When I left you last I was preparing to finally leave the province of Quebec. Limping. Although the last 200k had been through the valley and physically very easy with mostly rolling hills, beautiful views of the French Canadian country, I was forced to take it slow. Which I guess isn’t the worst of fates? I found myself searching for a cheap hotel to rest my tired bones and soul. Staying in the quiet town of Matapédia was my best option before entering the next frontier of New Brunswick. So I did. 3 days of ice, elevation, lots of food, and soaking my ankle and feet in the river. A bit dissapointed in the results I was seeing but the stagnation, my wallet, and pull of southern lands meant it was time to move on. I got a long way to go till Florida!!
My last night in town I was graced by the company of a young couple who just finished touring the gaspesie via bicycle. A trip of 1,600km along an extremely scenic highway that circumnavigates the peninsula. A classic Quebec vacation I have been told, that when you visit this is what you do. Most by car but you may remember I’ve now met close to 10 folks who were walking that highway. Seems like a lot of pavement…. then again when I say walking they more than likely hitch rides frequently. Anyhow, this french Canadian bike touring couple and I met in the local B&B (the BEST meal in town,) and they invited me over for drinks! I had greeted the young fellow with bonjour and later he told me he had actually thought i was french! I guess i was getting better. Another couple was there as well, and after not long rain began to pour. Spirits not dampened, and alcohol flowing, they sung french pub songs to me for hours. Through the rain and thunder their voices towered over. The campground was silent, and then there we were. I’m sure the entire town was listening.
An early start the next morning, happy to be on the move again, even if it’s not going to be very far! Still travel slow, burdened by the end of my injury. Crossing the border of the two provinces was awesome still. Over 400 miles in Quebec and now it was on to new things. The sign was in both in french and english, as I am now entering a new world where I can hopefully speak freely again. Met some folks I surely won’t forget in the north, and saw places so far removed, places most will never see. And really, I hiked with some seals man. Thru hiking a long trail and walking along side seals. Not to mention the snow, the rocky mountain tops above treeline, everything. Quebec was good. Looking back it’s without a doubt the gem of the International Appalachian Trail, and will be remembered as one of the best parts of this hike I’m sure.
Crossing the Restigouche river at the border, a little taste of what’s to come. No more trail signage, and really no sign of trail. So the highway I walked. 7 miles into the town of Tide Head, and I’m greeted by a friendly old man sweeping dust from his driveway. We get to talking and he clues me in to a multi use trail just down the road that’ll take me a very long way to the next town. Sounds like what I’m lookin’ for! A side note, dude is in his 70s and still manages to ride his bicycle 2,000k a year. Even more impressive considering how far north I am, and how little time you really have that isn’t blistering cold for activities such as this. So cold that this giant river I’ve been walking along completely freezes over and locals go out and do donuts around the ice on their snow mobiles in the winter.
About to leave town and head down that lonesome track once again i soak my feet one last time. Although this time is different. Lifting them out and moving again i feel way better. Like all my rest and healing finally caught up. I truly believe soaking or icing is the secret to injuries of similar nature. Still with aches in my ankle but no longer full of pain. To add to my joy the trail I’ve now started on directly follows a pretty river with many campsites abound. I dream of stopping and making a fire, but for those that know me, i truly hate stopping before sunset at least. This pleasent land unfortunatly didn’t last, although nearing pain free walking again my path which was exceptional is now an old railroad bed, and has no where to set up my tarp. A soggy bog to both sides of me, and directly off the trail where my guide tells me to camp is nothing but gravel. Because you know, old railroad. So sleeping on gravel it is, unable to pitch my shelter in the rocks I cowboy camp, and pray it doesn’t rain. Wishing I just stopped at the river earlier instead of walking into the night, but that’s my game. Stopping before darkness feels wrong.
I woke up to rain. Naturally. And made my way down the path less followed. Again the river pops up and i follow it for the entire day, over bridge after bridge, past swimming hole after swimming hole. What a ride this would have been back when this was a rail road. A path cut through the mountains, often it’s just me inbetween giant walls of rock peaking out to walk along the waters further. All day is like this and my pain is now almost completely gone. I truly attribute it to the daily soaking. My roll starting to pick up again after going so slow for so long. The forward motion and the feeling of progress is extremely enjoyable. Today I actually get in some good miles. Back into the land of twenties with higher numbers on the horizon.
