Lucy and I began our morning chores around 7 o’lock. It was chilly so we made tea to warm up. I started breaking down the tent and Lucy prepared breakfast. We were hiking by 8 passing one of the Bates College groups just before they started hiking. The clouds were still lingering but it didn’t look like rain.
The trail was forgiving as we gradually descended to Oberton Stream. The guidebook said it was a ford but luckily it was low enough we could rock hop. Turnip was at the stream gathering water. We shared a happy hello for a minute and chatted as I filtered water too. Soon the Bates students came walking over. The leader declared a 20 minute break which meant that was our time to put some distance between them and us. Lucy, Turnip, and I began the steep rocky climb up from the stream toward Lone Mountain. 5 miles later Lucy and I stopped for a break at Spaulding Shelter. I wasn’t having such a good day. I was in pain and didn’t feel much like hiking. After several snakes and a good long break I felt a little better and we continued up Spaulding Mountain, a 4000-footer. We collapsed at the top to celebrate the end of the grueling climb. The Bates students caught up with us and we let them pass as we stuffed our faces with snack bars.
The trail opened up to a moderate ridge walk to a view of the Carrabasset Valley and a side trail to Sugarloaf, a giant ski resort. We took our final break before the last push to our campsite down the mountain and across the river. As I passed the side trail I spotted the friendly unicorn that I had seen in Virginia. It was comforting to see it again. We began a strenuous and steep decent as the golden hour set in. On our way down we ran into Quest with a full pack. He was doing some overnights over the Saddlebacks since there weren’t too many road access points along with section. We continued down the rocky mountain moving slow because of the dangers of rock hopping down hill.
After 2 miles of straight down rock scrambling we reached the South Branch of the Carrabassett River. It was a fast moving river with a worn out wooden plank to cross over to a boulder. I went first to test its strength and my stomach dropped as the plank bowed lower and lower toward the water as I creeped across it. Lucy hesitated but gingerly and quickly stepped across. 2 minutes later we were walking into camp where a group of hikers were sitting around a fire playing ukulele and singing Country Roads. The good tent spots were taken so we set up in the middle of an open spot near a tree. We made dinner in twilight around the fire and chatted with the hikers there. It was so fun to be among this group of hikers and listening to live music around a campfire. This is what I had been looking for.
Lucy and I cleaned up our dinner pots in the dark and I lazy hanged our food bag on a tree near the fire. I made some final adjustments to the tent to make sure the tree root under the floor wouldn’t puncture my sleeping mat. We curled up to sleep about 9. It had been a long day, especially for Lucy. 13 miles is the farthest she has ever hiked. This section in particular is pretty difficult and I’m proud that she was willing to accept the challenge. Lucy’s knees were bothering her throughout the day which may not bode well for tomorrow. I was feeling pretty beat too.
Miles: 1982.3 – 1995.4 (13.1)