Monson to Stratton
Zero at Shaws
I wanted to move to Monson by the next day. For breakfast I got a burrito and a cookie at Pete’s Place (really homely feel). I lounged around most of the day working on this blog, checking out the ridiculous movies being watched, and chatting outside. I did my resupply but all my other zero day chores seemed to be slow going because I was too relaxed. The people who run Shaws are absolutely delightful chill people with the cutest daughter. Poet ended up helping me adjust my pack which has helped a lot and Hippie Chick made me feel at home. I was so distracted that I went out for dinner pretty late ordering a lobster roll to go from the Lakeside. It was delicious but took quite some time to come out. I topped off my day with beer I’d gotten from the gas station and talking until the moon was out.
The next day I was not packed or ready in the morning. My platypus mouth piece had broken and I spent a good half an hour trying to fix it. I spent a lot of effort making a mouse trap for my bear bag line which I lost before I even got to the trail. The first shuttle left at around 8 am while I was still busy but I was finally packed and showered when the 10 am shuttle left. There were a bunch of us getting back on the trail that day and it looked nice out. I stopped to eat lunch and then heard thunder. Quickly, I packed up and hiked on, but within half an hour the downpour and thunderstorm surrounded me. Luckily it was just drizzling as I forded the stream but when I stopped because it was finally nice out again thunderstorm two rolled around. I got to the shelter and it was completely full (which I expected). I hid below until the rain subsided and then realized there were no good tenting sites at the shelter. I ended up making due on two roots and a rock and then changed into dry garb. We were able to make a fire that night and I hung out with the gang who I’d see a few more times the next few days (Owen, Silvia now Crunchy, Book it, Hook, Breezy, Tall Boy, Journey, and lady Catherine).
The night was cool and I had trouble getting out of my sleeping bag the next morning. I was one of the last to leave camp as I headed up the trail following a stream. The guide book warned of a dangerous ford but when I got there it was calf deep. A bit later my boots almost got stuck in a mud puddle and I struggled walking in the soggy boots for some time. I got to my lunch destination Moxie Lean-to. There was a lake in front where Tall Boy was taking a nap. I set up and put out my boots and tent out to dry. Other than the cold wind it was beautiful there and I stayed there for quite some time hoping to see a moose while watching the lunes swim around. I almost stayed but decided to push forward and climb up Moxie Bald. It was a steep climb but the last mile was above most of the trees and the views were motivational. I got to the top and it was pretty epic. I could see steep mountains in the distance, ponds on all sides, a windmill factory, and what I presumed would be tomorrow’s climb. I headed down the steep slope and made it to the shelter a little late. About half of the group had moved on to stealth but there was room inside the shelter. I cooked my double ramen while hanging out and went to sleep a tad past hiker midnight.
There was one mountain to climb the next day and then I’d have an easy downhill into town. At least, that is what I thought. I saw and ate a few blueberries at a power line and then headed up the long climb to Pleasant Pond. It was a slower climb than the day before and I took many breaks on my way up. The view wasn’t as good as Moxie Bald and the promised blueberries on top were nonexistent. I had lunch, made a reservation for the sterling inn, and then headed downhill. I stopped at a lake for a swim and was surprised to see speed boats driving around. There was a man giving out trail magic sodas real close and I stopped to chat awhile. The downhill seemed to go on forever. I tried booking it but the roots and rocks made my ankles hurt. After a few breaks (downhills kill the feet), I made it to town and used the free phone to get picked up by my ride. I was driven to the hostel and found the last top bunk very hard to get onto. It ended up being a struggle of climbing onto the bunk below heaving my leg across and slithering onto the bed. To get down I had to dangle my feet and find the perch which was difficult as well. I decided I needed a few beers in my system to make the situation ok so I got a lift to the Brew Pub where the whole gang was hanging out and eating dinner. I got a flight and some Mac and cheese which felt pretty awesome. I capped the night with some Ben and Jerry’s and even if getting off my bunk was an issue at least I had a place to stay.
I didn’t sleep well the night before and tried recouping with a large amount of coffee at breakfast. We all loaded into the van and drove back to the trail where we walked for a very short time before arriving at the ferry location. To get to the other side of the Kennebec River, where the trail continues, you must be ferried across in a canoe. A guy shuttles people back and fourth from 9 to 2 each day, only two people can go at any one time. I waited my turn and then put on the life vest and handed him a waiver form. The ride across the river was very relaxing. From there I began to hike again (wishing I was still in the canoe). The trail followed a stream and crossed a tiny one on a high log bridge. There was a cool water fall I checked out along the way and two of the girls were swimming a little upstream so I joined them. I made it to the shelter for lunch where I found Crunchy for awhile. I felt pretty lethargic and decided I wasn’t going to make it to the shelter everyone was headed to tonight. I got to a pond where there was enough room for one tent, had dinner, set up my tent, and chilled by the pond. Sometimes it’s nice to have a night on your own.
