7/6/2009 - 9:00 PM - Gull Pond Lodge - 13.4 mi today - 1971.6 mi total
Woke up at 7:30 and was really sore from the marathon day yesterday. Took vitamin I and had breakfast. Lazy morning. Organized slackpacking with Bob at Orbeton Stream. Stopped by the post office on the way to the trail so I could pick up my mail drop. Glad that Bob knew where to go because the logging roads are very confusing. He's a typical Mainer. I asked him how to get to Poland Spring and he said "Ya cayn't get therr frum 'ere!" He always has a witty remark. My favorite part of this hostel is the picture of him leaning against the Katahdin sign with the back of his Chevy Suburban in the corner of the picture. He offered to take us up there and save us a whole heck of a lot of hiking. Recent rain had washed out part of the road, so we had to walk 40 minutes to get to the trailhead. Finally started real hiking at noon. Crossed Orbeton Stream without a hitch and started climbing. Stopped at Poplar Ridge Lean-to for lunch. Weather was looking really nice and sunny for a change. Was still feeling groggy on top of Saddleback Junior, so I had a 5-Hour Energy. Those things work! Flew up the next summit and waited for Panama Red and EKG to catch up. Beautiful views. Some locals pointed out Katahdin to us. Woohoo! First view of Big K. Could also see Mt Washington to the South. With the late afternoon sun came thunderstorms, so we got off the ridgeline quickly. Bypassed the Piazza Rock shelter and got back to Route 4 around 6:30. Hitched into town and must have passed Bob going the other direction. Met up with him in the IGA parking lot. Went back to the hostel and cooked dinner. Watched some Deadliest Catch and went to bed around 11 after a shower. Good recovery day. More slack-packing tomorrow!
7/7/2009 - 10:00 PM - Stratton Motel - 18.8 mi today - 1990.4 mi total
Got up at 6:30 today and was in the truck at 7. Wanted to get an early start to get to Stratton. Had to walk 40 minutes to the trailhead again, so didn't get started until about 8:30. Big climb up Lone Mountain. Stopped at Spaulding Mountain Lean-to in the fog for lunch. Wet and cold day. Good day to slackpack. Went up and over Spaulding Mountain and bypassed the Sugarloaf side trail as there was no hope for a view today. Steep downhill to the Carrabassett River. Were able to get across without getting our feet wet. Big climb up and over Crocker Mountain (2000 up and down). Panama took a 5 hour energy and left me in the dust. He got to the road 20 minutes before EKG and I and was standing there shivering from the cold rain. Hitched a ride into Stratton around 6:30. Got our spots at the Stratton Motel and went to the White Wolf Inn for Wolfburgers (halfpound cheeseburgers with bacon and sausage). Yum. Got a pint of Ben & Jerry's from the general store for desert. Came back to the motel and took a shower. Watched TV and crashed on the couch. It will do me good to get away from TV for a while...
7/8/2009 - 10:00 PM - Sratton Motel - 16.7 mi today - 2007.1 mi total
Woke up at 6:30 and had breakfast. Suzie took us to the trailhead at East Flagstaff Road, so we could slackpack back to Stratton today. This is our 5th day of slackpacking, but it has been really good because it allowed us to get through the mountains of Southern Maine while saving our legs. Its a battle every morning just to get out of bed. Ibuprofen and energy drinks are a necessity. Hit the trail at 8 in the fog and wet. Climbed over Little Bigelow quickly. Found a dry spot under a huge boulder to have an early lunch. Big climb up Bigelow. No views at all from the top as the weather was crappy. Stopped by Horns Pond Lean-to for a snack break and talked to the caretaker. We think we are somewhere around number 20 for NOBO's. Woohoo. Very easy hike from there to the road. Finished by 5 PM. Hitched into town and ordered pizza from the General Store. Bought some beer to celebrate crossing the 2000 mile mark. Also planning to complete the "12 pack challenge" tomorrow on Panama's birthday. Should be fun. No more slacking, but we are now back on schedule for summiting on the 18th. Mixed emotions as I get towards the finish line. One day at a time.
