7/26/17 Destination; Pine Ellis Hostel, Andover, ME 14.9 miles today
It was a clear but cold night making it very hard for Beaker to get out of his warm tent this morning. Another thing that slowed me down this morning was my tired body. Yesterday’s hike left me a bit stiff and sore. I took a pretty good fall onto my left hip, leaving it feeling bruised today. …. all of us NOBOs are getting weary. Not just tired, which you can recover from after a day’s rest, but weary. Beaker’s friend Antman, who is 25-30 years his younger, has decided to leave the trail for a while to rest up and try to gain some weight. He’s down to 133 lbs and just not feeling enthusiastic about the trail.
Today’s 15-mile hike was actually quite nice. The cloudless skies called Beaker to break out his sunglasses. He climbed up and over Old Speck Mountain, dropped down to Grafton Notch, climbed again to the summit of the West Peak of Baldpate Mountain, and finally another steep climb up the exposed East Baldpate Summit.
A 1,300 ft elevation descent over six miles to East B Hill Rd brought Beaker to a point of rest while he waited for a shuttle from Pine Ellis Hostel to pick him up. The arrangement was for a 5:45 meet time. Finally, at 6:40, a minivan arrived. The driver apologized for being so late. The hostel had sent her to the wrong road crossing. Beaker arrived at Pine Ellis Hostel, quickly showered, threw his clothes into the wash, and headed to the General Store/Diner to grab some dinner before they closed.
“Although this isn’t the nicest hostel I’ve visited, I’ve decided to do an 11 mile slack pack tomorrow and spend another night. I will still get another 11 miles in; but, I won’t be carrying the weight of my full pack and I’ll only spend about five or six hours hiking.”
7/27/17 Destination: Slack Pack back to Pine Ellis Hostel, Andover, ME Miles today 10.1
Beaker awoke to a steady rain at the hostel and seriously thought about just taking a full zero day and staying in bed. He decided to breakfast at the highly recommended Red Hen restaurant. While he was enjoying his meal, the rain stopped. So, he returned to the hostel, loaded up a daypack with a few essentials, and caught the 9:00 shuttle to the trailhead. This section of the AT was actually pretty tame. There was only one really steep climb, Moody Mountain, near the end of the hike. Beaker hiked most of the day with Wild Thing, a primary school teacher from the U.K. About a mile before the pick up point, darkening skies made good on their threats and started gushing with a steady rain. Fortunately, the slack packers arrived at the pick up point at the same time as the shuttle. They were quickly back at the refuge of Pine Ellis Hostel.
Beaker showered and got his wet clothes into the laundry. Around 5:30 several hikers from the hostel headed to the Red Hen for a Mexican Buffet, as did every hiker in a twenty mile radius, including Sitting Bull and Hoops! They had come off the trail at the same road crossing that Beaker had yesterday. So, they are 10 miles behind him, but they made plans to try to meet up in Rangely, ME, on Saturday.
7/28/17 Destination:Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to, ME 17.4 miles today
The shuttle dropped Beaker off at the AT trailhead 8:15. He started with a steep climb to the top of Old Blue Mountain, complete with vertical climbs, rebar rungs in the rock faces, and log ladders. Once reaching the top of Old Blue Mt, the trail terrain settled down a bit and the weather was perfect – full sun, light breezes, and temps in the 70s. The only real issue is that the trail is very rooty. The tree roots can be very slick and it’s easy to trip over them.
Late in the afternoon, about 13 miles into the hike, Beaker saw a handwritten sign announcing trail magic ahead. As he arrived the guy at the grill says, “Hey, Rusty! It’s about time you get here! We’ve been expecting you all afternoon.” Beaker was caught off-guard to be addressed by his real name since everyone uses trail names on the AT.
It turns out that Snowman and his wife Teddie drive 140 miles round trip weekly from Lewiston, ME, to do trail magic at this spot. It also turns out that they read my blog on TrailJournals. These guys really know how to put on trail magic – hamburgers, hot dogs, soda, blueberries, bananas, potato chips, and various snack cakes. Wow!
Beaker (Rusty) had another four miles to his destination so, he stuffed himself and then headed down the path. Shortly after heading out, he passed a SOBO wearing a UT hat and commented on it. The SOBO hiker stopped and said, “Wait! I’m supposed to give a message to a NOBO from Knoxville hiking in a kilt. 1st Sgt says to hurry and catch up.” In reality, the two friends are about 55 miles from one another.
Beaker arrived at Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to. The evening sun on the pond was tranquil and the tunes of the loons lifted his spirits. All in all, this ranks as one of the best days I’ve had on the trail.