Week 4 – Stratton to Rangeley
Heat exhaustion is starting to resolve, feet are doing great, and the weather adds the third challenge!
Day 22 (7:36am – 11:30am and 4:30pm-6:30pm, 11.6 total miles)
Today marks the start of some challenging weather. The report is calling for rain, hail, and thunder showers today, oh boy! Carrie and I originally planed on taking a shorter day to the Spaulding Mountain lean-to due to the poor weather report. But we will see what happens.
As we started our hike today, it was HOT! My father had texted me when I had reception, worried about my heat exhaustion possibly flaring up again from the extreme heat he saw predicted for our area in Maine today. As we started our trip, I planned ahead, starting in just my sports bra and spandex (something that has recently become my staple out here!). Shortly into our trip, it started to drizzle. AH! Relief! The cold rain felt fantastic on my overheating skin!
As we gained elevation, the trees became shorter and shorter around us. The sky became darker, and the rain started to come down a little harder. Then it rained harder, and harder, until it started to pour! Well, I’m already wet, no point in putting on the rain gear! So on I trudged in the torrential downpour.
Shortly after the rain began to come down in buckets, slosh slosh slosh. Great! I feel like I’m walking through a river! But why? I have water proof boots! Well, water proof boots are great against rain, except when that rain pours down your pack, onto the back of your legs, down into your socks, and eventually into your boots. So, slosh slosh slosh, up the trail I went!
Not going to get the opportunity to take too many pictures today, unfortunately, due to the poor visibility and poor weather. But I have been able to sneak a few! When there is a break in the clouds, slosh slosh, I will take what pictures I can, slosh. On and on we went. Getting higher and higher. Somewhere along the way, Ponder, another SOBO, caught us and hiked with us for a while. He was great company and a really nice guy.
As we climbed further in elevation, and the tree cover started to thin, the wind kicked up, continuing to help cool my heated skin. Hmm, I’m starting to feel a little chilly. In order to avoid going the opposite route into hypOthermic conditions, I decided to put on my rain gear coat. Not, mind you, to keep myself dry, because at this point in time, I had water pouring off my eyebrows, down my face, off my nose . . . let’s just say I was SOAKED!
But I put my coat on to help retain my body heat. I squeezed into my coat, my wet skin pulling and snagging on the coat, fighting me every step of the way, begging not to be covered, but finally I was able to don my coat, and off I went, slosh slosh slosh.
As I rounded a corner, behold, a view! I pulled out my camera, drying the lens with my soaking wet shirt (I wish you read that wrong, but you didn’t), and snapped a few pictures to the best of my ability.
Finally, soaking wet, slosh, but keeping, slosh, warm, we arrived, slosh, at our lean-to, slosh, slosh. The lean-to was filled with people keeping themselves dry. They made some room for us as, slap, we plopped our soaking wet packs onto the edge of the lean-to, under the overhang. My first objective was to take off these water soaked water proof boots. I took them off my feet, expecting to see a waterfall descend from them, but nothing came out! What the heck! I took off my socks, and rung them out. Ok, that’s were all that water went. Then I removed the liners in my boots, and, behold, the river runneth forth! But ringing out my liners was not really feasible, so, that will be something I will have to tolerate for a while. Oh well.
My second objective was to get out of my soaking wet clothes, dry myself off, and put on some nice, warm, dry clothes. But the lean-to was filled with northbound men. So, I collected my things, assessed the weather, and off I went, into the now sprinkling rain, and changed in the privy only 100 yards from the lean-to. I towled myself off with my microfiber light weight towel, and instantly felt better in my nice dry clothes. Now I just have to get back to the lean-to without getting soaked along the way!
Luckily for me, the rain had slowed considerably by now, so I held my rain coat over my head, and quickly danced back up to the lean-to. We spent the next several hours joking with the northbounders in the lean-to, sharing information about the trail both north and south, and sharing stories. Several people came and went, all joining us under cover for a short respite before moving on. Some time after we arrived, Damian, Molasses and Flicker arrived. They informed us they planned on moving onto the next lean-to, 8 miles away. Yikes! 8 miles! It’s supposed to hail and thundershower out there! But on they went. Ponder decided to push on as well. I hope they’ll be ok!
