July 13.  Happy Trail Friday!  We were going to town!  It is a lot easier waking up and going to town rather than leaving town.  We started moving around 5:30 and hit the trail.  First though I visited the privy and stopped by the spring for more great water.  Our first climb was 900 feet up and I pushed.  Near the summit I caught up with JD!  I thought he had moved on the night before but he said he camped behind the shelter and we were in front of it…with all the Canadian tents we didn’t see each other.  I hiked with JD for about an hour and we made good time but on another steep climb I needed to slow down and get some food.  It was going to be a hot day and I was drinking tons of water.  JD mentioned that there were only 2 people ahead of him on the trail that he knew…or only two people who were faster than him.  JD is still under 4 months on the trail and will probably finish in under 4 months, so he is one of the fastest guys I know.  But, the only other people he knew who had passed him were me and Q Man!  That is pretty cool!  We were talking about Q as well and Q has only been about 3 days ahead of us since we all met at Deleware Water Gap in PA.  There I took 3 days off with Amy, and a week or so later JD took 3 days off with his wife…so really JD and I, without our time off, have been pacing evenly with Q.  It is nice to think that I can keep up with the ultralight guys, even though my packweight is heavier than theirs.  I made it down to the road just before noon, 13.5 miles done.  Somehow Rafiki never caught me the whole morning, either I was fast or he was having an off day.  I sat in the shade and ate a Snickers bar and 15 minutes later Rafiki appeared from the trail and threw his trekking poles across the parking lot, I think he was having a rough day.  We talked about how hard the climbs had been, and even in the flat sections we had to step around rocks and roots and I had rolled both ankles pretty good.  We were both ready for town.  We hit the road and after a few minutes a pickup truck stopped and jumped in the back.  We rode the 5 miles into town and got dropped off at the post office.  From there we made a B-line for the Citgo to get some soda.  I had heard about Moxie, a soda that everyone drinks here in Maine, so I picked up a liter.  Yesterday morning Rafiki and I saw a local morning show where an overweight woman was showing the TV hosts her seceret drink…Moxie mixed with milk.  Rafiki and I both looked at eachother and siad maybe she should lay off the milk, or the Moxie for that matter, but the image stuck in my head.  I took a drink of Moxie, waited…not bad, but a weird after taste.  Hmmm, I think I will pick up some milk.  We walked down to the White Wolf Inn and checked into our room.  We had all considered getting back on the trail but it was incredibly hot and there were some big climbs out of Stratton, better to do those tomorrow.  We met up with JD, he had hitched in and picked up a box at the post office and we headed to the Stratton Diner for lunch.  A bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a waitress from Chicago.  Something has been happening in southern Maine, there are all of a sudden girls on and around the trail.  If I was single I think it would be better to skip the rest of the trail and hang out in Maine.  The good thing for me though…I get to see my girl in a little over 10 days!  After lunch Rafiki and I hit the grocery store to resupply, 3 days of food for 70 miles to Monson.  JD headed over and got a room in the same hotel.  Somehow Rafiki and I had called the day before and we got a very small room with 2 beds and no AC and JD walked in and got a huge room with 3 beds and AC!  Oh well…  I needed a shower…it had only been a day of hiking but the trail was really dry and dusty and my legs were coated with a thick layer of dirt.  We all got cleaned up and Rafiki headed down to road to the laundramat in his puffy jacket and a towel…hiker trash for sure!  I stayed behind with a six pack of Gritty’s Vacation Land Summer Ale, a plastic chair on the upstairs balcony, and some music…time to relax!  Two days ago when we were in Rangeley we stopped in the kayak store and I saw a book about stand up paddle boarding…I picked it up and flipped through the pages and almost every picture was from Southern California…it made me really ready to get back to my south facing beach in Santa Barbara!  On the trail I also see rocks that are shaped like California and they get my mind thinking about being out west.  I spent the afternoon hanging out on the patio and after laundry JD, Rafiki, and I headed downstairs for a fish fry dinner…it was a $10 platter of fish, and seconds were on the house!  We had dinner and a few other northbounders showed up and one guy decided to take on the Wolf Challenge…3 hamburger platters with fries in 1 hour!  He had to pay $30 and had one hour and couldn’t get up and had to finish everything and it would all be free.  It was intense, the platters came and in 5 minutes the first burger was down.  10 minutes the second done.  25 minutes the third gone.  Now it was a huge plate of fries…he finished everything in 52 minutes, not bad!  Even I felt full!  Then the bill came and somehow we paid for 2 extra beers so after a very complicated conversation with the server and a couple of tense moments we got two more beers that we didn’t want to drink.  We finished dinner and I waddled upstairs, too full from food and drink.  The room was toasty hot and we decided we would leave the door open and just have the screen door closed to keep the bugs out.  Of course, there was a huge light right outside the door shining in…this was another interesting hotel stay.  I was ready to hit the trial, and ready to be done!  We hitched today from mile 1,996, and had only 188 miles to go!



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