Just as we promised, we woke up early. The sun had not hit the lake yet nor was it fully over the horizon of trees. Most of the time we jumped rock to rock to avoid mud that extended from one side of trail to the other. The light under the shade of the forest was still dim. After crossing over Pierce Pond Stream on a beaver dam, we followed the stream all the way down to the river. The water looked fishy. And we occasionally glanced over in hope of catching sight of a shadow along the rocky bed. Overall, trail was very mellow before stopping on the bank of the Kennebec River.
We arrived just in time for two hikers to be dropped off on the bank. However, one of them had forgotten his trekking poles so the canoe ferry was paddling back to get them. We waited and admired how big and fishy this water was.
Once the man in the canoe returned, the two hikers headed off and we signed two waivers and jumped in the canoe. Garbelly sat in back to help paddle and Milo sat in between Critter’s legs in the middle seat.
The man paddling come to find out was a fly fishing guide out of Caratunk. He rowed this river often as well as surrounding waters. He told stories of big brook trout and unlikely river accesses. Stories of lowering his raft down a muddy bank via a pulley system in order to access a particular stretch of water. He showed us a few photos of some of his prized catches. Giant brook trout that sat proudly in his hands plus extending a good bit past his grip on either side.
Before we knew it we were on the other side of the river. The conversation continued on the bank before he offered us his business card and told us to get in touch next time we were in town for a float trip.
Trail led us to a highway which we crossed, entering into the small town of Caratunk. We found our way to the Caratunk House, a hiker friendly B&B with a resupply store, and we introduced ourselves to Paul, the owner.
He was an older man, our guess was in his late 60’s. He was strongly built with white hair that come to a pony tail in the back. His voice was soft and his words were precise. There were no rooms available for the night but he allowed us to resupply, shower and wash our clothes.
The house was large with high ceilings and many rooms. A gem of the 19th century. The house was decorated in a way that you felt like you were sitting in an antique store yet we looked around as if we were in a museum.
Many windows lined the walls letting in a wave of natural light. We sat down in the dining room at the large wooden table. We were relieved to be out of the bugs that were reeking havoc outside.
We were soon joined at the table by a handful of other guests making up a collection of past thru hikers and section hikers.
A couple from Georgia and their chihuahua, Sara, were on vacation hiking a couple sections of trail. They had thru hiked southbound last year. Wildlife was another southbound thru hiker from last year, and she had driven to Caratunk to meet up with a group of women for a trail reunion. Bruiser, brave and determined, was taking on the section to Hanover. The group of women was wonderful and full of life.
Miles before we arrived at the Caratunk House to be sitting here at the dining room table, we had heard about the pulled pork sandwiches and the milkshakes. Garbelly ordered two pork sandwiches, Paul prepared a round of milkshakes for the table. Chocolate for Critter and Strawberry for Garbelly. Stainless steel straws stood straight up in the double walled milkshake glass. Next to the glass full of the creamy coldest milkshake sat a red solo cup filled with more. It was heaven. We were all in heaven.
Critter wandered to the back of the house where the store was. A full resupply with even odd and end items like camp fuel and a new sawyer squeeze bag. Paul has everything. We bought some cheese and crackers for lunches and a few packets of electrolyte drink mix. We even picked up a few things we didn't need like double dipped peanuts.
Paul took us down the road to the Northern Outdoors Restaurant for dinner.
Wildlife, Bruiser, Magnet, Blue and Pokey were there too sitting around on couches enjoying each other's company. We grabbed a table with Mr. D and Still Kelly. After dinner, they ended up covering our bill which was so kind of them to do. Another time we were just blown away by the thru hiking community. We couldn't thank them enough.
We asked the waitress to give Paul at the Caratunk House a call, and shortly after, he was there to pick us up.
Back at the house, Mr. D, Still Kelly and Sara packed up to head toward the coast. We said our goodbyes and that we hoped to run into them when we got further south on trail.
We were sitting in the kitchen when the women arrived back from dinner. Trickling in one at a time, we all ended up sitting around the kitchen in the moments leading up to quiet time.
The conversation went into many directions but somehow found it's way back to thru hiking and the people you meet. We all agreed that through hiking you make everlasting bonds with people. While these meetings are sometimes temporary, ideas are shared about being nice to one another and the world around us. When the hikers disperse the ideas spread out, like seeds on the wind.
The house grew dark as the sun went down except for the light in the kitchen in which we all sat. When quiet time arrived, we all said goodnight to each other.
We headed outside to where we were camping. As we laid in our tent, the sound of bugs hitting the sides sounded like a light rain.