12.9 miles, 1940.2 overall (Stealth camp, summit of Old Blue Mountain)
Since I am catching the 11:00 shuttle I try to sleep in but it turns out to be difficult. Two of the other hikers in the bunk room have early shuttles and make some noise while leaving. I gather from them that the fourth hiker in the bunk room has caught the virus and has been throwing up all night. One of the hikers who is leaving proclaims, obviously proud of his ingenuity, that he is packing up with socks on his hands. To add to the discomfort the room is very cold. My sheet and blanket are little comfort. I decide to go ahead and get up so I can get breakfast at the diner again.
I head to the diner and am happy to find Gumpy and Peeper getting some food before their 8:00 shuttle. They invite me to join them and we have some good conversation before they have to leave. While the trail has taught me to never assume you won’t see someone again, with only 250 miles left and their planned summit date coming before mine it seems like a good chance this will be the last time our paths cross so to be safe we say our goodbyes as they leave. I stay to eat my food which today consists of an omelette, toast, home fries, and a cinnamon roll.
Back at the hostel I take advantage of the couple hours I have left to pack my stuff, making sure I’m ready to leave when it is time. While packing I learn that it is Blues who is the sick hiker but he seems to already be getting better. Then I head to the living room to use the computer for a while. Wiffle and Smiles join me and we watch some Olympics while we wait.
At 11:00 I leave with Yellowtail and Sunroof. The shuttle is a pickup truck with room for only 2 hikers up front so I volunteer to sit in the back. At the trailhead I pick the driver’s brain a bit about the rest of the trail since he has hiked it before. I ask him about a good place to sleep on a summit and he suggests Old Blue Mtn only about 12 miles away. That becomes my target for today. We set off into the woods and up the immediate ascent. Yellowtail is fast and gets out ahead of me but Sunroof stays behind me. The climb isn’t too steep and I feel strong after my day off. The knees are a bit sore but not nearly as painful as they were two days ago. Pretty soon I catch up to Yellowtail at the first shelter 6 miles in.
While there we chat a bit about where we are heading tonight and about her plans for after the trail. I sign into the register and check the previous entries. More folks have caught the bug including Dora and Fresh several days ahead of me. I get moving while she waits for Sunroof to catch up.
We have a steep downhill to Sawyer notch and then a steep uphill out of it that doesn’t feel as good as the first climb. Still I’m able to handle it well by pacing myself. The downhill on the other side is much smoother and at the bottom is a great stream with a campsite next to it. If I weren’t excited about the prospect of a mountaintop sunset I would consider camping here, but as it is I am 3 miles and 2200 feet away from the summit of Old Blue and it is only 4:00. I fill up on water from the stream and head up to the road where I meet a father/daughter pair trying to catch a hitch into Andover. The daughter has caught the bug and they’re trying to get into town to rest. I talk to them for a minute and they explain that they have no idea how she caught it since they usually stealth camp. They are convinced that the only way she could have caught it is from touching the same rocks as other hikers in the Mahoosuc Notch. This seems dubious and I tell them so, to which they respond that maybe she caught it from a pen in a shelter. This seems more plausible. They’re able to catch a hitch before I leave and I recommend the diner and Pine Ellis to them before I head up the mountain.
The climb is similar to the last one but longer. It takes me until almost 6:00 to get up but at the top I find the campsite the shuttle driver suggested. What I don’t find is the incredible view I was hoping for. The summit isn’t quite bald and the trees and shrubs block some of the view. Still, it should make for a good sunset and I’m not about to hike any further. I set up my tent and cook my dinner.
When my dinner is ready I sit on what I figure to be the rock with the best view to eat it. Not long after I start Yellowtail comes up the trail and I end up scaring her with my hello. Sunroof isn’t far behind. They set about putting up their tent (actually they just have a tarp) and cooking dinner while I finish eating. The sunset isn’t as gorgeous as I would have hoped but it is still enjoyable. I’m sure I’ll get a few more chances for great ones over the days I have left. As I get ready for bed I warn them that I’ll be up early. I’m familiar with their habits and know that they tend to sleep in. I hope that I don’t disturb them too badly when I get started in the morning on the Appalachian Trail.