An anchor is defined as “a person or thing on which something else is based that can be relied upon for chief support, stability, or security; a mainstay.
The greatest anchor is Katahdin, whose looming summit entices when you first see it. If the spirit of this summit doesn’t burn within you from the time you leave Springer Mountain your chances of becoming a thru-hiker diminish. This is the “grail anchor,” and its majesty is compelling. But Katahdin is many footfalls distant. One needs other anchors — other goals — to guarantee a successful hike. Let’s look at other anchors you can use to propel you to Maine
Towns. Whether it’s to resupply for the next stretch of trail, or to find that all-you-can-eat restaurant you’ve been reading about in the trail registers, towns are significant anchors along your journey. Town post offices also offer another drawing power as effective anchors. Once I hiked 7 miles before noon to reach one in Stratton, Maine.
States. The wonderful, bucolic hills of Virginia. The rugged character of Pennsylvania. Entering the magnificent Green Mountains of Vermont. The remote north woods of the great state of Maine with its 100-mile wilderness. Looking forward to hiking the trail through the wonderful terrain and characteristics of specific states is something to anticipate.
Peaks or mountain ranges. I was passionately looking forward to climbing into the Great Smokies and standing atop Clingman’s Dome. Being a native North Carolinian was one reason, plus I spent some memorable childhood summers vacationing there. Mount Washington in rugged New Hampshire was also appealing for its volatile weather, grand views, and legendary history.
Parks and national forests. Beside the Great Smoky Mountains, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia can be a great anchor. Thru-hikers often simply cruise through the park due to the agreeable grade of the trail, but Shenandoah offers great views, Civil War history, and abundant wildlife. I enjoyed the Green Mountains of Vermont so much I later went back and hiked the Long Trail through to the Canadian border.
Geographic features. Rivers and stream crossings, like the mighty Kennebec in Maine, were things I looked forward to. The waters of the Kennebec were low enough for me to ford on foot early one morning. I’ve never forgotten that experience.
You get the idea — so look at the map and guidebook and considering drawing up a list of “anchors” to galvanize your journey to Katahdin!