July 31, 2013
Today’s mileage: 16.9
Total mileage: 1984.2
Somehow, we were lucky enough to have two beautiful days in a row. I’m weary of these nice weather stretches. I always have a feeling that they’re not going to last very long.
It was a cool, sunny morning at the base of Saddleback. We left later than we wanted to, around 8:15, but we were too tired to leave any earlier. The climb up Saddleback wasn’t bad at all, even though it was our biggest climb of the day. Once we got above tree line, we encountered several false peaks. The wind was blowing and I was a little cold even with my long-sleeve shirt on. I pulled my buff down over my ears as I gazed out from the mountain that I only knew in the winter. I’ve skied at Saddleback since I was five years old, so it was cool to climb up the mountain in the summer rather than take the chairlift up in the winter. It provided an entirely new perspective to the area. I knew where I had come from and where I was going. I knew what was ahead because I could point out Sugarloaf about fifteen miles away, where we would be tomorrow. Sugarloaf is another mountain that I’ve skied at for almost my entire life. It’s where I learned to downhill ski and where I have skied countless times with my family and friends. Being on top of Saddleback looking over to Sugarloaf was an awesome view for a skier. It got me excited for winter and coming back out to western Maine to ski in a few months.
After climbing down Saddleback, we had a short, but steep climb up to The Horn. The granite had dried out a lot in the past two days, so even though there were some steep sections, we fared well going up and down the mountains. We took a break at Redington Campsite before taking on our next climb up to Saddleback Junior. We met up with Hooker, Rabbit, Wiki, and ZZ Topless on the summit. It’s nice to have a group of hikers still around to hang out with in the morning, during breaks, and at night. I wasn’t sure how many people would be around us in Maine since the trail has thinned out, but we’re all planning to finish around the same time, so I hope we’ll all be seeing each other quite a bit these last couple of weeks. They’re laid back and we enjoy hanging out with them. I forgot to mention that Jessica and Todd gave them all, with the exception of Hooker, a ride back to the trail in Andover. We all piled into their van like sardines, my 9 month-old nephew Louie and I in the way back and the guys all on the floor in the middle. Todd rolled the windows down to give us all some air from the hiker smell. Louie was making faces as we drove the down the road. I’m still trying to figure out if it was in reaction to the wind or from the stench.
After a quick break at a lean-to to sign the log book, we met an MATC (Maine Appalachian Trail Club) volunteer who was painting fresh white blazes on the trees and rocks. We talked about the missing hiker, who went missing in the area we were hiking in this afternoon. He even told us the trick to painting the perfect white blaze. Instead of using a two inch brush, which is the width of a blaze, he said the key was using a 1.5 inch wide brush. He measures it four times down the blaze to make sure it’s an even 6 inches long and then paints in the edges. We thanked him for his time as a volunteer and we were careful not to hike over the freshly painted blazes on the granite.
We pounded out the last miles of the day, avoiding a stream ford by rock-hopping and cruising through the flat section after Lone Mountain. All of the guys are here from last night and another group of kids. We are tenting near the shelter. We’re tired after a few long days and looking forward to a shorter day tomorrow.
Talking to everyone around us, we’re all ready to finish. Not to discount our experience one bit, but we’re tired and quite honestly, we’ve been out here a long time. I know that we will miss the trail once we leave, but right now, we’re all focused on finishing. And with 200 miles to go, it’s hard not to think about the end. It’s so close!