Stratton to Caratunk: Our 2014 Section Hike

It may be September, but it is certainly still summer up here in Maine. It’s been a beautiful summer weather-wise, and only a couple of short hot spells. One was at the end of last week, so we hit up our neighborhood beach and have taken every advantage of the three ice cream places within two miles of our apartment this summer. A rainstorm cooled things off on Saturday evening and it seems to have ushered in the very beginnings of fall with it. Today was the first time I began to notice the feel and taste of fall, which I am very much looking forward to here in Portland. There’s nothing like the onset of fall, a crisp smell in the air, and the changing leaves on the trees. We go apple-picking, eat hot, fresh homemade pumpkin bread, and drink gallons of local apple cider. Not to mention, I can wear hoodies everyday, watch Downton Abbey, and cozy up in my L.L. Bean moccasin slippers around the apartment. While I love the long, hot days of summer, I prefer the milder and calmer times of fall.

While things may be calmer than they were this summer, I can’t say that we are lounging around on weekends watching TV. Not just because we don’t have cable, but because we are still very busy. Miles recently began a job at Deering High School in Portland as an education technician and is also the freshman boys soccer coach and goalkeeping coach for the entire boys soccer program. The pieces are really falling together for him, which is very exciting. In January, he will be starting his masters program at University of Southern Maine and will continue to work as an ed. tech. and do his student-teaching at Deering as well.

Fall is the busiest time of year for my photography business, Tandem Studios. It is so cool to see our business grow each year. This is our third fall season and we receive more and more inquiries with each year. Our annual fall mini sessions filled up in less than 24 hours and I have at least one photo session every weekend up until the end of October! I even have a family session in Jackson, New Hampshire in the White Mountains in a few weeks. I’m really looking forward to heading down there and maybe have some time to do a hike or two in the Whites. I also recently became approved to be a stock photographer on iStockphoto.com and am continually looking for photography opportunities in the area. I shot my first wedding as the main shooter a few weeks ago and am shooting another one this coming weekend. It’s truly an exciting and evolving time in my life and I can’t wait for what these next few months hold.

A few captures from my first wedding as a main shooter. Little Ossipee Pond, Maine.
A few captures from my first wedding as a main shooter. Little Ossipee Pond, Maine.
It was a beautiful day for a rustic/vintage pond-side camp wedding!
It was a beautiful day for a rustic/vintage pond-side camp wedding!

But before I lead you all on my month-by-month plan for the remainder of the year, let’s back-track a bit to early August.

We were both in the wedding. Do we look different than we did a year ago?!
We were both in the wedding. Do we look different than we did a year ago?!
My family and I.
My family and I.

After a super fun weekend at my sister’s wedding on Alamoosook Lake in Orland, we headed back to South Portland for a few days to work and prepare for our 37-mile, 4 day section hike. Since this was most likely the only time we would get on the trail this year, we had to make the most of our trip. We loaded up on a bunch of trail magic food and drinks and filled our own food bags up with the junk food we hadn’t eaten in almost a year. The best part about our hike was that we were meeting up with Phys Ed! He set out in June to finish his thru-hike from last year starting in New York and it happened to be perfect timing to meet up with him at the road into Stratton and head north together for a few days.

Miles went up early on that Thursday to do some trail magic for hikers at the road into Stratton while I worked until the afternoon and then drove up to Caratunk. We parked my car in Caratunk where we would end our section hike and then Miles drove over from Stratton, picked me up, and then drove back to stay in Wyman Township at his family friend’s ski cabin where we stayed last year. Miles was able to help out several hikers that afternoon with some sandwiches, soda, PBRs, fruit, resupply items, and a trash dump to lighten their loads. He gave some rides into town before heading over to Caratunk around the Bigelow Range to pick me up.

As I was heading up on 295 from Portland, I got caught in a major traffic jam in Augusta. I went about two miles in over 45 minutes due to a six-car accident up the road. I was afraid it was going to put us way behind, but I know for a fact that two thru-hikers were very happy I was delayed. As I was nearing the trailhead parking lot, I was cruising along the winding road along the Kennebec listening to NPR. I came up over a hill and saw two guys hitchhiking on my side of the road. My first thought was that they couldn’t be thru-hikers because they were too far off the trail. I wasn’t going to pick them up, but as I passed them, I noticed their hiking poles and knew immediately that they were in fact thru-hikers. I made the quick decision to stop for them, following my gut feeling. I’ve never picked up hitchhikers of any kind before, but I knew the culture around picking up thru-hikers along the trail was totally safe. The two guys piled in my car, gear, stench, and all. Ahhh…nothing like the thru-hiker stench to bring you back to the good ol’ days. But really, I didn’t mind it at all. Nearing the end of their thru-hike, Windscreen and Deep Blue were ever grateful for the ride back to the trail. The guy taking them back to the trailhead had overshot by more than a few miles, so they had been stuck trying to hitch for about an hour before I stopped for them. Caratunk is basically in the middle of nowhere and most people passing through are on their way to The Forks or Canada, which isn’t very far from there.

Miles showed up at the same time as us to the parking lot and thankfully he brought the cooler of food with him. We gave Windscreen and Deep Blue some food and beers along with a couple of other thru-hikers who showed up on their way to the infamously trashy Pleasant Pond Lean-To where we camped last year. Probably my favorite moment with them besides sharing trail stories from this year and last year was when Miles mentioned Québécois, which refers to Canadians that are from Quebec. Deep Blue thought he was talking about a muskrat rustling around in the woods. We all had a chuckle at that one.

After bidding adieu to our fellow thru-hikers, we headed back down about an hour to Stratton. I had a restless night of sleep as every logging truck that drove by in the night shook the entire cabin. Oh well. It wasn’t like I was going to sleep that well while we were camping anyways. I never really did sleep through an entire night out on the trail. The anticipation of backpacking once more was certainly building as daylight drew nearer.

I couldn’t wait.

To be continued…

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