Day 9: Friday, August 22

In the High Point Shelter (AT SOBO mi 851.3), walked 19.0 miles today

Woke up around eight to find everybody in the hostel still out for the count; eventually bodies started to stir and Princess and I perambulated to the grocery store a half-mile across town for a resupply run. Bagels were consumed from a bagel place soon after, then we moved back to the church to pack up and leave. Since nothing was happening especially quickly, we didn't make it out of town until about 10:45, and that made us the clear leaders among the hostel crowd. Rain seemed to threaten, and it was dark and gray all day, but the radar and weather forecasts suggested it wouldn't be much of an issue, and that ended up being correct.

Local hero Kyle gave Princess and I a ride out of Vernon, although he revealed his ulterior motive for giving us a lift by blurting out right away, "Do you guys smoke? I like to blaze on my way over for work." We told him he'd struck out and picked two of the ten-percenters who *don't* smoke regularly on the AT. Once he'd dropped us off at the trailhead, it was a flat boardwalk next to wetlands for a few miles, then up into the hills, such as they are in New Jersey. There was another wetlands section later, in the early afternoon, but for the most part the trail rambled around through the most nondescript of nondescript Eastern forested tunnels for the day.

Hiked with Princess most of the day, except for the time when a SOBO named Smiley overtook us and I whipped forward to keep up with her for a bit at her extremely brisk pace. Everything about her gear (Gossamer Gear and Altra cap-a-pie) and mannerisms screamed California hiker, so I was not surprised to find she was from the Santa Cruz area and knows the West Coast hiking scene pretty well. She lives with Bobcat, a hiker known to almost everyone who was on the PCT in 2013 as the first and most distinctive SOBO they ran into. She eventually scurried ahead when Princess and I took an afternoon break at the very nice Murray property, a private cabin left open to hikers by the proprietor, a Mr. Jim Murray. From there it was five fairly tame miles to this shelter, where Smiley had decided to fetch up for the night anyway. Only us three, plus whatever bears are probably lurking in the nearby forests waiting to break into my peanut butter jar once I go to sleep, at the shelter site for the night.

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