2019-Day 85: the drive to Maine edition

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July 17, 2019

In my phone notes, it says that I have a partially written version of today’s post. I’ve scoured my phone and my laptop for said draft, and it doesn’t seem to exist. Yay! So I will piece together the narrative with some of the pictures and text that appear in the “real time update” post from last summer.

We left Maryland at the unfortunate hour of 4:45am equipped with enough snacks for 2 days, my mom’s hotspot for blog editing purposes, our backpacks/poles, and an agreement to not kill each other for the next 14ish hours. We drove in the dark with a bright moon to our left for awhile until the horizon slowly started to brighten into a soft peachy color over the foggy fields.

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Our first stop was for breakfast from Dunkin Donuts. We could have packed food from the house, but this felt like an easy way to boost morale and it gave us something to look forward to in the early hours of a loooooooong trip.

We survived our departure into suburbia and ate our respective choices while the sky continued to brighten. I eventually switched from being a complete zombie to blogging mode, which was a questionable choice given my challenges with motion sickness, but it seemed like a wise use of time.

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I made progress while also making myself feel like refried poop. We made the occasional pit stop for bathrooms and snacks (because who can resist gas station snacks?). My memory of lunch is hazy, but I know it consisted of a medley of gas station choices. I longed for the predictability of our resupply food, which just goes to show how much I liked our choices.

Oakland drove for a a few hours somewhere between CT and northern MA. I didn’t bother offering to drive on the major highways because I have an issue with getting drowsy behind the wheel on a good day, much less in the latter part of a 1,200 mile hike.

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We made phenomenal time even with a few daytime construction zones. My stomach did flip-flops as the signs began to list more northern destinations. When we finally crossed the bridge into Maine, I had a hard time sitting still, which was a problem because we still had about 3.5 hours of driving to get to Stratton.

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I had to give up on blogging as soon as we left I-95. I offered to drive because I don’t get as sleepy on country roads, but Dave didn’t seem interested in giving up the helm, so I stayed put. Our route just so happened to take us through Farmington, ME, which is where I went to the emergency room with Research in 2017. Here’s a mediocre picture of the hospital from the stoplight across the street and a view of downtown Farmington:

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Once we left Farmington, we were all on edge for the possibility of moose crossings, but we thankfully didn’t have to contend with any. Eventually, the Bigelows loomed on the horizon and the Carrabassett River flowed to our right. I knew from personal experience that the seemingly simple wall of mountains in front of us would be one intense physical challenge after another.

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We slowed as the map told us we were approaching Caribou Pond Rd, as it’s listed in google maps – for some reason guthook labels it Caribou Valley Rd. At any rate, we were heartened to see no closure signs in place. I placed little hope in the outcome because the crews could roll in at the crack of dawn and change everything.

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We arrived at the White Wolf Inn around 6pm. It was mind boggling to have breakfast in Virginia…well, technically Maryland because we ate in the car, and then have dinner in Maine across the street from a place that I haven’t seen since I broke my arm. Sadly, the White Wolf’s downstairs restaurant is closed on Wednesdays. After settling in, we zombie walked our way across the street to have a simple dinner at the Stratton Plaza, which appears to be part bar, part hotel, and part restaurant. The front area is dotted with pool tables and you walk into a seating area that is likely populated more for the bar than the food.

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We sat near a handful of hikers that were up to their elbows in a nacho platter. Construction workers talked loudly at the bar and we marveled at their intense Maine accents. At some point, Oakland suggested that we ask the hikers whether they got off trail at the logging road or where it crosses RT 27. I scoffed, saying that no one gets out at the logging road unless they absolutely have to, but it seemed silly not to ask. I interrupted their dinner right as one woman had her mouth full of stringy cheesy pizza. After laughing about that, I asked the question of where they’d gotten off the trail without actually asking if they were hiking because hikers can almost always spot other hikers. They had in fact come from the logging road! And one of them used her car to drive in and out of there today. They turned out to be a jolly and personable group. One of them misheard me when I said that I broke my arm and thought that I’d broken my oboe. She then asked if she could call me oboe, which I of course agreed to should we ever meet again. They very unfortunately got trolled by the construction workers who did the classic “sit down at the table and be completely inappropriate while apologizing for being drunk and possibly inappropriate” routine. I wanted the hikers to tell them to shove off, but I know that’s not really what you do when faced with two cis men in a bar. You placate and exit as soon as possible, unless by some chance the attention is actually a good thing. We left the restaurant buoyed by the prospect of getting to hit the trail at the road rather than suffer up the steep grade of a ski trail while also feeling anxious about tenuous nature of the road access. For all we knew, crews could arrive first thing in the morning and make the road impassable.

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We settled back into the white horse after saying goodnight to Dave. Our nerves were on edge, our legs were stiff from the long ride, and I was anxious about the emotions that might bubble up when we backtrack to where I broke my arm, but I was so excited to show Oakland the wilds of Maine. Our plan for tomorrow is to enter at the logging road (all fingers and toes crossed), cross the South Carrabbassett River (first major challenge), hike south 5ish miles to the Spaulding Mountain shelter area where I broke my arm, and hike back 5ish miles to camp on the northern side of the river. A complicated beginning and extra mileage, which meant extra meals to account for, but my psyche needed it and Oakland was up for the detour.

The hikers at the restaurant didn’t do much to allay Oakland’s fears after they despaired about how hard the hiking was from Sugarloaf to the logging road. I tried to comfort Oakland by saying I did the hike with a broken arm, but I’m not sure it helped. Here’s a picture of our stylish accommodations:

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I caught a glimpse of pink sky from our screen door, and couldn’t resist the pull of sunset. Oakland joined me in watching the clouds turn cotton candy pink while the trio of hikers from the restaurant returned to their room.

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They stopped to chat and we found out that two of them are actually married. Gay people! in Maine! huzzah. It was a comforting coincidence. I’m pretty sure they’re responsible for this car in the parking lot:

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Oakland was too perturbed by the mosquitoes to stick around much longer, so we retired to our room for good as the pink clouds began to fade to a smokey blue. I ate my feelings in the form of leftover donut holes.

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It was surreal to be in the exact same hotel room two years later with fully functioning limbs and my favorite person who had willingly put herself in the hiking belly of the beast. Tomorrow, we hike!

**A gigantic thank you to my stepdad who braved sitting in the car with me for hours on end (no small feat) and who did the majority of the driving.**

Mile 844.6 to mile 844.6 (0) – Stratton, ME

Checklist total miles: 853.4

Oakland total miles: 374.0

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