In the East Branch Lean-to (AT mi 2113.2), walked 16.3 miles today
Got hiking a little after eight and was immediately forced into a treacherous ford of the ankle-deep West Fork of the Pleasant River. Having survived by the skin of my toes, I was rewarded with some cheap miles after that--four of them in an hour and a half on a clear, well-graded trail! Incredible. Still managed to sweat a ridiculous amount despite the relative ease of the trail, to the point where my clothes were all wetted out; this ended up causing big problems with chafe later in the day once it had cooled down. After the four easy miles came the six that looked brutal on the elevation profile, up and over four different peaks in the White Cap range, but they did not have the same degree of difficulty as yesterday's ascents and descents. Part of that was due to unbelievably good trail-building, with hundreds of rock steps on each peak ... I thought back to how hard a single rock step was to build on Konnarock Crew in 2007 and was very impressed, especially considering the remoteness of all this area.
After the first of the four peaks, clouds took over and socked in everything, leading to a sensation I realized I only remembered from New Hampshire and Maine on the AT in 2011--that of being on a mountain in a cloud, in really dark dense forest of short spruce trees, and hearing the wind whoosh around but not make much noise since it doesn't have leaves to catch hold of and rustle. It's a hard sensation to describe, or explain why it's special, but it's distinct and I'd forgotten all about it until now. The being-in-a-cloud also meant that everything, pack clothes and skin, got cold and thoroughly damp, and I stopped sweating, so the chafing really started to kick in at this point. My armpits even chafed, which has never happened before, ever. The views from the top of White Cap, allegedly stunning on a clear day, looked about like the picture below. I could not see Katahdin, as had been promised to me in my LYING, FULL OF SHIT guidebook.
Came down from White Cap to the Logan Brook Lean-to, where I spent a long break chit-chatting with all sorts of people, the usual suspects from the past few days plus some SOBOs, and two NOBOs named Captain Rico and Yote who caught up and will soon overtake us. No one northbound was headed past the next shelter, three miles on, so I walked most of that at an amble with the German Dortmund guy, whose trail name I learned today is Joe (because apparently no one in this country can pronounce Joachim, his real name). We talked about soccer some more. Got to the shelter around 5:30 to find the nearby grounds overrun with college freshmen on an orientation trip from a school in Portland, Maine. Awwright awright awright! The hiker trash took over the shelter itself--the crowd is me, the Swiss couple (Swiss Miss and Nobody), Siesta, Yote and Captain Rico. Thunderstorms are imminent, but again it barely rained on us hiking during the day. Tomorrow the terrain gets much much easier and I'll try to hike somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 miles.
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