Day 108- The Stratton Motel – Safford Notch Campsite – 10.4 miles
I woke up this morning around 7 and went down to the Flagstaff General Store for some breakfast. They had a solid menu and I ended up going with a Greek Omelette with some toast and home fries. I ate and talked with a few different hikers and ended up going back to the motel around 9:30. It was a sunny morning, but pretty warm and humid. Thunderstorms were predicted for the afternoon, but not until around 6. My friend TJ drove the 5 hours up to Maine and planned to hike for the next couple days. I waited at the Motel and got picked up by TJ around 11. After some car trouble, we ended up hitching a ride back to the trailhead and we were actively hiking by 12:30. I was excited for the climbs over the Bigelow Mountains today because it was part of Maine’s high peak region. The climb up to the South Horn was a 3,000 foot ascent over 4 miles. It was steep at times, but mostly just a continuous uphill until the summit. I worked up a pretty good sweat and we didn’t stop much until we got to this point. From there we hiked along the ridge to the west peak which is over 4,000 feet. The view from the summit was incredible, overlooking lakes and I could see out for miles. After that was Avery Peak which was the last ascent. From the top of there I looked out and could see a massive storm brewing and coming towards us. The sky was dark and we could see the clouds moving rapidly in our direction. I wanted to get off the ridge line and get down below the trees before getting hit by the storm so I had a quick pace down the mountain for about a mile before reaching the tree line. As we got into the trees the rain started to come. It was a cold rain and thunder and lightning was all around us. I thought the rain was going to come down hard, but amazingly it barely rained at all haha. I literally have no idea how the storm missed us, but I’m not complaining because when we eventually made it to camp around 7:30, I didn’t have to set up my tent in the rain. I didn’t feel like cooking tonight so I had some dry ramen and gummy bears before getting to bed for the night. Can’t wait to fall asleep tonight!
Day 109 – Safford Notch Campsite – Pierce Pond Lean-to – 22.6 miles
It rained a little bit last night, but not too much, so I was happy to see my tent not too soaked when I woke up. I started making moves around 6:30 and by 7:15 we were on the trail. The day started out with a little bit of a climb up Little Bigelow Mountain. It was a cool, cloudy day and at the top of the mountain it looked like the sun was trying to come out off in the distance. For the next 3 miles after that the trail descended down from 3,000 to 1,000 feet. Once at the bottom, there were a couple little hills that worked up a sweat, but for the most part it was flat with just some rocks and roots. We made great time as we passed a few ponds and lakes. Some of them even had beaches that you could swim out from. One thing I’ve loved about hiking in Maine is all of the water it has hidden within the forests. We took a few breaks to eat and chill and drink water and take pictures, but still made it to the shelter we were gonna stay at for the night around 6:15. There were already 4 hikers there and they told us that there was a blue-blazed trail that led up to someone’s cabin and he makes pancakes and eggs for breakfast, all we had to do was go up and tell him we were going to be there. Without hesitation, we went up and met Tim, who is the one that cooks the breakfast. He was a really cool guy and enjoyed feeding all the hikers. There was a piano in there so I played a few songs to get the people fired up. It was nice. Back at the shelter we set up our tents and then ate some dry Ramen and beef jerky for dinner. I can’t wait to sleep and have this breakfast tomorrow. Great grind today!
Day 110 – Pierce Pond Lean-to – Bald Mountain Brook Lean-to – 18.7 miles
Today was a great day. The weather was perfect all day and there was some great hiking and eating! I woke up around 5:45 and got up pretty quickly so I could get to breakfast. TJ was already up and getting ready and by 6:30 we were on our way to the cabin. There were a total of 9 hikers for breakfast and we all sat around drinking coffee and waited until 7 for the food to be ready. Right at 7 the first wave of pancakes came out. It was a huge plate of 12 blueberry pancakes and then I got a side dish of eggs and sausage. I crushed it all and was very happy at the end of the meal. We got back on trail around 8:30 and it was a very easy four miles down to the Kennebec River. The river is so wide and the current so strong that it is strongly advised not to ford the river and so there is a guy with a canoe that takes hikers across. Apparently someone tried to ford the river earlier this year and got caught in the current and died. Once across the river it was a half mile to the road and we stopped at the Caratunk House B&B where TJ was getting picked up and I got a little resupply. They also had pulled pork sandwiches and milkshakes so I got two sandwiches and a coffee milkshake. It was hard to leave and get back on trail because I kept eating and I was hanging out with a bunch of the hikers, but finally at 1 I told myself it was time and I hit the trail hard. I hiked 7 miles up to Pleasant Pond Mountain and at the summit was the best view of the day. I could see for miles and miles because it was so clear and the lakes looked really cool from a distance. It was a long descent down from the mountain and I reached relatively flat ground after about 6 miles and then it was smooth sailing to the shelter. I rolled in around 7:30 and decided to set up my tent for the night. It’s already so dark and not even 8 o’clock yet. I remember when I could hike until 9 without a head lamp haha. Trying to hike 22 miles into Monson tomorrow for some relaxation on Sunday!
