Day 60: Andover, ME Hostel to Human Nature Hostel (10 mi)
We had originally planned for today to be a zero day, but the hostel we stayed at in Andover wasn’t the kind of place we wanted to hang out at for a day of
rest. So we planned on hiking 15ish miles to camp, but we were moving slowly and our bodies were struggling this morning. Our packs were heavy with our full resupply and what started out as a drizzly morning turned into a rainy blagh day.
At some point Fresh Feet must’ve read my mind and asked if I wanted to call it at 10 mi and stop at the road and go to the Human Nature hostel we had been hearing so many wonderful things about. I instantly nodded, yes please!
The rocks were slick and we just weren’t really feeling it. We ran into a group of 4 NoBo hikers near a shelter and hung out for a bit with them at the shelter. They were all slack-packing from the Human Nature hostel, a brand new hostel in the area built as a geodesic dome on 42 acres.
The half day to the hostel turned out to be a little longer than we had hoped and we finished hiking at about 2:30 pm. A surprise steep and long climb snuck up on us and was longer and harder than we were expecting!
We got to the road a bit before the scheduled shuttle, so we hitched into town so we could sit at the general store out of the rain. When the hostel shuttle (a pick up truck with 8 hikers and packs in the bed) arrived we loaded up and I realized I had left my hiking poles in the previous van we had hitch-hiked in to get into town!! Nooooo!! I honestly didn’t know how I could continue without poles! Southern Maine was so technical and rocky and with any bit of moisture, absolutely treacherous. I used my poles each and every step and they saved me from a lot of falls!
Upon arrival to the hostel (which was in the middle of nowhere - about a 30 minute drive from Andover), I had service and was able to contact my dad and explained my pole sorrows. He just so happened to have a pair of poles that were the right size and even nicer and lighter than my original ones and put them in the mail for my next mail drop. THANK YOU DAD!!! I still needed something for the next 4-5 days, and Fresh Feet was thinking about lending me one of his poles or I could use a good stick. Then, we found one cheap pink hiking pole outside the hostel that needed a little TLC. The owner said it had been there for weeks and it was mine to take. We fixed it up with some gorilla glue and gorilla tape and now I will at least have one stand-in pole until our next resupply point. Phew!
The hostel workers cooked us all a big taco dinner with plenty of vegan options, and delicious watermelon for dessert. Throughout the evening more hikers showed up and the hostel was totally full. We recognized many hikers because people came from the first Andover road stop as well (so they were 10 miles behind us on trail). Among them was a hiker we had been seeing for a while, Biscuits, but we hadn’t seen him since he got off at Rutland, VT. He said most of his hiking buddies were a day or so behind him and he was trying to catch us because he wanted good people to summit Mt. Katahdin with. We were honored that he was trying to catch us and excited to have a hiking buddy. He was 10 miles behind us so it would probably take a week for him to be on schedule, so I told him we planned to be at Hostel of Maine in Stratton on Saturday and to try to make it.
We slept in the loft on a double futon with two other couples. The bunk room was in the basement where tons of the other hikers stayed. The building was absolutely gorgeous and I was tempted to stay here and take a zero the next day, but since we only hiked 10 miles today I felt rested enough to continue on tomorrow. Also, knowing that the morning shuttle didn’t leave until 8:30 meant hours of sleeping in, which is my biggest treat on a zero day.
Day 61: Human Nature Hostel to Bemis Stream (12.4 mi)
I tried to sleep in as much as possible since I knew we wouldn’t be leaving the hostel until 8:30 am, but since we were in the loft space, breakfast and music and people stirring woke me up around 6. I lazed around all morning, fully taking advantage of the late start. Fresh Feet made vegan pancakes for us and we chatted more with other hostel guests. One girl mentioned to someone that she was a Waldorf teacher in NH! It only took us a few minutes to discover that we had multiple mutual friends! What a small world!
Our hostel shuttle dropped a pretty sizable group of us off at the trailhead and we started to realize that we are in a hiker bubble of sorts.
The long climb up our first mountain wasn’t terrible. But during the descent a thunder storm rolled in and it poured on us for a little while.
The next 4 mi section to the shelter was treacherous and I took it quite cautiously, letting the bubble of hikers go ahead. I slipped and fell pretty hard and since I was using Jamie’s poles I didn’t have hands free to catch myself. It was pretty bad and I cried.
I’m super grateful that Fresh Feet is letting me use his poles until I get my new ones because two good poles makes a big difference in this gnarly terrain. He is using the pink one sometimes, and sometimes going no poles.
Once I got to the shelter (full of hikers) I realized everyone else had taken a pretty bad fall during that stretch as well. Fresh Feet fell a few times pretty badly. It was a tough section. I ate two bars and drank some electrolytes and pressed on. 4 more miles to the stream with a lot of unofficial camping spots.
