into the mountains: days 121-123

Day 121: Rangeley to Sluice Brook, 13.5 miles
Day 122: Sluice Brook to mile 1998.2, 15.3 miles
Day 123: mile 1998.2 to Bigelow Col, 11.4 miles
Total AT miles hiked: 2009.6
Miles left to go: 180

We left Rangeley for good this time, and managed to get a ride after about ten minutes of thumbing. Nine miles later we were deposited back at the trailhead, and starting our ascent up Saddleback Mountain. The clouds looked foreboding, but stayed to the east of the ridge while we hiked the two and a half miles above treeline, givning us excellent views to the west. We had planned to stop at Poplar Ridge to go easy on my ankle, but it was only four when we arrived and the shelter was small and dank, so we continued on a few more miles to Sluice Brook where we found a quiet campsite. It was one of our favorite campsites on the trail, and the quiet nights in a peaceful setting made me feel quite thankful to be out here.
From Sluice Brook we headed uphill again towards Lone Mountain, and then Sugarloaf. The trail doesn’t go over the summit of either mountains, so once we were on the ridge we rolled along before dropping steeply off and down to a narrow notch. We ate lunch, then geared up for another steep climb up North and South Crocker mountains. By the time we started hiking downhill again we were spent, and found a small spot in the woods with a trickling stream nearby. It was good enough for us, and therefore home for the night!

The next morning the rest of the downhill came easily, and in just over three miles we were at Route 27 trying to hitch into Stratton to resupply. It didn’t take long, and we resupplied quickly in town. We got another quick hitch out of town, and were back at the trailhead less than two hours after we left, a quick turnaround by our standards. We hiked up to Horn Pond, and then over the first rocky peak of Bigelow Mountain. The climb brought us above treeline again, and it was a beautiful day for it. We settled into an established campground in the col between peaks, and camped nestled into the trees between peaks.