So, you think you can hike? Seen it all? Amused when others remark about difficult trails? Then get yourself up to the famed Mahoosuc Notch in Maine, considered by many thru-hikers to be the most difficult mile on the Appalachian Trail. I’d have to agree. Other than the descent of Mt. Katahdin on a bad weather day, the Mahoosuc Notch mile was the longest and slowest mile I’ve ever hiked. And I don’t plan on tackling it again.
For starters, you have to scramble over truck-size boulders. Pray that you don’t have to do this on a rainy day, or when the rock is slick. You will also have to squirm through cracks, holes, and mini-tunnels. I had to remove my pack at one point and drag it behind me. Poles? Forget about it; I’d collapsed mine when I started out in this playland for giants and dwarfs.
Oh, sure, there are blazes to follow. The question is: How do you get to them? I remember scratching my head at one blaze on a boulder to my right and thinking, should I try to climb up and leap across that chasm, or snake around the lower precipice and take my chances on the ledge. No wonder I didn’t take any pictures (I googled “Mahoosuc Notch photos” to get these), I was concentrating on the moment. I remember cold air sneaking up to me from the ravine under the boulders, and if I looked down into the larger holes at my feet, I could see late-August ice.
Finally, the scrambling began to ease, and soon I was able to see rubble ahead that didn’t look so bad. When I was sure I was out of the dicey stuff, I looked at my watch—an hour and twenty minutes had transpired. I found out later that I was slower than most of the thru-hikers (one had the chutzpah to tell me he felt the infamous mile was over-rated!). But I didn’t care; I was glad to have it behind me.
What’s been your toughest hike?
(Photo of hiker with back turned is labeled Charles D., August 2001. Other photo has no label, but I believe the date is April 2010.)