The terrain leveled off and we had a few miles of flat, fast, easy terrain. "We must have taken a wrong turn," I said to Subaru, "I don't think we're in Maine anymore. This must be Virginia."
We stopped for lunch at Spaulding Mountain Lean-To and were soon joined by Forrest Gump, Winterflower, Little Engine, Timber, and Ambassador. See? I knew they'd catch up. No worries, I'm at Spaulding Mountain Lean To; I've found my strength.
After lunch, we continued out climb up Spaulding Mountain, but sadly no view at the top. The clouds have started to roll in, we are hoping that rain holds off. We passed the bronze plaque, commemorating the completion of the last section of the AT. Stopped to take pictures, and then moved on to the descent.
Thus far, the day had been fairly easy; some slow sections, but nothing too hard. This descent made up for the rest of the day. Slow, hard, crazy descent making me wonder aloud many times: "How can this even be considered a trail? This is just a bunch of jumbled rocks on a steep slope." Hard to have that at the end of the day.
We passed another college orientation group along the way. I wonder how I would have felt about going out in the wilderness for a week my freshman year in college? I know I'd love it NOW, but that may have just shocked me too much at that age.
At the bottom of the descent, we crossed Carrabasset River (another "ford" that we were able to carefully rock hop) and a nice flat tenting area on the other side. It was only 3:00; we decided that we should push on to the next campsite. Along the way, we passed a couple south bounders, and we inquired about the possibility of stealth camping further on from Crocker Cirque Campsite. No dice. It sounded like the terrain was steeply pitched and covered with brush-- no possible way to set up a tent.
And so we came to Crocker Cirque Campsite around 4pm. Subaru and I had the place to ourselves. We got water, set up tents, washed up and changed into camp clothes, and then took our time cooking dinner, leisurely eating, and hanging our food. (We were in REAL bear country now. No chances!)
And then, just as we were getting ready to turn in for the night, the college group arrived. There were about 20 kids and two leaders. The leaders very apologetically came over and explained that they would be leaving camp at 3:00am to get over Crocker Mountain (and its two peaks) in time to catch the bus the next morning. So what started out as a secluded, quiet campsite turned into, well, a college party (sans beer).
That's okay. If I had wanted to be alone, I would have hiked the PCT.