July 12. Another lazy morning…which seems to happen in towns and hotels. We finally decided to get up and start moving around 8:30. It is harder and harder to get motivated to get back on the trail, but we figured breakfast at the local diner would help. Waking up on the lake was nice…people where out boating already and there were docks full of boats and pontoon airplanes, pretty cool area! We walked to the diner and I ordered the meatlovers omlet and a pancake. It was one of the best omlets I can ever remember and as we finished breakfast the server came to tell us that the girl and her mother walking out the door had paid for our breakfast! Wow! That was some unexpected and much appreciated trail magic! We cleaned up our plates, downed one more cup of coffee for energy, and headed out to the road to hitch around 10 AM. A few minutes in and I could’t believe it…a girl in a BMW was pulling over to pick us up! Rangeley had been one awesome stop…my first Subaru hitch, offers for free tenting, a motel on the lake, breakfast paid for, and now a luxery BMW hitch! Our driver was a young lady in a little sun dress and she offered to take us to a waterfall that she loves swimming in, and I am sure any single guy would have taken her up on that offer, but Rafiki and I are both happily taken back at home and we were focused on making it to Stratton so we told her no thanks. She dropped us off back at the trail, it was a hot morning and we were looking forward to the cool breeze in the tree cover. The 2 miles to the Piazza Rock Lean-To was nice. Oh yeah, and in Maine they are not shelters…they are Lean-To’s…but they look like shelters to me. We hiked on and up the 2,000 feet to the summit of Saddleback Mountain. It was a tough climb but having a great breakfast in town helped. The summit was above tree line and the views were fantastic on a perfectly clear day. We hiked on across the ridge and down to a shelter for a break. I had heard about baseball bat floors in the lean-to’s in Maine and here I saw my first one! Instead of flat boards to sleep on the shelter had been built using 3 to 4 inch round trees all laying lenghtwise, like baseball bats. I am not sure if that would be comfortable to sleep on, but I prefer my tent so I hoped not to find out! The past few days I have been seeing huge hoof prints from moose on the trail. Some sections of the trail have such dense forest on the sides that I would have a hard time getting through it, let alone a moose! I wondered what would happen if I came face to face with a moose in that stretch…still haven’t seen one though. At one point I was walking behind Rafiki across some boards and I took my last step and saw something out of the corner of my eye fly in under my foot. At first I thought maybe Rafiki had kicked something up onto the board, as I stepped I felt something squish under my heel. I took a light step and turned to look back and sure enough, I had stepped right on top of a huge frog that had accidently jumped under my foot! I must have held up enough though, I put my pole next to the frog and he hopped off, unhurt. We were pushing hard to the next shelter, we wanted to get in earlier and have dinner before the sun went down. We had one more climb…a 1,000 foot climb in just over a mile and I was happy when we reached the summit in under half an hour…a bit faster than a 2 mile an hour pace! We cruised in the last two miles and hit the shelter before 8. There was a group of French Canadian girls there, they are all part of some camp that does outdoor activities in Maine and pretty much every night we have seen a group of Canadian guys or girls at each shelter. My buddy JD who I hiked with in PA had signed the book and I figured he was a few miles ahead of us, must have passed us while we were in Rangeley. Rafiki and I found a few flat spots off to the side and set up our tents and had a proper dinner of cold instant mashed potatoes. Mmmmm! The water source at the shelter was a pure spring with prestine water, I love those! We finished dinner and crawled in the tents before 9. We were heading into Stratton tomorrow and planning to take a night off again. Today was good, in 10 hours we did 19 miles. We are feeling stronger and there are only a few more bad climbs before the 100 Mile Wilderness but we thought that taking a night off tomorrow will give us energy for those mountains and to push into Monson, our last town stop of the AT! We finished the day at mile 1,982.5, only 201.7 to Katahdin!
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