After being alongside a flowing stream for so long to my surprise it ends abruptly. The guide for New Brunswick is nothing like what’s available for northern Maine, or what I was using in Quebec. Just a sheet of paper that gives next to no info, and an extremely crude map I printed so I had a better idea of where towns were. Despite this I’ve fallen into the routine of carrying next to no water for any given stretch. Easier on my body considering how heavy water is. Although now not having any to drink for miles and miles it’s not so easy anymore. My best options become beaver ponds with the very occasional river flowing outwards from a beaver pond. Stagnant with taste of giant rodents. I purify it but question all the times in the past I havent. In Quebec I only filtered my water twice the entire time I was there. That was fresh, clean, beautiful, and tasted wonderfully consistently. Then again it takes about two weeks for a stomach bug to kick in so who’s to say I just haven’t felt it yet?
Rolling into the town of Saint – Quentin my plans are to grab food for the next 6 days at the grocery and roll out to camp. Already having traveled 18 miles to get here I notice something different. My once quiet trail is now full of ATVs passing me. Too many to count. Easily 30 or more pass, I wave, and smile. No one stops, but I doubt they see walkers often, if ever. Getting into the outskirts of town a man is riding the streets on his dirt bike doing wheelies, and the power lines are embellished with little colorful flags. I don’t know where the store is, and being this is the biggest little city I’ve been to in a long while I make a quick phone call to my mom for some extra directions. The grocery stores parking lot looks empty, maybe everyone’s too busy riding around on their all terrain vehicles. Nope. It’s closed. At 4 o’clock? Nope its 5, New Brunswick is on some new time zone and I’m behind on figuring this out. Way behind, almost halfway through the entire province. But 5 seems a little early for a large store? It is. However… today is New Brunswick day. They closed 10 minutes ago. 6 days of food from a gas station it is. Happily they happen to fig bars and other things I like. Leaving town I follow the NB trail, what I’ve been on this entire time. Its a multi use trails system that goes through the entire province. After an hours walking something irks me, I haven’t once seen a sticker for the IAT, which isn’t so out of the ordinary for NB but still strange, and really gives me the feeling I’m going the opposite direction from where I should be traveling. All hopes dashed of getting some real milage in today, the sun has set, and now I’m an hour outside of town on the wrong trail, confirmed again by the MVP that is my mom. My guide didn’t mention that I would no longer be on the same path. Apparently I was supposed to take to the highway. Whoops. Laying down in the bushes of someone’s property just deep enough in there so at first glance I may not be noticed I curse the night and set up to retrace my steps in the morning. A lame deer plagues my camp to the point i consider just getting up and walking all night. I move a mile away as a compromise. Now in someone else’s bushes.
Maybe judging from my map I could have guessed but this next section was mostly a roadwalk. 80 miles of roadwalk. Funny thing is I go right through Mont Carlton Provincial Park. On the road. Not some back road, but a highway. 80 miles in a little over two days. Sleeping in places I definitely shouldn’t be. However leaving the park to continue my pavement pounding I’m stopped by a game warden. If he was American what he said to me would have sounded more like “What the hell you doin’ out here boy?” But he’s not, he’s French! Thus far more polite. Very nice guy! The days are so hot now that it’s August he offers me his ice tea from lunch and I very happily accept. This drink was pretty crucial, because again I found myself in a spot without water for close to 10 miles. Middle of the day, walking a highway, in direct sunlight. His name is Richard and it was very nice to meet him and speak for a little while. Certainly a highlight of my time in New Brunswick, aside from all the beautiful rivers that are here and there.
At this time I was approaching a man’s home who’s a big supporter of the trail and as it happens is a legendary canoe builder. From picking the tree he’s going to carve to the finished product, everything about his boats are hand made. Miller Canoes if you want to check it out. I was dreaming of stopping at his house, as he is known to let hikers sleep on his lawn, charge my phone, learn about his craft, and get some water. Approaching his home I was bummed to find he wasn’t home. The rest of the day I curse my timing, hoping he would see me walking the road and stop to say hello. No dice. I slept in someone’s yard hidden between two trees, feet propped up on one, head against another. Not the best fit, but again I walked my 30 so I didn’t care. Not many options if you don’t want to pay to camp at an RV park. Which I refuse to do.
