From Sugarloaf, I descended some 2,000 feet to the south branch of the Carrabassett River, where a judiciously placed plank saved my feet from a wet ford.
Then it was up, up , up, with me stopping to boil water for drinking from a stream close to the Crocker Cirque campsite at 2700 feet, where Bear Bait caught up to me. I let BB use my phone to make arrangements for Monson. Go up again, over the duet peaks of the Crockers, first South ( 4010 ) and then a mile later North Crocker ( 4228). Then a long, long downhill of five miles to my car at the Route 27 lot.
I was finally done backpacking. By now, it was 3 PM and I was facing 3 a three hour drive home. I drove the 5 miles back up to Stratton, and caught BB as he was coming out of the post office with his money and resupply package in hand. We then headed back to hiker central, the Stratton Motel, to check on who was there, and what was available for sleeping space.
I gave BB the Thermarest pad I had in the trunk of my car, as his pad had a serious hole in it that we were unable to fix with my patch kit, even with our repeated tries to do so. My own patch job on my Big Agnes air mattress held up superbly, so I didn’t need the Thermarest, and BB didn’t have the money to buy another. I also gave BB all the extra food I had left in my pack ( never needed the extra day’s worth) , and bought him a Long Trail Ale that we shared together on the bench outside the motel. He showered ( $5) and washed his fistful-sized pile of gray, ratty, clothes. I gave him a ride back to the Trail where I told him I was confident that he was going to make it, and hope that he’ll send me a postcard when he reaches Millinocket in less than two weeks.
Back at the Motel, Lion King, ( AKA Michael Daniel) a thru-hiker celebrity film maker/personality bounded out of the restaurant from across the street and held court for a while with the band of stragglers who were now descending from all angles on the motel. He is most known for his 2006 Appalachian Film Festival- Best Documentary DVD Walking With Freedom: A Hike Along the Appalachian Trail. One of the hikers even had him sign their AT Trail Guide. Lion King told me that he had just cut a deal with Netflix to have his videos available, but when I got home, they were absent so far. He shared that he was, “ sort of doing a thru-hike”, starting in Georgia and, “skipping sections that I don’t care for”. He later admitted that this was all possible due to him being paid to guide a twenty-something young man through the experience this season. Cool deal.
In the end, I decided to stay the night at the Hotel. All of the regular rooms were full, but there was a space available in hostel apartment, in the upstairs 4 bed room for $20, including shower, linens, and bedding. I should have headed home to sleep . The hiker stank was significant, as most of the guys had their packs in the room with them. My bed was creaky, the headboard was flapping back and forth, the hall light shone in the room, and a fan roared all night as it made a feeble attempt to push the hot, dead air out of the single tiny window. But, it’s what we do, and I’ll be back, for sure.
One more stab at name dropping. A section hiker from DC that I had breakfast with the next morning who had started at Katahdin and was working his way south to Route 17 told me that he shared a meal at a restaurant in Millinocket a few weeks ago with ultralight guru Ray Jardine, of Beyond Backpacking fame. On 8/2/09, Ray completed yet another AT thru-hike, this time in just three months, and one and one-half weeks. Read some interesting facts about Ray’s modified gear on this solo 2009 thru hike by heading over to the Ray-Way News section of his website . The man is a force.