Day mileage: 9.0
AT total mileage: 1,626.0
Time: 3 hours
The plan was for just over 24 miles of hiking today, a feat that we came nowhere near accomplishing. Truthfully, this is probably my fault. After 70 days and 1,400 miles of hiking, I allowed myself to change drastically after meeting what has now become a close group of friends. With the change in pace from long distance days, I've now become seemingly quite lazy. When we arrived at the Story Brook shelter at 1330hrs, a whopping 9 miles into our day, I jokingly suggested we stay the night. After nearly an hour of hanging around and waiting for the sun to present itself from behind the mess of clouds occupying the sky, we agreed to call it a day and remain where we were for the rest of the night.
Last night in the shelter was one of the more interesting (read: obnoxious, frustrating, impolite) nights I've had in my time on the Appalachian Trail. At 0400hrs the guy sleeping next to me began packing up his stuff, closely followed by three other hikers in the packed shelter. Over the course of the next hour and a half these four hikers would pack their backpacks, an activity that is impossible to do quietly, deflate their air mattresses, and smoke both cigarettes and joints before leaving. It very much frustrated me as I tried to sleep, ultimately giving up around 0430 and remaining awake until they left. We've all had early mornings on the trail, but I at least have the decency to pack my bag away from the shelter to try and keep noise down. Regardless, they left, and around 7 AM I started thinking about waking up. The rain continued intermittently until 9 or so when we got on the trail, only after having sung along with some decade old top-40 music on the portable speaker as we redressed in wet clothes and got ready for the day ahead. Hiking north, we gained a mere 300' in elevation before finding ourselves at a fire tower at the top of Glastenbury Mountain. Climbing in the thick fog, there was no view to be seen from the top of the tower, but we seemed enjoy it nonetheless. Climbing back to the surface of the mountain, the trail began a steep descent of what ultimately had turned into a quick-flowing river over an insanely muddy area. This is pretty much how the trail would continue to be for the rest of the day. Alike hiking in the storm of Wednesday evening, it basically got to the point where I no longer cared about my feet being soaking wet, and just hiked along continually stepping in the mud and rivers as I moved forward. There were points where I actually feared losing my shoes as the mud was so thick and deep that it practically grabbed hold of my footwear and threatened to remove it from my feet.
We arrived at the Story Spring shelter for a late lunch with the intention of pushing on 15 more miles to another shelter further on. This 15 miles would include a 2,000 foot climb of Stratton Mountain, which I wasn't looking forward to in the wet mud. One way or another the joking conversation of staying turned to a serious one, and we began unpacking. Santa wasn't thrilled with the thought and continued hiking on, leaving Dorothy, Legs, Rocket, and myself at Story Spring. A relaxed afternoon in the intermittent sunshine allowed us to try and dry out soaked gear from the previous day's downpour, and we sat around a fire for a few hours before other hikers came through to spend the night. Mid afternoon a guy named Harley hiked past, and was genuinely excited to find out who I was. He immediately recognized my name from the '60 mile day' out of Harper's Ferry (nearly a month ago now) and said it was such a notable accomplishment he hadn't forgotten my name in all that time. To me, that was kind of cool. He hiked on, and a few hours later we began cooking dinner. I cuddled up with Naila and napped shortly before getting in my sleeping bag to read for a while afterwords. Closing my book and giving Legs my headlamp so she could utilize the red LED function and read in the dark of the shelter, I rolled over and wrote this, soon to be asleep.
One exceptionally discouraging piece of information is that I'll need to buy a new camera. The sudden and completely unexpected monsoon-like downpour on Wednesday left me with no time to completely store my camera in my backpack, instead just tucking it away under the rain cover of my pack. Despite this effort, it apparently got wet enough that it no longer likes to power on. I've tried two different batteries and letting it air out for a day, but have had no luck. I'll probably order another dSLR body on Amazon tomorrow and hope to have it shipped quickly to the next available town. I don't like not having a camera, but truthfully this one has taken quite a beating over the last 1,600 miles and I believe deserves to rest in peace. It by no means was my best camera body, but it's still sad to lose a member of the team. Hopefully I can get a replacement quickly.
The intention is to hike a 23 mile day tomorrow. Rocket and Dorothy need a resupply so they'll head into town... I don't need anything so I might skip it, knowing we'll have access to a resupply on Sunday or Monday. Who knows. We did some mileage calculations today and figured we should be entering the Whites on July 4th or 5th, and as of now I need to hike 18 miles per day to be done on my intended day of July 26th. I'm hoping that after these past few days of 'relaxed' hiking, we buckle down as a group and start doing some more consistent mileage. Either way, it has been good to relax a bit. I haven't had a single digit mileage day since Hot Springs, NC - some 1,400 miles ago.
Fingers crossed on the camera front. Wish me luck.