Day 146 – Tuesday, August 2: Stealth Camp (Caratunk, ME) to Stealth Camp (Piscataquis River), 24.7 miles, 2,062.6 total AT miles.

I woke early and jogged down the AT towards the river – there was a nice privy on the banks of the Kennebec. I returned to find Greyhound up and packing. I quickly ate my leftovers (saving half of the Cuban sandwich for a snack) and started packing as well. After Greyhound visited the privy, we were both ready to hike out. We set off at 8:30am.

Only two small mountains stood in our way today – neither even came close to 3,000 feet. The dense forest made for surprisingly easy hiking – We summited Pleasant Pond Mountain at 11:30am having hiked seven miles on the day. I wish I knew more about geology, but this mountain looked like it had been worn down in places – I’m thinking glaciers, but really don’t know.

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After a quick snack, we pressed on. We made great time on easy grade – Maine is turning out to be a very pretty state!

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We briefly took a break at the side trail to Bald Mountain Brook Lean-to and ate some snacks – two miles ahead lay Moxie Bald.

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The weather was great – we were ready to push some serious miles. We powered up Moxie Bald, summiting 7:00pm. We slowed to enjoy the summit, eventually pausing to have a quick snack.

We still had high hopes for today. The further we got tonight, the closer we’d be to Monson, ME. Monson is the last town we’ll hit before entering the Hundred Mile Wilderness and then, Katahdin. We wanted tomorrow to be as close to a day off as possible.

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We passed the Moxie Bald Mountain Lean-to at 8:30pm, just as the sun was setting. Thankfully, the trail ahead was flat. We made it to the banks of the Piscataquis River at 10:30pm and quickly made camp right on the river bank. I decided against cowboy camping as it looked like it might rain overnight. I quickly cooked and went to sleep.

We both talked about how exciting we were to be reaching Monson tomorrow. Monson was the last town we’d ever stay in on the AT – we had already booked a room at the Lake Shore House. Beyond Monson, there was a hundred miles of nothing. No towns, no hostels, no markets, no resupply options of any kind. We were giving ourselves five days to traverse the Hundred Mile Wilderness – we’d be summiting Katahdin the very next day. And then we’d be done.

Day 145 – Monday, August 1: Stealth Camp (East Flagstaff Lake) to Stealth Camp (Caratunk, ME), 19.1 miles, 2,037.9 total AT miles.

We woke at 3:30am. We did it on purpose. Today we wanted to hike.

Nineteen miles ahead lay the Kennebec River and the road crossing for Caratunk, ME. We needed to reach the Kennebec before 4:00pm. The only way across this river is via canoe – and the ferry shuts down early in the afternoon.

We wanted to reach the Kennebec by noon – if we hiked hard, covering those nineteen miles shouldn’t be a problem. We quickly packed up – we didn’t have the same problem with dew that we had the night before.

We scoured the elevation profile extensively before we left – I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen this level an elevation profile since we started hiking together. We were on the trail at 4:10am, hiking in the dark.

I had cell service so we listened to music as we hiked. We stopped only twice for quick breaks – once at the West Carry Pond Lean-to to use the privy, then again at the Otter Pond stream. It wasn’t Greyhound that wanted the break – it was me. I was exhausted and thirsty. It was only 11:00am and we had already hiked sixteen miles.

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We stopped for nearly an hour. I set up a makeshift “trail magic” station for hikers who may be behind us. A hiker, Lumberjack, finally came through. And he missed it!

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I called out that he should turn around – as soon as he saw the gummy bears, he dove in and ate them right off the branch! It was pretty funny. He left – Greyhound and I kept relaxing. I can’t remember the last time I had done this many miles before noon.

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After crossing a small footbridge, we finally reached the Kennebec River at 12:45pm. We walked down to the shore. We waited for the ferry (really just a guy in a conoe) to paddle over from the opposite back. He beached the canoe and, after signing our releases, Greyhound and I hopped aboard.

It only took a few minutes to cross the river – what a neat experience! Greyhound and I were officially “aqua-blazers”. We made our way up to the road crossing and, since it was so early in the day, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch. We stuck out our thumbs and started trying to hitch to an outdoor center a few miles away.

