We were up early, ate leftovers from our restaurant visits for breakfast, and then headed to the outfitters for the shuttle. We waited. And waited. And waited. And finally when somebody showed up, they had no inkling that we had scheduled a shuttle the day before. We ended up catching a ride back to the trailhead with another hiker whose wife was out for a visit. And as we drove there, it started raining.
We put on our rain gear and pack covers in the car and then started out over a wet, slippery, muddy trail. Lots of bog bridges, lots of wet roots. The climb was pretty gradual, which was nice, but very wet. We reached Piazza Rock Lean To for a snack break and there we found Little Engine, Timber, and Ambassador, who were getting a late start. They were playing a little game of outwit the weather themselves, waiting for the rain to stop. They were losing this round. The privy at this shelter had two toilet seats with a cribbage board in between. You know, just in case you want to use the bathroom with your good friend and play a little game at the same time. Outside, there was a sign that said "Your Move".
After the shelter, the terrain continued in the gentle climb with lots of wetness, and then got sharply steep. We were suddenly on angled rock face, precariously picking our way up Saddleback Mountain. The rain increased, as well. We got passed on the climb by the other three hikers who were moving like they had somebody chasing them. I tried to increase my pace, but ended up slipping and falling a few times so I resolved to my slow, careful pace that has worked so well for me thus far.
At the summit, we hunkered down behind a rock wall to eat, but it was just too cold and rainy at the top, so we pushed on. It got a little more comfortable after a brief descent, so we got some food and then moved on. Today we would pass over three distinct summits: Saddleback, the Horn, and Saddleback Junior. Each was as steep and slippery as the last, each summit was surrounded by clouds and fog.
When we reached Poplar RIdge Lean to, we were happy to see that there were two more spots left in the shelter so we moved right in, next to Forrest Gump and Winterflower (and Eddie the dog), Occupy, and a section hiker. Little Engine, Timber, and Ambassador had opted to tent. About 20 minutes later, Wilson, Mother Teresa, and Peaches showed up and camped further up the hill. It was a nice, cozy spot and we fell asleep to the sound of a babbling brook.