Day 15: Pleasant Pond Mountain

We woke up pretty comfortably to catch the 7:00 AM breakfast at the Caratunk house. Bob and his German Shepard came out to let us know it was time to eat. Inside we were seated in the kitchen with Paul, a large cast iron stove and a plethora of antique signs and appliances. In the dining room, twelve others sat around marveling over the huge spread of food that Paul had fixed us. As we ate our eggs, potatoes, bacon and French toast, we talked to Paul about life running a hostel. Unlike some hostels, Paul fully refused any help from hikers or other guests staying there. We both asked him why this was the case. He told us he planned on living to be 100 years old and staying busy was key to this. He then let us know he had twenty years left. We were both astonished! He was at least fifteen years older than we would have guessed and moved around like most humans in their prime. 

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Garbelly quickly retorted, “What’s the key to being so healthy at eighty?” 

“Long distance hiking,” Paul exclaimed. 

“That’s good news for us,” Critter replied.

We talked to him more and found out that he did not even start long distance hiking until his early sixties. As he washed dishes we were now jabbing our forks into the French toast. Hikers from the main dining room came in and joined the conversation for a few minutes but then quickly packed up to return to trail. On the other hand, we took our time packing up and were not ready to hike out until around ten. Just as we were about to leave, Milo began barking at two hikers walking towards the house. As Garbelly looked up, he realized it was Rattles and Nomad! He met these two hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail back in 2015. He ran over and gave each of them a hug and we spent the next hour catching up. Knowing they were hungry after just making it to town, we told them we would head out and recommended Paul’s famous milkshakes and pulled pork sandwiches. We picked up our packs and began our walk down the road towards trail.

Rattles and Nomad were currently hiking the Continental Divide Trail, but made it to the San Juan mountains and ran into pretty impassable snow. Because of the high snow levels, they began thinking of ways to let it melt a little bit. This lead them back to the Appalachian Trail. Last year they attempted a fast pack of the trail and made it to the Maine border in around sixty five days. Unfortunately, Rattles got injured in the Mahoosuc mountains and they had to stop their journey in Andover. So the high snow forced them onto a plane to Maine and they caught us in Caratunk.

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We knew they were faster hikers and would catch us before the day was over. We quickly climbed the eight miles up to the summit of Pleasant Pond Mountain and took a forty five minute lunch. We packed our bags up and heard Milo let out a few excited barks at an oncoming southbounder. He then began running up trail south and let a few barks out at an oncoming northbounder. It was Rattles. 

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We then spent the rest of the day scrambling down the mountain, hopping creeks and climbing up towards the Moxie Bald Shelter. We now considered climbing Moxie Bald and camping at a different shelter on the other side of the mountain. However, a few minutes before getting to the shelter, the sky opened up and we quickly decided it was better to camp sooner. When we got to the shelter, we were greeted by three older men who appeared to be ready to get to sleep. We assumed we would be setting up our tents in the rain tonight.

“We can make room for all four of you if you want to sleep here tonight,” one of the men exclaimed as he packed his food into a roll-top stuff sack.

“Well we have a dog, so we do not mind setting up our tents,” Critter replied.

All three men let us know they did not have a problem with dogs and kindly began moving their things aside. Before we knew it, we were all friends laughing and telling stories in the shelter. The three men were retired teachers from Knoxville Tennessee and were about to finish up a section hike they had started almost thirty years ago. The men were comprised of Storm Buzzard, Cold Chill and Grizzly. We continued to tell stories as we are our dinner and then crawled into our sleeping bags as the air around us became darker.

A voice in the dark asked us, “do any of y’all snore?”

We all replied that we did not.

“Well we all do,” he said and they all laughed a bit. 

Rattles and Garbelly got out their earplugs and we went to sleep. 

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Day 8: Sabbath Day Shelter to The Hiker Hut

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We both woke up at 5:30 to H2No grabbing his backpack which sent Milo into a low belly growl. We had already been awake, but it gave us the motivation to start packing up. As always we twisted the valves of our sleeping pads open and listened to the air spew out. This, like clockwork, was followed by heavy sighs and scurrying to get everything packed to get back on trail. 

