Monday, September 7th: Spaulding Mountain to Stratton-13.5 miles
Pictures: South Crocker view of Sugarloaf
2000 miles marker
Stratton Motel bears
What a day for milestones! First I came within 200 miles of the finish and by the end of the day I have now passed 2000 miles from Georgia. It’s still hard to grasp that I have actually walked over 2000 miles. Perhaps most exciting of all was the milestone that puts me just ten days away from the end. That’s right, I’ve set and end date and it’s the 17th of September. It’s a goal that will push me to do some big days, but a goal I am so excited for. I will have finished and be back with my beloved.
In terms of hiking it was a short but tough day. There was a steep climb right out the gate, followed by a long drop that simply prepared you to climb back up the Crockers; two very steep peaks. Still the shortness of the day and promise of a good meal and a bed kept me going strong. I stopped on North Crocker for some lunch and talked with some day hikers while I ate. They didn’t stay long but they offered great encouragement and very sincerely conveyed blessings and prayers. It was a little thing, but quite uplifting.
I made my way down the mountain and out of the woods, only to be greeted by some trail magic. Bruce and Teddy Millikan (sorry if the spelling is way off) were offering burgers and hot dogs, complete with fresh tomatoes for topping. They also had fruit and cold cokes in the cooler. I sat and enjoyed while we talked. They had run into a thru-hiker on a day hike several years ago and began a friendship. Since then, they have sought to provide trail magic wherever they can. I thanked them again and bid them good bye as I hitched into town.
Stratton is another very small town but it has some great charm. The Stratton Motel, who’s bunkroom I stayed in, had three great wood carved bears with backpacks and hiking poles by its road sign. I enjoyed the evening, grabbing dinner at “The White Wolf”, resupplying and then planning the end of my hike with my beloved. Just 9 days until I see her again.
Tuesday, September 8th: Stratton to Flagstaff Lake-17.9 miles
Pictures: Bigelows under dark skies
Lakes of Maine
And so the push to the end begins. Today was a tough one but I’m hoping it will pay off. I began my day with breakfast only a hiker would have; a large quantity of ends and bits of bacon and a full roll of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. It was in no way good form me, but it filled me with calories and tasted great. The hotel owner, Shane, gave me a ride back to the trail head and around 8:15 I was hiking.
The morning was slow going as I had to cross the Bigelow range, the last real mountains before Katahdin. They let me know, however, that it wasn’t just gonna be an easy passage. Slowly but sure I climbed each peak and after lunch on the West Peak I cleared the last 4000 ft summit before Katahdin, Mt Avery around 1:30. The afternoon then had the sharp descent down, which proved to take just as long as the ascent and began to take a toll on my feet.
I also made the mistake of skipping a water source and so hiked about 4 miles totally dry. When I did reach water, I drank a liter on the spot and then filled up more. I hit some more trail magic at a gravel road crossing just a mile before my campsite. This time it was a man named Tom, who was slackpacking two other hikers and I just happened to come by as he was picking them up. The result was a nice BLT to get me that last mile.
My campsite for the evening makes all the tough hiking worth it. I’m at a spot right on Flagstaff Lake. After setting up camp I stripped out of my clothes for a short and refreshing swim before making dinner while watching the sun set across the lake. What a spectacular way to end the day. Now I need to get to sleep because I’ve got to get up early to put in big miles and catch a ferry.