AT 2017: Day 163, South Branch Carrabassett River to ME Highway 27 (Stratton)

I've stayed in every blue light cheap hotel

Wet fir tree

After yesterday afternoon’s harrowing descent to our campsite on the south branch of the Carrabassett River, I was looking forward to an easier day today.

Our plan was to hike to Maine Highway 27 and get a ride into Stratton. A motel there was owned by the same people who owned The Farmhouse, the hostel and B&B where we stayed while in Rangely.

That stay turned out well for us, so Tengo, Stick and I were hopeful of another good one today.

DateWednesday, September 20, 2017
WeatherFoggy, then cloudy to mostly cloudy, with a high temperature in the low 70s
Trail ConditionsSteep climbs with many rocks and roots
Today's Miles8.4
Trip Miles1982.4

Because we planned to hike fewer than 10 miles today, we weren’t in as much of a hurry to get started as yesterday.

A short mileage day like today feels almost as if I’m cheating on the trail because I’m not giving it my all.

But I think I can be forgiven to take time out for a shower, laundry, resupply for the next section of trail, and to fatten up on some town food.

Foggy climb up South Crocker Mountain

A little rain fell last night after we were in our tents and it ended well before we woke up this morning. That’s the kind of rain I can deal with.

After leaving our campsite this foggy morning, we had to make a long, rocky and sometimes steep climb up South Crocker Mountain.

This and North Crocker Mountain were the only two climbs of the day, but they were big ones. Both mountains were just over 4,000 feet in elevation.

Rock slide on South Crocker Mountain

A little more than a mile up the first mountain, the trail passed over an old rock slide. In clear weather I’m sure the wide open space would provide a nice view of the river valley. There was nothing to see today because of the fog.

Sign to viewpoint on South Crocker Mountain

A short side trail led to a viewpoint at the top of South Crocker Mountain. The fog was still lingering on the mountain, though, so it seemed pointless to go there.

I continued on to North Crocker Mountain, which had another steep climb, but not as long. Then the trail made an arduously long descent, which extended for more than 5 miles. It felt even longer.

When I reached the highway at 3 p.m. I learned from another hiker that Stick and Tengo had just left. Tengo was concerned about his trekking pole, which he thought might be broken, so he wanted to get going to have enough time to find a ride to Rangely. He figured he’d have to go to the same outfitter store Stick used for getting his trekking pole fixed.

I called Stratton Motel and in only a few minutes a driver arrived to take me back to the motel.

Stratton Motel

The motel turned out to be nothing like The Farmhouse. This place was a significant step down in luxury from our room in Rangeley and was hard to see how it could be owned by the same people. In fact, it is a stretch to call the place a motel. There were a few motel-like rooms, but in truth, this was a hiker hostel.

There was a large, main room on the first floor, which contained a seating area and a communal kitchen. The second floor had two bunk rooms, one for men and another for women. Jeff and Skittles were staying in one of the motel rooms.

When I arrived, Stick and Tengo had just finished checking in. Tengo was able to fix his trekking pole and no longer needed to go to Rangeley.

Stratton is a tiny village with a few small businesses at a curve on lightly-traveled Highway 27. Once we had a chance to get cleaned up we walked across the highway to Stratton Plaza Hotel, which had an attached restaurant. The food was good, though the service was slow.

While we were there we talked to the village’s police chief, who was drinking a beer at the bar. He was out of uniform, so presumably he was off duty. He was friendly, and we learned he is a trail angel. He told us he often picks up hikers and takes them into Stratton.

Boomer and Single T arrived at the restaurant while we were finishing dinner. Jason was outside with Maple, so I went out there to say hello.

Once we finished our meal, we walked next door to Fotter’s Market. This was a small grocery store. but big enough for us to resupply for the next few days.

The next town we will be near is Caratunk. The resupply options are reported to be minimal there, so I tried to stock up with enough food to get me to Monson if necessary.

Uncle Puck arrived at the hostel about the same time we returned there. He had been slackpacking, but now was having a hard time finding his phone. He thought he might have left it in the car that dropped him off in Stratton. I let him borrow my iPhone to use the “find my phone” feature to find his phone.

I don’t think we picked well on choosing Stratton Motel. There were other options for staying in Stratton and I regretted not looking more closely at those. This hostel reminded me of why I have tended to stay away from hostels. Although those I stayed at in New Hampshire were nice, this one was dirty and run down.

There aren’t many options available in towns up the trail, so it looks like we will be staying in hostels in Caratunk and Monson. I’m hoping they will be better.

I've stayed in every blue light cheap hotel
Can't win for trying
Dust off those rusty strings just one more time
Gonna make them shine

It all rolls into one
And nothing comes for free
There's nothing you can hold
For very long

And when you hear that song
Come crying like the wind
It seems like all this life
Was just a dream

Stella Blue
Stella Blue

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