The next day I planned to get to the shelter right before the Biglows. The terrain was flat because it was passing by the Carry Ponds. I got to the shelter the gang had stayed at and hung out a bit. Before I knew it, an hour had passed by so I moved on only to stop shortly because my tummy was telling me it was lunch time. I could still make it to my planned destination if I didn’t get distracted by the upcoming beach. I got to the beach at Flagstaff lake where another hiker was camped. The pebbled beach had view of the upcoming Biglows and the waves were crashing like the ocean. I went for a swim and asked the other hiker (Brawny) facts about the other direction since she was headed north. Before I knew it, I’d been there an hour and decided that 10 miles was a good day and set up my tent. We hung out watching the waves while I cooked. When I was done we noticed clouds rolling in and quickly we proceeded to our tents for the night. The rain came down hard but I was dry and comfy in my tent and fell asleep listening to the storm.
The next morning Brawny left before I was out of my tent. I had wanted to go for a night swim the night before but because of the rain I hadn’t. Not wanting to leave with any regret I went for a morning dip and the water was surprisingly warm. I walked back up to the campsite feeling refreshed and packed quickly. The first few miles weren’t too bad but then it was up Little Bigelow (which is not really that little). It was a tough climb and I twisted my ankle a bit going up and had to take some vitamin I. I hope it’s not serious because I’ve twisted my ankles and fallen so much in Maine (at least twice a day) they’ve been in quite some pain. I was crying when this happened and could hear people woowing at the top which didn’t really make me feel better. Surprisingly, I was almost on top when this happened. I was sitting trying to figure things out when I heard someone talking. I grabbed my pack and walked for a minute before finding an older dude sitting against a rock with some nice views around. He introduced himself as Strummystick and gave me Intel on the campsite I was aiming for. He gave me two pp&j wraps and then when I was about to leave he pulled out an instrument and sang me the Appalachian Trail version of “Rocky me Momma like a Wagon Wheel”. His lyrics were great and the moment felt perfect with the song echoing on top of the mountains. I’d been there for an hour but I felt like it is things like this that made the trail. Afterwards I said bye and continued on in a pretty good mood for awhile. The clouds were forming in the sky and I was starting to hear quite a bit of thunder. Not wanting to climb Biglow in a storm I decided to set up my tent on the trail where a campsite trail intersected with it and eat lunch there. If it rained passed 5 I’d go down to the campsite but if it was short lived I could move on. I ate lunch inside as the rain began. The storm was short lived (I double checked the radar just in case), and my tent dried really fast. I packed up and headed up the steep mountain. I passed a few north bounders who had been on top during but I don’t want to mess around above tree level with storms. The climb kicked my ass but I could see everything when I got on top, at least for 2 minutes before the fog swooped in. I headed down from the windy top into the woods and collected some water at a box spring on my way (someone had left a cup to dip in which was awesome). I got to the campsite where another couple (Lee and Pauline) were staying and changed into my long jons and braved the cold to make dinner. It was super cold and windy but it was a higher elevation that I’d slept at for awhile. It was also nice having company near by.
I avoided getting out of my sleeping bag the next morning for awhile. It was super chilly and the trees were dripping water constantly on everything. The sun was coming out so I came out of hiding wearing my warmest garb I could tolerate during hiking. Lee and Pauline were heading down the mountain to their car that day and offered to give me a ride to Stratton. I couldn’t resist good company and a ride so I hiked with them. We got a bit of a view on top of west peak and then the fog swirled around blocking sections and clearing at times. It was extremely windy so we headed down to get below tree line again. By the time we got to the horn the sky was a brilliant blue and cute little grey jays came to hang out with us nibbling food we offered them. We were overlooking Horn Pond and could even see the two shelters. The rest of the day we made our way downhill to their car and then drove to eat at the White Wolf Inn in Stratton. The food was pretty good we got fried fiddleheads and burgers. The motel/hostel was full when I got there but the guy said I could sleep on the floor. I showered, resupplied at a gas station hurriedly (they were closing), and now I’m doing laundry. Till next time!
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