Day 17: Now we’re moving!
Late start today, didn’t get a shuttle ride from the Inn until 8:30 which was a little frustrating. The inn was full of interesting people, not mentioning the “other” stuff going on. One older gentleman was hiking with his dog. Clearly, he was pretty poorly financially off. He entered the 100 day wilderness with three days of food and spent 14 days in there. His dog, Magnolia, was a small dog, but very well trained. Doing the ford crossings, he had the dog trained to get on the top of his back. Really neat. Anyways, he was doing work for stays at the Inn and had worked yesterday at the building next door which was going to become of the first pot dispensaries in Maine.
Then the gentleman that drove us to the trail said he hiked it last year. Coming back south, he got a job cutting trees, etc, at Sugarloaf, a local ski range for the fall/winter and is currently working at the Inn. Interesting life routes.
So, back to the trail. Started with Catfood today, the first time I’d hiked with anyone yet. We killed the first section, easily doing a 3000′ ascent with little notice or difficulty. Continuing forward, we dropped to a nice river that was ice cold. We put our feet in for 15 or 20 minutes and laid our shoes and shirts out to dry in the sun. That was definitely one of my better trail moments so far. Just perfect.
Unfortunately, our efficiency was about to be wrecked. Starting our ascent up Sugar Loaf, which we seemed to parallel the last two days (damn indirect AT!), we stopped hiking and had to transition into full climbing mode. This was the hardest ascent since Katahdin. It was straight vertical. Even stranger, once we did make it up, we saw two older women and their dog headed that direction and another guy with his dog had already gone down. I can’t believe what some of these hiking dogs are capable of. I don’t know where they climb or drop; I’d be worried for their safety.
That climb wiped me out. I felt good most of the day, and then moving on to the next mountain, my energy just bottomed out. It was drudgery the last few miles.
On a positive note, my knee held up well without the brace. I continue to be encouraged. Strangely, I had a weird tightness, not quite a cramp, in my right calf. Hopefully, that’s just a passing tightness.
As I was going up Spaulding (the last mountain for today), Hanz came up behind me. He ditched the other SOBOs to catch us and move a little quicker. Suddenly, we have a group of three. Hanz’s brother is headed home with his dad after his two week stint and Hanz just left the Navy. He wants to go into engineering, but is still undecided on the college. Recently leaving active duty, he’s entitled to in-state tuition throughout the U.S., which is awesome and means lots of options.
Got to camp with a mix of NOBOs and a few flip floppers. Catfood has gone stoveless and I’m going to food shop with him in Rangeley, along with getting a pair of trekking poles, and probably going to mail my stove home. Less weight and clean up! And if I move fast enough, I get a hot meal or two every third day in town. Once I pass New Hampshire and speed south a little more rapidly, I won’t be contending with the cold as much for the next month, either.
Shooting for a 5:30 start tomorrow. 18.7 miles to town, or 17 and change to a shelter a mile from the road. We’ll likely hit the shelter, get to town early Tuesday morning, and going to split a room at a motel on the lake with some kayaks. Hopefully tomorrow is a but easier than our 13 miles today with probably somewhere north of 8000′ of elevation change. That’s exhausting with these rocks, roots, and straight verticals up and down the mountains. No switchbacks in Maine. It’s pretty, but the trails suck!
Day 18: Pushing It
Tough, but rewarding day today. I was awake early as I set up my tent on a little too much of a slope and had some issues sliding overnight in addition to a tent stake that came loose and needed to be re-staked in the middle of the night.
We planned an early start with the hope of making it to Rangeley tonight and taking a zero tomorrow. The backup (and cheaper) plan was to push to the last shelter outside of town and come into town first thing tomorrow.
Starting at six am, Catfood, Hanz, and I made quick work of the first five miles. At that point, I was falling back a little bit. When I stopped to refill my water, Hanz went ahead to catch Catfood, and that was the last I saw of Hanz. He will be moving quickly, he’s a strong hiker and seems very driven. He also overstocked on food and claimed he had seven days worth, thus no need to stop in town. I do not expect to see him again. So, Catfood and I continued forward together.
