After leaving Rangeley, the days blur together as we hiked over more of the strenuous mountains that had been beating me up for a long time. I can't remember too much in specific besides one slightly traumatizing situation. The morning we were to walk into the next town, Stratton, it began to rain early in the morning. As always when we wake up to rain, we all telekinetically decided not to get out of our tents. As I laid there, falling in and out of consciousness, I began to realize a little bit of water creeping closer and closer towards me. I began to strategically place things away from the growing puddle. Before the end of the down pour I was laying in a half inch deep puddle. Though nothing was wet because of my amazing tent, it is still needless to say that getting out of bed that morning was not fun. My tent weighed about five pounds more than normal because it was soaked, which didn't pair well with the hellish climbs we had over the seven miles into town.
When we arrived in Stratton, we went to an inn and pub for lunch and ended up getting a room as well. The rain had continued well into the day and we were not so keen on sticking to our original plan of simply going into town to resupply and eat. Instead we sat around in a room all day and drank beer in bed while watching movies and eating town food. It was one of the best town stops I have had in a while. The ability to shower and dry everything I owned was exactly what I needed at that point.
When we left Stratton the next day we had a string of beautiful weather. We hiked over the last of the big mountains, which besides being particularly beautiful, also made me very happy for the sake of being so tired of big climbs. The next day was almost all flat and we did big miles while being very lazy and stopping a lot but we still made it into camp early. It was a great feeling.
The day we hiked into Caratunk, a so called town that is no more than a post office and an inn a few miles away, we had to cross the Kennebec River. This means waiting at the river until 9am when a guy shows up and unlocks a canoe on the opposing shore line and paddles across to bring hikers two at a time to the other side. This is pretty fun and definitely new but it was also a little obnoxious because we had over 15 hikers waiting by the time he showed up. We had found ourselves in a bit of a large bubble these days and it make for slow passage over the river.
In Caratunk we hitched to a rafting outdoor center with a brewery connected. The food was amazing, the beer was great and best of all they had a free pool, hot tub and shower to be used by any customer. It was a hikers paradise! But after many hours of being distracted we finally hit the trail again.
It was only a day and a half to Monson and a fairly uninteresting section as well. These flat lands have a good amount of river that we are always having to ford. When rain doesn't get your shoes then the AT will place a knee deep river with no bridge and a limp rope stretched across just to make sure your feet don't get feeling too good.
We are staying the night in Monson and are a few days ahead of schedule. My wonderful brother has taken two days off of work to be able to pick me up on the 23rd, which was the original day I thought I would finish. Now we are a few days ahead of that as a finishing date but this leaves us with a little bit if leeway with the weather when we reach the base of Katahdin.
Whatever day it is that we finish, it barely feels real that I am even this close. I don't think I will register it as real until I am in a car headed home. Even then maybe I will only think that I am on a very long hitch with a person I've missed a lot, going to a place I've been dreaming of going back to for a long time... It surely didn't feel real that I had even started the trail until I found myself tucked into the shelter for first time on that first night.
1. Lakes and Ponds of Maine. So many!
2. The 2,000 mile marker. Right outside of Statton, ME.