The Last State- Part 2 (Rangeley to Monson)

First off, sorry we dropped off the planet! We’re working on the final posts and will have them on here ASAP!

Day 179 – 9.16.15

Fancy Pants: We hiked 13.5 miles today (1968.8-1982.3). We started the day off know that our friend Harley was injured in this section and had to get off trail, so we tried to be extra careful. After a 2500’ climb to the top of Saddleback Mountain, we had a beautiful view of Rangeley and of the lakes. We hiked 3 miles of trail above treeline as we summited The Horn and Saddleback Jr. By the time we reached Poplar Ridge, we were pooped! I’m guessing the hours of hiking in the sun wiped us out. We crossed Oberton Stream and climbed up to the top of the waterfall and decided to stop there for the night. We found a grassy spot a few minutes walk down an old logging road and set up camp there. Tattoo camped nearby. We made Velveeta mac n’ cheese for dinner and went to bed (The Velveeta mac is more of a ‘luxury’ camp dinner to us because the sauce is already hydrated, making it heavier than regular mac n’ cheese).

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Day 180 – 9.17.15

Fancy Pants: We hiked 16.5 miles today (1982.3-1998.8). Happy 4th anniversary to us 🙂

Our hike today had pretty similar terrain to yesterday’s hike, minus going above treeline. It is so nice to actually hike a decent number of miles in a day again! We had lunch next to the Carabasett River, which we thankfully did not have to ford (someone put boards across the more treacherous parts, so we didn’t have to get wet).   After lunch, we climbed South Crocker and North Crocker Mountains. Parts of the climb were really steep and we had to stop a lot.   We had a snack at the last spring before the next road crossing, filled up water to our max capacity, then headed down the trail to find a campsite. After a few not-flat-enough spots, we found a winner. We had anticipated being in town for our anniversary, so we didn’t have anything special to eat or drink. We had a dehydrated dessert in the food bag (mocha mousse pie) that we prepared and sprinkled some Cracklin’ Oat Bran on it. And of course had our Ice 101/ hot cocoa drinks. Here’s to another anniversary spent in the woods!

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Day 181 – 9.18.15

Fuego: We hiked 2.2 miles today (1998.8 – 2001.0) and passed the 2,000-mile mark! We are officially 2,000 milers! This is so surreal to us. We seriously can’t believe we are so close to the end of this journey.

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We got to ME27 and stuck our thumbs out to get to Stratton for a resupply. A few cars passed and then came this big, white work truck. First thing I said was, “Well that truck isn’t going to pick us up.” Surprisingly enough, it pulled into the trailhead parking lot beside us and it was filled with hikers. Fancy Pants looked at me and laughed for my misjudgment. We walked over to the truck and there was Plus1, who I haven’t seen since the White Mountains. He and a few others were starting their slack pack through the Bigelows. The owner of the truck was a retired Coast Guard Ship Captain and Chief Warrant Officer named Tom Dickey. He had an adorable older black lab named Max that always rode along with him. He asked if we needed a ride to town and we hopped into his truck. As we rode down the highway, Tom started asking us questions like our real names, where we are from, and what our occupations were. Once he got the idea we were normal people, he then asked, “So are you guys hungry, because I can make you a nice breakfast?” That was a moment my eyes lit up and was too dumbfounded to respond. Fancy Pants had a pause too and replied, “Umm. . .yeah!!” He also mentioned that we could shower and take his car to the store to resupply. He warned us that most hikers end up staying at his house once they get there. He said people even have a hard time leaving, because of his hospitality. He didn’t say why exactly, but we were about to find out soon enough for ourselves.

As we rode down the neighborhood, Tom pulled into a field to point at the mountain on where we came from and where our next destination is. He also pointed to a very faint mountain way off in the distance to where it looked like a faint shadow. It turns out that mountain was Mount Katahdin! That was a big moment for me. I remember hiking months ago mentioning to Fancy Pants what that feeling would be like when you realize you can see Mount Katahdin. I really didn’t expect to see it until the last 50 miles or so, but thanks to Tom’s guidance I was able to see it over 100 miles away.