About 30 minutes later (we were determined), a van from the outdoor center picked us up. Greyhound and I walk inside only to find a hiker sitting at the bar. He didn’t look good. He had just completed a ridiculous food challenge – he ate a huge (and I mean HUGE) burger and fries in less than half an hour. I walked him outside – sweat was pouring down his face. He ended up puking in the bushes next to the center and promptly left. At least his meal was free!

Greyhound and I sat down and ordered regular-sized burgers, chips and guacamole, and fried pickles – the food was great! We were hoping to buy snacks at the outdoor center, but the available options were slim. After lunch, we walked outside, expecting a difficult time getting a hitch – instead, we were picked up right away by a local and her dogs.

We explain our desire to find a place that sold snacks – she ended up dropping us off at the Sterling Inn, a hiker-friendly inn/B&B/hostel that maintains a small hiker store. The building was beautiful! We bought an assortment of affordable snacks and were even given a ride back to the trailhead by the owner.

While our plan was to hike an additional six miles to the Pleasant Pond Lean-to, we decided to stealth camp in the woods near the Kennebec. We set up camp and waited for sunset.

Greyhound was updating her journal so I decided I’d hitch back to the outdoor center and buy dinner – the allure of a decent meal can be very strong.

Even though the sun was setting, I caught a quick hitch to the outdoor center and ordered a Cuban sandwich with fries and a meatloaf dinner to-go. As soon as the food was ready, I was out the door – it was getting dark and my chances of getting a hitch were looking slim. Luckily, a teenager quickly pulled over and scooped me up.

I finally got back to camp around 9:00pm – Greyhound was already asleep. I ate half of both dinners before crawling into my tent to go to sleep.

Day 144 – Sunday, July 31: Avery Memorial Campsite to Stealth Camp (East Flagstaff Lake), 9.8 miles, 2,018.8 total AT miles.

We woke up late and didn’t get started packing until after 8:30pm – we were both still tired. And things weren’t being helped by the fact the privy was a quarter mile away. We didn’t leave camp until close to 8:00am. We gathered water from a near-pristine cistern before summiting Avery Peak at 9:00am.

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The Bigelows are gorgeous.

Greyhound took refuge from the wind in the foundation of an old fire tower and enjoyed a quick break before we began our descent. The trail was mossy, rooty and full of rocks and boulders. We took another quick break under a giant boulder at 10:15.

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We were making slow time, making sure to enjoy the amazing views.

We crossed Little Bigelow at 3:00pm and headed down towards East Flagstaff Lake – we were hoping to find another spot to have a break. Instead we stopped – we were resting on an amazing lake-side stealth campsite. It was too good to pass up – we were in desperate need of a break.

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We stretched out our sleeping bags on the sandy beach and laid down to go through the AT Guide. As we were making notes and reviewing the days ahead, we watched a small chipmunk run over to my food bag, inspect it, and then scurry around our campsite. We stared intently as he made his way behind us – right before jumping on my calf to take a break.

I loved it! Man, I’ve got a thing with chipmunks! We cooked a quick dinner and enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the lake. We had big plans for tomorrow and fell asleep after sunset.

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Day 143 – Saturday, July 30: Stratton Motel and Hostel (Stratton, ME) to Avery Memorial Campsite, 8.1 miles, 2,009.0 total AT miles.

We woke up late, stiff and sore. We still needed to get to the post office to pick up bounce boxes, head over to the town market to finish our resupply, return to the post office to mail off new bounce boxes – and get this all accomplished before our 11:00am checkout.

I walked across the street and purchased a couple cups of motivation coffee for myself and Greyhound before heading down to the post office. I picked up my bounce box, and a nice care package from my mother, and headed back to the motel. Greyhound was working on her journal and talking to her mother when I returned.

We started organizing our food and making lists. I had too much beef jerky and way too many protein bars, both items I’d lately been having a very difficult time choking down – no matter how hungry I was. I shared my rations with Greyhound before we both headed across the street to the market to finish our resupply.

