July 1, 2018
Destination: ME Route 4 (Rangeley road crossing) Today's Miles: 13.90
Start Location: Stealth Campsite at Mile 1956.6 Trip Miles: 1970.50
Last night I woke to bright flashing lights. It looked like a strobe light was going off in my tent.
We had a big thunderstorm and the lightening was almost constant. It poured down rain and the inside of my tent got wet just from the splatter of the rain in the dirt. I decided to put my one pair of dry socks on to hike into Rangeley. I was on the trail by 6:30 and I am pretty sure my feet were soaked through by 6:45, just from hiking through puddles, mud and bogs. Maine is a very moist state!
I passed some beautiful ponds today. I love how I can be hiking and all of a sudden I’ll see one through the trees. One had a sandy beach, and another had an official campsite on its shores and had several canoes to take out on the pond.
I was anxious to get to Rangeley. I was hiking pretty hard when all of a sudden I heard the sound of something crushing underbrush, the kind of sound that instantly lets me know that a large animal is nearby. I looked up and there in front of me, about 15 feet away and 10 feet off the trail, was a moose! It caught me by surprise, and I it. I was excited as it stared back at me, but also nervous. It looked at me and then bounded away a little, and then stopped again and Looked at me. “Hey Moose!” I said repeatedly as I slowly skated on by along the trail. I wish I could have gotten a picture of it, but I just wanted to pass safely. Finally, it ran off away into the forest, leaving me both ecstatic and relieved. I honestly was beginning to think I wouldn’t see a moose. I couldn’t believe I’d just seen one! I had kind of pictured it being a more chocolate brown, but it was a greyish brown. It looked a little sad, honestly. It probably couldn’t get away from the mosquitos and flies either! I had some pep in my step after that. Seeing both bear and moose basically checked off the two animals I wanted to see most on the trip. The irony though is that the animals that have brought me the most joy on the trip are the ones I see every day - the chipmunks, the little birds that sound like they are whistling the Hunger Games call, etc. They have come to be an integral part of my AT experience, whereas the moose and bears feel more like “one offs.” Moose poop, however, has definitely not been a one off. They poop all over the trail. It’s like the moose latrine!
When I got to the road crossing for Rangeley I walked down to Hiker Hut, an off-the-grid hostel just near the trail. There was a sign that said this was the safest place to flag down a ride. I set about putting on my “I’m a safe and kind man who is hiking and not a murderous hobo and you will get jewels in your crown in heaven if you pick me up” face, and stuck out my thumb. It took a little bit, and then I saw a car pass me and slow down up ahead before it disappeared around a curve. Then the car looped back heading away from Rangeley and passed me again, pulling into this gravel drive across the street that seemed to be an abandoned camper in the woods. It had weeds growing all over it and holes in it. I couldn’t believe someone lived there! However, then they pulled back around towards me. They were coming for me.... Now, I don’t really have experience hitch hiking outside of the trail, but I feel like if someone passes you by and then comes back, it isn’t a great sign. It’s probably my paranoia, but I envisioned some kind of madman serial killer window shopping for a new cellar muse. Again, this is just my crazy mind at work. The car pulled up and two guys were in the front. They looked a bit rough and I could see they were drinking beers. Hmmmm.... I said “I’m trying to get to Rangeley.” “Get in” the driver said. Hmmmm.... He hadn’t actually said he was going to Rangeley. “You’re going to Rangeley?” I asked. “Get in I’ll get you where you need to go." Hmmmm.... It was still kind of vague answer. Anyway, beggars can’t be choosers so I threw my pack and poles in their trunk and hopped in. The first thing the driver said was “ just don’t call the cops on us.” What?? Why would I need to do that?!?! “Of course I won’t” I said, trying to sound like a hardened criminal with street cred. In the end, they got me to town and were quite nice, just a little rough around the edges. I very much appreciated the ride and I thanked them.
I walked up to the hostel, Fieldstone, and it looked like it was under construction. I called the number in Guthook and the owner picked up. I was in luck because she had one last bunk available for today and tomorrow. I had forgotten it was Fourth of July weekend, and so pretty much everything else was booked. The trail provides! I threw my pack down by my bunk and the cleaning lady offered me a ride to the grocery store. I wasn’t organized enough yet to do a full resupply, but I did want to try and find a pair of cheap flip flops. I was regretting sending my crocs home. It was largely fine at camp, but I didn’t like wet shoes in town with no alternative, or the idea of not having something for fording stream crossings that were coming up. The grocery store didn’t have any flip flops, but she dropped me off in town and I found some at an outfitter store there for $1.95 - sweet! I had a lot of stuff to do in Rangeley, but with my zero tomorrow I could do the bulk of it. I needed to make a schedule to get to Katahdin so that I could book a flight home before they were either all booked up or crazy expensive. And, of course I needed to do the usual resupply and laundry.
I walked over to the ice cream place, naturally first, and got a double scoop cone. I sat there at a bench looking out at a pond in town, enjoying the amazing treat. It was so good that I immediately ordered a milkshake afterwards. Yum! I went up to the laundry on my way back and stopped in. The guy on staff told me that the laundromat was closing, but offered to take my clothes and clean them for the morning at no extra charge! He was a super nice guy and talked with me for a bit about the trail. He was definitely used to hikers!
I called my wife on the way back to the hostel. It was great to talk with her finally and I wanted to run my plan to get to Katahdin by her, confirm a few things, etc. before I booked a plane ticket. Later I walked down to Lakeside Park in town, which is the boat launch point for Rangeley Lake. The park and lake were gorgeous! This town just seemed like quintessential central Maine to me, and I loved it. I grabbed some food at the nearby Red Onion and called it a day.
When I got back to the hostel, three kids that worked for the ATC were there. They were doing boundary line work and staying at the hostel another night until they were done. They were nice and looked like they had had a long day fighting the bugs in the woods. One of my projects tomorrow would be finding some new bug spray as I was all out! Ideally something strong, like Ben’s 100....
I was grateful for a lot today - for the ride into town, getting to be in town and get clean and eat real food, getting to talk with Gillian and to eat ice cream. Tomorrow will be hot, and a great day to rest!