Carrie started to get antsy and was pondering moving on herself, but we discussed the terrain and the weather, and determined 8 miles was a little to far and would not necessarily set us up any better for the following days to come. So we stayed put. Eventually, the northbounders in the lean-to moved on, and new ones arrived. As we spoke with them, one mentioned a stealth campsite only 5 miles away. 5 miles! That’s doable! A troop of Outward Bound kids just came to our lean-to, so now’s the time to go!
Let me just take a moment here to state that unlike some of the other droves of kids we have encountered at lean-tos and on the trail, this group of kids were VERY respectful and VERY quiet, and I am sure would have been just fine to stay with at the lean-to. But Carrie and I do enjoy some level of privacy, not entirely enjoying large groups of people, so we decided to move on.
So on we pushed to this stealth campsite, near Orbeton Stream. We arrived close to nightfall at a gravel road (no longer used) close to a beautiful water fall. This would be our resting place for the night. We quickly set up camp, as the rain had finally stopped for now, and made ourselves some dinner. We opted to keep our packs under our tent rain covers for the night to attempt to keep them dry. In our tents we climbed and off to dream land we went.
The sound of pitter patter on my tent suddenly erupted into the sound of buckets, roaring, beating hard, trying to break through my rain cover. What! What time is it? 12:30am! Uh oh! It was POURING outside and my tent was taking a beating. Unable to sleep, concerned my rain cover would not hold against the onslaught Mother Nature was attempting to throw at it, I moved items in my tent around, moving things that COULD NOT get wet to my loft, and moving other things to higher ground. As I lay on my sleeping pad, still dry for now, I realized the ground seemed higher around me then it was before. I took a finger and pressed gently onto the ground around my sleeping pad. Blub blub blub blub. There was at least 1 inch of rain water UNDER my tent surrounding me! I was on a little island, wondering when that island would begin to sink and I would float away! Great! Now I had two things to worry about, my tent getting soaked from above AND below!
I spent the next several hours worrying about my tent and the rain, begging Mother Nature to be merciful. Eventually, I returned to my slumber and slept the remainder of the night.
The NOBOs we crossed today (the ones I got trailnames for at least)
- The Professor
- Short Stop
Day 23 (7:46am – 9am, 3.2 miles)
Well, the good news is I did not float away last night, and I managed to stay dry in my tent! Yeah tent! The bad news is, the outside of my tent is DRENCHED and there is no keeping the inside dry once I have to pack it up. It is essentially useless for the next several days. Luckily, we only have two more days until we arrive in Rangeley, Maine. Then I can dry out my gear. “And that’s ok” (Damian quote).
The sky’s were dark and threatening this morning so we packed our gear as quickly as humanly possible. I went to the waterfall to resupply some of my water. The water level had risen by at least 2 inches overnight! My God I’m glad we didn’t get caught in a flash flood last night!
We took off quickly, opting to eat on the go, trying to beat the rain. But Mother Nature had another plan for us. She allowed us to quickly pack our gear, before she reminded us that we were not meant to dry out that day, and on the rain and wind began. We hiked a short distance, through the rain, as we arrived at what we had been told was a river we could rock hop across. Many northbounders in previous days had told us fording would not be necessary. Due to the drought, the water levels were low. Well, after last night’s rain episode, that was no longer true! The water levels were now high enough that rock hopping was not a possibility! We would have to ford! The water was now up above our knees, but at least it was warm. So we carefully forded and arrived safely on the other side.
A short distance later, we arrived at the Poplar Ridge lean-to. Sloshing, again, into camp, looking like a few drowned rats. We saw Damian and Woodsman in the lean-to, along with several others we did not yet know.
“Where’s Flicker?” I asked, as I scanned the people in the lean-to. One woman, later introduced to me as Ursula, had two sets of legs. Wait, what? Yea, two sets of legs!
“She’s under here!” Ursula pointed under her poncho.
