Location: Unknown Shelter
I left the lean-to before Hiker Bee and Bears this morning. It rained most of the night, so my clothes and boots didn’t dry. The temperature was in the 50’s this morning, so when I put on my wet hiking clothes, I fled the lean-to trying to warm my body. I hiked the first five miles of the day in a cool morning fog. I hardly drank any water because I hardly sweat. The terrain was gentle. I finished five miles in a couple hours, a typical pace for me. Despite the rains last night, there were few puddles in the trail. There was some slick mud though and dangerously slippery rocks.
Hiker Bee caught up to me while I was snacking at Tom Leonard shelter. There were half a dozen NOBOs there that hadn’t gotten out of their sleeping bags by the time I arrived. I wonder if they’ll make Katahdin by October 15, that’s 650 miles in six weeks over the most difficult terrain of the AT. Soon, if we keep seeing northbounders, we will begin to see those that will be forced to flip-flop, climbing Mt. Katahdin before it closes because of the snow, and then hiking south to the point where they left the trail.
Hiker Bee smoked a joint with the NOBOs while Bears and I left the shelter. He caught up quickly, smoking a Marlboro Red as he sped on the trail. Bee and I pulled away from Bears and I pushed myself to keep up with Bee. As he developed a rhythm with his MP3 player, I tried to match his stride. The trail was rocky, and the rocks were slick, I fell hard several times today, on rocks, roots, and mud. I bent my pole badly. It now must be replaced, the both of them. Tomorrow I’ll hike into Salisbury, CT to call REI and have the poles replaced, free of charge I hope. Bee pulled away from me as I lost my confidence on the down hills. I timidly approached every step and even more slowly handled every long flat rock that threatened to send me tumbling down the muddy hills. The cuts on my arms, elbows, and knees have scabbed, and I’m worried about infection, because I’ve started picking at scabs in my sleep.
I made it to a highway about 1:15 pm and I hiked 0.1 mile west to The Corn Crib, a produce stand with fresh fruit and hiker snacks. I bought some Doritos, popcorn, Gatorade, and a pint of chocolate ice cream made right there on the farm. I sat in a gazebo in the afternoon heat. Hiker Bee arrived after me, having gotten lost with a southbound section hiker, Julia. They joined me with a pint of ice cream. Bears arrived later as expected but unexpectedly he arrived in a pickup truck. He yellow blazed a couple miles around a cornfield that the trail passes through. I found the cornfield enjoyable. The trail was sandwiched by cornstalks over my head and the murky Housatonic River. The heat beat down on me in the field, but the sound of stalks scratching one another, the river flowing around rocks, and yellow finches chirping as they played in small trees evoked a sense of ease in me. The miles through the field passed painlessly. I did see the largest snake that I have seen yet. It was black with yellow stripes. If I hadn’t slowed when I saw it I would have kicked it before it slithered into the cornrows.
When we all finished our ice cream, we returned to the trail. Bee, Bears, and I hiked together until Bee decided to stop in a grassy field to dry his pairs of socks in the hot sun. He also wanted to smoke a blunt, which would have been his fourth smoke session of the day. Bears and I continued on the trail in the humidity and the heat. For a few miles, the trail was flat, as we passed through two ranges of small mountains. At the end of the flat expanse, we began our climb up Jug End. My day fell apart here. I had been able to put the bent pole and the several falls behind me by this point, but on Jug End my frustrations mounted. The incline was slick and I had run out of energy. Every step required a rest. My feet couldn’t find solid holds. I kept slipping back on rocks and roots, killing my momentum. With each slip my anger surged. The climb was only a mile but it seemed like five. When I finally reached the top, I discovered that I still had a few miles of rocky ridge walking. The rocks and roots were slick. My glasses fogged so I had to hike without them, making my steps even more dangerous. I slipped several times, straining my body as I fought to keep balance. My feet hurt. My legs hurt. My wounds hurt. Sweat stung my eyes and I kept slipping. I sat down on a rock to regroup. I ate a satisfying Snickers bar and finished my water. Afterwards I rushed to the shelter, ignoring my pain and frustration, knowing everything would be fine once I sat on the edge of the shelter and cooked a hot meal.
When I got to the shelter, Aaron and Moses were already there. They had returned to the trail today and passed me while I ate ice cream. Moses’ hernia still hurts. Bee and Bears got to the shelter after me. Then Cold Feet and Julia arrived. Cold Feet skipped 30 miles of trail to catch up to us. Tonight the shelter is full of SOBOs. I just heard that there are several that just arrived in Dalton, MA, so I’m not the last southbounder, but I am very tired. I’m abruptly ending this entry because I’m about to crash.