July 3, 2018
Destination: Spaulding Mountain Lean-to Today's Miles: 18.70
Start Location: ME Route 4 (Rangeley road crossing) Trip Miles: 1989.20
The rest in Rangeley served me well. I got on the trail later than usual, but I felt good.
It was going to be another scorcher today too - 90s. It’s funny how the most extreme weather seems to be following us this year. I never thought I’d get to Maine and find a Georgia summer waiting! Fortunately for me, I’m used to the heat; others are not so lucky.
Today as I set out hiking it felt different. I finally had some kind of schedule to make, a plan to keep. In some ways, it gave me some purpose. Either way, I still had stretch of time to think about it all. The hiking today was challenging, but not ridiculously so. It was more classic southern Maine, with steep uphills straight up mountains, slippery steep downhills straight back down, and a little hand-over-hand action in both directions. Ok, it was strenuous hiking....
I climbed up Saddleback Mountain and the weather was looking iffy. Fog and/or clouds blew by and it was a bit windy. I always get a little nervous climbing balds where the area above treeline is extensive. I picture myself getting caught in a bad lightening storm, looking like human kindling for the whims of Thor. I pushed on, noting the beauty of the clouds as they alternately shrouded and revealed the stark fierceness of the mountain. Intermittent rays of sun highlighted the lush green of the fragile alpine flora. Pink and white alpine flowers were still in bloom. I climbed on over the Horn. Saddleback is exactly what it sounds like. Along with the Horn, it looks like a giant saddle. I had wonderful views from the Horn as the clouds became sparser and the wind blew them along. I felt small and insignificant up there, and rightfully so. I need these reminders lest I spend too much time in my head thinking about me, while the rest of the Earth simply revolves around the sun.
The descent down Saddleback was slow going, with one section having a bit of rope and rebar to hold onto. At the bottom was the Orbeton stream, which needed to be forded. I wouldn’t be able to rock hop this one. Fortunately I had just acquired some professional fording shoes (aka my $2 flip flops). I enjoyed fording the river; it felt good on my feet on such a hot day.
When I got to the lean-to I felt like I had walked a longer day than I had. I set up my tent and chatted with a few SOBOs. It’s so interesting to see people just getting started with their thru hikes! I like talking with them and hearing about their experiences. I bite my tongue and don’t offer advice - if they want it they will ask. They don’t need to worry about Mahoosic or the Whites right now. One day at a time, one step at a time, and they will have their trail experiences and become stronger, smarter, more efficient. Right now they just need to keep having fun.
I was grateful for feeling well rested and that the weather held out today. I enjoyed the wonderful views on Saddleback and the challenge of the climbing. Tomorrow I will work my way closer to the Bigelow range.