I tried to buy exciting foods, like turkey pepperoni and mini-swiss cheese wheels, anything to spice up my trail menus. We returned to the motel and finished packing, dropping off the key at 11:00 on the dot. I carried my bounce box (full of beef jerky, protein bars and rice sides) down the street to the post office to send it up trail.

We were both hungry and decided to stop at the Looney Moose for lunch. We both had amazing burgers and Greyhound slammed a milkshake. (She talks about missing “malts” – I think I know what she’s talking about.)

After a delicious and polite lunch, we caught a hitch back to the trailhead. And sit there. It was 12:30pm and neither of us felt like hiking. We were both exhausted, having not taken a zero since Hanover, NH. But that’s the pace we set for ourselves. It took some doing, but we finally got started hiking up the “last big mountain chain” in Maine – the Bigelow’s.

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After a few miles of flat trail, we began gradually ascending the South Horn of Bigelow Mountain. The trail, despite being steep, was very pretty. We caught views the entire way up.

It culminated in us eating snacks, enjoying a great sunset from the top of South Horn at 7:15pm.

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We started hiking faster, covering the three miles to the Avery Memorial Campsite in the waning light – we summited the west peak of Bigelow Mountain at 8:30 and booked it into camp. I listened to Bernie Sanders DNC speech as I hiked.

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We quickly set up our tents amidst the maze of campsites and loud Southbound hikers. We both cooked dinner quickly and went to sleep without saying much. We were exhausted – this schedule was more difficult than we imagined.

When we wake up tomorrow morning, we’ll only have ten days left before officially calling ourselves thru-hikers. Katahdin is just a heartbeat away. I can’t wait to be finished.

Day 142 – Friday, July 29: Stealth Camp (Poplar Ridge) to Stratton Motel (Stratton, ME), 21.5 miles, 2,000.9 total AT miles.

We woke up at sunrise and started packing up. You’d be surprised how much faster I am at packing in morning when I don’t have to worry about a tent. I ate a quick breakfast – Greyhound and I were ready to go by 6:00am. I ran over to the side of the cliff to find a privy and returned quickly. And just in time too – two southbound hikers joined us for sunrise as soon as I had finished.

Greyhound and I scattered. We had just enough food for one, maybe two, days hiking. And the promise of a hotel room, with laundry and a shower, lay only twenty miles ahead. The elevation profile said we could do it – we took off.

We were flying down the trail when I ran into a giant toad – he was climbing up a log to escape.

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We paused to take a break at a plaque commemorating the completion of the last segment of the AT – it was only 11:00am and we had hiked ten miles. We ate quickly (I privied again) and took off towards Stratton.

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We summited Sugarloaf Mountain at 12:45pm and kept cruising.

The hiking certainly wasn’t all easy – in fact, there wasn’t anything easy about today. We just kept pushing each other. We both wanted a night in a hotel room badly – I wanted chicken wings more than ever before. We ate snacks and joked as we tore down the mountain. And we collected more moose poop for Greyhound’s mom.

At 6:00pm, we passed the 2,000 mile mark. Not only was Stratton a mere mile away, but we were crossing the final mileage milestone before reaching the end. Katahdin lay only 189.1 miles away.

We quickly made our way to the trailhead at ME 27 and got picked up fairly quickly by the caretaker, a former thru-hiker himself. We checked into the Stratton Motel and raided the loaner clothes box so we could get laundry started as soon as possible. We were hungry – we wanted to get our chores done quickly.

With clothes in the dryer, we headed next door to the Wolf Den restaurant and grabbed two seats at the bar. We didn’t want to sit in the dining room – we still hadn’t showered and our loaner clothes looked ridiculous. We both ordered too much food – I ordered sautéed fiddlehead ferns. I had seen them sprouting up in North Carolina early in the hike and knew from experience they were tasty if prepared right. These things were awesome. We also order mussels and sandwiches. I feasted.

After dinner, we gathered our laundry and went to take showers back in the motel room. We both found a bunch of food in the hiker box in the lobby (thanks Southbounders!) and returned to the room to go to sleep. We both literally crashed – it’s been a hard couple of days.

