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Appalachian Trail: The Crockers, Maine

I’m nervous and barely slept. 

Reading that the Crockers are the easiest of Maine’s 4,000 footers was no help. 

Nor the fact that I was paying the Jenns to drive me to the start and meet me at the end so I can ‘slackpack’ the shortish day, carrying only snacks, water and rain gear rather than the tent and such. 

Somehow, even though I walked the Bigelows without wiping out, I can’t imagine a repeat. 

Besides, it rained this morning – rained hard. It was only about ten minutes, but still, rain never fails to amp up hiker anxiety. 

And anxiety messes with my sleep and lack of sleep messes with my stomach. 


The Jenn with blue and pink hair picks me up. Three thru-hikers with thick beards and a beautiful young woman wearing an orthopedic boot come along to the same trailhead – they, except the woman, heading north while I go south. 

The gal takes her sprain in stride, and  I’m impressed. Who knows what went on behind the scenes and is keeping her from walking now, but she’s got a smile on her face and a look like this may suck right now, but it won’t last. 

Since slackpacking, I can pick whichever way to walk, I ask Jenn which she suggests. 

“Keep heading south. It’s six miles up and three down.” 

My knees will thank her later, I’m sure. 

So off I go, tired, nervous, sick to my stomach but ready for the wonder of what the day brings – and bag a couple of peaks.

It’s more forest. The joke on the AT is that you pass the same tree over and over from Georgia to Maine. 

More fungus makes me giggle and a warty frog jumps on the path, disappearing into his camouflage. Trees shake off few drops of rain, but it’s not long before I’m hot and feeling the humidity. 

I stop at the first water source, determined to stay hydrated. It’s kind of dumb that I preach about letting the day unfold, but I have trouble myself staying present. 

I have to force my mind to stop worrying about the next sections. Everything will be revealed in time, just like the weather today initially forecasting storms but now clearing. 

It’s never steep and the rocks feel more like steps than bouldering. Northbound hikers begin to come down. I stop one to ask for beta (information) and he gives me an irritated look. I think I interrupted his podcast – he’d also never heard that rock climbing slang. 

I saunter higher, willing my nausea away. Fatigue can do that messing with a gut hormone – but breathing steadily can trick it to behave. 

Another hiker flies down not yielding and almost face planting my hat brim. I guess these folks getting close to the end are worn out. 

The trail levels off sidling the mountain and I can see through dense trees some evidence of moving up. 

I meet another man who smiles at me and wishes blessings for my journey. Nos that’s more like it. His friend “Hot Hands” is ten minutes behind him and gives me all the beta I need for my next moves. 

And that is that! 

At a clearing, I spy the massive tree-covered mountain I’ll climb. It hasn’t even been a week, but I’m beginning to get used to distances. That hulking behemoth will be some work to tackle, but it’s only a few miles more climbing. I’ve got this. 

I’ve never completely left deciduous forest though pine and hemlock mix in. White quartz punctuates the color palette. Other rock has lumps and porous bits like ancient lava flow. 

The trail turns up steeply now and J take off the gas. A small view opens revealing a blue hump of mountain far in the distance. 

Not long after, I reach the summit. Two thru-hikers and a peak bagger hang out at the sign. “It’s a spectacular view – of hikers looking at stunted trees!”

Hikers call this sort of climb a PUD: Pointless Up and Down. Three more peak baggers come through the forest and seem happy enough the day turned out to be so nice. 

I move on towards South Crocker, my second 4,000 footer. The trail heads steeply down to a short col and I find a flat rock to sit on and eat. Wind picks up and cools me; the sun pokes through dancing trees. No views, just atmosphere.  

I know I’m improving because I eat two tuna packets plus cheese before one last stair climb to the next summit. This time, there is a view. It was likely chopped out of the forest, yet a rock peninsula leads out for more panorama. 

Abraham, Spalding and Sugarloaf line up for their 4,000 foot status. Sugarloaf is a major ski area and without snow looks scarred and wounded, radio towers poking out its summit. 

In a few weeks, all of this will be ablaze in fall colors. I did pick a perfect time to return. 

The descent begins easy through gorgeous forest lit like stained glass windows. I reach a rock fall and finally an entire picture window of view to the far off Bigelows. Was I there only yesterday?!

The day is picture perfect clear with only a few cotton-ball clouds for personality. I can see the entire range in one snapshot and imagine my wee self walking from end to end. 

The sun is intensely hot, so I press on realizing the rock fall is the trail slowing my pace to a crawl. Now K see why Jen had me come the other way. This is as steep as a ladder yet far less stable. Coming up would have wiped me out. 

Although down is no easy feat. I carefully study each step and balance with poles, or better yet, a handy tree. The rocks are smaller, so I never scootch on my butt, but there are more loosey goosies and I need to pay attention. 

On and on it goes, deep into a cirque where a pond rests and finally the ground levels. I hear water and soon cross a stream and meet a campsite. 

It’s not long now to a forest road, the final mile negotiating moss-covered boulders. I’ll walk another 1/2 or so to the parking lot but just as I organize which way to go, an old thru-hiker strikes up a conversation. 

His face is painted like Indian war paint and he tells me each line represents aspects of Stoicism. He looks for charcoal in a fire pit to apply the lines and remind himself each day what he’s doing out here. 

No wonder his trail name is ‘Mental.’

Jenn meets me and brings me back to the fantastic hostel set inside a barn with individual private berth-type bunks. I purchase some food and make a plan for tomorrow then get dinner and soak my sore body. 

It’s early to bed and a full night’s rest sans anxiety. I guess I’m kind of bad ass coming back out here so soon after diagnosis and surgery, but I’m teary and worried too, just like every other hiker muddling along from viewless summits to sublime balsam-soaked woods. 

Earlier this year, I wrote an article about a 76-year-old woman named “Birthday Girl” who was attempting the AT in one year to break a record. She just missed it having to go home from Maine when she knocked her injured elbow so many times it got terribly infected. 

I wrote her companion to say how much I thought about Birthday Girl while beating my body up in Maine. 

Her response: “Both of you know how to live life big and bounce off of the rocks presented along the way.” 

Ain’t that the truth. Perhaps I should get me some charcoal and write it on my face as a reminder. 

4 Responses

  1. You took me on an emotional roller coaster reading this! Excited for you, scared for you, worried about you and then….the Alison I know and love….strong and determined, yet cautious. Love you friend!

  2. Hi Alison,
    Last week I was in Maine for 4 gorgeous days with my sister and her husband. Looked for, but didn’t see you. I spent my 82nd birthday at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. That evening, Sept. 9, I watched fireworks explode over Booth Bay Harbor. I can only think of one reason they set off fireworks on that day. It must have been to celebrate my birthday.

    I suppose you will still be taking long solo hikes when you are my age. You go girl!!

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