Mile: 2054.6 - 2074.6 (20 miles)
I wake up to a man's voice telling me the sun is rising. I hadn't set an alarm and am rather startled, the wind is still howling and I'm a bit disoriented. I slowly pull every single piece of clothing I have on (it's really cold up here) and meet my neighbor. I then spend almost 2 hours watching the sun rise chatting with a Ph.D. Professor who has also maintained a section of AT in the upcoming 100 mile wilderness since 1994. It's a surprisingly thoughtful conversation to start at dawn and thoroughly enjoyable. Trail life can be such a trip.
It's stunning but other than a puddle and I'm soon to discover a dried up spring water is scarce so off to the next pond I head.
I realize I'm awfully tired when I find a small creek a little before the pond after negotiating the usual rocky terrain and sit down on a rock in the middle of the stream. I drink water and debate moving, it's sounds awfully hard but a little extra snack and coffee help. I'm heading to town and it still sounds awfully far away but some extra food will be awfully nice.
Walking down the trail I started a moose, although this one is gone after just a moment of staring, trotting down the trail and around the bend.
The trail is supposedly flat and downhill for pretty much the rest of the day but there are still rocky enough sections. But I put on music and am able to cruise over a surprising amount. I love it when I can actually hike.
The trail follows rivers for pretty much the rest of the day. I try to rock hop one crossing and sink one whole foot but do pretty well. The East branch of the Piscataquis is usually knee but slow flowing according to the guide but I'm able to rock hop across, a reflection of how dry it's been.
But it's pleasant and the walking slowly down the canyon alongside swimming holes and rushing water is a pretty sweet way to head into town. There's a blue blaze straight into town about the same length as the trail after Lake Hebron. I opt for that and cruise around the lake. I pass an old slate quarry which is pretty cool and then am in the small town of Monson at Shaw's hiker hostel. This place is pretty well known being the start or finish for the hundred mile wilderness and is full of people. I'm a bit overwhelmed and after I find a bed I wander into town alone unsure of how to handle all the stimulation. I head to the community center for the newly required permit for Baxter and estimate a finish date which is surreal and includes a lot of nodding and yes ma'am I'll respect all the rules answers but is pretty painless.
With a better handle on myself and my anxiety after an early dinner alone at the barbecue restaurant I finally head back to the hostel. I'm am happy to see a few familiar faces have rolled in. As my last trail town I've already planned to take tomorrow off and seeing superman and stowaway have shown up all is well in my little world. I first met these two lovely guys back around 4th of July and just saw them again in Caratunk. I'd hoped I'd get to see them again. The next hours were relaxing around a campfire listening to Stowaways fantastic tales of working in a pawn shop in Cherokee North Carolina and others huge life changes that brought them out here. The conversation turns from silly to hugely significant at times and I'm continually reminded tonight how many different folks the trail brings together and how happy it can make me. We stay up far too late but no one is going anywhere in the morning so it's fine and cozy and wonderful.
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