Saturday July 31st, 2021, 0900-1640
Rt 15 to Bald Mt Pond Lean-to, SOBO AT mm 132.4
2631 gain, 2621 loss
I got a little chilly overnight and had to stay bundled in all my clothes through breakfast. It was the coldest it’s been yet. I opted for Shaw’s famous AYCE pancakes, which also come with home fries, eggs and bacon but just one plate of the latter. It was A LOT of food and I gulped it all down like a pro. Hiker hunger may be starting to kick in already or maybe it’s just stomach memory.
I bought a few snack items in the store, which had a pretty amazing selection of all the typical things hikers like. It’s probably the best and most complete inventory I’ve ever seen anywhere…they even had packets of Nido, the powdered milk I like. Too bad I didn’t need much, as I had food remaining from the last stretch. Plus, it was only 36 miles to the next place where I could get food, Caratunk.
Because of the logistics of crossing the Kennebec river, largest un-bridged watercourse on the AT, I didn’t need to be in a rush over the next 2 days. The river is said to be un-fordable so the ATC provides a canoe service to ferry hikers across. It runs between 9 am and 2 pm. With an inevitably later start from town, I didn’t figure I could make it by 2 pm the next day. I’d have to shoot for 9 am the 3rd day, leaving ample time to go 1 mile down the road to a hostel in Caratunk that has resupply items. These were the beginnings of my ever-evolving AT calculus equations…always trying to figure out what’s the minimal amount of food I could carry, given all the frequent resources available.
I got a shuttle back to the trailhead from yet another lovely staff member, who was also a veteran of the Coast Guard…unfortunately I forgot her name. Back on trail, I immediately saw 2 familiar faces…yet another couple from Florida that I had met at the restaurant the day before. This trail feels so small, it’s kind of cool how I keep running into people I’ve met already.
Not long into the morning, I caught up to Rebecca. I’d actually been hoping to hike with her and so we did for most of the rest of the day. We also caught up to a very nice guy, flip-flopper Grinder from South Carolina. We took a break with him at a stream crossing, soaking up the lovely sunshine. It was a beautiful crisp and cool day, the best weather yet.
I had an awesome time talking to Rebecca. I would have easily mistaken her for one of the young college kids the day before but her youthful appearance masked her maturity. She also had a masters degree in Public Health and would soon be earning her nursing certification. She’d been working as a nursing assistant in a trauma unit in Baltimore…this girl had seen some sh!t! We talked about all kinds of subjects and I enjoyed her intelligent perspective on both health and hiking topics. I tried to come up with my best hiking advice but she already knew a lot. And she easily kept pace with me!
The trail was amazingly easy today, or perhaps it just seemed that way because I was distracted by the company of another. Certainly there were some very cruisey sections. Despite a relatively late start, the 3 of us got to the far shelter early and had time to hang out by the lake and sit at a real Picnic Table! together for dinner. Rebecca hammocked by the shelter while Grinder and I found picturesque tentsites in the pines by the lake.
Incredibly, no one else arrived so it was just us south-facing hikers. This being my first shelter camp, I never expected to see it so empty, let alone the only other inhabitants all to be going my way. I wished it could stay this way but I knew I’d be up first thing in the morning, anxious to do miles. Even if someone can hike my pace, they don’t often want to get such an early start. What can I say, I learned it from all those crazy PCT hikers…Skybird, Spatz, Plants, Taylor and Stellar. It was always a competition to see who could get on trail the earliest each day.
Did I mention that Stellar is also hiking the AT and is only a few days behind me? Yep, we’re doing our own pace for a bit but will likely meet up down the trail at some point. I’m pretty sure he’s just going to pass me. For now, it’s fun to have just one person to consult with on schedules and that’s me! So while I do appreciate newfound SOBO friends, me myself and I says stick to the usual plan…early mornings, doing miles.