Big Bear Signing Off

Good Morning Everyone,

Hard to believe that it has been three weeks since finishing my 2014 thru hike. While I do miss the journey and the sights, I am happy to be back home with friends and family. I am being slowly reintroduced into society and so far haven’t embarrassed myself too much with my wild ways.

I owe a lot of thanks, first and foremost, to my wonderful wife Pauline. Being there for the first 700 miles was a time of our lives I will never forget. After that, she led the coordination of my gear needs and care packages and served as emotional support when I needed it most. Thank you sweetheart!

I also wanted to thank the Steele family, I really enjoyed the time we spent hiking together. I hope you guys are enjoying your time home as well.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to follow the blog. The words of encouragement were great and needed from time to time. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did creating it.

And then there are those who were kind enough to send additions to my care packages. Thank you for the trail mix, cookies and other goodies. Each time I received a care package, I tore into it like a 6-year-old at Christmas. Sadly, eating SueG cookies for breakfast is a habit I can no longer sustain.

To those who are thinking of hiking the AT: DO IT! If any of you have questions or would like my perspective, feel free to email me @ lucas.horton@outlook.com. I would be happy to share my thoughts on gear and strategy.

To those who haven’t tried backpacking: DO IT! Humans starting walking upright around 3 million years ago. The horse wasn’t tamed until about 4000 BCE. In the interim, humans walked from place to place all the time; we are hardwired for it. The mental and physical benefits I experienced on my trip were amazing.

So with that I will leave with more pictures from my summit of Katahdin.

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Big Bear Signing Off

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100 Mile Wilderness

Leaving Monson, ME, I headed into the 100-Mile Wilderness expecting the trail as described in A Walk in the Woods. A thin ribbon of lightly used trail meandering through pure wilderness. That was in the mid 90s, now – because of the rising popularity of the AT – the wilderness has become less wild. A couple of times I saw logging trucks and even a pickup truck carrying hunting dogs. However, it didn’t diminish the beauty. Glacial ponds and beautiful weather were abound and a breathtaking end to the trail. The first 30 miles are deceptively difficult, a lot of up and down. The remaining 70 miles are cake and made for easy big mileage days. If I ever get back up to Maine, I would love to do it again. The only real disappointment is that I finished before the leaves changed. I’d say that I missed the true colors by about 3 weeks.

Here come the pictures:

The sign pretty much says it all.

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I came across this cascade one day, if you notice, there is a circular white object in the picture. It was foam that pushed into an absolute perfect circle by the eddy coming off the cascade. It looked like a giant white blood cell. Pretty cool to see geometry at work in the chaos of nature.

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This is I think a type of white lichen. Its very beautiful especially when I saw large patches such as this.

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This view was the very first time I laid eyes on Mt. Katahdin. If you look very closely there is a figure swimming around. That was me. After eating a lunch consisting of an onion bagel, cream cheese and tuna, I immediately went swimming in this crystal clear pond. I know I’m supposed to wait 30 minutes, but I like to live dangerously. Plus if I followed that rule, I would technically never be able to swim.

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This is Little Wilson falls, but its not very little, dropping 60 feet into a slate canyon. I came across this the first day into the 100 Mile Wilderness.

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After Whitecap Mountain there is a incredible 17 mile stretch that is like this the whole time. It was a beautiful breezy day and I flew through the section. What a great day!

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Unfortunately the fall colors hadn’t really come in by the time I finished. Mostly everything was still very green, but you would come across sugar maples that had turned.

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Simply Titled: “It’s good to be a hiker.” That is “Late Start” taking in a gorgeous view,

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Until next time,

Mt. Katahdin

Hello everyone,
At 11am on September 12th, I reached the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Sorry I haven’t posted sooner but since summiting I have been celebrating. I wanted to get a quick post out to show you all the summit picture. When I return to Kansas I plan to do posts on the 100 mile wilderness as well as a gear review.

My wife brought a better camera up to Katahdin so all my other pics are on that camera. But I was able to get this one on my phone so I could post it to the blog.

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It’s been a hell of a ride, one I am ready to be done with but also sad to see end. I truely appreciate everyone taking the time to follow the journey.

I will be back in Kansas around the 20th so look for my final posts later the following week.

Until next time,

Pauline & Lucas

Into the Wild

This may be my last post before I am finished. I am in Monson, ME, which is very significant to a thru hiker. We know this town when we first hit the trail because it is the last town before the fabled 100-mile wilderness. After Monson the only roads you encounter are logging roads, so chances to get a ride…to let’s say… a hospital are slim. But the trade-off you get is the rare opportunity to be in a place with very few signs of human interaction. Other than fellow hikers, I hope to spend the next week without hearing a man-made sound. Oh, and SEE A DAMN MOOSE! I feel good about my chances. Plenty of southbounders saw their moose in the 100-mile wilderness.

After you come out of the wilderness and cross Abol Bridge, it’s a short 10 mile hike to the base of Mt. Katahdin. My plan is to summit on the (hopefully very clear)12th.

Picture time:

The MATC (Maine Appalachian Trail Club) takes their trail maintenance seriously. In fact, I’ve ran into a few maintainers and they ask what they can do better. You can really tell they love this trail.

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This is Craig. He was my canoe captain across the Kennebec River. Craig graciously spent his Sunday morning ferrying Me, Torch, Sprinkleburst, Cupcake, Ghost and Viking accross to the other side.

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This is Moxie Pond. I was walking ledges up to Moxie Bald Mountain. The weather this week has been pretty good. The first couple days were perfect. That slightly chilled weather, reminds me of September tailgating weather in Kansas. Perfect for hiking.

