Before reaching Carutunk, we would need to cross the Kennebec River. The Kennebec is approximately 70 feet wide with a swift current. The water levels can vary greatly throughout the day, depending upon water releases from the hydroelectric damn upstream. Releases are unpredictable in both timing and amount, making the prospect of fording the river extremely dangerous. In 1985, a hiker drowned while trying to ford the river and since then, the ATC has operated a ferry service for hikers.
The river was only a 4 mile hike from the shelter, and the guidebook showed flat, easy terrain. I didn't fall for it. I had been burned too many times by the prospect of flat terrain as depicted in the guide. Besides, this was Maine! And for once, I was not caught off guard when the terrain turned out to be anything but flat an easy.
It was quite a nice hike, actually, when you weren't expecting it to be flat. We crossed by waterfalls, along rivers, through green forest, and moss covered rocks and logs. It was nice to not be pressed for time, rushing to try to make it to the ferry. We even had time to stop and take pictures along the way. We reached the river at 8:45, a full 15 minutes before the first ferry.
By the time the shuttle arrived, we had been joined by the Professor and Still Here. We all went to the Sterling Inn, Sub and I to check in, the others for a resupply before heading to Northern Outdoors. The inn was built in 1816 and served as a stage coast stop, a dance hall, a bar, and a post office before becoming a B&B. The rooms were really nice and comfy and cozy. After showering and hanging out wet gear out on the wrap-around porch to dry, we went into the comfy cozy rooms for a little rest.
We took the shuttle to Northern Outdoors for lunch at he bar. It was hopping with hikers! While Northern Outdoors certainly had the Sterling beat in the fun department, we noticed that the Professor and Still Here hadn't showered yet. Check in wasn't until after 4pm and the plentiful hikers had nothing to do but hang out in the bar spending money. Pretty slick, Northern Outdoors!