100 Mile Wilderness Adventures and Outfitters–Trailside on the Historic Appalachian Trail
Frequently Asked Questions (and more!)
Maine’s 100 Mile Wilderness is the only section of the entire Appalachian Trail that the additional weight of a fishing rod and associated gear is worth carrying. Every day allows for exceptional fishing opportunities for land locked salmon, togue, trout, pickerel, Northern pike and others. From fast moving streams and rivers to deep, high mountain ponds and large lakes, the Appalachian Trail affords the traveler a true wilderness fishing experience. A valid State of Maine fishing license is needed to fish the open inland waters and can be obtained locally or by contacting the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at www.mefishwildlife.com
What is the best time of year to hike the 100 Mile Wilderness?
There are more than the regular 4 seasons in Maine. By far, the longest season is Winter, (pronounced “Wintuh”) which usually runs from mid- December into early May. The snow pack in the mountains is deep (usually 4′-6′), making for difficult travel along the Appalachian Trail. Winter slowly transitions into “mud season”. This is when the melt off begins. The Trail is extremely wet and muddy and best not to hike since you will also be causing a great deal of damage to the footpath by sloshing through it. Gravel roads are muddy messes with deep ruts and washouts. All of the rivers and streams are at flood stage until after the snow in the mountains is gone; usually late May/early June. Trail maintainers can’t get to their sections of Trail to remove the blowdowns until most of the snow is gone; again, late May to early June. Spring never really happens in Maine because we immediately jump from “mud season” into “black fly season”. This would be the entire month of June and into early July. I like hiking in June, despite the bugs. At long last, it’s the opportunity to once again hike on terra firma. The smells are at their best and the leaves have just come out. Daylight is at its maximum with 4am daylight appearing and 9pm darkness settling in. The Trail is quiet and uncrowded as well. July and August are my least favorite months to hike in Maine. School is out, which means camp groups and scout troops. Add more than a few section hikers, finishing AT thru-hikers, as well as other hikers enjoying the Trail and this makes for a crowded experience for all; especially at the shelter sites. Maine weather is finicky at best. The summer months bring hot and humid weather and almost daily early morning and/or afternoon thunderstorms; many of which are violent in nature. Expect hail, high winds, heavy rains and cold temperatures. I have seen temps drop over 30 degrees in less than an hour. I have also seen it snow in July in the higher elevations. September and early October are my favorite months. School is back in session and the Trail has quieted down. The Fall colors are coming out (peak foliage is always the first week in October around Katahdin area), the air is cooler and drier, no bugs to speak of and a quiet that is hard to explain. Late October into December has cold days and some warm days here and there. Expect snow from time to time. The Trail tends to be icy from the night freezes, but can thaw out by mid-day. It is “hunting season” during the entire month of November, but I still get out there and hike and don’t worry about hunters in the woods. No matter the time of year; always be prepared for the worst weather imaginable. Your comfort, and your safety, depends on staying dry and warm.
