Tandem, Mio, Mombo, and I were awoken in the small bunkhouse at 6:30 by Shane, the Farmhouse hostel owner, who simply said that we were second on the slackpacking shuttle schedule for the morning. That was due to his late return last night and not being able to discuss it with us. That was strike number one.
We got to start our first 15.3 slack pack from ME 4 to a retired logging road. We all ate breakfast together after the first shuttle of six hikers left out to where we are going on Friday. After breakfast, Mombo and I were just itching to get going, so we went out to the front of the hostel on ME 4 to hitch.
We got lucky after ten minutes and were picked up by a retired Pennsylvania Ford dealer and his wife in a new Ford Edge. His family still manages the dealership. They knew exactly where we were headed and took us to where the AT crosses ME 4, so Mombo and I started our slow ascent of Saddleback Mountain with our lightweight packs by 7:30.
We were about a third of the way up the mountain when speedy Tandem and Mio came flying up behind us. We were surprised that they had left their coffee and gotten a hitch so fast! The climb steepened and slowed me down, so I fell behind.
At the top of Saddleback, I was greeted by a large rabbit staring at me on its hind legs with ears straight up, but it scurried away as I approached. The top of the mountain was foggy and very windy, so I put on my pack cover and rain jacket for the next three peaks.
As I descended Saddleback, I came upon a group of teenagers who were consoling one of their hikers who had twisted her ankle badly. They had a first aid kit, so I got it wrapped and stabilized. I suggested that they go north on Saddleback to a good gravel road that probably serves the ski resort and call for assistance. They thanked me, and I continued down the mountain.
Before I started the ascent of The Horn, I saw a Moose walking away from me in the flat woods to my left. I hoped that Mombo had seen it, since he calls for it each morning but never sees one. This was my third moose siting. I climbed The Horn and made the difficult and rocky descent on the backside. For being on a speedy slackpack, I felt very behind everyone.
As I ascended Saddleback Junior, the third mountain this morning, I came upon Tandem, Mio, and Mombo huddled behind some rocks and trees out of the brisk wind eating lunch. I told them that I had been snacking, which meant I didn’t need to stop long and allowed us to get going more quickly.
Most of the remaining six miles were downhill. After about 1.5 miles, we reached the Poplar Spring Lean-to, which has the last official record of Gerry Largay passing by on July 23, 2013, before she vanished.
We snacked there and chatted with a pair of SOBO hikers. We also called and left a message at the hostel that we needed to be picked up at 15:30. It started to thunder and sprinkle, so we threw on our packs, said goodbye, and hiked on to finish our last 4.6 miles up to the retired logging road.
No more rain fell by the time we reached the gravel road. Our instructions were to turn right and road hike about a mile to rocks blocking access to the road. Mombo called the hostel again and found out that we were second on the shuttle pick up list behind the group of six hikers north of us. The estimated pick up time was now 17:00, which pissed us off. That was strike #2.
We hiked the gravel road the one mile out to the big rocks and each took a spot to eat and relax. Tandem snacked and napped. I had a sandwich, trail mix, and the rest of my dried apricots.
The Farmhouse Hostel shuttle truck showed up at 16:40, loaded with the other six hikers and gear. The ten of us managed to fit with five in the cab, including Tandem, and five in the bed, including Mombo, Mio, and me. The bed of the pickup was cozy with cushions to sit on and a large quilt to keep most of us warm. We all wore the jackets we had slack packed with, and I had my raincoat.
We drove up the bumpy gravel road for what seemed forever before we reached pavement. At one point, the truck slowed down and Mombo yelled “Moose!” There was a young moose entering the woods off the road so Mombo had finally seen his first moose!
We stopped at a small grocery store on the way back to the hostel for stuff for dinner and slackpacking the next day. There was a state policeman parked down the road, and Shane was nervous about being seen with hikers in the truck bed. He left the store in a roundabout way so as to not pass the officer.
We arrived back at the hostel and our group hustled to get showers before the other six hikers so that we had hot water, which had run out on us yesterday. Tandem cooked us delicious and filling spaghetti for dinner on the hiker stove. The other group was having steaks for the second night with mushrooms they had picked along the trail. They left the extras for us to cook tomorrow with our steaks on our last night.
Since I was staying up to write blog updates and send them over the wif-fi, I became in charge of the load of laundry the four of us split. The group of six and several other hikers checked out tonight, so it will be easier for us logistically with the kitchen, grill, and showers tomorrow night.
Tomorrow will be a 17 mile slackpack day with a 50% chance of rain, AGAIN. We will hike from ME 27 near Stratton, ME, SOBO to the same retired logging road that we ended on today. We leave with the other six hikers to the same drop spot at 5:00 in the morning. They will have their non-slackpacking gear dropped at their next hostel in Flagstaff. We should be picked up at the time we went to be tomorrow, since that group is moving on.
We will start where the Gerry Largay memorial is at ME 27 and I will drop something religious that I have been carrying since Springer Mountain in GA.