Days 21 and 22: Friday, September 5 and Saturday, September 6

Both days slept at the AT Lodge in Millinocket, ME (left AT at mi 2175.8 at Katahdin Stream CG), walked 11.6 miles Friday and 0 Saturday

Woke up on Friday, at first around 5:45, to a decent enough sunrise in the vicinity of Katahdin, though I never got a good photo of it. Snoozed until seven and got walking at 7:30, hiking downhill for a few miles to Hurd Brook; on the way, I met a fellow named Mouse who had just finished his Triple Crown with a CDT NOBO and is now topping off with a "victory lap," an AT SOBO in the same year. Told him I'd put him in touch with Carrot, who wants to do the same CDT-AT meal deal next year. After Hurd Brook the trail rolled a few miles through the forest until popping out at Abol Bridge and the end of the "Wilderness." This turned out to be an arrestingly ugly place, with log trucks and men in very large pickup trucks being the main users of the dusty roadway. There was a store there and an adjacent restaurant, but the restaurant failed to open at 11am as promised because the one cook had apparently cleaned out his trailer and left overnight without telling anyone, and the other employees were just piecing together the facts now. Decided not to bother them by demanding service, as they had quite a pickle on their hands, and ended up hiking on at about 11:30. Also in the Abol Bridge store we (the Swiss and Siesta and I) saw our first weather forecast in five days, and it had become significantly more pessimistic for Saturday--rain, storms, hail, wind, destruction, weeping, gnashing of teeth and what have you.

Partly because of this forecast and partly because I was tired of encountering other people and having the same freaking conversation over and over again ("Yes I'm about to finish the trail. No I did not come all the way from Georgia this year. My injury in 2011 was a stress fracture. I'm from Oregon but not Portland but I grew up in Virginia and went to school in Minnesota. Yep, I guess you could say I'm from all over!" Etc.), I decided to take a shorter, less-used route to the Katahdin Stream Campground via the Blueberry Ledges trail, which turned out to be very shitty and claustrophobic and unrewarding, and a huge error in judgment on my part in general. The AT would've taken me about two hours longer, but I thought it might be best to get to KSC early to confirm the forecast and make a decision about whether to attempt a summit the next day and give myself time to get to town. That all turned out to be unnecessary; I did get there by 1:30 and decide to put off the Katahdin climb by a day--a decision I'm fine with, no point in climbing up there and having my picture made in horrendous weather--but I could have just as easily made that call at 3:30pm. 

Regardless, I got a ride into Millinocket, about 20 miles away, with the AT Lodge hostel shuttle around 4 and chose to settle in here for the next two nights. It's quite a thorough and tidy place, and almost no hikers were around on Friday, meaning I had the communal bunkroom utterly to myself; one of the few hikers that were here was Guthook, he of the trail-app fame. He and I and a few others went out to dinner at the AT Cafe (you may spot a theme in the names of businesses in Millinocket), where I put on an absolute clinic, inhaling a Baxter Peak-sized portion of chicken Parmesan and mozzarella sticks and eliciting comment from some of the seasoned hikers around me by the sheer voracity of my efforts. After that it was off to bed, and Saturday, today, was a fairly nondescript zero day. I ate twice more at the Cafe, lunching with a Brit named Overhaul who used to sell very expensive jewelry on cruise ships and next wants to open a restaurant chain that serves crickets and call it Stumps (the domain name apparently already belongs to a fetish site for amputee porn, otherwise that would be his business name), and later supping with the Swiss couple and Siesta. They successfully summited Katahdin this morning, but it was in heavy fog and then they were chased off the mountain by storms which they just barely avoided before they caught a ride into town. They and I and another successful thru-hiker, Toasted Toad, hit up the bahhhs--or, more accurately, the one bahhh in Millinocket, the Blue Ox Saloon--after dinner, which was at like 6:00. I didn't want to make a spectacle out of it, because I do have to get up at 4:30 tomorrow morning and make a very steep climb of a very important mountain, but it was great to hang out with them. I found out that Swiss Miss spent a year as a high school exchange student in Yakima, Washington, of all places, going to the "ghetto school" there, which certainly sounded like a character-building experience. There was a hint of post-trail blues setting in already, but for the most part everyone was happy, and the owner was kind enough to take care of a few drinks for all the finishers. I left early and came back to the hostel, making a little more conversation with Overhaul and a different hiker who was a former trucker (I've long noticed that there is absolutely a thru-hiker/trucker crossover or common bond, maybe I'll flesh that idea out more later). Then bed. Tomorrow morning: hitch out extremely early, climb Katahdin, get down from Katahdin, start hitching again and with any luck end up in the evening in Portland, Maine with A-GAME. Should be a rare old day.

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