Is Every Day a Leg Day in Maine? Rangeley to Monson
The day I left Rangeley, thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon. I thought it best to camp near Eddy Pond and tackle Saddleback the next day in better weather. Hearing the thunderstorm rolling in that afternoon confirmed the wisdom of this plan.
The next day was glorious and the summit certainly didn’t disappoint. Going down I came to realization that I could only really use one trekking pole on this part of the trail, freeing up one of hands to help out a bit. Several times I had to stop and think about just what I had to do to get through some of the steepest stretches. I made it to the Poplar Ridge Lean-to and I was done. The day was filled with rewarding views, but the trail required serious effort to experience them.
Hostel of Maine
When I left Rangeley, I had originally planned to go all the way to Caratunk before resupplying again. The morning I left, I read another blog post from The Trek that raved about the Hostel of Maine in Carrabassett Valley. Since hiker hunger compelled me to eat multiple lunches a couple of days, I decided to check them out. It really delivered! Good resupply, well stocked fridge, and one of the best selections of Maine craft beers that I’ve ever seen in a single refrigerator. They send a shuttle to the trailhead at 1 and 5:30 every afternoon. It’s clean and comfortable. They’ve really put a lot of thought into providing exactly what we need.
Leaving Hostel of Maine the next morning was the first day I felt like my trail legs had found me again. The trail seemed to be missing the usual roots, rocks, and mud. This may have contributed to these feelings. This day morphed into my favorite day on the trail thus far. The views were incredible. It was one of those days where you can see where you are going and where you’ve been. Some said they could see both Mount Washington and Katahdin. I wish the software would allow me to post panoramas. I stayed in the Bigelow Col Campsite and enjoyed Avery Peak the next day.
A Respite from Mad Ups
After a few more lumpy bits the trail leveled out into Caratunk. For the first time this section I was able to approach two miles per hour. The caretaker at one of the shelters in the Bigelows suggested staying at the Pierce Pond Lean-to to easily make the ferry before 2 p.m. There are directions at this shelter about getting a pancake breakfast at Harrison’s camp nearby, which, of course, I followed. It had poured the previous night and I had woken up with an inch of water in my tent. While my air mattress kept my bag dry when I was in it, it got soaked as I crawled out, making pretty it much unusable. I put on my long pants and down vest and spent an uncomfortable night in the shelter. The breakfast at Harrison’s made it all better.
From Harrison’s I flew down the trail to the Kennebec River.
I got to Caratunk House about 11 a.m. Quick shower, pulled pork sandwich, and chocolate milkshake (got to love the overflow cup, too!). They did my laundry. They dried my bag. When I took off my shorts, I discovered that the seam down the back had been destroyed. I have no idea how long I had been walking around like this, but Caratunk House sewed them up. I took care of resupply and took a nap that afternoon. They shuttled a bunch of us to a brew pub that night… perfect day.
While the trail to Monson had a few lumpy bits (i.e., mountains but nothing near scale of those we climbed in Southern Maine), there were great stretches of relatively level trail. The trail passes a number of scenic ponds. I had at least one day where I hiked all day without seeing another person. For the first time, cell service wasn’t available every day. My 92-year-old momma wants to see a “proof of life” post on Facebook every day. Adjustments must be made, Mom!
Shaw’s Hostel has the most enjoyable guitar I’ve had the pleasure to fart around with on the trail. Strings have some life, action nice and easy. Played for while and a good time. Didn’t sing, though. Another guest asked why and I told her that playing can be in the background, but playing with vocals demands that you actually listen. I could walk around the hostel in the buff and feel comfortable. Others may feel like I’m usurping shared space. Singing kind of crosses the same line for me.
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