Tenting by the Ten Mile River Shelter (AT SOBO mi 731.3), walked 15.7 miles today plus at least two more on the road to, from and around Kent
The guy with the dog also happened to snore like a jake-braking semi truck all night long, to the point where I had a dream that Stan Mordensky (a friend who thru-hiked the AT last year) was in the shelter in between the snoring guy and me and I was telling Stan to elbow him as hard as possible in the ribs. Then as soon as I sat up in the morning, his dog Flicka of course started growling at me and baring her teeth. Then he set part of the shelter floor on fire lighting up his stove for breakfast. This is a man who probably should not be allowed to use shelters, but I doubt he can be stopped now. I tried to break camp quickly and forget about how annoyed I was with him, succeeding on both parts. I quickly had to divert my frustration toward the trail itself, which took me on an absolute bitch mother of a climb up to a point called the St. John's Ledges; it was an almost-vertical, hand-over-hand scramble over jumbles of boulders at some points, the type of thing that just doesn't happen on a "trail" not maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club (the AMC has a Connecticut branch that maintains this state's section of the trail and their influence shows).
The day was, thankfully, cool and a little cloudy, meaning I felt great once I'd worked up a sweat and it chilled me down afterward. After the initial nastiness it was a few miles of descent to the road that goes to Kent, a town usually accompanied by a groan and/or an expletive from hikers, because it is a touch precious and hikers often seem to feel they're given a colder shoulder there than most other towns. I saw no reason to complain, though. I got everything I needed taken care of promptly--decent pizza at a decent price, my phone charged, Instagrams uploaded, full-fat Skippy procured (I'd made an amateur's mistake two days before and gotten reduced-fat peanut butter, which is inedible), a damn good mocha consumed, my water bottles filled, and Aqua Mira purchased from "Backcountry Outfitters." I also picked up a used book--Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh--for a buck and had some great interactions with other hikers--these were unexpected bonuses. All my business with the townspeople was conducted with a smile rather than a scowl, and everyone went on their merry way at the end of it, doubtless humming Kumbaya to themselves.
I left around 3pm to take care of the next nine miles, which started out pretty rolly (in a bad way; it doesn't help that my legs are sore from the first day) but ended with a gentle stroll along the Ten Mile River and to this shelter. One thing I really enjoy about the AT compared to the PCT is the rich variation in the human spectrum that you encounter among the hikers; the people of the PCT, as much as I like them, seem *very* homogenous and single-minded in their goals and approach to hiking by comparison. There are people that I think are idiots, like the guy in the shelter last night, or the guy in the shelter tonight who made it an easy decision for me to tent, or the guy in the Mt. Algo Shelter in the afternoon who was terrorizing everyone else with his incessant talking and boasted about having gotten heat stroke three times in Virginia this year and then stuck to his claim when I asked if he was sure he didn't mean heat exhaustion. But there are also a lot of brilliant, happy and expressive people ... Some NOBOs I had just met in Kent (who were smoking joints on a park bench) sang me a really awesome song they had written about the AT, which I videoed but promised not to publish until the singer could do it first. There are ridiculously interesting and varied entries in all the shelter register books, too many to remember. People on the AT in general seem to come from vastly different walks of life and have vastly different ideas about why it's good to be out here. I don't think I'm denying the PCT a fair shake in saying all this, because I noticed it right away when I was out there, the relative homogeneity of that crowd.
Met my first SOBO thru-hikers, Walkie and Talkie, at the shelter tonight along with several others. Most of us are camped to escape the prattle of Grandpa George, a section-hiker in the shelter. It's a cool clear night; tenting with no rain fly. Tomorrow, maybe 20 less taxing-looking miles to the Morgan Stewart Shelter in NY (crossed into NY for ten minutes today, then jumped back into CT for the night).
More pictures on Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/scrubhiker