Southbound: episode 3
September 23rd 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White
We have made it to our 2nd town in Maine ! We have blazed about 187 miles of the trail so far. Just the day before, we crossed the 2000 mile marker for all the northbound hikers, which is a little less exciting benchmark for us, but we will be hitting 200 miles in the next day or so. Since we left Monson, it has been like a total different trail. Our spirits are high, our bodies don’t want to fall apart when we make it to the lean-to or camp. Actually, we feel pretty good overall. The miles have seemed to go by really smooth even when we are climbing up and over the mountains.
Only a couple of miles out of town, we crossed a logging road and stumbled on some trail magic, an old cooler filled with all different kinds of beer. Of course, we sat there and had a drink, but before long, two hikers in their 50s or 60s sat down with us and killed a few. They told us cool stories about the trail and about the time one had to take a SWAT team on a canoeing trip that turn into a drunken free for all. We parted ways and pushed on. That night we cowboy camped under the stars next to the river, supposedly we should have seen meteor showers but no dice.
Two days later we came to the Kennebec River in Caratunk , ME. The river is far too wide and too deep for us to ford and there is no bridge, but there is Steve the Ferry Man. He, ferries hikers back and forth across the river in a canoe. He has been doing it for like 18 years and the AT Conservancy pays for it, so we don’t have to. Well we made it to the river too late in the day and we needed to resupply on snacks for the rest of the week, so we hitched a ride down to the ferry man’s store. We also figured we would just cowboy camp outside so we didn’t have to pay for a bunk, and since it was suppose to rain, Steve was going to lets us sleep on the porch under the awning. Although, when the rain starting pounding, Steve told us to sleep in one of the cabins for the night, a most excellent gesture.
We awoke the next morning and were taken back to the trail head by Steve, walked a half mile with him, and then strapped on the life jackets. We signed our waiver and then were ferried across the beautiful Kennebec . Steve was immediately greeted by Northbounders as well. We made about 14 miles that day, and in about seven hours. We were definitely proud of the pace and the ease of the rolling hills. There we stayed in a crowded lean-to with 7 others, 3 of them going south on section hikes. We thought for a second we may have company on the trail, but the next day we would find ourselves pushing on past the 7 miles that group would do.
The following day started as an easy 8 miles to the next lean-to, but by the time we got there, it was only 11:00 in the morning. We had to push on to the next lean-to on top of Bigelow Mtn (4100 ft), only after climbing Little Bigelow Mtn (3100 ft) first though. The first mountain was tough, but it went by pretty fast. Actually the traverse across its ridge line seemed to go on forever though. We had to drop down about 1000 ft before we could start climbing back up the next mountain. We found some really cool caves that we could have slept in, but it was still too early in the day and the weather was too perfect not to summit. The summit was cold and the winds were howling around 50 or 60 miles an hour. It was hard to simply stand in one place without being shoved around, so climbing back down was not an easy task.
Once we got down to where the lean-to was supposed to be, we found out that it was torn down and replaced by campsites. We were worried about cowboy camping because it snowed up there the night before. The next set of lean-tos were another 3 miles over the ridge. We had to push on even though we only had another one to 2 hours of hiking before it was too dark. We could have made it, but Tundra Wookie’s knee was giving him trouble. Several times, he had to sit down and work out the muscle. After an hour of hiking with headlamps, we made it safely to our lean-to.
The following morning we took the 5 mile stroll downhill to the road that would bring us here to Stratton. We didn’t even walk 100 ft before this jeep honked his horn, dropped of some hikers, and picked us up. Thanks to him, we didn’t have to hike the 5 miles into town. Nothing much to say about Stratton, its not like home, but there’s a grocery store across the street that we raided for food and mt. dews. The tent, maps, and food all made it to the post office in time, thank you guys. we push on toward Andover in a hour or so. We hope to be there in 6 to 7 days.
This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.Epilogue: by: Bryan Wolf
This had to of been the most free feeling and relaxed I have ever been in my life. I can recall phone conversations from Stratton; instead of the doubt and hardship that I explained in Monson, I spoke confidently of finishing. This was the first time on the trail that I knew there was nothing mentally that would get in the way. My friend Robert asked me “how far do you think you’ll go?”. My reply “We’re going to Georgia now”. Maine is all rugged but will always be my favorite state!