Location: Unknown Shelter
The captain’s meeting for the Topsail KMT is today. I’m disappointed that I’m not there to fish. I haven’t fished in so long. I think about fishing every day, but I know that I must complete the task before me while I have momentum. A weekend of fishing at the beach might disrupt my rhythm. But, if I were to win the tournament, I’d walk the International AT through winter, which extends to Key West. For now, I’ll stick to the AT.
Today I had a better 15 mile walk than yesterday. The morning was so cold though. I hid in my sleeping bag from the biting air until I heard Wrongway climb out of his new 20̊ sleeping bag. My sleeping bag isn’t working as well as it should. I think it might be towards the end of its usefulness. I have cold spots around my knees and shoulders. My feet never got toasty like they used to. The bag may have to be replaced for my safety because my trip will last into the late days of fall.
I stayed in my sleeping bag for most of my time at the shelter this morning. I packed my bag while sitting in my sleeping bag and ate breakfast. Only when I was ready to start walking did I climb out of the bag. I tied my shoes, stuffed my sleeping bag, and hurried down the trail to warm my frigid bones. Once I descended to lower elevation, I peeled off several layers. I really warmed up on The Priest, a 4,000ft mountain, my first since Vermont. I think the climb up The Priest is considered one of the hardest on the trail. It’s a 3200ft climb over 4.5 miles, not very steep but long and rocky. I reached the summit in a little less than two hours. I passed many people hiking to the top. Ice lingered in puddles even in the afternoon at the summit where temperatures dipped into the twenties last night. I am sleeping only a few hundred feet below the summit of the mountain.
The rest of the day was pretty relaxed. I reached the shelter before Wrongway, but he wasn’t far behind me. He had stopped to collect some apples from a tree he spotted in the woods. Wrongway is a vegetarian. His diet on the trail is unique and of high-quality foods. He eats a lot of freeze dried meals. He has strange fruit chews that I have never seen, all-organic energy bars and an assortment of fine nuts. Watching him sort through his food bag makes my mouth water. He has no processed foods. No Lipton’s packets, no Pop-tarts, no tuna. He lacks the things that I eat every day and that most hikers eat every day. He has premade sandwiches and blocks of different cheeses for lunch. If I ever ate lunch with him, I probably wouldn’t be able to eat mine without a grimace.
Speaking of food, I ate two dinners tonight. I ate a four cheese Idahoan with bacon bits and a Lipton’s. The potatoes were particularly good. I ate two dinners because I had an extra, and I need the extra energy for a marathon day that I have planned for tomorrow.
Well after Wrongway arrived, three guys on an overnight hike arrived. I had passed them on the trail earlier today. They were excited to meet a thru-hiker but not too excited to be hiking up The Priest. They carried a ton of gear, including chairs, hatchets, pots and pans, a four man tent, and an assortment of canned soups. I laughed as I examined their packs after they complained about them. They also carried several liters of water each. I never carry more than one liter because there is always a spring or creek every few miles. I have not been treating water for the last 700 miles, so I have had to choose my water sources carefully. Only when water sources appear particularly dirty will I add a few drops of Polar Pure. It’s a gamble to drink straight from springs and streams, but I suppose I have become lazy about treatment and just don’t bother with it anymore.
The three overnight hikers seemed both excited and dismayed after they arrived at the shelter. They set up their tent although we offered them space in the wide shelter. I would have preferred they stay in the shelter as long as they weren’t snorers. Three more bodies would make the air in the shelter much warmer. They did work hard to build a fire. Wrongway and I helped collect firewood. I enjoyed the fire. Rarely do I get to enjoy a fire while backpacking. Usually I’m too tired at the end of the day to find the wood and manage a fire.
I wasn’t tired after such a short day hiking so I sat around the fire with the three overnight hikers from James Madison. They asked a hundred questions which Wrongway and I answered together. Wrongway and I had similar responses to most questions, and I think most thru-hikers would have answered the same way. We finally wrapped up the night around 9:30pm, which many hikers consider to be after ‘hiker’s midnight,’ which is 9:00pm. Most hikers are asleep by nine, and if not, then they are ready to be in bed. I went to my sleeping bag before anyone else, but soon everyone followed. The air away from the fire was painfully cold and the night sky was clear. It took me a long time to finally fall asleep because the cold kept biting at my face.