A pretty regulation day other than completing a quarter of the whole trail and walking up alongside a 5′ black snake.
The shuttle driver I booked the day before promised that the Atkins Post Office would only be manned from 9am and not the 8:30am posted officially. There wasn’t much point arguing so I was picked up at my motel at 9 and sent my package of my down jacket and wool long johns back to Nicole to look after until I hit New Hampshire. I am now officially on summer gear and these two items save me 400g or 0.9lb. In addition I am looking to resupply more frequently than before, but that doesn’t mean more zero days in town. My previous strategy of leaving town with 5-7 days of food has meant the first 3 days of each leg have been hard work. When possible therefore I will carry about 3 days and the time lost to resupply will hopefully balance out with faster and more comfortable hiking.
Dropped off back at the Sunuco gas station I loaded up with milkshake and an egg and sausage biscuit and was on trail about 9:30. Today is Monday and I am at mile 542. I had just received confirmation of a reservation at Woods Hole Hostel at mile 620 for Friday so was aiming to slice this 78 mile section into days of about 15/18/18/18/9. Since Woods Hole offers quite a range of services and activities I was happy to get there early on Friday rather than push hard for 4 whole days just to arrive late on Thursday.
This day started nice and easily. The temperature was about 70 but not too humid and the first few miles – as usual – sped by. If only my afternoons were as pleasant as my mornings I’d be halfway to Maine by now!
An impressive almost-artwork of flower petals, sticks and stones had been created to mark the significant milestone of hiking one quarter of the trail. It might have been 0.6m early by my calculations but who cares. One quarter: done. Go through all that again just three more times and it’s over.
Stopping for a rest at mile 549 about 11:30 at the base of a 920′ climb up Walker Mountain, I found Renaissance doing the same thing along with a young couple, Down Dog, a blonde girl doing yoga stretches and her Coastguard boyfriend. Down Dog showed me a new stretch for my plantar fasciatis pain which hopefully will help. Lately it’s like walking on glass after 2/3pm and the pain wakes me up at night.
In fact the ‘big climb’ turned out to be pretty easy, the gradient (54′ per 0.1m) and mostly smooth trail not causing any problems. This was the first climb I finished before I was expecting to!
Descending again we passed through some lovely wide open green meadows that I really enjoyed hiking. The grass was easy on sore feet and it was such a nice change to be able to see long distances rather than being hemmed in by trees all the time.
At mile 553.4 the trail runs alongside a river and then crosses it on a tiny road. Renaissance was lying down on the road enjoying the scene and told me it was safe because no cars had come by since he had arrived. As soon I got there a car came by. But it didn’t try to run over Renaissance.
In fact the driver stopped to chat with me and turned out to be Storyteller, a former thru who now maintains 10 miles of the trail through those meadows I had just enjoyed so much. He asked me what I missed most since being here on trail. “Not being in pain.” I said, which made him laugh. After some negotiation we both agreed that hot and cold running water was pretty amazing.
I stopped here for about 30 minutes so I could soak my feet and ankles in cold rushing water and emerald green watch dragonflies flit around. Bliss.
At this point I noticed I had forgotten to wear my hiking socks today, only my liners. Another unusual mistake for a hiker to make.
Refreshed I started to tackle the last section of the day. Within 5 minutes, on an uphill climb so I wasn’t looking ahead at all, I found I had inadvertently walked alongside a 5′ black racer snake. I had been told all black snakes were benign but at camp tonight someone told me there are black rattlesnakes that are venomous. And it was black and rattled its tail at me. And wasn’t scared at all. Such larks. But I checked and it is definitely a non-venomous racer.
As usual about 3pm I began to tire and my feet hurt again. The last 3 miles always take forever and today was no exception. Treading gingerly into Lynn Camp Creek campsite right by a loudly running creek at mile 557.8 having done 15.1 miles it was a relief to get set up and get my bare feet onto a freshly filled cold water bladder.
I was joined by Heike and friend Claudia, an experienced hiker who has joined Heike for a 2 week section and is struggling to do 10 miles a day. We made dinner together and chatted. Heike is a German woman who I first met before the NOC and have overlapped with several times over the last few hundred miles. She was building up her mileage gradually as she had a 7 month visa rather than the standard 6, not sure how.