AT SOBO 2019: Caratunk, Stratton, Tramily, and Trials

Y’all, it’s been one hell of a week.

Summit of Saddleback Mountain.

Quite literally, this week has had its ups and downs. (See what I did there?)

Since my last post, I have summited a handful of mountains, I think four of which were over 4,000 feet!  Every time I get to the top, I swear it’s the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.

View from somewhere in the Bigelows.

While I have not lied at any point that I have said that, no place seems to be able to hold the title down for long.  Coming out of Monson headed SOBO, the terrain goes from low and boggy, to several smaller summits over Moxie Bald Mountain and others, plus down around some gorgeous lakes.

Pleasant Pond.

I stayed at an amazing bed and breakfast in a tiny little town called Caratunk.  The owner, Paul, has hiked several thousand miles (including the AT, twice!), and was able to help me with getting some of my pack weight down.  As soon as you get there, they ask you what flavor milkshake you want.  Let me tell you, every NOBO I passed for two days talked about these damn milkshakes and they were all RIGHT.  It was exactly what I needed after time on the trail!

Tramily and Trail Life

It was in Caratunk that I really started to get close to the people I’m hiking with.  Now, this is something kind of difficult to explain.  For the vast majority of my day, I am by myself.  I wake up, immediately make coffee, and if possible watch some of the sunrise.  By the way, in Maine the sun is completely up by 4:30 a.m.  It’s wild.  Anyway, I drink my coffee, eat my oatmeal, pack my stuff up, poop in a hole I dug (my aim is getting better), and then get going for the day.  I spend my day, as you probably guessed, hiking.  A lot.  I am averaging around 14 miles a day currently, including my days off in Monson and Caratunk.  I try to eat my second breakfast, usually a high protein breakfast bar, on the go.  I stop for first lunch, which is usually peanut butter and trail mix tortilla, at a good water source.  Typically, the coldest cleanest spring I can find.  It’s so refreshing.  I camel up, and try to drink 1.5 to two liters of water, because usually after this little break is when I really get going, so to speak, if the terrain allows.  Second lunch, I like to do somewhere with a great view.

Good views are NOT hard to come by in Maine.

After second lunch, I (you guessed it) hike, hike, hike, hike, and hike.  It’s honestly pretty simple when it comes down to it.  As I said earlier, most of the time I’m alone, which is pretty cool.  However, on the trail you develop something called tramily. While some tramilys last the entire length of the trail, it’s more common for it to be a constantly evolving thing.  For the last week, I had the pleasure of hiking with an awesome group of people.

Front to back, Chicken, Handome Sid (the dog), Forest, The Toodler (that’s me), and Toes!

At the Stratton Motel.  In the orange shirt is Pathfinder.

We typically all stayed on a similar schedule.  We figured out our game plans together in our timeline of getting from Caratunk to Stratton, planned our camping areas, and headed into the woods!  At really pretty places (snack spots), we would typically all end up coming back together, then at night we all cook our meals together and eat before bedtime.  Hiker midnight is as soon as the sun goes down, in case you were curious.  It’s nice to be able to either stick with someone for some company during the day, or to just do your own thing.  While the summit pictures and the picturesque lakes at sunset are magical, the reality of thru-hiking is that a large majority of it is just trudging through the (bug infested) woods.  I try to be present, and I have been able to find beauty in the small things too, but sometimes you just have to put your headphones in, listen to an audiobook or music, and go.

Really pretty bog bridge.

Talking about the Weather Means Way More on the Trail than in Real Life

It’s not just small talk for us.  It can, sometimes, be life or death.  Cell service is different everywhere and unreliable, so people fresh out of town (and the internet) pass along the knowledge to people who’ve been out for a day or so.  While hiking in the rain is inevitable, it is nice to be able to adapt some.  Sometimes you just have to suck it up, layer up, and cross the damn mountain.

Going over the Bigelows.  Above treeline.  In terrible weather.  This is the only picture I got.

Toes and I stopped at noon after only going eight miles yesterday, but it was all in the rain.  Honestly, though, it was enjoyable (for about half the time).  I listened to piano music and walked in the woods through a warm rain.  It made navigating the endless roots and rocks a bit tricky, but you just have to find the magic in any situation.  By stopping early yesterday, we were able to wake up before the sun and climb the Saddleback Mountains today in truly perfect weather.  This was, hands down, my favorite experience on the trail yet.  Unfortunately, most of the pictures I took are too high quality to upload here, but I will share a few.  Here is a link to all my photos and videos of the trail so far!

 

I Am in Love with These Maine Mountains

All in all, I am truly enjoying my time on the trail.  For anyone out there who is considering their next vacation, I highly suggest spending some time in Maine.  I’ve met some amazing people, on and off the trail.  I’ve been given a new name, my body feels brand new, and I really feel like I’m starting over.  It’s a strange, but beautiful, experience.  For now, I’m in a town called Rangeley, which feels like a metropolis compared to the tiny towns I’ve seen in Maine so far.  I’m staying at a super zen place (with a heated outdoor shower by the river that I LOVED) called The Hiker Hut.  I organized my box, which reminds me, HUGE shout-out to my Nana and all my people rooting me on back home!  Now, off to the local outdoor supply store to get a couple of things, then to eat an absolutely ridiculous amount of food.  Headed back out tomorrow morning!  Coming up soon, I will be going through the Mahoosuc Notch, which is considered the hardest mile on the entire trail!  Then, into my second state, New Hampshire, and the White Mountains.  🙂

I can’t wait!

Until next time,

Toodler

 

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Comments 5

  • sheila smith : Jul 19th

    WOW!! So nice to see all the pictures – even the ones of you!! haha The mountains and water speak to you, I can almost hear it myself! Safety, great fellow journey partners, and more milkshakes!! Enjoy every step!

    Reply
  • Kim Jones : Jul 19th

    I’m soooooo proud of you!!! Love this!

    Reply
  • Pink lady on trail in va. North bound : Jul 19th

    Wait till you get to va and Tenn. Both beautiful. Hiked in rain, sleet, snow and have had a great time. Happy trails.

    Reply
  • Trail mix aka J Mudd : Jul 19th

    Been there done that 2012. Loved it. Everyone should.

    Reply
  • paula skeans : Jul 28th

    I think hiker tramily? I think you said is awesome! You will meet some awesome people and people I’m sure will become life-long friends. I’m enjoying your post amd photos! Routing for you buddy!

    Reply

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