We walked into Tom’s cabin and had breakfast. We ate waffles, sausage, eggs, cereal, and God knows what. I felt so spoiled and was happy as could be. I also had water, milk, coffee, and orange juice. After we cleaned up and showered, we were relaxing on his upper deck porch. The weather was perfect! It was 70 degrees with a nice breeze and no humidity. Tom made us some blueberry pomegranate gin and tonics while we were relaxing. I never had a mix drink taste this good for this moment! Later into the evening Tom left to pick up the slack packers. We were left in charge to take care of the house and fix dinner for when they come back. Tom didn’t get back until because Plus1 got lost during his hike. I could tell Tom was annoyed. We didn’t have dinner until 8:30-8:45, but it turned out fine. Plus1 told us the moment we got in the truck with Tom in the morning that we were definitely not getting back on the trail, haha!

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Day 182 – 9.19.15

Fancy Pants: We slackpacked 19.5 miles today (2001.0-2020.5). We were excited to hike all of the Bigelow’s in one day today. There is a great view of the entire range from Tom’s street, and from there, it looked like we would have a tough day ahead of us. Our first climb brought us to Horns Pond Campsite. There is a shelter there that was built in 1936! A newer shelter has been constructed at the campsite, so the old one is for day use now. Pre-lunch, we averaged 2mph (there was a lot of climbing involved!). Since it’s a Saturday, there was a ton of people on the trail today! We had lunch just short of Avery Peak (wanted to be out of the wind) at a box spring. A super cute Australian Shepherd came up to us while we were eating and licked each of us on the mouth! Her owner said she may be Australian, but she definitely kisses French!

Like we expected, the trail today was difficult, and we were grateful to be slackpacking. The trail between Avery Peak and Little Bigelow was relatively unexciting, and we were flying down the trail on the descent. It was nice to have some easy trail! Tom met us at Long Falls Dam Road with a cooler filled with Gatorade, sandwiches, grapes and yogurt. He is seriously so nice! Max was with him and he lay across us on the bench seat on the ride back. We showered and Tom started dinner. He had Fuego cook the steaks and we all drank blueberry pomegranate gin and tonics.

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Day 183 – 9.20.15

 

Fancy Pants: We hiked 17.5 miles today (2020.5-2038). Tom made us a huge, delicious breakfast and then drove us back to the trail. We definitely wanted to stay longer with Tom, but we needed to keep moving north. When the trail looks easy on paper, there is usually a lot of rock and roots on the trail, but we were surprised that it was actually pretty easy. After we hiked 7 miles and stopped for lunch, we realized we had a shot at making it to the ferry across the Kennebec River before 4pm when it stops for the day. Fuego and I decided to hike fast in the hope that we make it there in time. There were beautiful pond views today and it was pretty windy. Finally feeling that Maine weather we’d been expecting.

Fuego hiked ahead, hoping to signal the ferry guide. He was paddling back to our side of the river just I walked up a few minutes shy of 4 o’clock. The Kennebec River is a very fast-moving river and is much wider than I expected. Although relatively shallow (maybe waist-high at its deepest where it intersects with the AT), quite a few people have been seriously injured or have died trying to ford it due to the high volume of water that flows. Since the inception of the AT, the canoe ferry has been the officially sanction method of crossing the river.

It was 4:01 when we made it across- last ferry of the day! We tried hitching a ride to Northern Outdoors, but ended up walking almost 2 miles on the side of the road before someone picked us up. She informed us that our destination was about a quarter mile up the road, but drove us there anyways. We needed to pick up a mail drop, but arguably more importantly, Northern Outdoors also happens to house Kennebec River Brewery J We ran into Magician and Balto, both of whom we hadn’t seen in a few hundred miles. We got some beers at the bar and watched football. We left around 6:30 so we could get back to the trail and set up before it got dark. We walked half of the way and got a ride for the last mile or so. The guys who picked us up gave us nutty bars and cheez-its. We camped near the parking area with Chords and Balto.

