Trail Angels Are Real; Days 9-14
It was rainy and cold the day we left Caratunk. We hiked to the Kennebec river and were lucky enough to catch the ferry just before it left to pick up some NOBO’s. The ferry guy was essentially toothless and very funny. Solomon wasn’t thrilled about the canoe, but he managed better than I thought he would.
We hiked a short four miles to the first lean to, where we stopped to let some heavier rain pass. Reading through the log, we were just a few days behind multiple people, which was encouraging.
We continued on, putting in our biggest mileage day yet (a whopping 14. Please know this is said with sarcasm). It was a long and chilly day that turned into a long and chilly night. No bueno.
When we woke up, Solomon was furiously licking his arms. Looking at them, I saw they were badly chafed and oozing blood. Instead of hiking back another 14 miles, we moved on towards Long Falls Dam road in hopes of a hitch.
We saw plenty of cars, but everyone was obviously vacationing in the area and had no idea what a wet and dirty hiker was doing in the woods, in the rain.
After a soaking wet 30 minutes, a car finally did pull over. A representative of the Maine Huts and Trails System was heading back into Kingfield after a meeting, and knew about the A.T. He graciously gave me and my soaking wet dog a ride into town and the pharmacy, and then his wife gave us a ride into Stratton. Trail angels at their finest!
Unfortunately, we had to skip the Bigelows for now. Solomon needed the time off, and we only had a certain amount of dog food left until our next pick up. It was seriously discouraging. We spent the remainder of the day in a bed at Stratton motel, watching HGTV and listening to the rain pour.
I woke up dreading going out to hike again. It’s a pretty common thing; the mornings have always been difficult. I’d been going to sleep alone, dreaming of home,friends, and family, and then waking up alone and in a strange place for the past week and a half. It wears on you, and quickly. It’s even harder when this happens in town, because I knew I was purposefully walking away from the only people I was likely to see for a few days.
After moping in bed for a while, I got up and went to make breakfast in the kitchen. There I met Rachel, the Horns Pond Lean-to caretaker. She was relaxing on one of her off days, and gladly talked to me about the problems I was having. She’s a former SOBO and understood the isolation I was feeling. After breakfast, she drove me to the post office where I shipped home Solomon’s now ill fitting pack and some extra stuff I hadn’t been using, then she brought me to the trailhead.
The weather was gorgeous, and the climb up North Crocker was beautiful. I always check for service at higher altitudes, and when I turned my phone off airplane mode, this is the message I got:
Maybe it doesn’t seem like much, but it meant the world to me. I sat on the side of the mountain, sweaty and alone, crying over a Winnie the Pooh quotation from a stranger I had met only two hours before. Again with the trail angels. It will forever be, in my mind, one of the kindest, most meaningful messages in the entire world. If you ever see this Rachel, thank you. So much.
After my emotional breakdown of the day, I continued up the Crockers. Both peaks were beautiful, and I was able to enjoy the south peak for an hour or so. The hike down South Crocker to Cirque de something campsite was intensely steep, but fun. The campsite was nice, and it was one of the few nights I’d been excited to set up camp alone. (It probably helps that I still had service..yay Sugarloaf ski resort and Verizon!)
After intense thunderstorms all night, we woke up, packed up camp, and headed out. It was another short day to the next lean to, and I was considering hiking ahead two lean-to’s. However, when I arrived at the first lean-to, there were people there! People that were going to be staying that night! And another SOBO! With a dog!!! So, we called it an early day and hung out at the shelter.
Later that day, two more hikers showed up. One of them I’d been talking to online since before we left for Maine! I finally got to meet Will, which I was very excited about. Since I doubt I’ll see you again Will(you’re freaking flying, man), it was awesome to meet you and I hope you enjoy the rest of your hike!!! Happy trails 🙂
Despite the freezing wind, this was one of my favorite nights so far. It’s amazing the difference people can make. Just sitting and talking with strangers by a fire is one of life’s greatest experiences.
Another short day (8 miles), Fox and I hiked separately to Poplar Ridge lean to.
There are some sections of the trail in Maine that you just KNOW they placed it where it lays because of a sick sense of humor. This felt like one of those sections. I had originally wanted to make it to the campsite last the lean to, just another two miles, but I was dead by the time I reached the top of the ridge. Yay newbie legs.
We hung out at the shelter, which wound up being a great decision. That night we had torrential rain for what seemed like hours. Had I gone on to the campsite, all of my gear would have been soaked.
The Saddlebacks! I was so excited for today, but also nervous. Lots of elevation gain and loss for 9 miles. It was all worth it though. The weather was perfect, and the views were incredible.
It was another tough morning of hiking, I again felt like a lonely, failure of a hiker, but a NOBO named Huck cheered me up.
After the first view from Saddleback Jr., I was pumped.
The view between The Horn and Saddleback is one of those that everyone takes a picture of. I’ve used it as my screensaver before, and it was surreal seeing it in person. Plus, the trail itself is fun here. Above tree line, lots of wide granite slabs, and some fun climbing.
I hung out on Saddleback for nearly two hours, just talking to day hikers and enjoying the view. The hike down was beautiful, and Solomon and I stopped for a swim in Eddys pond.
Originally the plan was to stop at Piazza lean to, and we did for a little bit. However, the mosquitos were insane after the previous nights rain, so Solomon and I continued on. It was an easy 2 miles to the road, where we were brought into Rangeely by a couple out for a scenic drive.
We stayed at the Farmhouse inn, which I HIGHLY recommend. Super friendly family, gorgeous location, and an awesome old building.
Rangeley is the most perfect little town, I really don’t want to leave. It’s on a gorgeous lake, surrounded by mountains, with awesome amenities. Lots of restaurants, gear shops, an awesome little coffee shop, beautiful parks, just everything. It’s also the midway point between the North Pole and the Equator!
The more you know.
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Great post Kaili. We just pulled in to Caratunk. My ankles healing up, but even the were not the fastest. We’ll probably never catch up with you, but you are our “scout” and let us know what is coming!
Glad to hear you are still on the trail. My girlfriend and I met you at Shaws. I’m Tiny Tim, Sobo 2010. I know you can do it if you keep your mind to it! Keep the posts coming!
I just love your updates! Keep on keepin’ on, Kaili!