A pretty big group of us camped at the stream. We had our first legitimate run in with mosquitoes and we lit some incense while making dinner and that seemed to help significantly.
Day 62: Bemis Stream stealth camp to Eddy Pond stealth camp (17.7 mi)
We had pretty loud and hard thunderstorms last night and it soaked one of my shoes and the bottom of Fresh Feet’s pack, but otherwise we fared pretty well! Fresh Feet was pretty concerned about our food bags because he didn’t roll his up very much (and we are still hanging them albeit for rodents more than bears in this region), but everything inside our bags was dry. A wet tent and rainfly usually sends Fresh Feet into meltdown mode, but he knew we would have opportunities to hang it and dry it in the sun during the day, so we packed up and left.
We started our day by fording Bemis Stream and we both wished we had forded last night and camped on the north side so we didn’t have to start out with cold, wet feet. Oh well.
The hiking today was muddy. Boggy, marshy, wet and muddy. The mud pits really slow me down because I really refuse to dunk my feet into the stink pit (which can sometimes be knee or even waist deep!). The big stench left in our socks from a bad big sink is like no other and impossible to get out. That smell is in a class of its own and I can’t take it anymore, so I just go much slower than most other hikers around the mud fest. We didn’t have much scrambling today, but the slippery roots and slippery mud provided it’s own obstacle course.
Many of the other hikers headed into Rangeley, ME for a resupply but since we didn’t need it we pressed on another 4 mi past the road and stealth camped by a beautiful pond at the base of the Saddleback Mountains. Tomorrow’s forecast has rain and the summits and ridge is above tree line so we would like to get up and over them as early as possible tomorrow.
We ate couscous and a cheesy nutritional yeast mixture for dinner and it was WAY too much couscous. Fresh Feet bagged the leftovers into a ziplock for tomorrow because we just couldn’t finish it.
We were both pretty tired today because the storm kept us up last night and our bodies haven’t had a day of rest in 23 days and we felt it. Especially with all the falling in the last few weeks.
Day 63: Eddy Pond Stealth camp to Spaulding Mountain Shelter (15 mi)
We got an early start today because we were both pretty cold this morning. Waking up to see the beautiful mist on the pond was stunning. I hung out for a bit to see if I could spot a moose, but no luck.
I was on trail by 6:30 am and started the climb up Saddleback mountain. It wasn’t a bad climb, but it was slow. Toward the top we got above tree line and there were a lot of false summits and absolutely gorgeous views! The clouds hung low over the valleys and having the entire peak to myself was special. Fresh Feet caught me on the descent, which was also exposed so you could see where you were going and everything behind us. We really enjoyed being up there! The descent from the horn (second peak of the day) was long and hard and we took a break before beginning the next summit, Saddleback Junior. Of the three above tree line summits today, I found this one to be the trickiest/most challenging.
After Saddleback Jr we took a lunch break at a shelter and pressed on. We had a very long descent and climb still ahead of us, but we were glad to have the exposed mountains behind us before any rain came. The forecast now said 6:00 pm rain continuing throughout the night and all day tomorrow. Just after leaving the shelter we saw two couples heading SoBo (Smiley & Honey badger and Baba Ganoush and Red Stripe). We knew them all as NoBo-ers but they all decided to “slack-pack” this section in the SoBo direction. Slack-packing is when you take a day pack and a hostel or friend drives all the rest of your gear to your end point for the day. They are all pretty worn out and ready to be done (as is the case with most of the NoBos that started in Georgia at this point), so they are using the slack-packing services more frequently.
We descended and then took another break at the creek at the bottom. We washed our feet and dried out our bog socks. Then we began to climb. We had about 3 miles of climbing and then 2.2 more mellow seeming terrain to the shelter. The first half of the climb wasn’t bad at all. The trail was easy going and smooth! It wasn’t even very steep! It was nice to get some aerobic work while pushing the climb. The last bit was much steeper and more technical, but still didn’t involve rock climbing or scrambling, so yay!
We took a much needed break at the top and only had 2.2 more miles until the shelter. Fresh Feet informed me that the forecast predicted rain would begin in 45 minutes. At the pace we’ve been going I knew it would be difficult to beat the rain. I looked at the elevation profile and saw that it looked flat and jagged, which we both thought would be super boggy, which is slow going. Just as we got started the slightest drizzle of rain began. It wasn’t enough to get me wet, but I noticed it and could tell it could pick up and turn into real rain at any moment. Luckily, the trail was easy going and smooth! Hallelujah! We did some running and I made it to the shelter JUST in time before the rain picked up.