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Day 184 – 9.21.15

Fancy Pants: We hiked 14.7 miles today (2038-2052.7). We woke up to the sound of coyotes, but they were pretty far away. The hike today was mostly flat and we only ran into 3 other hikers all day. We felt like we should have hiked to the next shelter, but we would have had to summit Moxie Bald and neither of us felt like climbing (even though it was only 3:30). Magician had planned to hike on, but ended up staying with us. To entertain ourselves, we decided to make a fire. The fire pit at the shelter was probably the worst I had seen- the rock and ash pile was about three feet high! We started the dirty task of disassembling the fire pit and digging out the old ash using a rock, an old sardine can and a really long nail. Of course we didn’t think to get a before picture, but you can believe me when I say it was bad. Our fire was hue and really warm. Side note: hiker midnight is getting earlier and earlier on the trail. It’s mostly dark at 7!

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Day 185 – 9.22.15

Fancy Pants: We hiked 17.7 miles today (2052.7-2070.4).   Today marks 6 months since we were dropped off at Amicalola Falls State Park. We have done so much living in the past 6 months that it feels like a lifetime ago that we were just starting this journey.

We were on trail by 8 and man was it cold! Fuego was wearing his puffy and I was wearing a hat, gloves and my thermals. Climbing Moxie Bald was not as bad as we had expected, although we both agreed that we were glad we didn’t climb it last night. At the summit, we had cell service, so we booked a room in Monson so we could get everything ready for the 100 mile wilderness. Views from the top were beautiful! After the descent from the summit, the trail was flatter than we’d seen in awhile. We forded some rivers while hiking the flat trail that involved taking our shoes off. The nice thing about using Crocs as camp shoes is that we don’t have to walk barefoot while fording rivers (or just get our shoes wet!). Some river crossings have a rope across them where you can hang on and not lose your balance as easily.

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Day 186 – 9.23.15

Fancy Pants: We hiked 4.3 miles today (2070.4-2074.7).   I think we were all pretty excited to get to town (we were all on trail by 8). I didn’t sleep well last night. I’m definitely stressed out about the end of our AT journey and getting back to Virginia. We hiked and talked with Magician today on our way to Monson. He has rehabilitated quite a few birds, including an owl and some crows.

We got to the road crossing, called Longshore Inn for a ride, and arrived around 9:30 and had to wait for our room. Beerman was checking out as we arrived. It was nice to see him again! I took a shower while waiting and found myself a loaner outfit while we did laundry. We set out all of the food we had, including from our last trail mail drop, along with some hiker box scores (thanks again Jessica and Preston for being our organizational and shipping team!). Guthook stopped by for a visit and took us out to lunch at the pub downstairs. Delicious food! I highly recommend stopping by if you’re ever in this neck of the woods (really close to Moosehead Lake, so totally plausible). After lunch, Guthook drove us to Greenville to resupply. Or last resupply on the trail L We took a pit stop to check out Moosehead Lake and also learned about the almost 1,000 mile long canoe trail along the northern part of the country.

 

When we got back to the inn, organized our trail food and put half into a drop bucket. There are a few people in Monson and a few people in Millinocket that you can pay to deliver a 5 gallon bucket full of whatever you want to a secret spot on the side of a dirt road in somewhere in the middle of the 100 mile wilderness. Once we found out that this was an option, we debated about it for awhile. Ultimately, we decided to get a bucket. Greg and BC both said they wished they’d been able to take their time in the 100 Mile Wilderness. We don’t want to be rushed since we have so little time left until we finish. And honestly, I’d really rather not carry 10 pounds of food! To us, $25 was well worth it.

We watched the sunset from the dock and hung out with everyone else at the inn. Mushroom Man has a crazy coastal-Maine accent, but man, does he know his mushrooms!

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