July 15. It was a hot night…and something kept running around my tent all night. I think it may have been a frog or a mouse, either way it kept me up too long. Finally after midnight I could feel a cool breeze drafting through my tent. Yesterday had been probably the hottest day on the AT for me, and today didn’t start much better. We were all up by 5:30 AM because we needed to knock out 13.5 miles before 11 AM to catch the canoe ferry across the Kennebec River. The Kennebec is a wide river with an upstream dam that lets out water at certain times. People do try to ford the river, but it is advised to take the boat. The boat runs from 9 AM – 11 AM and then from 2 to 4 in the afternoon. We didn’t want to miss the morning shuttle so we were in a hurry. We passed the Pierce Pond Lean-to where a few weeks ago another northbound AT thru-hiker drowned in the lake. It was a reminder that life doesn’t last forever, this trail doesn’t last forever, and as short or long as it goes it should be enjoyed. It was a tough last few miles to the river. Rafiki and I got there right at 10:30, just after JD had made it across. Hillbilly Dave paddled his way back across the river and Rafiki and I jumped in, Rafiki in the middle and me up front of the canoe to paddle. Hillbilly Dave said with the heat and no rain it was maybe the lowest he had ever seen the river…maybe I should try to ford it. Naw, plus there was a white blaze in the bottom of the boat, taking the ferry across was part of the actual AT. We had made it, 13.5 miles before 11 AM and we were all hot, sweaty, and beat. There was a lodge and brewery 2 miles from the trail down the highway and Hillbilly Dave said to just start walking that way and put our thumbs up. We all needed water and more food fuel. We started walking down the hot paved highway and line after line of cars passed us. Finally a guy in a big van picked us up…but he kept saying something about the loser following him and when he dropped us at the lodge he asked us to hurry…ok! The van drove us to The Forks, Maine, population 30. We had walked almost half way to the lodge before a hitch, when we walked in a guy said to us “Did you guys finally get picked up or finish the walk here?” He had passed us but didn’t stop…gee, thanks! We sat down and ordered burgers, they brought up a pitcher of water and lots of soda. It was refreshing and around noon we were done, but it was incredibly hot outside. We decided to wait out the mid day heat for a bit inside the lodge, which didn’t have AC, and we sat there sweating. Rafiki made the move and asked about the rooms…a 30% discount for hikers and AC…sold. We got the room and unpacked. It was hot, we were tired, and the rain storms were supposed to hit tonight. JD and I relaxed by the bar for the afternoon, there was a brewery downstairs and the beer was good! We hit up the restaurant for dinner and I had a chicken sandwich and fries…food for fuel! During dinner the sky opened up…it was pouring rain and we were happy to be dry and inside tonight, hoping the temps would drop tomorrow. We finished eating and headed up to the room to find out the AC unit was kicking out more heat than cold air…so we turned it off and opened the 1 skylight in the room. I took a quick shower to wash off the 2 day layer of sweat and bug spray and it was tough to throw back on my smelly clothes, but less than one week from the end! At this point I think I need to work most on my food weight. I keep rolling into town with extra food…just out of Stratton I opened a 24 ounce bag of trail mix I have carried since Bennington, VT. I haven’t needed it yet on the trail since I always carry a little extra food…but that is more extra weight that I didn’t need to carry! It is sort of like the new roll of toilet paper I picked up in North Woodstock and carried through the Whites untouched because every hut had more than enough TP. Oh well…I learn as I go! Rafiki and I fixed the AC unit…the output was upside down, and as the room cooled down I was ready to get some sleep! It was another low mile day today…we have not been slowing down on purpose…but the mountains of Southern Maine were brutal and now the heat was unbearable. We have enjoyed the towns though and the town food, and with only a few days left on the trail it is probably better to tackle the tough sections like this. We finished at mile 2,033, with 151 to go!
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