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Epicenter: The Scene In Monson, Maine

Jump off into the North Woods' best wilderness

AS THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL‘S last stop before Mt. Katahdin, Monson marks the beginning of the bittersweet end for northbound thru-hikers. But weekend trekkers have no such baggage, so they can dig the adjoining Hundred Mile Wilderness for the stellar stretch of North Woods that it is. For a sampling, talk to Keith Shaw, proprietor of Shaw’s Lodging, who has hosted more than 40,000 hikers since 1977. For a modest fee, Shaw shuttles hikers 30 trail miles north for a few blissful days’ hike back to town on the AT. You’ll start off by walking through the Hermitage, an old-growth stand of white pines that measure 10 feet in diameter and tower up to 150 feet overhead. Five shelters along the way (Mainers call them “lean-tos”; no reservations required) expand your camping options; the aptly named Cloud Pond Lean-to features one of the sweet swimming spots you’ll encounter, plus a resident moose. Have a week to burn? Barrel through the Hundred Mile Wilderness all the way to Katahdin, 120 miles or so in all. Then unwind in Monson, a mellow hamlet where tourists browse antique and craft shops while seasonal residents relax with paperbacks in their “camps”–Spartan second homes with vast swaths of porch.

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