The morning hiking was easy compared to the mountains we had just faced and we ended up hiking ten miles in under four hours. Our speed increased after seeing that we were right on the tails of a couple moose. Also because today was a town day. Even Milo had a pep in his step. On some days we crave the mountains and want to keep hiking without stopping, but today’s town day was very welcomed. We had a box of food for us and Milo. Part of our Nashville pit crew, Jess and Jarrod had also sent our non-leaky tent to Rangeley. Plus town day means we were about to eat a ton of real food.

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We heard about an off the grid hostel just a quarter mile from the trail called The Hiker Hut. We hugged the shoulder of the road as logging trucks rolled by, walking swiftly up the highway.

Tucked off the road and out of sight, sat the most wonderful little huts circled around a fire pit, garden beds, a picnic table and grassy emptiness. A brook babbled on the outside edge of the property and a certain peace reached from tree to tree.

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A fit, white haired gentleman dressed in off-white pants and thermal top greeted us. Steve ran the Hiker Hut and has been who Garbelly has spoken with when we made the reservation. He invited us over to the picnic table and offered us complimentary Gatorade and chips and salsa. He filled up a bowl of water for Milo. A similarly aged woman popped her head out of a hut that read ‘Summa Ira’. She asked if we baked and then asked for Critter’s opinion on subbing out a 9 inch bundt pan for a 2 inch sheet. Not quite the same but better than nothing. She was baking a coffee cake, and that alone made our mouths water.

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Steve showed us the outdoor shower and allowed us to pick out which but we wanted to stay in. Aside from the bunkhouse, the biggest structure on the property there were 3 private huts. One four-walled hut sat next to the bunkhouse and another much smaller hut sat diagonally across the lawn from it. The third hut was tucked up the gravel road down a small trail ending at the stream. As we walked up to it, a sign read “to a poet n pilgrim and lovers n seekers”.

Instead of a fourth wall on the backside, facing the stream, curtains draped down from the frame. “This one,” Critter whispered. We put our packs and sat them down in the hut and started pulling out our dirty laundry and starting our shower rounds.

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The shower was located down a trail marked by a pink birdhouse. A privacy wall blocked off the shower but the rest was open up to the stream. You filled the water bucket up with water from the stream and the gas tank heated it as water rained down over you. The perfect shower for us would had taken residence back up in the dirt of trail.

After our showers, we loaded up in Steve’s minivan and just as we were about to leave H2No showed up and hoped in to head to town with us. Milo was allowed to stay so that he could keep napping in the sun.

Critter fixing a rip in her rain pants.

Critter fixing a rip in her rain pants.

We had about 3 hours to take care of our town chores so after we were dropped off we headed straight to the post office. There we picked up our boxes of resupply food and boxed up our tent to send back to Zpacks. Next we headed to Sarges for lunch and to charge our electronics. We joined H2No at the bar and ordered so food. The pub food was tasty while much more expensive than we anticipated. Critter ran over to the library to print a return form for our tent. The library was made out of river stones and absolutely beautiful and quaint on the inside. After we finished eating, we packed up our electronics and headed over to the Ecopelagicon.

We sat on the porch of the Ecopelagicon for a little bit before grabbing some ice cream and meeting back up with Steve. After a quick stop at the grocery store, we headed back to the Hiker Hut. When we got out of the car, it took a few calls for Milo to bring out to where we stood. His head poked out from behind our hut and when he saw us he came running up, tail wagging. Single barks escaped his excitement. He ran up to each one of us before sitting for a treat that I had picked up for him in town.

When we spoke to Mary, Steve’s sister, she said that he disappeared while we were gone only to be found laying on our things in the hut. He must have sniffed our smell out and stayed with it as to know we would return.

He was happy now that we were back. And we were happy to be back with him. He was especially happy when we met Chippy and Ratty Tail two of the resident chipmunks. Milo sat in amazement watching them run around the yard.