We had basil walnut penne for dinner (one of our favorites!) and laid down for an early night. Our plan was to head into town tomorrow, but if it rains all day we may post pone and wait it out in the shelter as there are some steep rock scrambles on the map for tomorrow that would be pretty awful to do in the rain.
Day 64: Spaulding Mountain Shelter to Hostel of Maine in Stratton (13.5 mi)
It absolutely POURED early this morning. A few huge thunderstorms rolled through while we were waking up in the shelter. We were glad we slept in the shelter last night and not our tent, because the rain was coming down HARD. We waited it out for a while, debating if maybe we should just take the day off in the shelter, just as it began to clear up. The forecast still said 45% change of T-storms in the afternoon (when we would be summiting the rocky Crocker mountains), but they aren’t exposed like the saddlebacks are so we decided to go for it.
We hit the trail at about 8:00 am and stayed together most of the day. The conditions were pretty terrible all day because of the rain. The trail was a swamp and the boggy parts turned into swimming holes. We kept trying to go around the wettest and muddiest parts, but there was no avoiding it completely. We had very wet feet and were VERY muddy all over.
We had a big descent down to a rushing stream that involved a little bit of scrambling and the wet rocks made for an extra slippery situation. The stream was totally flooded but there was still a rock hopping option with a pretty sketchy plank and looked pretty scary considering how flooded and fast the water was moving! I crossed without my pack and let the Fresh Feet carry it across.
We then started the 3.1 mi climb up the first Crocker Mountain. It was ok grade, very rocky, but no scrambling involved. There was a 0.5 mi section in the middle that was incredibly steep, but other than that it was just a long and slow climb.
We then had a short descent in between peaks, summited North Crocker and then had an “easy 5 miles” down to the road. This 5 mile section should have been faster and easier, but the boggy, swampy, wet rock conditions made it slow going today.
The shuttle for Hostel of Maine picked us up and we arrived at the most beautiful enormous log cabin style hostel. Our room was like a deluxe hotel room, but the services were laid back and hiker friendly like a hostel. We opened our resupply box (THANKS CAROLYN GUMP!) and sorted through our fresh loot, trading bar flavors like Halloween candy.
The place was SO NICE! Breakfast was included (with plenty of vegan options), they had a store with tons of hiker resupply items (which we got a few things and even traded some of our Probars for some other types of bars), and they did our laundry for us. We seriously considered staying here an extra day and taking a zero day because the hostel was so nice but the weather looked great for the next day so we decided to keep hiking. In order to maximize rest, we agreed to take the later shuttle at 9:30 to the trailhead instead of the 7:30 shuttle.
We showered, put on loaner clothes from the hostel, and walked just next door to a good Italian restaurant, Hugs. Jamie had been here many times before when he would come up to Maine to ski Sugarloaf Mountain, so he was excited to get to eat here again and shared many memories of the area.
When we got back to the hostel, more hikers showed up. The two couples (Smiles & Honey Badger and Baba Ganoush & Red Stripe) and our buddy Biscuits caught us! He was tired but eager to hike with us and very glad about the late shuttle plan for the morning.
Day 65: Hostel of Maine in Stratton to Stealth camping on Little Bigelow (12.8 mi)
We had a leisurely morning in our beautiful hostel and ate a very substantial breakfast. I had freshly baked vegan bread with Earth Balance butter and raspberry preserves with homemade muesli with banana and almond milk - what a feast!!!
The shuttle was supposed to take us to the trailhead at 9:30, but ended up leaving at 10:00. I got on the first carload and Fresh Feet and Biscuits made it on the 3rd/last carload (so probably more like 10:30 am). We had three big summits today, the Bigelows, which would mark the end of the rugged southern Maine gnar.
On the way up, I met Pappy, who is hiking the trail as an 87 yer old! He is doing it with his granddaughter and another hiker who just wants to help him out. It was pretty inspiring!
I hiked up for a while solo and then the rest of the way to Horns Pond lean-to with Red Stripe who is a 31 year old woman! She started in Georgia and is NoBo and said I’m one of two women in her 30s she has met on the trail. She is my first and only 30-something female companion. It was so nice to be around someone in my demographic because I feel like we are having similar experiences in many ways and can relate to each other.
Fresh Feet finally caught up while we were waiting for him at the lean-to and we pressed on. Not long after, Biscuits arrived and we summited the Bigelows, one at a time. In between the last two, Fresh Feet fell a few times and scraped up his arm and leg. Now we have matching battle wounds.
In between the main Bigelows and the Little Bigelow there was a deep col and there were house-sized boulders and caves that were SO NEAT!
We finished out the day stealth camping with Biscuits on the top of Little Bigelow. Red stripe and the other 3 were all slack packing and did 16 miles today. We had a nice time hanging out with Biscuits and enjoyed the sunset from the top of Little Bigelow mountain.