My first day of walking involved a paid auto shuttle, my first. The Stratton Motel has a list of places they can drive you to on their website, and after I coughed up $52.50, Drifter drove west toward Oquossic, then 11 miles south on Route 17 where we found the AT crossing. Sounds expensive, but it works out to a reasonable rate of $35 per hour for the driver to make a round trip, and I think it took Drifter close to an hour and a half to deal with me. The charges are the same regardless of whether there is one hiker or there are 4 hikers in the vehicle. On the positive side, there is no charge for shuttles to the Appalachian Trail road crossings for Rangeley (Route 4) or for Stratton (Maine Hwy 27 – also know as Route 27 or Route 16 on some maps).
At 10:45 I made it to the Sabbathday Pond Lean to where I applied moleskin to my left toe, ate and moved on. I was walking in and out of light rain, with air temperatures in the low 50’s.
I couldn’t sit and rest for long without getting cold. It was weather that kept me walking.
It’s crying time again. That sure hasn’t happened at home. I had just made the approach to a former campsite at South Pond where MEGATEX stayed in 2007 when a power rush of memories overwhelmed me. I believe that I cry rather than allow the size of the feelings inside to blow my chest out. Originally, I planned to stop for the night here, but it was only 3PM, and cold out, so I decided to keep walking. So that’s what I did, eventually crossing Route 4’s construction zone
, and up the hill to Piazza Rock Lean-to, rolling in at 4:45 PM. 15 miles in from Rt. 17.
I only saw two other hikers all day, thru-hiker hopefuls heading north to reach Katahdin by the overnight closing date of Oct. 15. There are also flip floppers on the path, folks who have been walking from Georgia who are running out of time that hitch all the way to Baxter State Park and walk south until they reach their prior furthest north point. I’m staying in the shelter with one of them, Lone Wolf ( Michigan model). There is also a caretaker, Slayer, here who is living in a platform tent here on her last 10 day stint. On the AT, many of the hiker’s trail names stay the same, year after year. They are all out here, the Rainbows, the Mountain Men, the Striders. Only the faces and body types change. Birdlegs is right on when she notes that even the comments and points of views in the shelter registers live on, year after year. How could they not? It’s the same walk, same challenges, same realizations.
It’s clearing off here at the shelter, and at 2080 feet in elevation, the temperature is dropping into the 40’s. Slayer said it will drop into the 30’s before daybreak. It just 7:10 PM and I’m way down in my sleeping bag, leaning against the back wall of the lean-to, typing on my iPod Touch with cold fingers. My body is aching enough that I believe I’ll down some Advil. Last night in the motel room I glued up the two holes I finally located in my leaky Big Agnes and have big hopes that I won’t need to refill the mattress in the night.
Lone Wolf and I were talking Trail as we lay in the dark. He told me that he made up his Christmas presents at his last town stop in Stratton. He bought a $2.99 can of spray polyurethane and applied it to a couple dozen moose dung pellets. Whey they dried, he mailed them home.
Lone Wolf predicted that we’d see someone come in even after dark. He was right. Bear Bait rolled in through the pitch black night at about 8 PM. He was a thru hiker headed N who was on limited gear and funds. His Thermarest had a couple of serious holes in it, which I helped him try to fix the next morning.
After I had been asleep for a couple of hours, I leaped out of bed out with serious case of double leg cramps. I was whimpering and frantically rubbing them out when the other two guys woke up. Bear Bait advised me to apply hard pressure to the fleshy area between my thumb and my index finger and miraculously, it worked. I have never been able to interrupt the inevitable progression toward further agony before, and was intrigued that it might not have just been a coincidence.
When I awoke at daybreak, my thermometer verified that it dropped to 35 degrees on my first night out.