First and foremost, assess the conditions of the crossing before any attempt is made. If it is early Spring or late Fall, the times of the year when heavy rain is most likely, then the depth and swiftness of the current will be the greatest. Do not attempt to ford any river crossing if you do not feel comfortable with the conditions. If the water is high and the current is fast, you may need to wait a day or two for the water level to drop enough to safely cross. When fording any river or stream, always exercise extreme caution and proceed slowly. Your safety is of paramount concern and the danger is real. By following the recommended guidelines, you can minimize the risk and safely cross most waterways. The guidelines are as follows:
- Assess the situation
- Always wear something on your feet
- Unbuckle the waist belt on your pack
- Loosen both shoulder straps
- Always use a strong stick or pole to maintain balance
- Face slightly up river and into the current
- Firmly and securely, plant your pole within the river and move forward slowly sliding your feet over the rocks
- Make sure to have at least one leg and your pole firmly planted before moving the other leg forward
- Fast flowing water can cause vertigo if you stare into the moving waters too long, so try to stay focused and keep your eyes on the opposite shoreline
The Maine Appalachian Trail Club publishes its own Guidebook and detailed maps. If you are planning to hike just the 100 Mile Wilderness, then you will need to obtain Guide Maps 1-2-3. The Guide Maps are by far the best on the entire Appalachian Trail. Printed on waterproof and tear resistant paper, the Guide Maps feature topographical maps and profiles on one side and all inclusive detailed information on the other side. The mile by mile data features information on water sources, shelters and campsites, road access, side trails, sectional warnings and other information necessary for the successful planning and undertaking of your intended hike. The map profiles are particularly helpful in planning the days itinerary since you will be able to visually see how difficult the days journey will be and how much climbing is involved. The Guide Maps fold up neatly and easily and can be carried in a side pocket for quick and easy reference. Cost is $8.00 each for the Guide Maps or $30 for the entire Guidebook (includes the 7 Guide maps for the entire Appalachian Trail in Maine). I sell both the Guide maps and the Guidebook at my Monson location or you can order these from this website (see Services page to order). For hikers planning to hike the entire Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia, The AT Guide by David Miller is the best and only Guide you will need. The profiles alone are worth the cost of the book! Available at www.theATguide.com
Maine has an abundance of water sources along the footpath of the Appalachian Trail through Maine. You will not travel far without access to cold, clean water. Because there are so many springs along the footpath, I choose these as my main water source and drink freely from them. I seldom, if ever, treat my water while hiking in Maine. I follow two basic guidelines and I have had no ill effects over the years. If the water is cold and at a higher elevation, then I know I am close to the source and the chance for contamination is minimal. If I am in a low area or the water is warm, then I take precautions and treat the water accordingly. I always treat pond or lake water and I always treat low elevation stream or river water. Always err on the side of caution and treat your water before drinking. Better to be safe, than sorry.
The 100 Mile Wilderness is part of the Appalachian Trail system and there are no fees to hike on any part of the Trail. There are, however, notable exceptions to be made. If you are planning to begin or end your hike in Baxter State Park, then you will need to make reservations for a campsite or lean-to. Out of State visitors must pay an entrance fee to enter the Park. There is no charge for vehicles with Maine plates.You can go to www.baxterstateparkauthority.com to learn more and to make your reservations. Another exception is access to the Trail through the private lands of the North Maine Woods via the Jo-Mary and Katahdin Iron Works roads. These roads are used for logging and thanks to the generosity of the landowners, they have allowed public access for recreational purposes. There is a gate fee ($12 per person) levied to offset the costs of maintaining the roads and to help maintain the many campsites throughout the landowners district. If you are just hiking the Trail, there is no fee, however, if you are section hiking and use the roads or get off the Trail and then need to restart your hike within the region, then you will need to pay the access fee in order to get back to your starting point. You can learn more by going to www.northmainewoods.org Day hikers and section hikers will find the gatekeepers especially helpful and friendly. Maps and brochures are available at all checkpoints. Remember….the lands surrounding the Appalachian Trail are privately owned and you need to respect the landowners rights. When driving through lands privately owned, always yield to log trucks. Pull over to the side of the road and let them pass by safely.
Your safety is your responsibility once you begin your hike. Once you enter the 100 Mile Wilderness, access to civilization is limited. While the Trail does cross a number of logging roads, many of these have been “put to rest” until the next timber harvest. Go the wrong way on any of these roads and you’ll be wandering a long time only to find out that the direction taken actually leads nowhere. Rescue in the 100 Mile Wilderness is difficult. Get hurt and you’ll be hurting a long time. For all practical purposes, you are in the middle of nowhere and it’s a long ways to help. Don’t take chances. Exercise extreme caution. Be prepared for bad weather. Be prepared to wait out flooded rivers. Do not travel along mountain ridges during thunderstorms. Katahdin, Whitecap and Barren-Chairback are particularly dangerous due to the open ledges and extreme exposure. Cell phones are virtually useless in the 100 Mile Wilderness. Coverage is poor to non-existent. If you are seriously hurt, stay on the Trail and help will eventually come. The Appalachian Trail through the 100 Mile Wilderness is heavily traveled during the summer months and into late Fall. Someone will eventually come along and may be able to assist you or go for help. Follow the basic survival rules. Stay warm. Stay dry. Assess your situations and understand your needs. Render first aid if necessary. Keep calm and stay relaxed. If it is raining and you are unable to setup your tent, cover yourself with the tent fly. You may not be in the most ideal location when you are injured, but so long as you are warm and dry, you will remain comfortable until help arrives. 100 Mile Wilderness Adventures and Outfitters provides shuttle service into and out of the 100 Mile Wilderness. I will get you to a hospital if you are injured or into Bangor if you decide to leave the Trail.
