17.7 miles, 1439.7 overall (Telephone Pioneers shelter)
I wake up just before 6:30 to the sound of thunder. It hasn’t begun raining yet and my tent is still dry. As I listen I can tell it is going to be a fast-moving, intense thunderstorm. Each successive clap of thunder is louder than the last and the wind is picking up. I decide to prepare for the worst and I leave my tent to retrieve my food bag, knowing that if it rains all day I will not want to get out. I get it down and get back in my tent just in time. I can hear the heavy rain coming and minutes after I get safely inside it pours. Not wanting to start packing up in a downpour I go back to sleep. When I wake up around 7:30 the rain has mostly stopped. I eat my bagel and peanut butter as I contemplate what to do for the day. I check the weather report and the radar in order to make an informed choice. It looks like if I pack up immediately I will stay dry while packing but might get wet just after when another line of thunderstorms rolls through. Other than that it looks safe and the 90% chance of rain today seems to be attributable to these quick thunderstorms. The day seems hikable so I start packing and pretty soon I’m on the trail.
It doesn’t take long to reach the next shelter only a mile away. I arrive around 9 and I’m surprised to see Fresh is still there. He is taking his time this morning. Apparently I missed a nice shelter. It is right next to the road and the pizza boxes on the trash can betray what it is possible to do here.
I leave first but Fresh isn’t far behind and we end up talking while we hike. We don’t get far before we see Dora. She should be far ahead having left early and being a quick hiker. She is sitting on a log and I ask if anything is wrong. She’s not sure how but somehow she backtracked about a mile. She is understandably upset by it and has only been here a few minutes so she hasn’t yet worked up the willingness to get back up and re-hike the section. We try to make her feel better and I offer a snack. Unfortunately I don’t have any chocolate which I’m sure would go a long way in this situation.
She pulls it together pretty quickly and the three of us hike on. I resume the conversation I was having with Fresh, knowing that it will be an entertaining topic and help get her mind off the backtrack. The question at hand is one I’ve already mentioned here: who would win in a fight, Bruce Willis or Liam Neeson? We discuss for several minutes before Dora chimes in that it should be settled via an episode of Celebrity Deathmatch. We both love the idea. Of course this leads to another matchup that apparently Fresh has already contemplated with Squidword and Wonder: Yoda versus Gandalf. Of course Yoda wins because of advanced weaponry and because the force is at least equal to any sort of magic. A better comparison, we decide, would be Gandalf and Dumbledore, in which case it is unanimous that Gandalf wins.
Before long we reach a road on which there is a deli. We hike the 0.4 miles to it and I’m surprised to see Lonestar there. Apparently he didn’t get as far as I thought he would, or maybe I went further than I had realized yesterday. I go inside and order a sandwich with chips, a soda, and a Sobe. We eat outside on a picnic table and watch as one by one it seems all of the workers at the concrete factory across the street come to the deli to pick up lunch. I watch as today it is Critter who is subjected to Lonestar’s non-stop stories.
Dora and Fresh leave a few minutes before I am ready so I hike out alone but I catch them at the next shelter. As I’m arriving I hear thunder approaching and prepare myself to wait out the storm in the shelter. My timing is impeccable, arriving just as the first drops are starting to fall. Dora and Fresh decide instead of waiting it out that they will push on. It doesn’t take long before I feel really bad for them. The downpour seems at least as bad as the morning’s and those of us in the shelter watch the water pool up on the ground outside, envisioning the rivers that must be flowing down the trail. It only takes 30 minutes for the rain to stop.
I try to hike quickly knowing that there is still a chance another storm could roll through. I cross a railroad track and a couple roads before reaching a really beautiful lake called Nuclear Lake. I figure the name must have something to do with a history of nuclear activity at the site but there aren’t any signs to educate me. The sky is looking cloudy and I still have 3 miles to go. It is an hour’s worth of hiking. I pick up the pace but around the time I’m a mile or so away from the shelter it changes from a drizzle to a steady rain. Luckily there isn’t much thunder and the rain isn’t pouring like it was in either of the two earlier storms. It only lasts about 20 minutes so although I get wet and a bit muddy I don’t get soaked through. Just before the shelter I find a view point and am treated to a view of some wisps of fog encircling some houses below.
At the shelter I find there aren’t many good tent sites and I’m one of the last to arrive. There isn’t much level ground and I’m forced to set up on a far less than ideal spot. I’m not able to find a spot free of rocks and roots that would allow me to point my feet downhill so I opt for pitching the tent such that I will be rolling to my left the entire night. I join the others for dinner before turning in for what is likely to be a restless night despite the fact that I’ll be in my tent. However I still prefer this to the shelter in which I see a section hiker has set up their tent. Some things never change on the Appalachian Trail.