We knew that if we wanted to get on trail earlier today, we needed to depart at 5:00 with the group of six doing their last slackpack section today. Mombo made sure that we were up by 4:20 to check our packs and eat. The four of us loaded up with the other six in the pickup truck with six full packs and four minimally packed. I sat in the bed of the truck again on cushions under a shared quilt with my puffy jacket and hood on. It was cold!
At 6:30, we arrived at ME 27 and AT mile marker 1997 to start today’s 17 mile SOBO hike. We unloaded and said our final goodbyes to Hoss and his merry men. This spot is the location of the Gerry Largay memorial. I said a prayer and also read the notice to hunters who may find any of her belongings.
I kept my puffy jacked until the 3,000 foot climb up North Crocker Mountain warmed me up. We were aiming to complete the 17 miles by 15:30, which, according to Shane, is the same time that Hoss’s group returned the day before.
There were four primary climbs today — North Crocker, South Crocker, Sugarloaf, and Spaulding. We took water filtering and snack breaks, which I kept up with without the distractions of yesterday.
Right before the tough climb up Spaulding Mountain, we reached mile marker 1985 and the marker denoting only 200 miles left to Mount Katahdin! Since we are hiking south today, we will start our last slackpack day tomorrow with 188 miles to go. That will take us about two weeks, depending on how I do on the roots and mud in the Hundred Mile Wilderness.
Once we summited Spaulding, we called the hostel and improved our return time from 15:30 to 14:30. The descent downhill was tough with many rocks and roots, and Tandem stopped to hike the last few miles to the Sluice Brook Logging Road with me. It was 13:00, and we had to be a mile up the logging road by 14:30, so I moved along as fast as the terrain allowed.
We passed a few NOBO hikers we hadn’t seen in a while, including Impact, and reached the road at 14:17 to find Mio and Mombo waiting for us. We immediately turned east and just walked down the road. We got to the pick up spot by 14:38, but Shane wasn’t there. However, we’d just taken off our packs when he pulled up after a minute. We all loaded our packs in the back and got to sit in the truck cab with seat belts on.
We headed back to the Farmhouse Hostel via the Smalls Falls Rest Area, where Shane brings his kids here to play in the falls and natural deep pools of water. He mentioned the cliff jumping opportunity, which Mio wanted to do. We climbed up the rocks by the falls, and he removed everything he didn’t want to get wet. He crossed the water at the top of the falls and jumped from what we think was 30 feet to the upper falls pool. I caught it on video.
On the way back, Shane dropped us at the IGA grocery store to shop for dinner and restocking. We were celebrating fewer than 200 miles to go with steaks, corn, and baked potatoes. While in the fresh foods, I found boxed Noble Roman pizzas; my first teenager job was tossing pizzas for a Noble Romans restaurant in Atlanta.
We walked back to the hostel and cooked the steaks and corn on the grill. They were delicious! Lots if protein for the replenishment of our bodies. After dinner, we stood outside and enjoyed seeing the mini pigs and the wild fox that explores the yard for mice each evening. We also had a great view of the distant stormy sky and a rainbow.
Later, we settled up our bills for three nights of lodging and three slackpack shuttle days, which cost about $140 for Tandem and me. We packed for our last slackpack day of 16.4 miles north from ME 27 to East Flagstaff Road. We will be stashing our non-slackpack gear in black contractor bags in the woods to retrieve when we get there.
It was a great day and good food. The hostel is much less crowded tonight, with only nine hikers staying, including Jungle Jim and Mosey, who we haven’t seen in a few weeks. They plan to start the three day slackpack plan we will be completing tomorrow.