In the Morgan Stewart Shelter (AT SOBO mi 751.8), walked 20.5 miles today, plus at least one to/from Tony's Deli
Woke up very early by AT standards, at 6:15, and got out of camp at about the same time as Walkie and Talkie, with whom I walkied and talkied for about the first ten miles. They were very good companions, very appropriately named (the woman, Talkie, made about 95% of the conversation) but we split up when we got to NY Highway 22 and the Appalachian Trail Metro North train station, where they were due to meet some people for a day off. Took it upon myself to walk half a mile down the road to Tony's Deli, where I resisted the urge to ask for Tony's bologna and instead ate a massive pastrami melt and two sodas and an ice cream bar for only about ten bucks. Overfull, I staggered back down the highway and sat at the Native Landscapes Garden Center, a business that sits right where the trail meets the road and is incredibly friendly to hikers. I got a full phone charge and free wifi and chatted with a very nice woman who worked there about the evils of invasive species, a favorite topic of mine since I was paid to make a minuscule dent in their populations for two summers in Minnesota, years ago.
Returned to the trail having digested enough to make hiking possible. Went at it a little too hard, though, wasting myself and my already tired legs going uphill for a few miles until I had to take a long, solitary break at a shelter and tell myself to be cool, honey bunny, and that I still had plenty of time to make my goal for the day even if I took things slowly. The next few miles after that were apparently part of a very popular day hike, and an Indian-American family that I talked to ended up foisting three bananas and two nectarines on me despite my smiling protests. I had to sit down and eat those, not that it was a problem. After 5pm, working out my last 6 miles or so, I didn't see a single person and my mood started to turn a little. The morning and the beginning of the afternoon had been great, both with the trail (several grassy fields, albeit some infested with purple loosestrife) and the people, but suddenly I was alone, with energy flagging, and stuck on the Bad AT. The Bad AT is usually a maze through some impenetrable unattractive forest, often muddy and or swampy, with lots of steep short rocky climbs and descents, anything from 50 to a few hundred feet of elevation change ... I got all of that for four of the last five miles, and the landmark I was looking for, a dirt road that meant I was exactly a mile from the shelter, took forever to arrive and I started to think I was just going to wander around in circles in the featureless woods until darkness fell. Thankfully the road came and the final mile up to the shelter was pleasant, on a nice high (1300 feet above sea level!) ridge with room to see out over the fresh green breast of the New World, as Fitzgerald would have it. The shelter has three SOBO thru-hikers, Moses, Sinatra and Papa Wolf, staying here and no one else, so I ate dinner with them and then turned in. More on them tomorrow, since I will probably hike with them for a bit.
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