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Garbelly chopped wood, and Steve started a fire in the fire pit. H2No and Steve headed to town to watch the final game of the Stanley Cup, and we sat around the fire until it got dark. Then headed to bed. We laid in bed as the light from the oil lamp bounced on the ceiling. Milo slumped into a deep sleep, and his snores and the bubbling stream were the only sounds coming from our hut

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Bunkhouse at The Hiker Hut

Bunkhouse at The Hiker Hut


Day 7: Old Blue to Sabbath Day Pond

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Waking up, we heard the gentle tapping of rain turn into heavy rapping on the roof of our dyneema mobile home. Garbelly looked down at his watch and hit the light button. The watch read “01:30.” The rain and heavy wind had started hours before the weather forecast had predicted. It initially was supposed to start around eight. There was a shelter exactly seven miles from our stealth camp. The original plan was to wake up at four and hammer out as many miles as we could to get to the shelter for lunch before the hardest part of the rain had started. This plan had obviously fallen apart now as we both lay awake to the jarring noise of each drop hitting our tent. This loud tap was instantly followed by a small spray of mist as the drop hit the fibers of our shelter and became divided so finely it had to have been just shy of molecular division. This mist and cold air along with the sounds of the storm made sleep tough. Garbelly laid awake on his pad until sunrise, but critter stayed tucked deep inside her down den. 

“Hey Critter let’s get going,” Garbelly whispered.

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It was now only six o’clock, but the rain had slowed to a sprinkle and it was the perfect chance to pack up our gear. After about thirty minutes, we were folding up our waterlogged tent as large drops continued to fall from the pine bows. We headed up Old Blue Mountain as the sprinkle returned to a downpour. We pulled out our umbrellas, but they had little effect due to the small new growth pines washing us from head to toe as we walked by them. 

Shortly after the summit, we ran into our first true SOBOs, Jon and Bottoms Up. He let us know that after the shelter, there was a huge dead bobcat laying by the trail. We assumed it was a lynx, but never ended up seeing it on trail. 

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After leaving these hikers, the rain picked up dramatically and we put our heads down and hiked harder. The trail consisted of long rotten boardwalks and more steep slick granite slides. Out of nowhere, we heard a dog scream twice.. Some hikers dog must be hurt. Or maybe it is a coyote. Then both of our hearts sank. Milo was nowhere in sight. He had been walking beside us the entire time and we had not seen him leave our side but yet he was gone. Garbelly threw down his umbrella and trekking pole and took off running through the mud somehow not falling in the process. Milo was two hundred feet back and had gotten his rain jacket caught on a broken pine tree and was stuck. Surprisingly he was absolutely calm and not afraid. His yip was not a cry of pain, it was a cry for one of us to help him out. We were slightly shaken from this and made Milo lead the way so we would not lose sight of him again.

We arrived to the Bemis Mountain Shelter for lunch and immediately got out of our wet clothes and attempted to hang them up to dry. We slowly ate our lunch due to the lack of dexterity in our cold fingers. Every task became harder, including those of Milo’s. Before we knew it, almost two hours had gone by and we knew we needed to head back into the rain.

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The descent from Bemis Mountain in the rain was easily one of the most difficult obstacles we have encountered so far. We both endured a couple hard falls and both cursed the trail. On a dry day it might even be fun, but today, the rock was dangerous. However, half way down, the rain turned to mist and then we saw the clouds raise higher in the sky. We were now left walking a river trail in the cold, but thankfully the rain had ceased. 

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At the bottom of the trail we saw something that raised our spirits high into the sky. Our first trail magic. It was a styrofoam cooler filled with kit kats and ginger ale.  We somehow instantly forgot how terrible the descent had been and now only focused on the five miles remaining to the Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to. Fortunately, they flew by. 

As we took the side trail up to the shelter, Milo let out a bark of excitement. There was another hiker at the shelter, a very friendly hiker named H2No. He was excited to see a dog as we were excited to be allowed to sleep in the shelter with Milo. We were happy to be distracted by good conversation as we cooked our dinner and set up everything in our backpacks to dry out in the shelter. 

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