Mile: 1987.4 - 2005.2 (17.8 miles)
It rained all night, never pouring but a steady light rain that lulled me to sleep and kept it cool. I was packing up before most of the other people thrilled at how dry I was. After 5000 plus miles I think I'm finally done fighting with my tent in rainstorms.
Grabbing water I head out into the mist. This is a silly decision as it turns out the trail is in fact a creek. The rain was heavy enough that I give up dodging puddles and just slog through ankle deep water whenever the trail heads downhill.
I'm actually in love with the morning. It's chilly and feels like a magical forest. I can get small glimpses around me but it's mostly just cloud and trees. I don't think it's actually raining anymore but every time the wind gusts water pours down from the trees, but I'm loving the forest so I'm finding it hard to care.
I climb Spaulding Mountain and Sugarloaf Mountain although I have zero visibility up on top so really it's just a forested climb. Although the wind is definitely whipping up high.
The trail is on some open rocky hillsides which feels different than usual, I'm still not quite used to seeing open sky on this trail. There's some scrambling down requiring both hands and more flexibility than I feel like my stiff knees have in them but I make it to the S Carrabassett River and manage to only sink one foot in on the crossing. I chat with a southbounder who is standing open mouthed at the river. He's stunned by how much it rose overnight and is not happy when I mention the creek masquerading as trail in his future.
It's one last haul up to North and South Crocker Mountain and then a long slow descent to RT 27. Another hiker has just gotten a ride as I get to the parking lot and they squeeze me in as they pull out. A few minutes later I'm in Stratton. The motel is more of a hostel and they let a few of us hang out and charge phones and stash our stuff even though we aren't staying. I manage to resupply and even dry my stuff when the sun finally appears. There's a ton of hikers and it's hard to leave but I've spent a lot of times in town recently and really feel like hiking. One of the motel guys gives me a lift back to the trail at 6:30 and I'm back in the woods just like that.
I spend the next 5 miles lost in thought. I keep coming back to how much I enjoyed my hike yesterday and why. I think a lot of it was actually hiking, not just scrambling or bouldering or whatever it is that is so called trail out here. Between Saddleback yesterday and some of the climb this morning I'm really loving hiking and more than happy with my decision to bail out of town. I'm so busy watching a squirrel I shouldn't be surprised when I trip and almost face plant. And just like that the trail brings me back down to earth. I wait to long to find a campsite and end up berating myself in the dark with a dim headlamp and more bouldering style trail. Luckily there's a flat spot at a viewpoint and I set up in the dark. I can see the lights of cities below and the wind is howling. Cozy in my tent I'm happy and starting to get all melancholy about the trail ending soon. Nothing surprising there but I'm glad the good has been outweighing the frustrated cranky version of the trail.
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