Finally the roads are over, word is after the town of Plaster Rock I pick the ATV path up again, and follow the Tobique river all the way to the US-CA border. The town is small and beautiful. Cute in everyway and full of everything a hiker could want. I don’t stay but stop for more groceries and fresh fruit to eat down by the water. A big storm brewing in the direction I’m going. Lightning crashing in the distance, I hustle to gather my things and hit the trail instead. Despite the storms ominous direction of travel, somehow I don’t get hit by a single drop of water. Feet in the river I eat my pineapple, blueberries, and raspberries… sit back and relax. Back on the trail and off the roads tonight, I can make some bonus miles. I walk until 10, again sleeping in someone’s yard. This time though, an old man sees me laying in the bushes the next morning. Damn this other timezone. Waking up at 5 am in my mind was actually 6. The guy said nothing, walked on, and life is good.
Today I will cross back into the US. It’s been a long time coming but finally I’ve made it home. In Canada I was only able to truly wash my clothes outside of a stream once due to no laundromats, rarely could I keep my phone charged as there just were never any electrical outlets to be found, Internet could only be had if I could find wifi, my phone calls back home costed money, and most everyone spoke french! For the vagrant that I am these little things meant something, as we know all i pretty much got is walking and what the weather is doing. Creature comforts become a big deal at times. As does speaking the same language as the locals… The US is gunna be great! No longer will it matter if I smell, this is America, we all smell! Walmart here I come, you have the cheap foods I want, the electricity I need, and the demegraphic of people I fit in with. Canada has been awesome, but I haven’t been on a real single track trail since Quebec and it’s time I get off the old railroad beds. The last 4 days have been 30s, I’m no longer in pain, and I’m ready to hit some mountains again. I’m ready to show this body crafted on the IAT, to the hikers of the AT.
Crossing the border was interesting, and I was somewhat unclear of how that would go, other than follow my guide step by step, leading me nowhere, and calling my mom again for real direction. You may have thought it would be some obscure trail I’d have to be escorted across into the new land but no, I did it the same way the cars do. In fact I got off trail and stood in line with all those cars. I waited for the light to turn green, and I walked up to customs with passport in hand. “Ya’ll dont get folks on foot often now do ya?” They dont. A few questions to determine what I was doing, and I was on my way. Surprisingly no drug dogs, no pat downs, no making me unpack all my things. Here I am, a guy with a backpack walking across the border. I guess Canada was just as ready to get rid of me as I was to leave. 25 miles into my day I had been so excited for this moment it was still early. I called border patrol to let them know until 8pm I would be walking the line. They understood what I was doing and wished me luck with the mosquitoes. Little do they know I’m from florida. Mosquitoes know better than to fuck with me.
Between Canada and the US there’s a 20 yard swath of land where they’ve cut down all the trees and erected little stone monuments every kilometer. As we know, the US celebrates itself quite well. Even in this remote and untraveled area. It was truly an experience to have the opprotunity to walk that line between nations. Rolling hills and beautiful views of farm land. Canadians on my left wondering what the hell I’m doing, Americans on my right… also wondering what the hell I’m doing. Streams I forded that crossed the imaginary line between the countries, and some swamp land as well. For the most part easy walkin’. Even after already going so far earlier in the day I was fresh. 40 miles in total I walked, and now back on home soil. I think it was the happyness that propelled me so far. Dained but smiling, physically feeling on the top of my game.
In Quebec, frogs and toads were everywhere. At a time I counted them every day but I would always lose track. I hear that’s a sign of a healthy environment. In New Brunswick it was slugs. Every morning slugs would congregate and pray to this new deity that had been resting on their land. They would slime up all my gear and generally were annoying enough to actually drive me insane while plucking them off my things each morning. Now in maine, both were gone. It’s now mice, squirrels, and chipmunks. Or generally just small varmints scurrying around making noise in my direction as i approach. I liked the frogs of Quebec best. They don’t try to steal my food like the mice do.
