying "I am NOT turning back!"

Probably a zillion times.

Nectar said it was "mind over matter." To her that means, "If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

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The "Trail Magic" bin at Shaw's ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

She summed up her week in the wet wilds in two words: "No regrets!" She quickly added, "I'd do it again!" You could see in her eyes that she meant it.

Did she hike every step of they way? If I heard her correctly, she had to exit the Trail early, but I know she'll hit that portion again at some point.

When asked if she had any advice for us flatlanders, she burst out, "Do it!"

Nectar spent about $1,000 for her gear. That included $250 for a 15-degree sleeping bag and $100 for a 3-5 pound tent.

Another priority? Poles. "If you don't have poles, stay home," she advised with passion and experience.

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The Trail marker on Route 15, north of Monson. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

Nectar's other words of wisdom include:

o Keep your pack light

o Pack an alcohol stove

o Be prepared for the worst

o Be aware of the weather

o Invest in hiking shoes, not boots

o Make sure folks knows where you are and where you are going.

The Trail marker (above) that southbounders see when they finish the 100-mile-wilderness doesn't look like much, but you can almost hear them sing those lyrics from The Wizard of Oz: "You're out of the woods, You're out of the dark, You're out of the night. Step into the sun, Step into the light" like Munchkins. Right before they kiss and hug the rock.

We're thankful we met Nectar along the Trail. She was Trail Magic to us, so we shared a little with her in return.

Click Here for Monson & The 100-Mile-Wilderness

Click Here for Nectar's Blog -- With the Warning of Some PG-13 Language

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Sarah "Nectar" Maes and a bit of Trail Magic at the fabulous Lakeshore House in Monson, Maine. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

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The Totally Cool Max "Little Stick" Santagata -- who has hiked to the top of Mount Katahdin. Max works at the Lakeshore House in Monson.

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Happy Campers at the Lakeshore House in Monson, Maine


Tags: Tourism, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Appalachian Trail, Hiking, Hiking Gear, Appalachian Trail Community, US Forest Service, Appalachian Trail Clubs, Maine Appalachian Trail Club, Appalachian Mountain Club, and Robert Sutherland Travel Writer

About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.
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