We moved well through the morning and then we started hitting mountains. Similar to yesterday, the climbs were tough requiring a lot more mountain climbing then hiking and the descents were challenging to the knees.
We first went up Saddleback Junior that was tough, dropped down where the water source was poor, and then up to the Horn. Passing on the poor water source, I was rationing my water and slowed my eating. Prior to that, I was eating consistently every hour. Despite devouring 2200-2400 calories on the trail, I still bonked the last few miles of the day (and I ate a lot of additional calories afterwards).
Now after we got up the Horn were some of the best miles of my journey this far. The views were amazing as we walked and climbed roughly 2.5 miles along the ridge heading to Saddleback (Senior?). The experience was unbelievable. Moments like that make all of the climbing worthwhile.
Running out of energy, I was mostly falling forwards down the mountain at a surprisingly good pace. We stopped briefly at a beautiful pond to grab some water, and then continued the last four miles to the road. The last miles were brutal! We stopped again about a mile and a half from the road and I devoured a few more calories to try and push myself forward.
Then the long day paid off. We completed 19 miles with another 8000+ feet of elevation change today. Tough miles.
We were leap frogging a bit with two woman coming down the mountain — as we took breaks they would pass us. They were getting into their car when we made the highway and were kind enough to give us a ride to town.
Arriving in town, our main objective for the day was met. Hot food and, more importantly, beer. Because we accomplished our three day stretch in two, we’re taking tomorrow off and I think my foot and legs will be grateful for the break. They’re getting stronger, but I need to continue being patient.
Washed my laundry in the tub and the water was instantly black. But, now they’re (mostly) clean and lots of errands tomorrow to prep for the next stretch of trail.
Day 19: A zero earned.
Active day in Rangeley, despite no miles on the trail. I woke up early after a “nightmare” about marching up hills in my sleep. Amazingly, I’ve heard of people having these after Vol-State (a 314 mile race across Tennessee), but it was never something I’d experienced personally until today.
Feet were really sore this morning and felt like they’ve been beaten with a bat, but I feel okay otherwise.
Catfood and I ate so much food today. We had a big breakfast, pizza and a pitcher of beer for lunch, and I couldn’t even eat half a chicken quesadilla for dinner! Trying to cram as much food in as possible. I’m not sure I’ve lost any weight on this trip yet though!
We scouted the outdoor stores in the area on our mile or so walk to the grocery store. I resupplied with way too much food; lots of bars, oatmeal, cheese, candy (Snickers and M&Ms), and ready-to-eat pasta meals. I mailed my cooking supplies and some of my food in a box to the post office in Gorham, NEW HAMPSHIRE, approximately 78 miles away. If I don’t need the items, I can forward them further down the trail for free. This is called a bounce box because you’re bouncing your things down the trail.
I was hoping to drop weight, avoid having to clean a dirty pot every night, and save time, but I think I made up for the weight of my cooking supplies in food. Oops. Besides tweaking my food, I’m planning to try rehydrating foods in my cleaned out peanut butter jar which should theoretically work for a lot of instant meals as long as I’m willing to eat them cold.
Leaving the grocery store, we met up with three other thru-hikers. They have been hiking forward and then hitch-hiking back to their truck. They said they had to do eight separate hitches to get back to their vehicle after the last leg. Crazy. Anyways, they gave Catfood and I a ride back down the road near one of the gear shops where I bought a set of trekking poles (like ski poles, but for hiking) and then we hung out at a gazebo just BSing. Interesting folks.
Went for a short canoe ride in the late afternoon and then finalizing preparations for tomorrow morning. Talking with innkeeper, he was confident we should be easily able to hitch the nine miles back to the trail. I hope so.
Tentative hopes are to get to Andover, mile 256 with two 18 mile days. We’ll see how the next few days go!