Day 141 – Thursday, July 28: Stealth Camp (Sabbath Day Pond) to Stealth Camp (Poplar Ridge), 20.6 miles, 1,979.7 total AT miles

We woke up early, close to 5:30am. Our sleeping bags, our packs, everything, was covered in a thick dew. We packed quickly – I ran across the AT to find a suitable privy before packing up. Pad thai.

Today’s elevation profile looked nice and flat – we were ready to move. We hiked strong in the clear, crisp weather. The trail was wonderful – full of green moss and ferns. We kept our heads down and hustled – we saw an opportunity to make up lost time.

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We crossed ME 4, the road crossing for Rangeley, just before 11:30am and stopped to have a snack – we had already hiked almost ten miles on the day. We left quickly and started the difficult ascent of Saddleback Mountain. It took us nearly four hours, but we summited just before 4:00pm and were awarded with some great views of what lay ahead.

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We hiked down into a small sway and then straight back up to The Horn, summiting at 5:00pm. We decided to take another long break. We sat and watched as a thunderstorm in the distance moved in and pummel Rangeley with showers. We stayed dry by at least ten miles. It was pretty cool.

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We decided to press on and find a campsite near Poplar Ridge. We ascended Saddleback Junior, gathered water from a stream, and found a suitable spot on a ledge near the peak. We were both initially concerned about rain, but decided to risk it. The sunset brought clearer skies and, as we cooked dinner, we talked about getting another early start.

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Day 140 – Wednesday, July 27: Stealth Camp (Unnamed Gap) to Oquossoc, ME to Stealth Camp (Sabbath Day Pond), 12.6 miles, 1,959.0 total AT miles.

We broke camp early and were on the trail by 7:30am – for once, it didn’t rain and we started our day with deep blue skies overhead. The trail ahead looked easy – just a gradual descent down ten or so miles down to Oquossoc, ME. We wanted to make it there by lunch.

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As we summited Bemis Mountain at 11:00am, we ran across a huge patch of wild blueberries. We paused and picked a fresh snack for about half an hour. We also gathered moose poop for Greyhound’s mom.

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About that – we had actually been gathering moose poop for quite some time. Her mother read online that dried moose poop, once dipped in paraffin wax, made excellent firestarters. And they were apparently quite expensive. Greyhound thought it’s be nice to send her mom a box packed full of moose poop. I helped.

We left Bemis Mountain with another gallon-size Ziplock full of flammable feces. We hurried towards Bemis Stream, some five miles up trail. The blueberries made for a great snack, but we were both nearly out of food and running low on water. And Rangeley was still many miles away.

We were about half a mile away from the stream when we saw a small sign inviting thru-hikers to trail magic at the next road crossing. We spilled out onto the gravel road at 12:30 to find a very nice couple grilling burgers and hotdogs for hikers. What a treat! We initially didn’t let on that we were nearly out of food – I think they could tell by the rate we were consuming everything they put in front of us. Right time, right place.

We were anxious to leave, we were already falling behind schedule, but stayed and chatted for a while. We really had a great time. The couple told us that, if we needed to get to town, catching a hitch was very easy. The AT crossed ME 17 at Height of Land, a well-known vista.

We profusely thanked our hosts and headed off for the road crossing. We reached Height of Land just before 3:00pm – the views were truly stunning. But we didn’t waste our time – we quickly set about trying to get a hitch into town.

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After about fifteen minutes, we were picked up by a nice gentleman and driven into town. The driver dropped us off at the town market – we ran inside and grab all sorts of food. I bought shrimp, broccoli and peanut sauce – I was gonna try and cook trail pad thai tonight. We made sure to buy more than enough food to get us Stratton, ME, now two and a half days away.

After getting picked up from the market and driven back to the trailhead by a hilarious mother/son duo, we began making our way to Sabbath Day Pond. The trail was initially difficult, but we made it. We approached the pond at sunset and decided to cowboy camp on the gravel beach rather than hike closer to the lean-to.

The sunset was amazing – and so was dinner. My trail pad thai was a success. I slept a few feet from the water’s edge and listened to loons screaming as I dozed off.

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I got a text from Black Santa – he made it Rangeley.