Friday, July 7th, was a nice lazy day in Rangeley. Diane and I drove to a couple of local scenic overviews and also went to the Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum in nearby Oquossoc. In the evening, we went to a restaurant and enjoyed some pizza. It’s so nice having Diane here.
On Saturday, I slack-packed on Saddleback Mountain, whose summit was cloaked in clouds. That was a disappointment, as other hikers had told me that the views from there were beautiful. From the summit I was supposed to hike down a ski slope to reach the Saddleback Ski Lodge, where Diane would be waiting for me. But I’d received some bad information and instead hiked down for 2 miles underneath the ski lift. This was certainly a different experience, as the path was covered with bushes and grass above my waist. When I finally reached the lodge, Diane was there waiting to bring me back to the Farmhouse.
Due to the clouds, this was the only picture I took from Saddleback.
That night we enjoyed a generous example of Trail Magic. In 2014, a thru-hiker named Mosey stayed at the Farmhouse for about 5 days. Mosey told me that after slack-packing each day, he would come back and have a great time at the Farmhouse. Ever since, he returns twice a year to make a huge dinner and breakfast for everyone staying at the hostel. About 25 people had spaghetti, meatballs, sausage, Italian bread, beer and soda that night, thanks to Mosey.
On Sunday the 9th, after Mosey’s breakfast of eggs, french toast, sausage, bacon and orange juice, I hiked back up Saddleback. This time I followed the ski slope and found it to be easier. Disappointingly, the higher I ascended, the more cloud cover I encountered. Once again, the summit had little visibility. However, the clouds burned off later and there were decent views on the next mountains, The Horn and Saddleback Jr.
With a little more than a mile to go that day, I took a wrong turn. I had been told to take a side trail on a logging road, which would bring me to Diane and the hostel shuttle. However, there were several side trails, and I missed my cue to turn right where a broken down bridge was visible on the left. As a result, I was miserably bushwhacking my way through high weeds and stumbling over ditches for some time before making the wise decision to turn back. Thankfully, the correct turn was a short distance ahead. I met a worried Diane, and Seth from the hostel, as they hiked up to find me.
This was a good and demanding hike, although an hour longer than planned. Afterwards, the owner of the Farmhouse — an avid and experienced hiker — looked at me and said, “There is nothing junior about Saddleback Jr.“
Fortunately, Monday the 10th was a relatively reasonable 10-mile stretch to Caribou Valley. With less than a mile to go, I jinxed myself by thinking, “This really was a decent day with no craziness.” And then the Trail showed what it can do. On the descent, which had been very manageable up to that point, I was faced with a 20-yard straight vertical drop with very little to work with. I had trouble finding cracks or crevices in the granite for my feet or hands. I was hugging and facing a granite wall, inching my way around and praying not to slip. To my back was the 20 yard drop. It ended up taking me about 15 minutes to complete a 25-yard section.
As it turns out, the Trail marker that pointed me down that cliff was painted on the wrong side of a rock. Had I gone to the other side, I would have taken a much safer path. Back at the Farmhouse, I told the other hikers about this, and how I was talking to the Lord. They all admitted that they have had similar scary situations where they prayed for their safety. We all got a good laugh out of the various examples: “Lord, get me out of this safely and I promise I will no longer…” or the opposite, “Lord, get me out of this and I promise to…”
Diane and I saw a moose while we drove back to the Farmhouse in Rangeley. I wasn’t quick enough to get a picture, but here is a common road sign for this area.
On Tuesday, July 11th, my wife, manager, and teammate, Diane, returned to NC. I will miss her as she is always a source of comfort, support and encouragement.
It was so nice to slack-pack, see her at the end of my hike, come back to the Farmhouse together, and enjoy a good meal and conversation. We plan to meet again, along with my sister Arline, in Millinocket which is near the northern end point of the Trail. I am about 187 miles from there now, so there’s still a lot of hiking left.
Tuesday I completed the Crocker Mountain section. There’s nothing like an immediate 2000-foot ascent to wake you up in the morning! Otherwise, the hiking day was relatively straightforward. Here’s a view from South Crocker Mountain:
The Farmhouse hostel has a couple of roaming tenants. One of them went onto the hikers’ patio and casually grabbed someone’s large candy bar, wrapper included, for a morning snack.
On Wednesday, July 12th, my hike started in Stratton with a 2,900-foot ascent to the Bigelow Range. The highest peaks were Bigelow Mountain West and Avery Peak, both over 4,000 feet. Here are pictures of those peaks as I approached them.
There were a lot of ups and downs, and this was certainly a rigorous day’s hike. I am sure there were over 10,000 feet in elevation changes.
Here’s another view I enjoyed as I approached the peaks of the Bigelows.
The over abundance of rocks and roots on ascents and descents did not make hiking any easier.
This picture is taken from the summit of Bigelow Mountain West. I sat at the summit, enjoying the views and my lunch (an Italian sub) for quite a while.
The remainder of the day was uneventful and I ended it at Safford Brook Trail.