After the gears in my brain stopped grinding, and the machine began to run smoothly again, I was able to comprehend that the second pair of legs Ursula seemed to have sprouted, were in fact Flicker’s legs! Ok, it’s making sense now!
“She got soaked last night because the rain got into her tent and sleeping bag,” Damian informed us.
“Yikes! Is she ok?” Today was the perfect day for hypothermia, so I was instantly concerned about her well being. After some time, she woke from her little nap, but was still very cold. Damian made some hot chocolate for me and Carrie and some hot water for Flicker. Flicker emerged from her warm sleeping spot, under Ursula’s poncho, and drank the hot water. I pulled my NASA thermal emergency blanket from my first aid kit and gave it to her, in hopes it would help bring her body temperature back up as I began questioning her extensively, checking for warning signs for hypothermia.
She was not yet hypothermic, but was border line. So she crawled into the emergency blanket and drank her hot water, and after some time, began to warm up. Thank god! But she was not going to be able to spend the night at that lean-to as her entire sleep system was soaking wet and she would not be able to stay warm and dry that night. So she was forced to press the 10 miles to town. Today’s weather report was no better than yesterdays, and the terrain would leave her exposed above treeline for 3 miles straight! But she had no choice. So after she warmed, her and Damian decided to brave the weather, and on they pressed. Prior to leaving, Flicker informed Carrie that she had come up with a trailname for her; Free Bird. That was perfect and Carrie has now adopted that as her trailname.
All of us in the lean-to, except for Damian and Flicker, had made the decision to take a zero day and stay at that lean-to. Recognizing that Flicker had no choice, and thankful that Damian would be with her to help watch over her, our prayers and well wishes were with them as off they went into the wind and rain. The remainder of that evening, we all had them in our thoughts and prayers. I hope they both make it safe to town! I quickly texted Damian, asking him to let me know when they were safe in town!
Carrie and I changed into dry clothes and snuggled in our sleeping bags in the lean-to. We had all day to kill, so we began to get to know our lean-to mates. Ursula and her husband were from Germany and were SOBOs for only 6 weeks. They had less than 2 weeks left before they would have to catch a flight back to Germany. Woodsman opted to stay in the lean-to, and we had been playing hop scotch with him for several days, so it was nice to joke with him and really get to know him. Demetri was a sectional NOBO that was doing one state each year. He was truley a pleasure to get to know! Eventually Molasses emerged from his hammock (we didn’t even know he was at this campsite) and he too decided to stay for the night. So that totaled 7 of us staying for the night. Carrie unloaded her tent, as did the husband from Germany, and they stretched them across the front of the lean-to, allowing their tents to dry, as well as act as a wind and rain shield.
We all joked and chatted, napped, and snacked, the rest of the day/evening, and eventually, body to body, snuggled into our individual sleeping bags and slept the night away. Despite the low miles today, this is part of what being on the trail is about. Sleeping next to what was a complete stranger simply hours before, but is now someone you feel you have known forever. A kindred spirit that is out here for the same reason you are, and shares the same love of the woods and mountains as you do. Despite the weather, this is what being on the AT is all about. We all love it, no matter what!
The NOBOs we crossed today (the ones I got trailnames for at least)
Day 24 (6:48am – 1:40pm, 10.7 miles)
Today, we press on to Rangely. We are wet, and our gear is still wet and filthy. We are not spending another night out here. We have to get to town. So today, we start early!
Today has been a rough and windy day coming across the mountains! We traversed three mountains, Saddleback Junior, The Horn, and Saddleback. We were above tree line and exposed for 3 miles straight making today a difficult day!
As we climbed up Saddleback Junior, just as I reached the top above tree line, the winds kicked up and ripped my rain cover off of my pack! I caught it with one hand and opted to move off the peak asap before we all blew away. As we summited the other two mountains, and remained exposed for 3 miles, the winds howled at an estimated 80 mph, with occasional gusts a little stronger! We got bounced around, slipped and fell on the wet, slick, lichen covered rocks, and squinted our way through the thick fog and clouds, following the barely visible white blazes and cairns marking the trail. Needless to say, the critters opted to stay in the nice, warm, dry pack instead of posing for a photo op in this weather!