7/9/2009 - 8:30 PM - Pierce Pond Lean-to - 15.9 mi today - 2023.0 mi total
Woke up at 6:30 and wished Panama happy birthday. Had my granola, but decided to get 2nd breakfast at the Stratton Diner. Waitress was a sweet old lady. Had an omelette. Settled up with Suzie at the motel and hopped in the car with my full backpack plus a 12 pack. That felt super heavy after 5 days of slackpacking. Had our first beer at the trailhead and the next soon thereafter. Took pictures at the 2000 mile sign (it's actually at mile 2009 on Long Falls Dam Road). Cruised to West Carry Pond Lean-to for lunch and met a couple SOBOs and ate by the pond. Beautiful day and the water was flat. Had beers 6 and 7 and stumbled down the trail. Really flat hiking in the afternoon. Mix of bog bridges and rock hopping. Got to Pierce Pond at 6 and completed the challenge. Beautiful place. Washed my shoes and socks and went for a swim with the leeches (very short swim). Pumped water and cooked dinner. Drying my shoes out with newspaper. Can hear the loons on the pond. Bugs are bad tonight. 155 miles to go.
7/10/2009 - 9:00 PM - Moxie Bald Shelter - 22.8 mi today - 2045.8 mi total
Woke up at 6:30 to a beautiful view of Pierce Pond. Saw 2 loons swimming. Dry shoes didn't last long. Coasted downhill to the Kennebec River by 9. Beautiful day with no clouds in sight. The ATC provides a ferry across the river because it is so big and there is a dam upriver that releases on an irregular schedule. Dave paddled over in his canoe and loaded our packs. Signed a release form and then made our way across. Current was pretty strong (8mph). Panama sat in the middle and took pictures, so I had to go up front and paddle. Haven't had an arm workout in months. Stopped by the Post Office in Caratunk and shipped home 7 pounds of gear (Panama shipped 4 lbs). I am litterally carrying only what I need to survive now. Hopefully this will allow us to sprint to the finish. Mom will probably flip when she opens the box. Feels like I am slackpacking again... almost. As we were leaving town, a lady offered us a beer each. Gotta love trail magic. Tough hiking without my poles. Used a leafy stick for a while but got tired of it. Lunch at Pleasant Pond Lean-to where SOBOs had written about the 2 mountains north of there as if they were Everest. They were really just little 1000 foot bumps. They have a lot to learn. Steamed over Pleasant Pond Mountain and took a short break at Bald Mountain Brook Leanto. View from Moxie Bald was was spectacular. First good view of Katahdin. The end is near! Stopped for the night at moxie Bald Leanto. Bugs are bad tonight. Time to slap on some DEET and hit the sack.
7/11/2009 - 10:00 PM - Shaw's Lodging - 17.9 mi today - 2063.7 mi total
Woke up at 7 and was sore from yesterday. Got moving slowly and was on trail at 8. Easy to pack the bag when you don't have much. Another beautiful day. Wonder how long this nice weather will last. Really flat day. Fording the West Branch of the Piscataquis was a little sketchy. Had to get a leafy stick. Lunch at Horseshoe Canyon Leanto and met some SOBO's. EKG lost her camera sometime in the morning. Bummer. Cruised along in the afternoon. East Branch of the Piscataquis was much lower. Easy crossing. Reached Monson by 3:30. We were really cruising! Got my mail, including my new shoes (pair number 4). Good thing because I blew holes in the side of my old pair. I look like a total newbie with my shiny new shoes and fresh socks. Called home and then went to the local BBQ joint. Had a plate and then hit the gas station for a hiker sized calzone. Panama sweettalked the girl behind the counter and she threw some bacon in the calzone for free. Had a beer to celebrate the last town on the trail. Only 114 to go. Came back to the hostel to hang out. Think it will storm tonight. Glad to be inside. Met some SOBO's. The beards get shorter the farther North we go. Enter the 100 Mile Wilderness tomorrow. Woohoo. One week to go!