Sometime during the night, the rain cleared out, but my depression remained. On a positive note, I should be wearing a new pair of glasses by the end of the day. The negative side is that the glasses are over seven miles from me and there is a huge mountain in my way. The cut on my hand from falling yesterday has stopped bleeding, so I put a piece of tape over it to keep it clean and started packing away my things.
I really appreciate the wood tent platforms that became prevalent since I arrived in New England, but I also know a few people who don’t care for them at all. In my view, they not only provide an excellent durable camping surface in keeping with the Leave No Trace Principles, but they also provide a flat tenting spot that drains well and keeps mud and dirt off your tent. That sounds like a win to me, but the opposing and valid view thinks that they detract from the wilderness experience.
I love being in a wilderness setting but I also appreciate the practicality of not having to carry extra weight in the form of unnecessary mud and dirt. Especially for a 1,500-foot climb over one mile to the twin peaks of Crocker Mountain. Finding my way through the roots, rocks, and mud on that steep climb was pure drudgery, but the trees cleared away at one point allowing me a great view of the Bigelow Range that I will cross in a few days. The weather was also wonderful with nice crisp temperatures as I climbed.
At one point, the trail crossed an old landslide which took some time to cross but it soon returned to the forest. There was a cloud hanging over the Crocker Mountain peaks and I walked right into it as I neared the 4,000-foot level and crossed the top of South Crocker Mountain. After a short descent to the saddle between the peaks, I climbed to the summit of North Crocker Mountain and began the long descent towards ME 27.
On the way down the mountain, I caught something unusual out of the corner of my eye that turned out to be a 2,000-mile marker. These mileage milestones have become so commonplace by this time that there have been several 100-mile increments that haven’t even been marked. But for some reason, this particular milestone meant a lot to me. I never believed I would make it to this point and it commemorated my accomplishment so far on this epic journey. But this makeshift marker also represents the final section of this journey and now I can let myself believe that I can truly make it to the end (if I don’t break something).
The realization that I only had 189.8-miles remaining on the A.T. seemed to lift my spirits a bit and in just over an hour, I arrived at the trailhead parking lot at ME Route 17. When I called earlier to make a room reservation, the lady at the White Wolf Inn told me that they didn’t have any shuttle services, but that it was easy to hitch a ride into town. So, I prepped for my hitching attempt by stowing (hiding) my muddy gaiters and collapsing my trekking poles to be attached to my backpack. Sure enough, the second car to approach me pulled over and a nice man gave me a ride the 5-miles to Stratton, Maine, to the parking lot of the White Wolf Inn.
Once I got the keys to my room, I told the lady checking me in that she should have both a large resupply package along with a smaller package for me. In possession of both packages, I went to my room and excitedly open the smaller package containing my new glasses. When I first put them on, I thought, “I wonder if I have messed up my eyes by going for a week without corrective lenses?” Something didn’t seem to be right. I soon realized that the glasses did not have the progressive lens, but they were only correcting my distance vision. I experienced a quick pang of disappointment when I realized that, due to an error by the optical shop, I was still going to be unable to read my cell phone. But I was so thankful to be able to clearly see while walking around that I dismissed the disappointment and accepted that I could deal with that problem when I got home. Thank you, my wonderful wife and trail angel, for making this happen!
The rooms at the inn are built over a restaurant of the same name so, after doing my laundry and taking a quick shower, I went downstairs for some food. I couldn’t read the menu and after I told the server about my predicament, she provided me with a jar of reading glasses of various strengths. Laughingly, I put on a pair that allowed me to order a hamburger steak with gravy, home fries, and a salad. This little restaurant reminds me of a little restaurant that my aunt took me to in her hometown. This restaurant has six booths and six (or so) tables and the place was empty when I arrived. Around 5:30, the chef came out and wrote the dinner specials on a dry erase board and, seemingly, within minutes the place filled up with locals who were pre-ordering before the cooking started at 6:00 pm. These folks obviously have the inside scoop on this restaurant and it made me almost want to eat a second dinner.
Before I left the restaurant, Perfect Storm (of Facebook fame) came walking in to check into a room. I first met her in the beginning of my hike in Hiawassee, GA when she was traveling with Terry “Seven” Coyle. They split up and, after doing a flip-flop to Katahdin, Perfect Storm is traveling SOBO with some guy I don’t know. She obviously didn’t recognize or remember me, but it was still sort of cool to randomly run into a hiker I hadn’t seen for nearly five months.
It would be nice to stay here for a day or two, but I must be moving on. It will take me at least an hour to process and repackage my resupply box and all of it will be on my back when I face the mother of all climbs tomorrow. The nice dinner this evening is making me feel better already.
Date: August 25, 2017
Starting Location: Crocker Cirque Campsite
Ending Location: ME 27, Stratton, ME
AT Miles Today: 7.3
AT Miles To Date: 2,001.6