Miles today: 31.6
Miles total: 1892.4
Currently laying in the shelter...
The motivation of being close to town will do a lot to you. Take, for instance, my mileage today. I am not a 30-mile-a-day guy, but when it means I have a shorter walk into town in the morning, ah yes, I will put in a few more miles at the end of the day. To secure my chances of doing so, I got up early to one of those cold mornings that makes your sleeping bag feel soooo nice. The chill was in the air at 5000 feet, but I got moving nonetheless. I wasn't feeling on top of my game, so I decided I would visit the diner that my guide talked about at the bottom of the hill. The road to hitch on, however, had exactly zero cars travel it while I waited. Deflated, I opened up my food bag and went to town. I felt much better after my feast, and I still never saw a car go by. Also, I would have been trying to hitch in the wrong direction anyway. That's alright. A re-energized Rooster hit the trail and flew the next 11 miles to Flint Mountain Shelter. On the way, I met section hikers who alerted me to the presence of two southbounders I've been following, Danko and Mercury. They were both somewhere in the next 20 miles. Based on where Danko started the day, I figured I could catch him if I did the big miles I had in my back pocket. With that in mind, I kept my break short on time but large on calories and forged on.
I had a big climb, but the trail after that would be a ridge walk, which comforted me. As usual, the climb was over before I knew it, and I was walking a gravel road. By 3:40, I was at Jerry Cabin Shelter. The fellow who was already there seemed chatty, which is a good trait in moderation. He overdid it a bit, which made my decision easy: I was heading on. I got some water and bid him farewell. A mile and a half of the trail ahead were supposed to be rocky, but I attacked them without fear, getting nostalgic for Maine all the while. It was worth it to do this section during the day because it afforded good views of the surrounding mountains, which lacked any overwhelming signs of human development. How nice! The rock walk was over soon, and I was on flat ground once again. I was excited to walk through something called "Jones Meadow", but there was no meadow to be found. I suppose those who named it got a little creative license. Up to Camp Creek Bald (which was not bald), then I headed down to the shelter. Very steeply down. My legs cried out. They turned to jello, but there was no pain. I just wanted to be done. Soon enough I was, after plenty of whining. I stumbled coming in to the shelter, which caught the attention of the guy sitting at the picnic table. The man, the myth, the legend: Danko. After reading his shelter entries for so long, I finally put a face to the name. He's really nice, as people tend to be out here, and he plans to hit Hot Springs tomorrow. Not only that, but we suspect we'll find Mercury there as well. Southbounder party! The last time I had one of these was in Andover, Maine, as far as I can remember.
Picture: this is why you don't take the trail to bypass the rocks.