Day 111 – Bald Mountain Brook Lean-to – Dexter, Maine – 22 miles
I woke up around 6 am and the guy in the tent close to me was already up making a fire. I stayed in my sleeping bag for just 10 minutes before I finally got up and started making moves on the day. I packed up everything pretty quick, ate a pop tart by the fire, and then was on the trail by 7. The day started with a 2 mile ascent up Moxie Bald Mountain. The mountain stands at just above 2,600 feet, so the climb up I worked up a sweat, but it was relatively quick to the summit. The view at the top was amazing due to the great weather I had again. It was a little cool because of the breeze and just ideal hiking conditions. It was an easy descent down and once I got back down to around 1,000 feet the trail stayed around that elevation for the rest of the day. There weren’t any big climbs just a lot of rocks and roots that made the hiking slower at times, but overall was not a huge factor. About 10 miles in I got to a river that I had to ford. I looked around to see if there were any rocks I could hop across, but there was nothing. I took my shoes off and walked through the water about 50 feet to the other side. This was my first time having to ford a river and it was pretty cool. There was another river about 5 miles after that I thought I was going to have to ford again, but I saw some nice rocks that I could step on and make it to the other side. I made good time all day and got to the Maine 15 road crossing around 5. My friend Steve, who I work with, has a house on Lake Wassookeag in Dexter, Maine about a half hour from where I was at. He offered to pick me up and let me stay at his place so I called him and a half hour later he was at the trailhead. We stopped at the ATC information center in Monson and then got to his house where I met his wife Lauri, his daughter Natalie, and his mother in-law Gladys. They showed me to my room and I hopped in the shower. It was so nice to be able to take a shower and be clean. Gladys made an “Italian feast” for dinner so I had my fair share of pasta, homemade meatballs, hot sausage, pork, salad, and garlic bread before some brownies for dessert. I’m taking the day off tomorrow to rest one more time before hitting the 100 mile wilderness and finishing up this journey!
Day 112 – Dexter, Maine – 0 miles
Today was one of the best zero days I’ve had so far on trail. I slept really good and didn’t get up until about 8 o’clock. I had a couple bagels and some coffee for breakfast and then was able to get some laundry done. There was a pretty cool clothesline outside so Gladys showed me the best way to hang my clothes and I let them out to dry. Around 10, Steve brought me downtown to the grocery stores and offered to get my resupply for me. This was my last resupply for this hike and I’m so thankful for Steve and Laurie offering to take care of it for me. It was a beautiful day, sunny, and in the high 70’s. We got back lake and took a cruise out on the boat. It was nice getting to see all of the houses around the water and enjoy the ride under the sun. Once we got back I had a sandwich and some of the leftovers from last nights dinner and then hopped in the water for a swim. It was a little chilly at first, but once my body got used to it, it was pretty refreshing. There were a bunch of golf balls at the bottom of the lake and I dove down and got a bunch so I could hit them off the dock. It was fun crushing them into the water and it reminded me of my baseball days. The afternoon was full of relaxing and it was nice not doing anything. Steve and Laurie’s friend, Harry, ended up coming for the night and around 6 we sat outside on the porch and had another feast of cheeseburgers, macaroni and cheese, and vegetables. I crushed a couple brownies for dessert before we went out for another boat ride and see the sun set. We sat around a fire at the end of the night and also looked up at the stars from the dock and you could see the sky so clear. I could even see the Milky Way. Back on trail tomorrow to start the 100 mile wilderness! 120 miles to go.