15.1 miles, 2084.8 overall, 99.4 remaining (Long Pond Stream Lean-to)
In the morning I am one of the first to wake. I get dressed and pack up as much of my stuff as I can without waking the other hikers. I’m not worried about getting it all packed right now because I am heading to Shaw’s for breakfast before leaving town. I have been hearing about breakfast at Shaw’s for miles now from southbounders. You tell them a number 1, 2, 3, and so on and they bring you that many eggs, sausage, bacon, and either pancakes or French toast, along with some home fries, coffee, and Sunny D. I arrive around 7 and by 7:30 I have ordered a 4. I start with coffee and the server brings me my French toast to start. It is hands down the best French toast I’ve had on the trail, nicely cinnamoned (is that a word?) and a nice spongy/chewy texture. Yummy! Then comes the protein. When she places the eggs, bacon, sausage, and home fries in front of me I think for a minute that I may have made a mistake. I hadn’t thought of the prospect of four eggs. However I take my time and I’m able to work through it all. At the end I am pleasantly satisfied although I learn that, since the place is AYCE, I could have asked for a 2 or 3 and then simply asked for more of the delicious French toast. That would have been a better way to go with a more pleasant ratio of delicious carbs to filling protein.
During breakfast I get to chat some more with Progress and Joiner who have now caught up to me and stayed at Shaw’s last night. They are fun to talk to and we enjoy recounting fun things that have happened along the way and people we have met. Joiner shares with me his theory that people with full beards tend to be likable while people with patchy beards are often the sketchier ones on the trail. Of course I immediately like the theory since I have a full beard, but as I think through some of the hikers I’ve met I think he has a point and I plan to test his theory in the few days I have left.
After breakfast I head back to Lakeshore House to finish packing and catch a shuttle back to the trail. It ends up taking a while to settle my bill, herd the hikers to the car, and get going. We finally get moving around 10:30. We don’t get far. On the way down the street the hiker who is driving notices that the steering is wobbly. We pull over and he gets out to inspect the tires, finding that we have a flat. We find the spare easy enough as it is attached to the back of the car but we don’t see a jack. I call the hostel to inform the owner and she plans to send her husband to help, but as we’re waiting for him one of the hikers has the brilliant idea of checking the owner’s manual and finds the hidden hatch where the jack is stored. I call back to let them know we’re ok and in no time we have the tire changed and are on our way.
Around 11:00 I finally get started hiking. Unfortunately the delay means I probably won’t get the 20 miles in that I wanted to. I hold out hope for a decent mileage though as the terrain isn’t too bad. As I enter the 100 mile wilderness I pass the sign I have seen many pictures of that warns hikers about the length of the section and the need to carry at least 10 days worth of food. I scoff at the suggestion, as most northbounders do. I am carrying 6 days of food – 5 for hiking and 1 for my planned on-trail zero in the wilderness.
The trail does have a lot of small annoying ups and downs but they pass by easily enough. I feel strong today and hope that perhaps my fatigue has at last passed. At the first shelter I reach I find Lazerlegs. He is neroing out of town. Apparently he has someone resupplying him part of the way through the 100 mile wilderness. The funny thing about this stretch is that although it is called the 100 mile wilderness, it actually isn’t that isolated. There are gravel roads that cross it often, side trails to cabins and lodges, railroad tracks, and in some cases even parking lots right on the trail. Hostels nearby have used this to their advantage by offering slackpacking and food drops in this section. I decide to photographically document all of the signs of civilization I come across as I’m hiking through this section so at the end I can make a collage of the “wilderness.”
Just a bit after the shelter I reach Little Wilson Falls, a beautiful waterfall on the side of the trail. Unfortunately the trail doesn’t point out a proper place to view the falls and, already getting a late start, I don’t take the time to look for one. I head down to the bottom where I have to ford the river. I use the opportunity to take a snack break before I make short work of the ford and move on.
The rest of the day passes quickly. I have two more fords listed in the data book before I reach the shelter I’m aiming for but only the first one is actually a ford. I’m able to rockhop across the second, saving some time. I reach the shelter just a bit after 6:00 and, as I’m looking for a place to set up my tent, find the APE team and Philly Steve already hanging out. They left town earlier than I did, got to this shelter around 3:30, and decided to stop. I set up quickly but have to head back down the trail the way I came about a quarter mile to get my water at a stream I passed. I cook dinner and I just finish it as the sun sets and everyone heads to bed. I have to finish and clean up in the dark with the aid of my headlamp, but sunset is coming early now and I’m still in my tent at a reasonable time. As I look at what lies ahead in the data book I hope I can make up some ground tomorrow. I am about 5 miles behind where I wanted to get to today, so tomorrow I’ll need to try to be a bit quicker on the Appalachian Trail.