Now in Maine I’m greeted by towns almost daily, and being I’m walking more than a marathon during daylight hours sometimes multiple restaurants between waking up and falling asleep. Aiming for 30s I try not to stop at everyone of them, but looking back I missed one or two that really might have been worthwhile.
Everyone has been super cool in Maine. I don’t think most know what I’m doing, but a few figured out I’m not exactly homeless. Only mostly homeless. Walking an ATV path along rivers again a couple passes, I smile and wave. The same couple later passes again, slows down, and stops. I suppose I don’t look dangerous because before i know it theyve invited me over for snacks and drinks at their home! Which just so happens to be a mere 200 yards off the path I’m following. From their house I get the greatest gift of all aside from their hospitality. My first view ever of where I’m going. Mt Katahdin. Days away and there it is. The end of the International Appalachian Trail, and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Magnificent, and lit like a candle she sat on the horizon. Almost far enough to be out of sight. This older couple was so very kind, and the gentleman even told me stories back from the 80s of climbing those mountains. Likely way beyond the difficulty of today. Trail? More like taking a baring off of rocks and seeing how it goes. Things are so well traveled and documented these days all you have to do is commit sometimes. Takes the risk out of it in ways.
After that couples home I went to the nearest lean-to to sleep in. My first of Maine, and my first in a while as there were none in New Brunswick. To my surprise, anger, and bewilderment it was beyond trashed. The firepit was overflowing with garbage, plastic all over the geound, cans around the corners and backside, and the every wall vandalized with names of those I imagine were too lazy to pack out their own garbage. I could go on for days about how much this bothers me but I’ll only say a little. These are our public spaces, our wilderness, and trails to explore. If we don’t use them, they will be taken away. If we decide to trash them, they deserve to be taken away. Please for the love of the outdoors. Don’t leave your trash, leave nothing. Pretend as though you were never even there. I fell asleep hoping the animals local weren’t so accustomed to the food strewn across the ground that I would get a visitor in the night.
After this section I was once again greeted by roads. About another 80 miles of them. Making swift work, as I do, but still less pleasent than walking through the forest. Graffiti under a bridge mostly what you imagine is going through a 13 year old child’s head, this time actually said something of interest. “What will you be remembered for?” A thought that echoed.
After miles, actually days, of pavement I pass a few small vacation camps and enter the woods again. Away from cell service now, phone dying, and dangerously close to Baxter State Park. In the last town I picked up new shoes as my others had developed a massive hole so I’m ready. Ready to finish the IAT, and start the next leg of this journey. The Appalachian Trail. Where hikers flow more freely than the rivers, and I will no longer have to walk roads again for the next 2,200 miles. At least. The trail is now on a cross country ski track and it’s pretty sweet. Rivers to cross, and soft ground to plod along. I come across a sign advertising a shelter just off trail, decide to stop by and at least sign the trail register for other future IAT hikers to see. I was once here. No one saw me, but I was here.
Surprisingly this was not your typical hiker lean to. It’s already kind enough of the locals, or the trail organizations to build these homes away from the rain for us, but this was not normal. This was truly a cabin. On a lake. A door, windows, bunks, food coffee and tea inside. Magazines, and more amenities than I as someone who hasn’t showed in a week deserves. Sadly though, I’ve only walked 5 miles today, from my bed in the leaves. Guess I should have gone the extra distance yesterday. Isn’t that always the case. I move on.
A sign directing me off trail for hot meals only 1/4th mile away catches my attention. Across a beautiful bridge and onto a property along the river with beautiful wooden cabins littering the grounds. A man looks at me, as I yell a greeting with a smile. Sure enough he is the manager here! Apparently, although this is what I consider prime season to be in maine, when it’s not under snow, this is his off season. The place is empty and he is just here taking care of things. Apparently in the last 4 years I’m only the 5th hiker to ever come off that trail to visit. My friend Sycamore being the one prior to me!! Sometimes I feel like I’m walking in his foot steps……. This time, last year. The guy is mega friendly, and unlocks the dining room so I can come in, talk, and relax. The place is furnished to the max, and simply beautiful. It’s really a wonder why no one would be here. Trails behind the place, a river just feet away… seems like the perfect summer spot. He says people prefer lakes? And naturally so far away no cell service is a small downside. However those other places I’ve passed have no where near the class of this location. He sends me off with some peanut butter crackers, and as many sodas as I could carry. 4 was the magic number. Definitely happy I stopped by, even if they aren’t exactly doing anything special in the off season. During winter however the place is supposedly bumping! Currently he’s baiting bear with… trail mix (no wonder bears like hikers!) And dunkin donuts. Who knew that’s what the bears crave. In the winter thousands upon thousands of miles worth of snow mobile trails bring people from all over looking to spend big bucks. Broke hikers aren’t exactly a concern, however he was extremely nice to me, and from the sounds of it he’s been very good to every one else who’s stumbled across that bridge!
