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North and South Crocker. And a Rescue Effort.

                Thursday morning, I left for Maine. I left behind any worries I had and that included my pup who had a recent trip to the vet. This was probably more traumatic for me than for her. I had a plan to get 8 peaks which was lofty at best and I knew I’d be happy to get what I get. I was on my way after a few texts good bye and to give my itinerary. I arrived at Caribou Valley Road some 5 hours later to chilly temps and what looked like rain moving in. I was greeted by a Maine Fish and Game warden who explained that there was an active search underway in the area for a missing Thru Hiker named Inchworm and he wondered if I had seen her. Since I had just gotten there I explained my itinerary and assured him that I’d keep my eye out and cooperate with search and rescue.

                I chose to set up my tent just up the hill from the parking area. It was grassy and seemed suitable for me. I was surrounded by wildflowers which made me smile. It reminded me of that Tom Petty song “Wildflowers”. I settled in for the late afternoon and evening with some dinner and sent of a quick text to Scott to let him know I had made it and I was in the middle of a search and rescue. It was a comfort to have service enough to text for some company. All night the search parties would stop by the tent hoping that I was inchworm. All night all I wanted was some sleep.

                Breakfast came around and the day hikers were starting to file in. The first was a group of Japanese hikers who were loaded with gear (and a lot they didn’t need). The second was a family that was heading over to Sugarloaf and beyond. I would be there tomorrow. Today, it was the Crocker’s and as usual, every commented that I was solo. This is really no big deal if you have the right gear and a plan. I texted Scott to let him know that I was heading out. Heading down the road past camp, I entered the AT to the right and began walking. The trail was rugged with rocks and moss and in between those was the mud. My mind was clear and I was set for the day. My first stop would be the tent site at the Crocker Cirque. I made it there in no time it seemed and was pleased to see a good size fire pit, a tent platform and other open spaces for tents. There was also a decent water source behind the platform where I filled up on water for cooking and drinking. I sat for a bit at the tent site and could see my group spending some time here. After all, I knew of at least one that would like to grab these peaks. Heading back out to the AT, I was greeted by Bob of the rescue team.

                I gave Bob my itinerary and my word that I would be keeping my eye out for Inchworm. Told him that I was at the tent site and did not see anyone however, I did not go down the side trail. I left him with the assurance that my pack was full of all the required safety equipment. I began climbing at this point and the gain was pretty steep. I was still feeling good and moving quickly so, I was pleased with the day. The rocks became more prevalent again and I was soon faced with a loose rock slide to go up. I smiled as I paused to catch my breath looking up. I thought of Scott and his recent trip up the Arrow Slide in New Hampshire. I began my ascent of this section carefully and thought about later in the day if it was raining and I how I would handle it then. Of course this section was open and I had an opportunity to pause and take in a view I had never seen before. Maine was remote and rugged and I was falling in love with the area. I was happy today.

                The trail leveled out and reminded me of the rocky section of the Edmunds Path up to Ike in the Whites. Soon, I was ducking back into the woods and back onto the dirt before hitting another rocky section and then the final push to the summit. It was a quick walk on the ridge to the wooded summit and I still had a mile to go for North Crocker. I paused for a picture on the outlook and had a little something to eat. I was on my way shortly after that. No longer running into search crews but hearing the helicopter over head was beginning to get unnerving.  To get to North Crocker, it was a steep down and then what seemed to be a steep up rather quickly. I had made it to the summit and still felt really good. Not tired at all and ready to try and tackle Redington. I crossed paths with a section hiker heading over to the Spaulding Lean Too. One thing I noted in Maine is that the thru and section hikers are not very social so, I didn’t talk for long. I headed back to South Crocker to look for the heard path to Redington.

                I was excited to try for this peak and hoped that I could navigate the directions without much trouble. On my way back, I had run into 3 other hikers who had no clue about Redington. Seemed to me they never thought of going off trail. Back at the summit, I found the heard path and began to look for the next step. Only problem was the heard path diminished in the scrub and I soon lost the trail.  I used my phone GPS to get me back on track and decided that Redington would wait for another day. I didn’t need to give rescue another reason to be out there. They had their hands full. Back at the summit of South Crocker, I sat and had my sandwich. I didn’t feel defeated by not going to Redington. I felt confident that I made the right choice. I sent off a quick text to say that I was not going for it and that I’d be heading back to camp soon.

                Things were changing within me. I was no longer feeling defeated by not getting a peak. I was becoming more confident in the choices I would make for myself. I was sure that if I was not solo, the hike might have been different but for now, I was confident that I didn’t have to Bushwhacking skills to get Redington on my own. I was also no longer concerned that I was letting anyone down by not going for the peak. Any hiking I was doing was for me and only me these days and the support I had for that hiking was unbelievable. I made my way back to camp and as I got lower in elevation, the rain became more prevalent. I stopped to get my rain gear and remembered Scott’s comment that it was a great day for a bucket hat one day while on his way to work. I texted him a photo of my bucket hat and said the same thing knowing he’d laugh. It really was a great day for one. Since I didn’t get Redington, I was early back to camp. I ate a late and warm lunch of mashed potatoes and corn chowder and hung around the tent. Rescue workers were walking by and not knowing I was in the tent would shout out things like I was “bear bait”. I just let them go by. It was not worth going out in the rain and explaining myself although, it was not something that I needed or wanted to hear. I decided to take a ride into town for a cup of coffee to warm up and spend some time away from the rescue effort. I was happy for the quiet.

                The rain was falling and the wind was howling throughout the night I slept in my long underwear top and bottoms as well as a fleece (that’s a lot of cloths for me to sleep in!). I waited for the morning and Day 2 of my adventure…. Sugarloaf, Spaulding, and Abraham (hopefully).        

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