8.4 miles, 1996 overall (Stratton Motel, Stratton, ME)
Today is a half day into town. I’ve been told by some sobo’s that Stratton, the town we are heading into, doesn’t have a lot of stuff in it and wasn’t very great so I’m not getting my hopes up too high for a great experience. Mostly I want a shower, clean clothes, and a good night’s sleep.
When I get out of my tent the Noodleheads and the APE team are already gone. I assume Philly is gone too. I pack up, eat my breakfast, and head out before the other two hikers are moving. It turns out they are both flip-floppers having started northbound, flipped up to Katahdin from somewhere down south, and are now southbound. One is named Nomad and the other is Teddy Bear. When the Noodleheads arrived last night they recognized Teddy Bear from back in the south. He flipped from Catawba in Virginia when it started getting hot, taking a month or so off before starting his southbound piece. Knowing what Virginia summers are like I consider this a good move on his part. I wonder whether I’ll see any hikers I know flipping before I finish.
The hike to town requires a climb over North and South Crocker mountains. Neither are too bad and at the top I notice I have cell signal so I stop for a few minutes to check the weather and my email. As I’m getting near the end of my hike I am trying to start getting things organized for my return to civilization, including finding a new position at work and designing a workout routine to “ramp down” from hiking every day. Both require emailing people back home and it is nice to be able to check my email so I can respond when necessary.
The rest of the hike is a long downhill to the road. It is a bit steep but I don’t find myself needing the knee strap today. I take my time and reach the road around 11. Just before I get to the road I pass a hiker going south who looks really familiar. As I step to the side to let him go by he says, “Nitrous!” Apparently he really is familiar. I catch up with him and find out he is another flip-flopper, having stopped in Waynesboro and then taken 2 months off before starting southbound. By the end of the conversation I find out the last time I saw him was around Damascus but I still can’t remember his name and am too embarrassed to ask. Perhaps after I finish my hike I can read through old entries and find him in there somewhere.
When I reach the road I try calling the motel I will be staying at to ask about shuttle options but there is no answer. My only other option is hitching so, reluctantly, I find a place on the road and stick out my thumb. This turns out to be a terrible road to hitch on. There isn’t a lot of traffic going the direction I need to go and most of it is semis which, even if they wanted to pick me up, likely couldn’t stop in time on the downhill I am on. I try to position myself ahead of the trailhead since there is a parking lot there for cars to pull into but that doesn’t seem to work. After almost 30 minutes I decide to try hitching as I walk in the direction I want to go. Not 5 minutes later I have my ride. We cruise into town discussing the trail and how I’m enjoying Maine. He drops me off right across the street from the motel.
The sobo who gave me the info on Stratton must have been an idiot. The Stratton motel is centrally located only yards away from a diner, a grocery store, and a general store. The post office isn’t far away (although I don’t need it) and there are even a couple other hotel possibilities. This town seems to have everything a hiker needs. I catch up with the Noodleheads and Philly who have already checked in, gotten clean, found out the diner was closed due to a family emergency, and gone shopping for food to cook. They invite me in on the brunch they are preparing. First I shower, then I join them in time to make toast. We feast on eggs, pancakes, hash browns, bacon, toast, OJ, and coffee. There is plenty for everyone.
After cleaning up I check out my mail drop. Everything I need is in it but I want a couple extras like cheese and hand sanitizer so I head to the store. The grocery store is excellent and has everything I need except the hand sanitizer. For that I go across the street to the general store where I find craft beers as well. Pretty soon I’m in my room, resupply done, watching the Olympics and drinking a beer. Life doesn’t get much better.
Dinner is spent at a restaurant down the street with a couple sobo’s. One attempts the food challenge: 3 1/2lb burgers with bacon, mushrooms, and cheese and 3 orders of fries. He gets within half a burger of finishing before he has to quit and heads to the restroom. When he returns he informs us that it turns out he could have finished. In the bathroom he ripped a giant burp which cleared the space, but when he was at the table he wasn’t sure if the burp was going to contain only gas so he played it safe. Oh well. His failure costs him $30.
The rest of my night is spent relaxing in my room. It is nice to have a room to myself, a luxury I haven’t had in quite some time. I channel surf, take an extra shower, and go to sleep a little late. It almost makes me want to zero here tomorrow on the Appalachian Trail.