I had one spill on the top of Saddleback Junior, slipping on the lichen, right foot skidding off to the side and dropping straight onto my left knee cap. Pausing for a minute on one knee, with my trekking poles splayed out to the sides, I assessed my scenario. No pain. We’re ok! I got lucky with not so much as a bruise from that little slip up. I was MUCH more careful the rest of the day with no other slips to report!
Carrie (now known as Free Bird) was not as fortunate. During our time apart on the trail, she informed me later, she approached a hole thinking to herself, that would suck to slip into that, so she carefully stepped over the hole, dragging her trailing foot behind her, and woosh, she slide into the hole! Luckily, she escaped that fall with a few scratches and some bruises, but nothing worse!
Later, once we had met up again, and we descended below treeline, off Saddleback Mountain, she had one more spill for the day. Both of us are unsure how this happened, but as she was stepping down some larger boulders, something caught one foot and forward she fell! I heard the trip and spun around just in time to see her diving forward, face first towards a large tree, a river, and a giant boulder! Oh no! She threw out her arms and bam! Landing on all fours, her lips barely kissing the water, staring eye-to-eye with the big boulder, she landed! Phew! No major injuries there either! We are counting our lucky stars today! No more falls the rest of that day, but Free Bird did try her attempt at moon walking down some slippery, muddy parts on the trail!
Giddy, tired, banged up, and a little damp, we laughed out loud at our previous slips and slides, and our frequently awkward decents down the slippery terrain, and eventually came upon a campsite. We decided to break there, sheltered from our environment, and finally had a good snack.
“Ya know. Sometimes you just have to screw nutrition and eat what feels good. Like Cheetos.” I stated, bypassing all my nutritious foods, opting to eat junk after today’s endeavors. Yup, that’s the kind of day today has been.
We were picked up from the trailhead by Stacy, one of the caretakers at the Farmhouse Inn, the awesome hostel we were planning to stay at the next several days. As we checked in, we met another SOBO named Spotty Kiwi from New Zealand. We chatted with him a bit, hung our gear out to try, did our wash, showered, and put on some nice, dry, warm, loaner clothes. Shortly after we arrived at the Farmhouse Inn, Damian pulled up in a vehicle. He had spent last night at the Hiker Hut and was going to stay with us at the Farmhouse Inn tonight.
“How’s Flicker!?” I eagerly asked.
“She’s doing great. She stayed at the Hiker Hut with me last night.” Damian replied.
Thank God! It’s good to have part of our crew back together again! Tomorrow, Gray and Emily will be meeting up with us once more and stay with us at the Farmhouse Inn as well. We may even take another zero day because the weather report is threatening again. We shall see!
Day 25 (Time – whatever, 0 miles)
This morning, Free Bird and I woke early. We stayed up in a loft last night which was quite cozzy. Today, we’re going to share a bunk room with Damian to save on funds a bit. We looked at the weather report and decided that we will take an additional zero day tomorrow to avoid a storm coming in. This way we don’t start our next 4 day adventure in the woods and mountains with wet gear!
Free Bird and I started our day with a nice breakfast of breakfast burritos with eggs and cheese. She had cooked up breakfast in the communal kitchen. After breakfast and coffee, we pulled a small card game off the shelf. The AT Game! Huh. That sounds interesting. Let’s play the AT Game while we hike the AT. Why not!
So I looked up the instructions on my phone and we played for about 1 hour. It was a cute and fun game and kept us entertained for a while. As we played our game, we chatted with Nikon and McGuyver, two sectional hikers heading out to continue their trip this morning. We bid them goodbye and wished them luck on their travels. Eventually, Damian joined us in the kitchen, and we decided to go to town. Shortly there after, Gray and Emily arrived! Yeah! The gang is back together! We all walked to town, to drop some things off at the post office and explore town.
We spent several hours walking around, having lunch, eating ice cream, and eventually Free Bird and I made our way back to towards the hostel, stopping at the market on the way to get dinner for the night. We had the idea of purchasing steaks and salad to make a great home cooked meal to share with our hiking family! I texted Damian to ask if he wanted in. Eventually, all of us were in. Stacy pulled up to the market, with Damian in tow, and collected us, driving us back to the hostel.
