Stratton to Rangely – the Saddleback Range
Yesterday, we popped out of the woods into Maine Route 4 outside of Rangely. We were picked up and went to The Farmhouse Inn. While I was very impressed with Monson and Lakeshore House, this comes in now at a very close second! Shane and Stacy Vorous run a wonderful hostel. We got here about noon yesterday and the first order of business was cleaning up. All I could think of after my shower was a line from Zack’s book: “Dude, the shower head.” It was that good.
So much of the trail is getting to know people you would otherwise never meet. Stacy told me this morning that a hiker who was staying here last week told her, “You know, I really hate hiking. But the people you meet on the trail make it all worth it.”
We caught up with Homer, Slingshot, and Lt Dan. Plus, Ben and Scavenger are back on the trail! Scavenger bought new boots with a lot of ankle support. Hopefully they’ll help.
The stretch from Stratton to Rangeley starts to get into the seriously big mountains. The first two days, we checked off four of the eight peaks on this stretch: North Crocker, South Crocker, Sugerloaf, and Spaulding. Plus we forded the Carrabasett, which was high due to the rain. We passed a plaque commemorating completion of the final section of the Maine AT. Plus, we passed the 200 mile mark!
The final section was the Saddleback Range. There was a day of rain and thunderstorms, so Ian and I held up at the Redington Stream Campsite, just before the ridge walk. It was a long boring day, huddling in either tent or hammock and waiting out the rain.
My dream for the next day was sunny and great views. Instead we were in a cold mist – basically inside a cloud, and the wind was blowing in 50-plus mph gusts – almost enough to knock you over. So we didn’t dawdle, and staggered like two drunken sailors across the ridge for 3 miles. Once or twice, the cloud would open up and provide us with an awesome view of our surroundings.
When we got to the tree line at the other side, we found a little spot out of the wind took a picture of the valley below (now we get the view!) and called the Farmhouse Inn for a place to stay. They agreed to pick us up at the trailhead at noon, so we hustled for the next six miles to get to the side of Maine Route 4.
On the way down, we stopped at Piazza Rock Lean To so Ian could use the privy. This spot has kind of a reputation. The privy is a two-seater with a cribbage board built permanently in between. Ian and I play a lot of cribbage, but I don’t think this type of setting will catch on. For one, it still smells like a latrine, so you don’t really want to linger!
I went into town and bought new shoes. Low cut trail runners that are considerably lighter and have more support than my damaged boots. Plus I got a full size larger. I guess my feet gave been expanding! They’re beautiful right now but will be wet and muddy in less than 24 hours. Let’s hope they holdup better.
We plan resupply and heading back out tomorrow. Our next stop will be Gorham. Ten or so days to finish off Maine and start New Hampshire. The weather forecast promises a few good days but mostly rain. The one overriding memory of Maine is going to be wet. I expect we will be dreaming fondly of that when we move farther south and water is not so plentiful!
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