And so we come down to it. On the morning of the 18th, Fredo, Hot Sauce and I started off on the last 22 mile stretch towards Monson, Maine, and the start of the 100 Mile Wilderness. Which, of course, is where this story all began, all those many days (or years) ago.
When I first proposed hiking together, I had told my sister, "Yeah, come out to the trail. It'll be a blast. We'll do 12.5 miles a day... Relax..." Since she had joined me, however, we had gone 8.4, then 15.3, 17.3, and finally 18.8 miles each day. She wasn't exactly thrilled by our pace, but she wasn't overwhelmed by it, either.
Still, after hiking over two thousand miles myself, I wasn't entirely jazzed by the idea of such a long haul into town. So I admit it: I fully planned on taking a blue blazed trail—the one to Lake Hebron, and then on to Pleasant Road—that would cut 1.3 miles out of our trip. Sue me.
The best part was, once Hot Sauce and I hit the road, we quickly found a hitch into town in the back of someone's pickup truck.
Blue blazing, yellow blazing, what's the difference?
Shaw's Lodging in Monson—a legendary hiker's hostel, if there are any on the Trail—exceeded all of our expectations. Which wasn't terribly difficult; our expectations were exceedingly low, as set by the establishment's rather iffy depiction in the laughably awful "Southbounders."1 The movie makes Shaw's seem like some sort of cultish hippy commune, where nobody's allowed to wear even their homemade hemp sandals inside, and there are no locked doors anywhere, ever.
Far from that hellish nightmare, what we found was simply a collection of large, well-maintained, adequately furnished bunk rooms; some blessedly warm showers; a cavernous dining room; a TV lounge replete with sunken-in couch, pre-stained coffee table, and a hearty selection of dusty board games; and a veritable cornucopia of a hiker's box.2 Amongst the items left behind? A ziplock bag of chipotle-flavored pepper flakes that my sister snatched up immediately, thus earning her trail name: Hot Sauce.
The three of us attempted a resupply at the Monson General Store, but were quickly discouraged. If we'd wanted to rent a VHS tape—or stock up on car batteries or replacement parts for our snow mobile—we might have had more success. Luckily, we still had a bit of food leftover from Straton, or else we might have needed to hitch two miles north to Wal-Mart. Sated, we visited an ATM at a nearby gas station—where I found my checking balance to be a startling $0.00—bought a couple of bottles of Boone's Farm, and then retreated to the hostel for a good night's rest.
Because we know what awaited us on the morrow: the 100 Mile Wilderness.
1. "Southbounders" tells the story of Olivia, a spoiled rich girl who sets off to hike the trail the wrong way, and largely fails: she falls down a lot, is pestered by an annoying fat man, and awkwardly romances a scraggly guitar-playing hipster with douchey facial hair. Taken as pure cinema, the film is sadly mediocre, neither entertaining nor emotionally or thematically uplifting. As an anthropological study, on the other hand, the film serves as an astonishingly accurate portrait of the atrocious, abominable southbounder. The trailer can be seen here.
2. About that hiker's box: apparently, most southbounders abruptly quit after finishing the 100 Mile Wilderness, and Shaw's is where they go to rest, wash up, and suffer their inevitable nervous breakdowns. That they leave behind most of their uneaten food—and sometimes their non-consumable possessions as well, like stoves, trekking poles, and sleeping pads, amongst other swag—is only icing on the cake. So, thanks, Shaw's, for your hospitality. And thanks also, southbounders, for being awful and quitting.