That night, Damian grilled some steak and Italian sausage, Gray cooked some steak on the stove, and Emily made some left over rice while Free Bird made some salad. I was left with nothing to help with so I worked on updating all of you on our adventures! Eventually, I helped to set the table and we all sat down outside at the picnic table and had our first Trail Family dinner.
The couple from Germany joined us and we all shared stories, laughed, and shared excellent food. We ate like kings tonight!
After dinner, some of us sat in the common area and shared stories with two other gentleman that had arrived sometime later in the day (I only got one of their names, Snake, a flipfloper heading south). Snake had some great stories to share and some helpful information on the southern sections we would encounter later in our trip. Gray and Emily shared some of their stories as well from the southern sections. So many trail stories, so little time! It was an excellent and peaceful day and evening today. Tomorrow, we will move to the Hiker Hut, a hostel closer to the trail head, to spend our last zero in town before we venture back onto the trail!
Day 26 (Time – whatever, 0 miles)
Today is our last day in Rangeley. Tomorrow we move out! We packed up our gear this morning, and got ready to head over to the Hiker Hut. As we were getting ready to leave, we met another sectional hiker, Big Horn. We bid him farewell, and Damian, Free Bird, Gray, Emily, and myself all piled into Steve’s van, one of the two caretakers at the Hiker Hut. The people at the Farmhouse Inn were great, and we gave Stacy a big hug prior to parting ways.
As we pulled into the Hiker Hut, Steve informed me I had to ring the Bombay bell.
We all piled out of the van and emerged into the most serine, peaceful, welcoming, sanctuary you can imagine.
Steve has spent many years traveling back and forth to India, and has brought with him a zen like aura to this land. Each of the huts are gorgeous, there is no electricity here, only nature, and the gardens that Catherine, the other caretaker here, maintain are exquisite. The colors are amazing and inspiring. The multitude of humming birds whizzing around your head and chirping at one another as they dive bomb the feeders, astounding! My artistic creative juices are flowing and I feel rested, recharged, and at home! What a truly AMAZING place with AMAZING people!
To see more amazing pics from the Hiker Hit, look at my Instagram or Facebook pages.
After speaking with Steve about this area, and learning about his mission to help children in India with facial tumors, I learned that he has AT hiker necklaces that are made in India and the proceeds go to help those children. I had been searching for a necklace like the ones he was selling, and now being touched by his story as well, I quickly purchased one and donated some funds to his cause. I was informed that the money is going to help a boy named Silu in India. I was more than happy to help and donate!
All of us spent some time, taking in the environment, and chatting with Steve and Christine. Such wonderful people! Christine is an artist as well, so I felt blessed to get the opportunity to chat with her for quite some time. They graciously served us some lentil soup, absolutely delicious, and showed us around the area. They have a FANTASTIC outdoor shower, something I greatly look forward to using before we venture out tomorrow!
Later, they drove us into town, where Damian, Gray, Emily and I first stopped to get ice cream, then Damian and I strolled around, eventually ending at the post office, while Gray and Emily checked out some outfitters. We went to the library to get some work done, as I again worked on updating you all with our adventures. Free Bird joined us at the library and we decided to go to the local bowling alley to have some fun and good food.
After bowling, Steve graciously picked us up at the alley, since it was now raining buckets and we REALLY didn’t want to get our gear wet before we started out tomorrow again, and returned us to his peaceful sanctuary. We will rest comfortably here tonight!
Day 27 (10:15am – 3:30pm, 9.4 miles)
Spent an amazing night at the Hiker Hut! Woke early this morning, and got to take an outdoor shower! There really is something special about standing in nature while you shower. Fantastic! In the middle of my shower, it began to rain lightly. What an interesting sensation to shower with hot water, and then have little cold raindrops hitting you at the same time!
