Section Hike 2014: Stratton to Caratunk

Stratton to Horns Pond Lean-To

August 8, 2014

5.1 miles

After some morning trail magic and blueberry pancakes at the White Wolf Inn, Phys Ed appeared from the woods. It was as if no time had passed since we last saw him. He looked just like the hiker we last saw in Pennsylvania last June, although we looked a bit different ourselves. It was a hot morning, so we sat for about an hour eating, talking, and catching up. We couldn’t help but present Phys Ed with a Maine favorite: the infamous Whoopie Pie! In true thru-hiker fashion, the whoopie pie was consumed before the sandwich.

Miles needed to drop off the cooler of food and gather some things from the ski cabin, so Phys Ed and I decided to head out to the trail. It was surprisingly easier than I expected to re-adapt to hiking with a full pack and get back into hiker mode. Although I have been running a lot this summer, it doesn’t necessarily equate to hiking shape, but I felt pretty damn good. It’s a steep climb up to Horns Pond and I took one break on the way up to eat a plum and take a rest. I had decided earlier that I would take my break at a fork in the trail. As I sat there, several sub-groups of a French-Canadian hiking group came down the AT from the north. At one point, three adults came in from the trail from Stratton and two of kids from the AT. I’m sitting there enjoying my plum while they all speak to one another in French. Of course, I’ve been in situations before where everyone around me is speaking a language I can’t understand, but we were especially close and alone on the trail, so it was definitely a bit awkward and comical for me.

It was nice to talk with Phys Ed as we made our way up to Horns Pond together. There was a lot to talk about regarding his hiking this year, what we were doing in between hiking, and things we had experienced after we last saw one another on the trail. We arrived at Horns Pond a few hours later and Miles showed up about ten minutes after us. He had a tougher time going up than I did surprisingly. We debated as to whether we wanted to tent or stay in one of the shelters. Looming dark clouds persuaded me to hole up in the shelter while Miles wanted to risk tenting. I wanted to tent, but not if it was going to rain. The caretaker showed up while we were debating and said there was a zero percent chance of rain. For a few minutes we decided to tent, put our stuff by the tent site, got water at the pond, and by the time we got back to the tent site, decided to stay in the shelter. My intuition was correct and as soon as we made it back into the shelter, it began to pour. Like driving, hard rain that we would have been setting up our tent in. I still have the raincloud sixth sense 🙂

It seems that once you’re a thru-hiker, you’re always a thru-hiker. Well, at least one year later and when you’re still in good shape. While it was only a 5 mile hike that afternoon, it’s a mostly uphill section and will get you right back into the hiker mindset. The stress of my daily life was instantly gone and all I could think about was that day. Where we were headed, what we would have for dinner, and looking forward to writing in my journal and preparing for the next day. It felt like home, being back on the trail and hanging out with hikers we had just met.

It just felt right.

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