Boys. Check. Backpack. Check. Bacon. Check. Bourbon. Check. Beer. Check. It’s ready, set, go, then, for the almost annual autumn trek into the 8-Mile Wilderness. A few days of fun and games on the colorful trails in the company of good friends who don’t get together nearly enough, these long-anticipated journeys are often more about wide smiles than big miles.

So, the 8-Mile Wilderness. What, you’ve never heard of it? Well, for that you’re excused. You’re familiar with the 100-Mile Wilderness, that 750,000-acre swath of forestland threaded by the Appalachian Trail between Monson and Abol Bridge. The 8-Mile Wilderness, in contrast, is an imaginary place of sorts where hikers go to escape, bond and have fun for a precious few days.

The term “8-Mile Wilderness” was coined several years ago, when our group ended up backpacking just 8 miles over three days in the Little Moose Public Land near Greenville. We had a complete blast in the backcountry beauty just the same and the name for these hikes stuck.

Each day we walked slowly and looked around a lot, stopping to enjoy every viewpoint. We leaned on our trekking poles to shoot the bull. We ate frequently from overloaded food bags. We pitched comfortable camps at Little Moose Pond and Big Notch Pond, turned picnic tables into open bars, and gathered lots of wood and lazed around blazing fires.

By now you’ve probably noticed that these friendly backpacks are themed with words beginning with the letter “B.” Boys and backpacks are understandable, but bacon on a multi-day hike? You bet! In a Millinocket hotel before the start of an early trip, we met a couple heading out to their hunting camp who had just come from the grocery store with packages of pre-cooked bacon. Brilliant, we thought, but it was too late; our shuttle to Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument arrived and off we had to go. But bacon has been a hike staple ever since.

Bourbon is standard. We usually pack way too much and come home with way too little. Go figure. Fireball whiskey sometimes makes an appearance. Given this, we’ve been known to happily hoot and holler a fair bit at night around the fire, but what the heck, as we usually camp in the middle of nowhere and annoy only the local critters. At least one beer each gets toted in for the first night, but on low mileage hikes, sometimes more. A six-pack of PBR pounders was recently toted 2,800 feet up to Avery Col in the Bigelows.


There is banter, belly laughs and bad jokes. The chatter begins in the text stream months before the trip, where through an inordinate amount of back and forth, we sort out hike locations and possible itineraries, schedule hiccups, physical issues and the like. Most years we pull it off, but sometimes regular life gets in the way and we have to postpone. Once on the hike there is no shortage of silly humor, and we each take our turn getting roasted by the others.

One friend began carrying a backpackable bowsaw. Since these hikes are generally done in the cold weather of October and November, the saw has proven indispensable for building a serious (bon)fire in camp (where they’re permitted, of course). We’ve also used the tool for some impromptu trail maintenance along the way, a win-win.

We’ve been to the Bold Coast in Cutler and backpacked a 30-mile section of the International Appalachian Trail. The new Great Circle Trail route in the Nahmakanta Public Land was four perfect days and 30 fantastic miles of sauntering. This year, only two of us could make it. We opted for a loop over the Bigelows, and though it was wet, windy, cloudy and cold, it was still a great hike. And we made sure the slackers were appropriately dissed.

Where is your 8-Mile Wilderness and who are your special trail friends? Find your place, corral your people, and make some plans. Life is short and you can never have enough carefree times tramping through the Maine woods with lighthearted, like-minded people. Heck, you might even make it a tradition.

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island is the author of “Beer Hiking New England,” “AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast” and the AMC “Maine Mountain Guide” (the new 12th edition is now available). Follow more of Carey’s adventures on Facebook and on Instagram @careykish

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