Though I had set my alarm for 6 am for a potential 7 am shuttle back out to East Flagstaff Road, I overslept, and didn't get up until fifteen minutes later. Fortunately, with everything generally packed last night, I didn't actually have much to do this morning before being ready.
Not wanting to be the only person on the shuttle, I was hoping someone else was going. I thought I heard someone else last night say they were hiking that section today, but no one was around looking ready to hike at 6:45. Marching Band and I decided to give it until 7:30 to see if anyone else wanted to go, which gave me time to walk up to the gas station and get breakfast.
Two egg and sausage biscuits and an apple fritter later, it was 7:40, and no one else was ready, so we left for the trailhead, and I got started around 8:10.
This marks the end of the slackpack train for me; after 431.7 miles over 41 days, I'm back to carrying a full pack. It was extra heavy today since I started with two liters of soda, but fortunately, that was all drank by the end of the day.
The trail up through my first break, 6.6 miles in at the West Carry Pond Lean-to, was quite nice. I also passed two more 2,000 mile signs: one a wooden sign attached to a tree, another painted on a road. While the trail had some rocks and roots, there were no mountains to climb, rocks to scale, or steep hills to struggle over. In fact, the whole day was generally like that, though the afternoon brought more rocks and roots, and no small amount of mud. Today's 16.7 mile section of trail was easily the easiest I've had in a long while.
After 10.5 miles, the trail came to a beach on East Carry Pond, and I knew I had to stop and take a break there. It was quiet, calm, and relaxing. With just a few clouds in the sky for texture, it was a perfect day.
I had hoped to make it to my destination today without needing to stop again, but between the heavy pack and the slightly early second break, I needed a third one, which I took after another 5 miles, under a tree on the side of the trail.
Overall, I managed just under 2 mph today, including breaks. While the pack and the terrain were slowing me down, it was nice to feel like I could go fast for a change. Also, to not really feel rushed: while I had a goal for today, no one was waiting on me to be there by a certain time, so the whole day was a lot more relaxed.
The goal for today was to make it to the Pierce Pond Lean-to, but as I approached, I decided instead to stay at Harrison's Pierce Pond Camps, just under half a mile further north. The prospect of a shower tonight and a pancake breakfast tomorrow was enticing, as was not having to deal with a sleeping bag or tent my first day out with a full pack.
I got there, got a shower, and got settled into my cabin, relatively spacious for what it was. The cabin has two queen beds, a table and chairs, a big leather chair, and a wood stove, and a nice covered porch with a table, as well as several ledges built into the porch railing. There's no power in the cabin, but a kerosene lamp in the room provides enough light to see by, though I think my headlamp might actually be brighter.
For only the second time since I started slackpacking, I cooked dinner. It was nice, though. I was able to relax, sitting on my cabin's porch, cooking and eating my dinner, and taking in the sounds of nature without anyone to disturb me.
For the first time, I used the old solar charger I picked up when I was home to get my car. It managed to give my watch half a charge (all it needed) and my phone a 12% charge before running out of power. The test tomorrow will be to see how much it recharges during the day. While not really very much, if it could consistently provide even that much power, every day, I'll be entirely confident my battery pack won't run out of power during the Hundred Mile Wilderness.
As I progressed though dinner, it became increasingly clear that I'd have the whole cabin to myself. It was nice: the first time in 42 days (since Dalton, the day before I met Papa Monkey and Rainbow) that I've had a room to myself.
Tomorrow: a giant pancake breakfast, and then I cross the Kennebec River (by ferry!), and pass by Caratunk.