I hiked alone all day today, trudging 11 more miles North on the AT.
I thought I’d pick up Bear Bait on the way, as I was up and walking by 7:15 am, but when I passed the railbed campsite just above Oberton Stream, there was just one tent there, and I couldn’t find BB’s hammock, so I assumed he was up and out, and pressed on. I highly recommend that hikers check out this site as a campsite. It is one of the most beautiful places to camp up in Maine.
It is another day of uphills for sure. The thirty two miles From Route 4 to Rt. 27 that include the three mountain ranges in this section are considered the toughest along the AT in Maine. From Oberton Stream you grind out a 1700 foot vertical climb until you reach the summit of 3280 foot Lone Mountain. At times, it is really slow going, picking your way over streams, mini-cliff faces and ledges. Slow and steady did it, along with the background iPod tunes and judicious altimeter checks.
I eventually ate lunch at the Spaulding Mountain Lean-to, 8 miles from the Poplar Ridge Lean-to where I spent last night. From here, the Trail is a mini roller coaster, up and down on 500 foot lumps until you reach the Sugarloaf Mountain side trail, which happens to be the old AT.
At 4,237 feet, Sugarloaf is second in elevation to Mount Katahdin, Maine’s highest mountain. I decided I was going to stay on top, and believed that several of last night’s Simpsons gang would be up there already, after having passed me earlier in the day. I had told them they should consider spending the night on top of Sugarloaf, inside the shelter of the Warming Hut, which until this year , had welcomed AT hikers.
The Maine ATC has been posting fliers saying this Warming Hut is now closed due to vandalism and the presence of toxic mold, but comments in shelter registers indicated that the mold thing might be a rumor that served the purpose of keeping hikers out of the building. I had to check it out. So, I trudged off the AT, adding 600 feet in additional elevation, and in .5 miles had the Warming Hut in sight, after I had tanked up on a liter and a half of water from the boxed spring on the side of the trail.
One of the doors was open, but no one was inside the cavernous shell. The place is still a dump, but a dry, sheltered dump, and and the chance to spend a night atop Maine’s second highest mountain sealed the deal for me.
There is now a newly built, insulated Ski Patrol room that they have sectioned off from the increasingly worn Warming Hut. To me, that means it was used last winter for the staff, and that would be good enough endorsement for me.
I felt like a bum when I was pushing the dirt aside with a windshield scraper before I laid down my mat and sleeping bag. I was just settling in for a nap when a voice called out of the wilderness. Soon, I was guiding Bear Bait into the building. I had passed him at Oberton campsite and he had slept until 11 AM. I took him for a tour of the upper level. The newly sectioned-off room had brand new doors that were not locked.
We commandeered the insulated portion of the building, and then did what we had to in order stay comfortable, which was basically nothing.
We were essentially two exceedingly satisfied homeless guys fleshing out a couple dinners and some bed space. Inside we found a mouse prevention hanger made of discarded soda bottle, tin can, string and a stick to hang out food bags on. The electricity was turned off and we didn’t want to risk detection by trying out the phone. It was clear from a bit of wax on the floor that we were not the first to risk the wrath of toxic mold up here. We definitely left the place in better shape than we found it.
The sunset was beyond spectacular. Later, there I never saw so many stars on a night as when we ventured outside to take in the night world. We each read for a bit by the glow of our headlamps.
In the end, our stay on top of the Sugarloaf was one of the top highlights of my Map 6 traverse.