Avoid the water. Avoid high ground. Avoid metallic objects. Avoid solitary tall trees. Seek out clumps of trees or shrubs of uniform height. Get off the ledge and avoid open spaces, especially above treeline. Get down fast and seek shelter in low lying areas. Common sense prevails. If you hear thunder and the sky is quickly darkening, start thinking about an escape route and be aware of your surroundings. Plan to get to an area that is the safest your location allows as quickly as possible. Katahdin, Whitecap and Barren-Chairback are especially dangerous during thunderstorms due to their extreme exposure.
Your chance of dehydration is slim to none in Maine. Water abounds everywhere except along the mountain ridges and even there you will cross an occasional seeping spring. With so much water everywhere, it is easy to lighten your pack weight by only carrying one liter at a time. Even on the hottest days, you are not far from a water source, but you should still plan accordingly. Always carry enough water and never be without.
Just because you are living in the woods doesn’t mean you need to smell like an animal. As with other facets of your life, personal hygiene is just as important during your hike as it is at other times. Staying relatively clean and dry is the best way to avoid problems with blisters to the feet or issues with chafing. Both of these conditions can have adverse effects on your hike, and for some, end the trip before it even gets started. Rinse out your clothing and especially your socks whenever the opportunity allows and dry them at days end or tied to the outside of your pack while you hike. This helps reduce salt buildup caused from heavy sweating and makes you a more inviting companion at days end. Frequent hand washing and proper tooth care round out the common sense items that are always worth mentioning.
Hypothermia has killed more people in Maine during the summer months, than during the harshest of Maine’s winters. It rains in Maine. It rains a lot. It’s cold in Maine-a raw, bone chilling cold. Snow happens even in July and August, especially in the higher elevations. Top it all off with gale force winds and you have a recipe for hypothermia-that life threatening condition caused when the body temperature drops and you begin to lose the ability to perform even the simplest task such as zipping up your jacket. Staying warm and dry are key to not only comfort, but survival. Cotton clothing has no place in the woods of Maine. Cotton and cold, wet weather do not mix. Wool and/or synthetic clothing are the only choices that should be a part of your pack. Always make sure you have something dry to change into at days end and keep these clothes dry. Dry clothes will increase your comfort level in the lower temperatures and help you avoid the risk of hypothermia. Rain gear is a necessity in Maine and will help protect you from the wind and retains body heat. Never compromise on your clothing checklist. Buy the best and make sure it will protect you and keep you warm and dry in the worst of conditions. A warm hat and mittens should always be a part of your equipment checklist. Stay warm. Stay dry. Stay alive!
There are only two main road crossings in the 100 Mile Wilderness. From South to North, these are the gravel logging roads near the West Branch of the Pleasant River-also known as the Katahdin Iron Works (KIW) road and the Jo-Mary road. Both lead East (right) to Maine State Route 11; a paved road that runs between Brownville Junction and Millinocket. The Trail crosses several other roads, but most of these are discontinued or seldom used extensions of the two main roads noted above. Many of these roads also lead to nowhere and can run miles in any direction to wherever logging operations once occurred and usually dead end at a log yard-a place where trees were dragged for loading onto the trucks that bring them to market. Unless you are familiar with the limited road network within the 100 Mile Wilderness, you should only expect to utilize the Jo-Mary and KIW roads as a means of safe travel. Traffic is limited and with the exception of a few hunters, fisherman or loggers, there aren’t many vehicles that will pass by. Those few who do, are generally helpful and may provide you with a way out or to safety. From June 1 to October 15, 100 Mile Wilderness Adventures and Outfitters provides resupply and shuttle options at the Jo-Mary road crossing. Travelers can arrange for pick up/drop off or utilize our convenient food resupply option as an opportunity to lessen the pack weight and/or as a way to extend your visit along the Trail in Maine.
