Saturday, July 21, 2012

From Stratton to Rangeley

We left Stratton after our 4th zero day. When we arrived in Stratton Jess was having some knee issues (more muscle related than anything) and we decided to take another day off to allow her knee to heal up. Our spirits were high as Sue dropped us off at the trailhead and we prepared for the five mile climb to the top of Crocker Mountain.

Remember that shirt I was super stoked on? The one I thought would be a lot tougher and last a lot longer? Yeah, big holes. Didn't make it 5 miles.

The top of Crocker Mountain was unfortunately just as dissappointing. It was the first mountain we had climbed with an altitude over 4000 feet that didn't have a view. Wasn't above treeline. We decided to push down to our next stream fording and camp by the bank. It started to rain that day. We climbed up and down super slippery rocks and slogged through some more mud. Kind of a bummer.

That next day we climbed again in the wet and the cold, trying to get past that next lean-to. The hiking that morning was pretty incredible though, it wasn't raining and we were dipping in and out of the clouds along a ridge, so most of the walk was through the misty forest. Definitely a neat experience.

Along the trail, we then ran into a mouse! Poor little guy was curled up into a ball sitting on a rock on the trail shivering. He was so helpless, doing anything he could do get some sunshine or warmth, he didn't even move when we walked up to him. As he was sitting there I realized I was confroted by my first hiker philosophy/karma crossroads. Should I just leave the little guy to fend for himself and live by the hiker code of 'don't feed the animals'? Or should I give him what help I can and take this as an opportunity to earn some good mouse-karma? I chose the latter and gave him two pieces of dehydrated strawberry and a few almonds, hoping that the sugars in the strawberry would help to warm him and the almonds would keep him going until he could get more food. I sure hope he's alright.

 Shortly after leaving Biscuit (we named the little fella), we hit our 200 mile mark at the plaque that commemorated the completion of the last section of the Appalachian Trail!

2,054 miles long!? That would've been nice. It's 2,186 now!
Things really started to pick up then, as we arrived at the next lean-to we completed a quest that we were set upon many miles ago: The Quest To Find Rayo! This particular lean-to (wish I could remember the name) was off the trail on a blue blazed route. We got there and met two French-Canadian section hikers and two other SoBo's called Poncho and Pepper. It's always nice on the trail to have a) company and b) a roof over your head in the rain, so we decided to stop short and stay there, rather than press on a have to set up our tent in the wetness. It turned out to be perfect, because in comes a northbounder stopping for lunch.

Here's the backstory. Miles ago we got an email from Patti, asking us to tell her son Rayo that she says hi when we pass him. Naturally we thought this was awesome, and I'll be darned if I didn't ask more than a few NoBo's we crossed paths with if they were Rayo. But when we started talking to this particular NoBo in the hut, I chose just to ask him his name. When he told us it was Rayo, we both just stared at him with our mouths open before telling him that we'd been looking for him and his mom says to say hi! To this he replied, "Who are you guys?!" It was all very funny.

From Left: Left Hand, Rayo, and Aves ;)
So, with our spirits back up (one of the French-Canadians had green thread and allowed me to repair my shirt) and the sun out once again we strolled on. We put in a good day complete with a stream crossing and over Jr. Saddleback Mountain, and stopped at a new campsite at the base of our next summit. Poncho and Pepper had planned on stopping there too, and we found them on one of two decks built for tents. Quite the luxury item!

The next day we only planned to hike seven miles, so we spent the morning in our tent relaxing and watching tv shows on our iPods. It was a good little break but it sure did make it that much harder to get going. Especially since this was about the time that Jess developed a swollen bump underneath the skin on her right shoulder that was making it difficult to carry her pack (more about this in a little bit). We made it though, up and over two more peaks with incredible views and down the other side to Piazza Rock Lean-to. The wind had kicked up at the tops of the mountians, so we didn't get to spend as much time as we would have liked up there, but the hike was really great.

Jess descending Saddleback Mountain
Our plan was originally to try and get through Rangeley without paying for a night. It's more of a resort town so the hotel rooms are pretty expensive. From our campsite at Piazza Rock Lean-to to the road was under two miles, and we did that hike fast early in the morning. When we got to the road, Jess couldn't have any pressure on that swollen part of her shoulder, so I grabbed her pack as we headed toward Rangeley (9 miles away) trying to hitch a ride. Hitching didn't take long but we did have to walk past a couple long sections of road with guard rails so that somebody would have a spot to pull over. Joe, a local business owner scooped us up in his truck and drove us to the medical center.

We weren't there for long even though they didn't really know what was going on under Jess's skin. The guess is that it's an infected bug bite, so they put her on antibiotics and told her that she needs to make sure she doesn't start running a fever, which would be a sign that the meds aren't working and we need to get her back to the doctor. Since yesterday, so far so good.

Then, Rangeley turned magical. The company Outdoor Research is warranteeing our gaiters, my head net and my other shirt for us, all of which got holes or had broken buckles. The store where I bought my new shirt allowed me to exchange it for another of a different material. We had tons of awesome stuff waiting for us at the post-office (a massive thanks to both our Moms and to my Grandma for everything that's going to keep us going on the trail)! And in the hours that we were at the post office sorting through our stuff and trying to figure out our next move around Jess's shoulder we met our first trail angel

To be fair, we did send two of these boxes to ourselves from earlier on the trail. Still an impressive haul! OH and my newest shirt!
She and her parents took us in, allowed us to shower and do laundry and are keeping us today so we can zero while waiting for the antibiotics to kick in (and hopefully while the pain subsides). Not to mention that she is a retired nurse and has been helping Jess by putting on charcoal compresses to draw out any bacteria and administering hot and cold treatments for the swelling. We find ourselves truly blessed to meet such wonderful, caring, kindhearted people in our time of true need.  

We're both still doing great, but Jess is currently in a good bit of pain. I'm not sure what our pace will be like from here, but we have trailnames and 200 miles under our belts!


  1. I was so excited when Rayo told me he met up with you two & now I check your blog & I see his "skinny" face smiling!! How awesome is that!!

    Thanks for passing on the message & the pic!!!

    Happy Hiking

    Ps He hopes to summit a week from today!!!

  2. It's the mouse kharma!!! See, one good turn begets others. We would have fed the mouse too.

    Pokie Okie &, of course, Trail Blazer