Day mileage: 23.4
AT total mileage: 1,999.0
Time: 9 hours
I was interrupted from my sleep repeatedly throughout the night as hikers emerged behind the shelter to pee. We were equally surprised to see each other, and I never realized how many people relieve themselves immediately behind the place where we sleep. Regardless, the night passed quickly and I awoke at 5:30 to begin packing up for the day. I had to rouse Santa a few times before he actually woke up, and we were on the trail by 7:00.
Descending 1,500 feet first off in the morning, my knees (doing much better, by the way!) were unhappy with the sudden descent. Reaching the Orbeton river at the bottom of the mountain, we rock-hopped across the wide body of rushing water and began our climb up the other side. Over 3 miles we would ascend 1,800 feet to the summit of Lone Mountain. Stopping in at Spaulding Mountain lean-to for a snack and meeting some SOBO hikers, we continued on with another 1,000' climb to the peak of Spaulding Mountain before descending back down a few hundred feet to a ridge that we would follow for 2.5 miles. We hiked by a few weekend hikers throughout the day, making small talk and telling them about our journey. Passing by a bronze plaque marking the last completed section of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, we continued on skirting the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain, a famous northeast skiing area. From here the trail would plummet 1,500' over seriously rocky terrain, dropping us to the Carrabassett river. We would cross here on a 2x10" board and then begin the long trek up to the summit of South Crocker mountain. This climb was obnoxious as there were multiple false-summits and the humidity was stifling, but we summited rather quickly and pressed on towards the North Crocker mountain summit and beginning a horribly long 6 mile descent to Maine Rt. 27 which would lead us towards the town of Stratton. The trail to the road from the north summit wasn't challenging, wasn't rocky, and wasn't overly rooted. The frustration came from the fact that it was the most gradual grade imaginable, which is why the 3,000 foot descent took miles and miles to complete. It got to the point of being annoying simply because it felt like we weren't going anywhere. Eventually we hit the road crossing, turning our efforts to hitching a ride 5 miles west into Stratton.
It took only about 10 minutes to get a ride, and my American Flag never came out to help with the job. A middle aged guy in a pickup truck pulled over to get us, having us hop in the back as he had woodworking equipment in the cab and was towing a hydraulic wood splitter behind the truck. The wind felt amazing as we sat in the bed traveling along at 55 miles an hour, a different kind of freeing feeling that isn't attainable on the trail. Dropped off at the general store we quickly resupplied and headed across the street to the White Wolf motel where we heard dinner would be good and cheap. It was nearly 1900hrs, later in the day than we had anticipated being there, and we did our best to order quickly and get back to the trail. Despite effort on our part it took nearly an hour for my mozzarella sticks and chicken quesadilla to make it to our table, and Santa grew restless as the service was quite horrible. As we waited to pay our check one of the couples we saw day hiking hours before came in to pick up their take-out dinner, and we talked for a while about the Appalachian Trail. The couple (I apologize, I later realized I never got their names) are in the process of hiking the New England 3,000' peaks. As dusk was settling in over Stratton, Santa and I were concerned about hitchhiking the 5 miles back to the trail. I felt a bit awkward asking, but approached the young couple to see if they had a car that could bring us back to the trail. They said of course, simply that they would need to move some stuff around in they're awesomely predictable Subaru; adventurous people seem to always drive Subaru or Jeep vehicles. We were back at the trailhead 10 minutes later and after thanking them we parted ways.
Santa and I made it 2.5 miles into the woods to a large campsite alongside a river. We're cowboy camping for the second night in a row, and in the morning will begin by hiking the 3.2 vertical miles up to the shelter we had intended to be at tonight. I'm not thrilled that we aren't making the mileage we intended, but the meal break took too long to warrant a risky climb in the dark. The plan tomorrow is for a big day, so hopefully a good nights sleep is attainable.
We shall see how things work out.