Wasting far to much time at the cabin, and the snowmobile camp, looking at the prospect of night hiking a few extra miles to meet my mark. I’ve been walking 30 miles or more ever day since Saint – Quentin, about a weeks worth of that if not more, not exactly feeling like breaking that chain. Tomorrow however is a very big day, and likely extra important i walk the bonus. Tomorrow I officially finish the International extention to the Appalachian Trail, and continue my way south along the mountain chain, and begin a new trail! Climbing my last mountain of this area, Deasy, there’s a side trail to a fire tower I pass in my haste as the sun sets, and lower down the way a creepy decrepit home crushed by time, that once was the fire wardens shelter. Making good time, almost at a slow jog, unfortunately a large river to be forded in the valley slows me down, and forces me to call it early. Meaning I’ll be losing sleep to begin my long walk to the top the next day. The hardest climb of this entire 4,800 mile route across the country. Mt Katahdin, at 5,200 feet or something it’s size is deceptive. It’s truly a rediculous climb. Boulders that dwarf men, and hours upon hours of arduous upwards (hardly forwards) motion.
4am. It’s time. 15.7 miles away I get up and go. Mouse ate my snack that I accidentally left out but it’s ok. Maybe he was hungry. 5 miles in I’m pressing forward with everything in hopes I can pull off a not so typical 30. Why? Because I have no reservation to stay in Baxter, I have no permit, I’m coming in on some unknown and very random trail, and plan to pass through the entire park in one fell swoop. My last IAT trail marker is a wooden sign, and it brings a massive smile to my face. This is the official end to the International Appalachian Trail. I did it. Quebec, a sprained ankle, New Brunswick, and northern Maine. What a ride it’s been thus far. Still yet, just the beginning. I’m only getting started. This may be the official end to the trail, but you’d be a fool to stand 10 miles from this magnificent mountaim, and not climb it, so I think everyone besides the state park agrees the top of that is truly the end. Entering the park on a trail that’s massively over grown, short shorts doing me no justice, legs getting torn up. Powering on I see a moose! My first moose in QC scared the hell outa me. She was with a child and wasn’t budging. This is now the 7th, and I barely slow down. The moose sees the steam rising from my feet, the fire in my eyes, and it runs away from me as though I’m holding a rifle. Today there are no breaks. Today is a big day. I connect the Katahdin Lake Trail, to some parking lot, walk a short road to another parking lot, and begin my real ascent up the Helon Taylor Trail… which leads to the Knife Edge of the mountain. The rain has already started to fall, and I see my first hiker, he just finished the Appalachian Trail, what I’m about to begin. I ask how it is up there. A blank stare. “Windy.” I have no back up. It’s up and over.
A family I pass slowly making their way up, in another two hours I’ll see why they’re not going to make it to the top. Rock climbing, boulder scrambling, and crazy weather is no hike for a child and two parents. Me? Up and over. After hours of climbing I’m now in the clouds, the wind is blowing strong, and I’ve reached the knife edge. Aptly named due to the sharpness of the ridge that you scramble across. I sit down at the top, question what I’m doing for a few minutes. The clouds clear for a mere second and I see someone else on one of the multiple ridges ahead, quickly again shrouded by nothingness. Looks safe enough. I slide down a clif into a little pocket of rocks, carefully, and slowly making my way to the base of the first miniature peak. Climbing up the next, and the next. The knife edge is just a mile but what an experience. Wind doing you no favors, visibility at an all time low, and hand over hand physical action. You’re litterally on the edge, looking down 5,000 feet. Walking, crawling, edging, and sliding across rocks jutting in all angles. This is the coolest thing I’ve done since I was in Gaspesie National Park in Quebec. Truly reminding me a lot like those trails. It’s maddening in the best way. The scrambling, and rock hopping truly awesome. If only more of the trail was like this. I pass a girl, who maybe I should have asked if she’d like to hike the last bit with me. She was almost there but in the clouds it’s near impossible to tell beyond pure feel. This wasn’t quite the place to pass someone, but I wasn’t exactly planning on stopping for a breather. Reaching the end, I never did see her up there. I think she must have turned around. That was cool. That was the most fun I’ve had this entire trip. One mile of pure adrenaline. The top of a mountain, walking some ridge way beyond trees. Just you, careful footing, and rocks. Pick your own poison, how best do you wish to get across these rocks. That’s what I loved. Not so much a trail, but more a route of your own choosing. What looks safest to you? What’s most doable. I hear the white mountains in New Hampshire are pretty cool. I can only hope they’re half as cool as that.
