A weak start but steadily improving as the day went on, culminating in a fun “secret” camp spot. With donkeys.
I hit the trail at 7am and found myself staying in first gear for the whole first session of 5 miles. My stomach ached quite a bit. I noticed that there were no camp spots until the next shelter. I stopped for a privy break at Mashipacong Shelter where 3 hikers from New York City were still getting ready. They were hiking a 14 mile section southbound in the three day weekend. Different kind of hike. I took an Imodium and risked snacking on a bar, my first food of the day, and moved on.
Next stop was High Point State Park headquarters which give out a free cold soda to thru hikers. I hung out outside with Wics (Wish I Could Shave, due to a rather puny facial growth) who had passed through while I was at the shelter earlier. He is a young thru on his second attempt and went inside himself to claim his free soda and gave it to me.
I hoped that two full sugar colas might give me a much needed boost. I I was behind schedule: the 8 miles today had taken 5 hours and the terrain had been fine.
I had caught up with Wics so we hung out here as well. They had a takeout window so I ordered cheeseburger and fries to eat there and packed up a meatball sub for dinner. Having eaten only about 3 trail bars all day I bravely downed the burger and hoped it stayed put.
Pushing on around 3pm I still had 6 miles to make. I must have recovered from the minor stomach ailment as two colas, a Gatorade and a burger seem to have got me back into top gear.
The signs on this part of the trail say “Camping allowed only in designated campsites” but there isn’t a single designated campsite for tens of miles as far as I can see! Today and tomorrow there is only 1 shelter in 24 miles so where exactly am I supposed to camp?! Today at least the problem is solved by Mr Murray who lets hikers stay in his field. It’s called the secret shelter because it’s unofficial and there’s no signage to it. It’s a bit more than just a field as it has a small cabin with power (!), a shower cabin and a privy (sans seat though). It is a lovely place to hang out. Two hikers were already there: Bad Hat and One Feather, seen below relaxing with the resident donkeys I’m attendance.
I had passed Mr Magoo near the end who is a hiker who can only see a yard in front of him after a car crash in 1977 damaged his sight. He and his college buddy Bad Hat from Arkansas are section hiking the trail in 6 week sections and are 1200 miles in. Pretty amazing stuff. We hung out on the cabin porch and told bad jokes. Here are Bad Hat and Mr Magoo.