Day 136. This northern Maine terrain is something else. A couple days ago, I’m trudging up impossibly steep mountains with nothing to hold on to, and now I’m running down well-groomed trails of soft needles. The Appalachian Trail sometimes, I just don’t know. Do I love it or hate it? More often the former, though too close to call some weeks.
My 10 mile hike today went way quicker than I expected. We didn’t actually get up in time for the sunrise, but I was packed up and on the go by 6:30. After that, it was a very casual and very swift romp through the woods in just 3 hours. I wasn’t even trying to speed, but I averaged nearly 3.5 mph the whole way by taking leisurely steps. It helped that most of the trail followed a flattened path around lakes and streams, providing almost no elevation change. And at times, there were even stretches with no rocks or roots to stub my toes on. I was amazed to realize I could look up and see the forest most of the time. That felt oddly unusual …
After passing many beautiful ponds and waterfalls, I quickly arrived at the Kennebec River around 9:30am. I was even able to stop and appreciate many of the woodland and waterway views as well. I was especially amazed at a section of the trail that walked along a man-made dam on the edge of Pierce Pond (below).
When I reached the river, I found a line of people all waiting for the ferry. At two passengers per voyage, it is not the most efficient vessel during rush hour. The ferry captain (canoeist) took people back and forth from one side to the other, battling the growing force of winds on the 500 foot wide river passage. The Kennebec is huge, especially where the trail crosses it, as it is the joining of both another river and an upstream lake. And it’s deep too, as I towed across, I saw the middle to be at least 15 feet deep. No, you cannot ford this river. And with the rushing speed of water and waves, you definitely can’t swim it either.
Unfortunately, not everyone respects the danger of this river. In talking to our captain, I learned someone did die already trying to swim it this year. Future hikers, don’t be dumb, don’t try to cross this river on your own. It is so dangerous in fact, that you have to sign a waiver form just to get in the canoe for your lift across.
One positive spin on this whole death trap thing though, the canoe ferry is officially considered part of the AT, as is signified by the white blaze on the bottom of the boat. If you want to be pure to every inch of the trail, the ferry is the trail to take. I had to get a picture of that (below) before thanking our oarsman and moving on (cover photo).
After that, it was a nice leisurely walk up a short hill to “town”. The township of Caratunk is basically a few houses (one of which is a Hostel), a B&B, and a couple white water rafting companies. Each rafting company has a restaurant/bar attached to it, but all these structures are a few minute’s drive from each other. I tried to get a bed at the Caratunk House hostel, the one place within walking distance … but they were full. So, instead I am lodging at the Sterling Inn B&B a few miles south. Both were nice, though the latter is definitely a step up for roughly the same price. I decided to splurge and get a private room fo $45 instead of a bed in the shared bunk room for $30. The trip is almost over, I think I can pamper myself a bit now.
The Sterling Inn is very nice, and has its own little general store for resupply to boot. They sell everything a thruhiker could need, and at decent prices, so I bought a couple days of food for my next leg of the hike. Only 2 days to Monson and the entry point of the 100-mile wilderness. After shopping, I took a leisurely nap, watched some TV, and jumped on a shuttle to the Kennebec Brewery for dinner. Decent food, fantastic beer … but crowded with rafting tourists.
The night ended with a group viewing of the final film of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in the Inn’s living room … I won’t waste your time explaining why this franchise is an AT hiker favorite, as any of my readers can surely see the similarity of my hike to Frodo’s march on Mordor and Mt. Doom. Seriously, it’s a great comparison and every AT hiker knows it well.
After the past week, Caratunk was a welcomed day of rest and relaxation. My ankles and knees needed a break to strengthen up again, and my soul needed some hot food and cold beer to recharge. Tomorrow morning I head out again, and I feel ready to take on what’s next. Only 150 miles to go! Inching forever forward, one day at a time….
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!
- Start Mile: 2029.4
- Start Time: 06:25
- End Mile: 2039.7
- End Time: 09:30
- Miles Hiked: 10.3
- Miles to Go: 151.2
- Lodging: Sterling Inn (Caratunk, ME)