Reaching Baxter Peak I could hear people well beyond the point in which I could see them. And there it was. That wooden sign so many know so well. The northern terminus to the Appalachian Trail. What folks walk 2,200 miles to get to. Me? 755 miles on trail, but 800 in the books since I started due to my added road walking into and out of towns. If you remember, this trip is about a lot of things. One thing being human powered travel. No hitch hiking. A constant stream of footsteps from Quebec to Key West. This sign is surrounded by people, some on day hikes to the top, some who just finished the long walk from Georgia, and me. Some strange guy with a Canadian flag who came outa nowhere. Wide eyes, and bothered by the crowed. I just want a quick photo. I still have 15 miles to go today, and it took 4 hours just to get up here. It’ll take another 4 to get down the other side. “Hey kid, my battery is dead, and you got one shot. This better be good.”
Down I go. Briefly cell service enough to call my mom, let her know I’m good to go, and then my phone dies. The next 115 miles I have not a single photo. You’ll just have to trust me but the lava fields and dragons flying above truly made for an interesting few days.
31 miles and Mt Katahdin in one day. Finishing after dark camping just outside of park boundaries. I planned just 3 days for Maines 100 mile wilderness. In total between the next town I would be in, Monson, and my last town, Patten, it’s about 185 miles of food I had to carry. Or in my delusional mind 6 days. Well I’m in monson now, and it took 7. In the 100m wilderness I was greeted by rain for 3 days, and although in my opinion, besides the infinite number of rocks, roots, and general trickery I thought it was pretty darn easy. My last day I met a guy who just hiked the trail from Georgia to here, and he was just starting what I just finished. Destination Katahdin. He made some remark congratulating me on completing this section, and I mentioned back. I thought it was really easy. The look on his face said, I’m going to come over there and hit you. Although what he actually said was, “There hasn’t been a single part of this trail that I thought was easy.”
So now on to the fun stuff. Southern Maine, and New Hampshire should be the hardest parts of the AT. Excited to begin, excited to slow down. Although this is more of a… I think I have to slow down, rather than… I’m just chillaxin. I don’t think I’ll be doing much of that. Likely really difficult days ahead.
I went from not seeing a single hiker in 400 miles, to passing close to 50 a day. It’s really strange, and actually slows me down considerably. Although it’s nice, they’re all up to date on the weather ahead, water sources coming up, and general trail info otherwise I would be surprised by. Sometimes surprised in a good way… sometimes bad. Still, the amount of hikers out here is amazing.
The International Appalachian Trail is now thru, and I’m onto new things in this long and lonesome walk. One thing I must mention. The AT has been around for maybe 80… 100 years. The International AT, has only been aground for 20 at most. They need our help, as a trail community. As hikers, as locals. Our support really goes a long way. A membership to the International Appalachian Trail is fairly cheap, I’d say 15 dollars and it would mean a lot to me, and to the trail organization I’m sure, if more folks signed up. The trail has SO much potential, and SO much beautiful land it passes through. But they need help. The trail is still new. If you’re local to northern Maine, New Brunswick, or Quebec, I really encourage you to reach out to them.
In other news, I’m still moving fast, I’m moving strong, and I’m going to keep on trucking. It blows my mind that I’ll be in New Hampshire soon, and shortly I’ll be reaching 1,000 miles into this trip. It’s been wonderful.