16.6 miles, 1715.8 overall (Winturri shelter)
In the morning I wake just before 6 but I’m worried that Bookworm won’t be up yet so I try to go back to sleep. My body is adapted to this schedule though and I’m only able to sleep 10 more minutes before I have to get up. Fortunately when I do get up I find he is also up if not out of bed. I poke around for a little while, not in a rush to get hiking. I need to pick up a mail drop a couple miles down the trail and then I expect to have to go to an outfitter 0.5 miles off the trail that doesn’t open until 9 for some extra items. I don’t think I need to leave before 8. Just after 7 I go downstairs to get the breakfast that’s included in the room rate. The dining room isn’t open yet so I grab a coffee and visit with Instigator and Expeditor for a few minutes until it opens. The breakfast food is great for being included in the room price and I leave pretty satisfied with a broccoli and cheese omelette, home fries, toast, apple juice, and milk.
With my stomach full and the time after 8:00 I grab my pack and head out. On my way out I stop by the hiker box to see if anything good is in it. I’m in luck! Someone left a half can of peanut butter, one of the items I thought I might have to try to find at the outfitter. This may be my lucky day.
I hit the trail and after a short time I reach the Mountain Meadows Lodge. The place has a reputation for being incredibly hiker friendly. I had planned to stay there but as luck would have it I ended up arriving on a weekend on which they were already booked for a wedding so I could neither get a room nor tent on their lawn (hence my stay at the Inn). However they did still hold my mail drop for me. The man at the desk helps me find the box and then allows me to sit at the picnic table outside to transfer everything to my pack. While I’m organizing everything I’m chatted up by some of the guests who notice me and are curious about thru-hikers.
My mail drop turns out to have been perfectly packed. In addition to my new shoes (hooray!) it has just the right amount of snacks to get me to Hanover in a few days. In fact it probably has a bit too much gorp, so it turns out I won’t have to make a trip to the outfitter for extra stuff after all!
I hit the trail again hoping to get another 15 miles or so in today. I’m immediately attacked by a swarm of bugs. I have to wonder why they are so plentiful here but there were none at the lodge a quarter mile back. However they soon abate and I arrive at a trail to a waterfall. The data book says the AT goes right by it so I follow the trail down to a huge waterfall, the first I’ve seen in quite a while. However when I try to continue down the boardwalk just past the falls it is closed. I can see why. Sections of the walkway have been strewn about, most likely by Irene last year. I realize I must have missed a sign for a detour and I backtrack, finding it at the beginning of the waterfall trail. After a half mile road walk I’m back on track.
Next up is Quimby Mountain which looks like a beast. Luckily there is trail magic at the bottom! I stop for a break at a cooler full of grapes, bananas, apples, eclairs, and water. Then I head up the mountain which turns out to be as steep and as long a climb as it looked. Another good warm-up for the Whites, I’m sure. At the top I meet a sobo named Slippy who apparently met the people from whom the trail magic came and suggested the items it contained. He is friendly, the most talkative sobo I’ve run into yet.
On the other side of the mountain I take a break at the shelter. Instigator and Expeditor are there taking their break as well as a few new faces. I don’t stay long and soon move on. There are still a few moderate climbs ahead and I want to make it to the shelter at a good time. I’m also worried that it might begin to rain. The forecast in the morning said 80% chance and I felt a light sprinkle while at the shelter.
The miles aren’t too hard. They pass easily enough with the help of the audiobook. I enjoy how this section of trail switches often between deciduous and conifer forests. On the Long Trail section you could tell whether you were above 3000 feet based on whether or not the forest was predominantly coniferous. In this section the altitude no longer seems to matter and I walk through all kinds of forest, from deciduous to coniferous to mixes of the two and some sections that appear to have been planted because the trees are so sparse, evenly spaced, and similar sizes.
There isn’t much along this section of trail. The lone attraction today is a place called The Lookout which the data book describes as having a cabin and a tower. It is only 0.1 off the trail and despite the fact that it starts sprinkling again as I arrive at the side trail I head up to check it out. I’m not at all disappointed. At the top is a cabin with a sign explaining that it is private property, to enter at our own risk, and not to make any fires inside. On the outside a platform has been built on the roof with a ladder on the side of the cabin leading up to it. I climb the ladder, taking with me a snack and water, hoping to luck out with a great view. The view turns out to be so good that I spend almost 20 minutes enjoying it while I snack. I get a few pictures and even take a 360 panoramic video before heading down. I still have 2.5 miles left to the shelter and the view also gave me a look at the rain clouds that are gathering.
The rest of the miles are mostly flat or downhill except for a brief uphill of a couple hundred feet. I listen to some music on the way to help myself hike faster. The rain starts as just a sprinkle but it slowly gets stronger. I notice spots in the trail though that appear to be completely dry. I want to take a minute to figure out how they can be so dry in spite of a constant rain but I am in a hurry. As I reach the side trail for the shelter it feels like at any moment the skies could open up and downpour on me.
I am in luck as I reach the shelter damp but not soaked. There are a few hikers already there including Johannes, Dickel, and Bobcat. I set up my tent in the shelter to keep the inside dry and then move it out to a nice spot behind the shelter. The water source isn’t great and I need to scoop the water with my cup but I’m able to get a few liters without too much trouble. I set about cooking dinner in the shelter. As I’m cooking Instigator and Expeditor arrive as well as another hiker. They all squeeze into the shelter and I try to cook faster to make room for them. Pretty soon I’m fed, my dishes are clean, and I’m headed to my tent to end what turned out to be a lucky day on the Appalachian Trail.