Into the Wilderness, Day 1 of My Appalachian Trail Adventure

On June 1st, I drove to DFW to fly to Bangor, Maine, and begin my adventure on the Appalachian Trail. For much of the trip there was cloud cover, but as we flew over Maine, the skies cleared and I could see the coastline. I was astonished to see how much water is in Maine. There are rivers, lakes, and streams everywhere!
When I arrived in Bangor, Phil Pepin, with 100 Mile Wilderness Adventures, was waiting for me. I was relieved, thinking I might have to make a call for a pick up, but he was there…greeted me with a smile and loaded my backpack. He drove me to the 100 Mile Wilderness Camp and set me up in the bunkhouse. On the drive, Mr. Pepin apologized, in advance, for talking so much. He said he hoped I did not mind, and I was polite and answered that it was okay. He spoke incessantly and repeated many of his statements several times. There was no conversation to be had; there was only Mr. Pepin telling me how he accepted Christ as his personal savior and how the town of Monson was unfriendly and tried to jeopardize his business. He elaborated on the mundane details of his business and like a broken record, began this monologue all over again. By the time I arrived at the camp, my nerves were shot and I needed respite. There was no enjoyment to be had of the scenery and no winding down from the plane ride. I began to think something was wrong with Mr. Pepin, but once at the camp, I did unwind and rest a little; however, as soon as I emerged from the bunk house, the monologue began again, although this time it was in the Camp Kitchen and Charlotte was there. Charlotte is a hiker from New York. She met Phil some time ago, and he asked her to work full time as his campground manager. She was very pleasant, and since she was a woman who had hiked the trail in its entirety, I had questions for her. Phil offered to go through my backpack and take out the things that I did not need, and I explained that I needed to go through that process myself as a part of the whole trail experience. He offered again, and again, and again. Each time I told him no. One of my goals was to let go of things in my life which were a hindrance or no longer useful to me, and I needed to lighten my load all on my own. Much later, I learned that Phil told Charlotte, “Now that woman has some serious issues…”
…As I started researching my trip, I was confused as to the logistics of getting to Mount Katahdin. One site I found would get you to Baxter State Park, but I still had to get from Bangor to Medway by bus. Then a shuttle would pick me up and take me to Millinocket for a night and then get me to Katahdin. Whew! I found 100 Mile Wilderness Outfitters, and Phil offered to pick me up at the airport, give me a room for the night and drop me on the steps of the Hunt trail, all for a reasonable price, and I didn’t have to reserve a plane ticket, a bus ticket, a taxi, and then still have to pay for the shuttle for Baxter. All done! Even though I appreciated the services Mr. Pepin offered, I was very put off by his behavior. He was cordial to me, but I was happy to be rid of him once we got to Baxter. When he did arrive at the gates of the park, he took time to chat with the rangers (I felt like it was MY time he was taking) and when I checked in at the ranger station, he lingered and tried to convince me to get a more expensive shelter than the tent site I reserved. This was aggravating as I planned the trip a year in advance and made reservations six months in advance to get exactly what I wanted. This was my adventure, not Mr. Pepin’s.
The most disturbing part of the trip to Katahdin was Mr. Pepin’s new dialogue, which was constant and irritating. He repeated the recital of the previous day’s monologue, but he also added some words of advice, saying he was trying to encourage me. He told me, multiple times, that I was basically fat and out of shape so I should not worry too much if I couldn’t summit Katahdin. He also reminded me of my age (he is older than me) and how with all those factors combined, I might not make it through the woods. Words of encouragement? I was so angry by this constant barrage of belittling assault that once the pick-up pulled in front of the station, I grabbed a day pack and took off. He called out, “Are you heading out now?” Under my breath I said, “Fuck YES!”
Phil Pepin has hiked the Appalachian Trail three times. He is a registered Maine guide, and claims to be the only one in Maine who specializes in the Appalachian Trail. He offers shuttles into towns to get laundry done or eat out. His camp is on the blue blaze to Monson making it very convenient. The camp itself has a rustic charm and it is near the shores of Lake Hebron. Nights are very quiet (or noisy with night noise) and fireflies dance a ballet each evening while loons lull you to sleep. The place is beautiful, and Mr. Pepin’s plans for it are well-thought out. Besides the bunk house and cabins, he has forested tent sites, a shower house and two privies. There are two fire pits for clients to use. It seems to be the perfect place to relax and prepare for the mental and physical challenges of the upcoming hike. It does seem that way.
Hunt trail rescued me from that hideous man. As soon as I was enveloped in the darkness of the green forest, blanketed with moss and misted with the icy waters of Katahdin Stream, I could relax. I let the mental pollution that Mr. Pepin burdened me with drain away into the spongy bog. Day 2 of my trip was underway.