Never in a million years would I think that I would ever have to deal with a mental barrier on the trail. The physical aspect of taking on a hike of this magnitude had always scared me, but mental exhaustion was not something that I’m accustomed too. But today I began to feel like I was not enjoying this anymore, and once that thought entered my head, it also scared me, so I began to analyze the thought to determine why it had appeared.
Let me state up front that at no time now or ever have I entertained the idea of not completing this thru-hike for even a second. But the job of getting to Katahdin was starting to shape up to be a joyless slog of day after day drudgery, and that is not how I wanted this hike to be! I have been given a gift of the opportunity to hike through what is arguably the most beautifully stunning state on the entire A.T., and I love camping here. But, I have somehow lost the drive to move between the campsites.
Through my self-analysis (brought on by spending way too much time alone on the trail) I have come up with three things that seem to be contributing to my lack of motivation at this point. The primary thing to me is just the sheer difficulty of the trail since the beginning of the White Mountains. The week to week grind of climbing and descending without the existence of the occasional easier section to allow for recovery is taking its toll on my body. Despite my herculean eating efforts, I have lost 20-pounds on the trail and do not feel like I have the same strength that I had just a few weeks back.
In addition to my strength issues, the trail itself has devolved into a tread way of roots, rocks, and mud. Since entering Maine, there have been very few places where I could take a normal step. It is always a slow process of placing my foot on the best spot I can find within the confines of the obstacles above, and it is exhausting to move forward that way.
All of these things combined have conspired to cause me the anguish of changing my goals on a near-daily basis. I have always been a very goal oriented planner, and when I fail to reach a daily mileage goal that was painstakingly researched (and apparently a lot of other people are able to reach), it weighs heavily on me as my completion date keeps slipping back. Why am I the only one that seems to be afflicted by this lack of progress?
I will think and write further about the other two inputs that I believe are responsible for my current state of mind at a later time, but for now, I will return to your regularly scheduled program.
From the Bemis Mountain Lean-to, I hiked along the ridgeline towards the Bemis Mountain Second Peak over solid slabs of granite. There were more blueberries growing up there than thru-hikers could eat (as evidenced by the fact that there were any left), so I would occasionally stop to pop a few of them into my mouth. I don’t believe you will ever find blueberries with that intense of a flavor in the stores. Heading down the northern slope of the peak, the open area provided a nice view that managed to stay just below the clouds.
At the bottom of the hill, I got to take off my boots and ford the Bemis Stream. I have special shoes that I carry specifically for fording rivers (they do double duty as my camp shoes) and they make the process a lot easier and safer if no less time-consuming. Usually, I would also expect to find a major road also at the bottom of the hill, but I was surprised with a steep 700-foot climb before reaching ME 17. At the road crossing is a small overlook called “Height of Land” with a view of the Mooselookmeguntic Lake. Say that fast three times!
After rejoining the ridgeline, the trail continues through the rocks, roots, and mud until it reaches Moxie Pond, which is actually just a small inlet of Long Pond. I followed the trail around the northern shore of Long Pond until the trail turned directly south and crossed a small piece of land between Long Pond and Sabbath Day Pond. When I arrived at the Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to, it was already near 3:00 pm, making it too late to continue to either ME 2 or the Piazza Rock Lean-to. So, I stopped for the day and started beating myself up for another sub-ten mile day as I set up camp for the night.
Date: August 20, 2017
Starting Location: Bemis Mountain Lean-to
Ending Location: Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to
AT Miles Today: 8.3
AT Miles To Date: 1,960.0