Well we’ve come over the threshold, written the preface and slipped through the prelude but the prologue is having a hard time letting go. Our flight from Milwaukee to Philidelphia went smoothly, but then our flight up to Bangor was delayed. A plane was stuck at the gate our plane was supposed to use. They changed the gate and didn’t really announce it. We were sitting there at the original gate watching people getting off the broken plane, then one of the folks that wasn’t fuming told us that this was the plane to New York and ours had been moved. Originally we had a 45 minute layover which gave us about 15 minutes to use the restroom, buy lunch and eat it before boarding our next plane. We ended up running mid-sandwich to the correct gate to find that the plane hadn’t made it there yet.
Now we had reason to fret. We needed to get to the Cyr Bus Line station by 6:30 to board the bus to Medway, where the folks from the AT Lodge were going to pick us up for our reserved stay that night. We arrived at Bangor International and had our bags by 5:55 and the bus stop -we didn’t know how to get to- was 1.5 miles away. We didn’t make it, after a sweat-drenched-walk-as-fast-as-you-can trek. We made it to the wrong bus stop just after 6:30, on the hottest day of the year which broke the record set in the ’60’s. But it wasn’t all bad.
We ended up staying in Bangor for the night and made arrangements for the AT Lodge people to pick us up at our hotel, since thankfully they happened to be going to Bangor anyway. This whole time we had been worrying about how to send the duffle bags we checked our backpacks in back home. The FedEx store was only a mile away from our hotel so we walked there in the morning. I also ended up wanting to get a different shirt and a waist pack, since my shirt ended up reeking after the short walk to the bus station and I’m tired of having stuff in my pockets while hiking. The nearest outfitter was about 4.5 miles from the FedEx store so we walked there next.
This ended up being a blessing because our walk took us through the downtown of Bangor. Our hotel wasn’t in such an attractive part of town it turns out. Downtown Bangor is actually very nice, a lot of very red brick buildings and old-style architecture. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time there since we needed to get back to the hotel and check-out but I could see going back and exploring in a future vacation.
After checking out of the hotel, NaviGator (one of the owners of the AT Lodge) picked us up along with another couple at the airport. They are a good bit older than us, but are only hiking the 100 mile wilderness. They plan to summit Katahdin tomorrow then will be driven to the bottom of the wilderness and hike back up to the base of the mountain, so we’ll be running into them again on our way south which will be fun.
We finally made it to the AT Lodge though, paid a $15 transfer fee to move our campground reservation at Baxter State Park to tomorrow night and headed out to explore the town. Millinocket is a very friendly town! We chatted with the folks at the post office awhile after they helped me mail my old shirt home, and we learned that yesterday and today were the two hottest days and tomorrow when we actually start our hike should be a lot cooler. Thank goodness!
Our next stop was at the North Light Gallery recommended to us by NaviGator. This gallery had a little of everything: metalwork, paintings in different mediums, photography and even a set of four handcrafted mandolins. If I had $1600 and a reliable way to get it home undamaged I would have bought one. We ended up meeting Marsha who’s watercolor paintings were amazing. They’re website is www.artnorthlight.com check it out! As we got on the subject of funny trail names she handed us a book as a good luck gift for our hike written by an ex-thru hiker “Sourball.” The title is Dreaming the Appalachian Trail and is a fictional account of a character who also thru hikes. Unfortunately the author died in January but he lived here in Millinocket and actually signed our copy before giving it to Marsha. We’re so lucky we stopped in there!
Another few blocks brought us to the Appalachian Trail Cafe, also owned by Ole Man and NaviGator. We had a great dinner there (accurately proportioned for thru-hikers with an appetite) and headed back to the lodge. The AT Lodge is great too- three floors with nice rooms and a common area with a fridge and tv. What else could a hiker want?
Now, What did we learn?- 1) we should’ve left ourselves a better window between getting off the plane and getting to the bus station. 2) we should have figured out where the bus station was before hoofing it to the wrong one. 3) Bangor is pretty cool 4) Millinocket is amazing and the people are even better 5) and finally like our good friend Sam says when we’re disc golfing, “let the shot develop.” All these setbacks have made it possible for us to summit Katahdin in better weather than the 95 degrees with 80% humidity we would have hiked in had our plane been on time.
BUT- The hike starts tomorrow morning, here we go!