Black flies, gnats, no-see-ums, deerflies, mosquitoes; the list goes on. Yes, there are biting insects in Maine. Yes, there are lots of them and they are all determined to make your life miserable. A little preparation and planning will keep all but the worst of them at bay. Beginning in late May to early June, the hordes of black flies are particularly bothersome, especially on warm days and along streams and rivers where they breed. Soon the black flies are replaced by the constant buzz of the blood thirsty mosquito and the annoying onslaught of the deerfly. Not to be outdone by their insect brethren, the gnats (commonly referred to as “red-eye flies”) seldom leave you alone for long and the night time visitation of the no-see-ums will have you wishing you were someplace else. Patience, tolerance and bucket loads of DEET are your best deterrent. A headnet is your only salvation from insanity. Colder weather and rainy days keep most of the winged warriors at bay, but a good attitude and perseverance are your best choices for survival.
As mentioned earlier; it rains in Maine. It rains a lot. It’s cold in Maine and it’s cold a lot. This is a land of extremes and harsh environments. The old saying “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute” was coined in Maine. Quickly changing weather patterns are par for the course in Maine. You need to be prepared for anything. The typical hiking season runs from mid-May to mid-October and you will find some of the harshest weather during these times as well. Torrential, bone chilling rains. Wind driven hail. Sweltering tropical heat and humidity. Even snow in the higher elevations has been experienced during the months of July and August. If you are not prepared for the weather changes, your trip will be marred with bad memories, discomfort and possibly life threatening conditions. Always make sure to have dry clothing available at days end. Always make sure to have some type of shelter with you. Stay warm. Stay dry. Stay alive.
The woods and mountains of Maine feature abundant wildlife and with rare exception, there is nothing to fear while spending time in the forest. The fear of man is real to Maine’s animal population. You will be lucky to see wildlife of any kind with the exception of feeding moose in some of the smaller ponds along the footpath. This isn’t to say you won’t see bear or deer or some of the other wildlife living in the woods, but there is little to fear in the way of animal attack or dangerous encounter. The rare exception is during the Fall rut (mating season) of the moose. Their libido rises and they lose all caution in their search for females and the opportunity to breed. Bull moose have been known to attack and are extremely territorial. You should give a wide berth to any bull moose within the area. Never look a bull moose directly in the eye. You cannot outrun them. You cannot climb a tree fast enough, nor high enough to avoid their attack. Best choice is avoidance entirely.
Mice inhabit the shelters and are particularly annoying at night. Always in search for food, your pack is a prime target. Always hang your food bag from the nails on the rafters using the dangling tin cans you’ll find in every shelter. These ingenious, yet simple devices keep the mice from climbing down the string and into your food bag. Always unzip every zipper on your pack. I have seen more packs ruined because someone forgot a food item in the pack only to awaken to a freshly chewed hole. Shelter mice will do everything they can to make your trip miserable in one form or another.
Dogs are, perhaps, the most dangerous and unpredictable animal on the Trail. Unfortunately, it’s the owners that give dogs a bad reputation. While issues with dogs (and their owners) are rare, always err on the side of caution and approach dogs cautiously while hiking. Best to step aside and let the owner and their dog pass by safely then to take a chance on getting bit. If you plan to hike the Trail with your dog, you should be aware that not all Trail service providers will accept your dog onto their properties and you may have to find alternative places to stay. Well behaved dogs are welcome at 100 Mile Wilderness Adventures and Outfitters. We will, also, assist our guests in securing a safe and secure kennel service that will provide you with peace of mind while you make your summit bid in Baxter State Park (no pets permitted).
All paths lead to nowhere, so it is important to choose a path that has heart.