Day 167: H.O.ME

Day 167

Spaulding Mountain Campsite to H.O.ME

September 28th

Miles Hiked: 13.5

AT Milage: 2000.3

This morning I woke up at 5:30am motivated to get to town early so my night at the hostel I planned to stay at would be worth it. It was cold but I “ripped the band aid off” fast by jumping out of my sleeping bag and getting dressed as quickly as I could. I hiked up Spaulding Mountain before descending to the ridge between it and Sugarloaf. Sugarloaf is the second tallest mountain in Maine but it’s summit was 0.5 miles off trail and I wanted to get to town so I walked right by it. On the ridge was a cool marker that commemorated the completion of the final section of trail that connected Springer Mountain in GA to Baxter Peak in ME. I listened to my music out loud which I hate doing but I lost my headphones on my bad fall yesterday so I had to make do. Whenever I hear people coming I turn my music off since I think it’s bad etiquette to listen to music in the woods without headphones but I really needed something to motivate me. The guide had comments about the descent from Sugarloaf being dangerous so I mentally prepared myself to take my time so I didn’t repeat yesterday’s fall. It was tedious but I made it down safely enjoying views of the Carabasett River Valley below. At the river I took a quick break to prepare myself to power up the next two mountains that stood between me and town, the Crockers.

The Crockers were really steep but I made good timing and felt strong despite my sore body. I passed a great deal of day hikers on my way up who definitely took a second look at why / how I was passing them so fast as I was carrying a giant pack. These moments I feel strong going up a mountain make me proud of all the work I’ve done and pain I’ve gone through to become essentially a hiking machine. Sometimes I forget that people don’t always realize that I walked all the way here from Georgia. Occasionally when they ask me a question I don’t admit it. I don’t always feel the need to let people know I’ve walked 1900 miles to get where I’m standing if they don’t know the great significance of the trail they chose to hike that day or that I am incredibly smelly and trail worn for a reason. It’s kind of fun to keep a secret. At the top of my last peak I called the Hostel of Maine (H.O.ME) to reserve a bunk for the night before making my final descent into town.

I passed the 2000 mile mark which felt pretty significant. I was looking forward to it all day. Now I can be considered a 2,000 miler which feels like a big deal, as if I’ve finally broke into the world of long distance hiking. It’s not to say that 500 miles isn’t a long distance hike. It’s just that if you can identify yourself as a 2,000 miler most people who are “in the know”, would understand that there’s a 99% chance you did a thru hike of one of the longest distance trails in America. To compare the number to something probably more familiar it’s like saying I finally ran a marathon. 2,000 miles is just the significant number in the world of distance hiking. When I complete the trail I will submit an application to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to join the “2,000 mile club”. To be in this you have to walk every mile of the AT (not just 2,000). They call it the 2,000 mile club out of tradition because the trail length changes every year but it’s always been at least 2,000 miles.

I wanted to get to town as fast as I could but my feet were hurting so bad I had to take a small break. It feels like the plantar pain I battled for so long before is finally resuming in full swing despite my efforts to keep it at bay. At least I walked about 400 miles without pain that makes want to cry! Eventually I reached the trail head where I immediately ran into another hiker named “Little Joe” who was getting a hitch from a local trail angel named Tom. Tom handed me a cold Gatorade and asked me where I needed to go which was amazing. I was stressing out about having to hitch hike alone and a ride was instantly provided to me upon arrival by a reliable local with another hiker.

Tom dropped me off at the hostel and told me to tell the owners he said Hi. I later learned he’s regarded as one of the most genuine trail angels on the entire trail. The lasagna dinner I ended up eating later that night was provided by him to the hostel just because he wanted to make sure the hikers got fed well! There was even a vegetarian option which was super thoughtful and I loved. I felt like I could have stayed at the hostel forever. It was a beautiful clean wooden log cabin. I couldn’t believe I got to stay in such a nice place! After I stored my pack outside, got a shower, and put on loaner clothes, I was allowed to hang out and do as I pleased. I’ve noticed that the nicer hostels up north have pretty strict rules about hikers getting cleaned up and keeping their packs outside but it definitely keeps the place a lot cleaner and better smelling. Hikers are gross! The rest of the night I ate food, resupplied at the super small grocery store in town and hung out with other hikers. Doc showed up later and I learned to play a new game with two other guests that was quite fun but also a bit complicated for my brain that mostly thinks in terms of hike, eat, sleep, repeat lately. I noticed my feet were still extremely sore all night and hopped they would heal by the time I woke up. Bedtime happened early and I was happy to be warm for once and not shivering.

Happy Trails!

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