The pancakes at Harrison’s were amazing. For a measly $12 I had a stack of pancakes, breakfast sausage, scrambled eggs and a bowl of fruit. And don’t forget a refreshing glass of orange juice. It was an honor to sit inside Tim Harrison’s quaint cabin in this part of Maine. Lots of history and many hikers have sat in these chairs and it was a unique experience to add to all of that. Margarita and I were joined with three other hikers for breakfast and we swapped stories on the trail around the breakfast table. There was a man I met at breakfast who hiked in 1978 (I believe). Amazingly he told us he had breakfast here as a teenager all those years ago. Even more amazing, Tim Harrison, who was the same man who served him in 1978, still had the hiker’s journal from that year. The man at the table told us his name which he wrote in this book. As a little AT fan, I loved it. I was asking him about the trail in 1978, specifically about the Kennebec water crossing which I was going to see in a few miles. The man said he ran from here to the water crossing in order to fjord it at a lower level. Today hikers and section hikers are allowed a short canoe ride to the other end. Very different times we live in.
After a good social hour, I felt Margarita wanted to start the hike. She was right. So we said goodbye, thanked Tim for his hospitality and paid him (I had a brain fart and thought Tim had run out of money. I stupidly said he owed me a few more bucks, only to realize I had miscounted. I felt so stupid and rude for that. Even though he shorted me, I shouldn’t have cared). The trail from Tim Harrison to the river was easy with little to no elevation gain. Arrived at the level crossing, we saw that the canoe was moving. We patiently waited our turn. When the man in charge of transporting hikers came to see us, he gave us waivers to sign. We rummaged through the papers and saw the name of Peach Fuzz who had been the last hiker to cross yesterday. Margarita crossed the first one because the ferryman left the other life jacket on the other side. As I waited for him to come back, the group of boys from last night caught up with us and were also waiting to cross. The smuggler finally picked me up and I boarded with one of the boys from the camp. The boy took the paddle, so I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.
Margarita was waiting for me at the other with a Coke in her hand. A bit of trail magic awaited hikers who crossed it! But Margarita and I had a dilemma. She only had enough food for today, nothing for tomorrow. She needed to refuel. Caratunk was the closest town, but it was about a mile away and we had no reception to call a shuttle. To make matters even more difficult, there was only one place to restock in this town. A place called the Sterling Inn. Margaritaville being the most seasoned and brave hiker I started walking the side of the road with her thumbs up. I am not a hitchhiker. In fact, I hadn’t received a single thumb hitch until now (I know, so unconventional). I always just schedule resupply at trailheads with good reception to call a shuttle driver, or at a hostel, or if I’m driving through town. We walked to the Sterling with Margarita trying to get a turn every time a car ran by us. In vain. At one point we pulled over and realized we would waste so much time getting to the Sterling, refueling and then returning. I had food for today and tomorrow, so I tried to give him some of mine to make up for his deficit. But that now meant that we both had an insufficient food supply. We were going to try our luck. We started walking towards the trailhead, but out of nowhere the big white van with the words Sterling Inn passed by us. They should drop hikers off at the trailhead. We stopped and waited until the van came back in our direction. The driver pulled over to the side and told us to get on. Magical ! The owner of the hostel had come to pick us up!
We arrived at the hostel and were greeted by one of the friendliest establishments for backpackers. Free shuttles to and from the trailhead, an extensive supply store, and a nice lounge to relax. Also sockets to charge our phones. We got our food for the next day and then rested in the living room. There was a piano, so I indulged in some tunes that I remembered from years ago. I then found an old book that detailed the history of the Maine section of the Appalachian Trail and was captivated by the old photos and text. It’s humbling to read those old stories from the early days on the trails. Further cements my deep appreciation for this Appalachian creation.
Margarita and I asked the owner to take us back to the trail, which he obliged. Caratunk is a very small town, so I think he enjoys the constant flow of hikers coming to his home. On another trip, I would have stayed at his inn for the night. He dropped us off and told us not to worry about the next climbs. They were nothing compared to what we have just experienced. And indeed he was right. We climbed them in no time. The trail flattened out, we were walking faster and everything seemed to come together.
The final climb stood in front of us. Moxie Bald Mountain. It looked bad on FarOut, but it would be the last big climb up to Monson. I guess I said that for almost every climb, but I swear this was really the last one. The climb was easier than expected and we reached the bald quicker than expected. It was a beautiful view up there with the evening sky, and the even higher North Peak was slightly attracting Margarita. She asked me if I wanted to take a blue trail. I said I would think about it and let him know when we got to camp.
We descended to Bald Mountain Lean-to where we met a group of other hikers having dinner. We showed up and set up our tents on the site. We filled our waters at the pond then headed to the table for dinner. That’s when I told Margarita I didn’t want to take the Blue Blaze to North Peak. We had a good laugh about it. Some SOBOS dined with us and warned us of a muddy creek crossing tomorrow. They said it was impossible to stay dry. Yeah.
Bald Mountain lean-to
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