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The size of some of these bogs amaze me. This one dissapears around the bend and goes who knows how far.

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This is Moxie Bald Mountain. The trail took me up the rock switchbacks. Felt like a live game of Donkey Kong.

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This was my first river ford. Fording is kind of a pain because you take the time to switch into your water shoes and pack away your boots. Once on the other side reverse the process and move on. I hear the first day in the “100 mile” there are 5 of these.

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Know what’s funny? I went through the whole process of switching shoes and not five minutes after fording, a thunderstorm started and lasted just long enough to soak my boots. Irony!

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Until next time,

Pauline & Lucas

Saddleback through the Bigelows

This week I finished the reminder of southern Maine. The run went 4 days over 9 mountains starting with Saddleback and ending with the Bigelows. They are the end of the toughest section of the AT which starts back in New Hampshire. Because the weather has been so oustanding, I hardly noticed how hard the climbing has been.

Three out of the four days I ran into Warren Doyle. He is a trail legend (he has 9 AT completions under his belt) and even offers a AT prep course to improve your chances. Very nice guy. On the last day he congratulated me on making it through the gauntlet and said, “that is all Maine has to throw at you.” I now have 170ish miles left and the only real climb is Mt. Katahdin.

On top of Saddleback. It has an exposed ridge for over 3 miles, the weather was perfect.

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You can see the trail leading to Saddleback Junior.

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On top of The Horn

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Pic from the summit of Saddleback Junior. Can you spot the critter? Was chasing it around trying to get a pic. Looked like Rocky chasing a chicken.

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This is the remnants of a rock slide near Sugarloaf Mountain. I wonder how long it will take for the trees to reclaim the land.

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Hit 2000 miles!

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View of Flagstaff Lake from the Bigelows.

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I came over those mountains in the last two days. The mountain with all the ski runs is Sugarloaf.

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Until next time,

Horns Pond Lean-Tos

On August 27th I started working my way through the Bigelows, the last of the 4K foot mountains until I hit the mothership, Mt. Katahdin. This involved a three-and-a-half hour climb up to Horns Pond. Being that Labor Day weekend was coming up, I was afraid that the shelter area would be crawling with “normals”. I was hell bent on getting to the shelter first so I could have my pick of tent sites because “Horns Pond Lean-Tos” is Maine’s most popular shelter. I passed Larry Boy who was chatting up Bucket List and arrived at 4:30. My experience was so good I wanted to share it with you all.

When you first arrive you see the original shelter built in 1937, which is now just a day use shelter because two new shelters have since been constructed. Here is posted this great hand-drawn map. Since I was the first to arrive, I naturally took the “penthouse” site. See the yellow circle at the top of the map? That is a bench where you can see Surgarloaf Mountain, my site is the yellow circle just to the right of it. There was no one within 75 yards of me.

Horns Pond map

Horns Pond map

This site has a caretaker. Its a paid position staffed May to October and they work five days on/ two days off. Their job is to inform hikers on Leave No Trace practices as well as do ridge running. Essentially, they are paid to camp in some of Maine’s best wilderness, pretty sweet gig.

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Caretaker site

IMAG1376This shelter area is huge. It has two shelters, two privys (both firsts) and enough room for about 40 people. I definitely overreacted because there were only four of us in the area. Larry Boy and Chris (a section hiker) each took a shelter, Hawkbill and I took sites in remote areas.

IMAG1379The Privys were in incredible condition. As far as privys go, they were like the toilets at the White House.

 

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This is Horns Pond, a glacial pond where you can swim, canoe or just enjoy the scenery. I went down trying to spot a moose but came up empty-handed. They are surprisingly elusive for being such huge bumbling beasts.

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Here is some background on Horns Pond Shelter area

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Here is the “penthouse.”

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IMAG1398It came with a view of Bigelow, that is on my agenda for tomorrow morning.

IMAG1399It even came with a plastic bucket that serves a seat/safe. Ah, Luxury.

 

Maine’s Beauty

It is a gorgeous Sunday and I am reporting to you from a kayak in Lake Rangely. I am also enjoying the Lake JamZ playlist on Spotify. Thanks to the KC crew for making it, I’ve spent many hours hiking to it. This is bliss.

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After a rough start to our relationship, Maine and I are on much better terms. Four days of dry mild weather and easier terrain has brought out why hikers love Maine so much. The animals are active and the views have been spectacular. I even heard my first tree fall in the woods.

Speaking of active animals, a critter managed to naw two holes in my food bag one night so it could munch on this tortilla. No worries, nothing duct tape can’t fix.

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This is a grouse, I’ve seen several of them recently. Their kinda frustrating because they are deathly quiet until your about 10 feet from them. Then they abandon that plan for the run like hell plan. I was coming around a corner and it was like someone threw a live chicken at me. Scared the crap out me.

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Me on top of Old Blue Mountain. ” You’re my boy Blue!”

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This is a good representation of my trail this past week. Very nice.

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There are many lakes in Maine. This one is called Mooselookmaguntic. Yep, that’s the name. Believe it or not, there is a lake with an even longer name.

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Here is the view from the back of our motel. I have been watching sea planes take off and land all day. Rangely looks like the set of Northern Exposure. No chain restaurants anywhere.

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Saw this excellent pinball machine at The Red Onion. There award winning chili was great. Also went to The Shed BBQ. The slaw was good; but I’m from KC, Oklahoma Joe’s can’t be beat.

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Until next time,

Pauline & Lucas