After my refreshing shower, I drank some excellent coffee and chatted with Catherine some more. Some local chipmunks ran around her feet, following her everywhere she went, as she occasionally provided them with some almonds. Free Bird and I were interested in feeding them as well, so she gave us some almonds and taught us how to call them. I sat and chattered at them, as one creeped up to me, curious to know who this strange person was that was talking to her. Eventually, she learned to trust me, and up she came, gentle as can be, placing her little paws on my hands and quickly shoving the nuts into her cheeks. Her little nose tickled my finger tips as she sniffed around for more nuts, occasionally nibbling on my finger, thinking maybe that was a nut she had missed. I wanted to pet her soft fur, but dared not, fearing I would scare her off. After she had her fill, off she went, running back and forth between Catherine’s feet. What an experience!
After playing Snow White for a few hours, we packed up our gear, and started to sat our farewells. This was definitely the HARDEST time I had leaving any of the hostels we’ve been too. All 5 of us chatted with Catherine, I was the only one awake early enough to get the opportunity to say goodbye to Steve that morning, sharing stories, delaying our goodbye. After one last picture, we really had to go.
We each took turns embracing Catherine for the last time, for now, placed our packs on our backs, grobbed our trekking poles, and held back our tears as we slowly strolled back up the driveway heading to the trail.
For the remainder of the day, my legs moved without my direction, hiking on and on, in a sort of peaceful trance. I was in the zone! Each step I took, feeling the crunch of the ground below my feet. Each breath, pulling in nature and my surroundings. I listened to the gentle swoosh of the trees as the wind rustled the tree branches. I felt the cold rain against my arms and face, Mother Nature giving me light kisses to help keep me cool. Before I knew it, I had arrived at the Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to, our destination for the night. Crazy horse, Honey Bee and Brother Raccoon (all SOBOs) were already in the lean-to, playing with some tent poles. I sat and chatted with them, while waiting for the others to catch up. Eventually, Free Bird and Tree arrived, and we started to set up camp. After dinner, we all sat down by the pond, watching the sunset over the water.
Four loons peacefully swam across the pond, going off into the sunset. Once the sun dropped, we retired to our tents for the evening. Goodnight!
The NOBOs we crossed today (the ones I got trailnames for at least)
- Free Bird (the NOBO)
Day 28 (7:46am – 3:21pm, 8.3 miles)
The light started to lift in my tent and I opened my eyes. I looked at my watch – 2am! What! I thought it was morning. Over I rolled, back to sleep.
The sun peaked into my tent, prodding at me to wake up. I opened my eyes and looked at my watch again, 3am! Come on! The full moon tonight is playing games with me!
This continued for several more hours before I was finally awaken by the real sun, not the moon in disguise! I packed up camp, had my breakfast, and sauntered down to where Free Bird and Tree had set up their tents. They were still packing and eating, so I dropped pack and hung out for a half hour before starting my trek for the day.
Free Bird caught up with me after a while, and we stopped for a snack at a scenic overlook by highway 17.
I pulled my two bags full of snacks out of my pack and sat on the guard rail as I ate. I opened my chips, took some handfuls, and shoved them in my mouth. Then I opened my fig newtons, repeating the procedure. I continued on, grabbing different snacks from my pack, sampling a little of everything. Free Bird looked at me as I was shoving my 5th different treat into my mouth and started to laugh.
“I’m sorry but I love seeing you do this!” She managed to get out as I paused to look at her mid bite. “You’re just sampling a little of all your food aren’t you?”
We both took a good minute to laugh before I continued to snack. What can I say, I like variety!
After our break, Tree caught up with us, and we hiked on for a while. We stopped for another break at a beautiful stream, I was pretty tired today due to the moon’s games with me the previos night, and Tree pushed on past us. We did not see him again that night as we rolled into the Bemis Mountain lean-to.
We chatted with Charlie and Moose for a while, then Weebles, a flipflopper and Trekeroni joined us. We set up camp and had our dinner. Just as we retired to our tents, more people started to roll in. We have a FULL campsite tonight!
The NOBOs we crossed today (the ones I got trailnames for at least)
So that completes this weeks saga of Dori’s travels in the AT. As always, I hope you have enjoyed the read and
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