We started with a big climb (1400 feet) but it was slow and gradual, spread out over 6 miles. It wasn't overly difficult and not technical, just a climb. We had some nice views along the way- trees and lakes - not as spectacular as yesterday, but nice nonetheless. Man, is Maine isolated! We were hard pressed to find signs of civilization from our viewpoints. And to think, we weren't even in the 100 mile wilderness, yet!
Around 11:00, we ran into a couple guys hiking with their dog. "Don't let my dog push you over the edge of that viewpoint!" one of them said to me. No, YOU don't let your dog push me off the edge, buddy! (The dog was very well behaved. No worries.) They told us about a couple nice viewpoints that our guidebook did not mention. We thanked them and continued on our way.
About .5 miles from Hall Mountain Lean-to (our lunchtime destination) the trail started meandering along the side of a hill. Not going to the top, not going to the bottom, just going in a zig zag pattern on the side of the hill- up, down,up, down, up, down. Really annoying. And pointless. You'd think I would have gotten used to pointless changes in the trail by now, but somehow, I still found them annoying.
When we reached the shelter for lunch, we began to wonder aloud if Wilson, Peaches, and Mother Teresa had zeroed today, as we had not yet seen them. And just then, they showed up with Lentil. We talked and ate together and then Carbon appeared.
Before long, a young (19 years old) solo hiker arrived at the shelter. He was named Glacial Freeze, for his affinity for the Gatorade of that flavor. He was light, skinny, and carrying an ultralight pack. He has started the trail on May 28 and planned to finish on Sept 5! One hundred days- very impressive. He was averaging 25 to 30 miles per day, except for the day before, when he did 15 miles through Mahoosuc Notch and Arm and stopped at Speck Pond Shelter for the night, practically shell shocked from the terrain (like the rest of us). He was feeling a bit hungry after he had finished his lunch, so we offered up some Cliff bars, cheese, and apple, a whoopie pie. We'd need it pulling the big miles he was doing.
I'm always in awe of people like Glacial Freeze, who can consistently push out big miles and recover to push big miles again the next day. I had struggled with our progress in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, arguing with my hiking partners that we were zeroing too much and that we needed to hike more. Now, I was faced with the fact that I couldn't do big miles because of the extreme Maine terrain. I was a bit envious of Glacial Freeze.
But as he continued talking, I realized that for him, this trip had been all about making the miles. He skipped some really great trail towns (Damascus, Great Barrington, Gatlinberg, Palmerton) simply because he needed to get the miles in. He often reached shelters and campgrounds after dark and left before first light the next day. It didn't sound fun at all.
Sometimes finding the right balance between too much and not enough is difficult. We certainly didn't always find that right balance during our thru-hike, but overall, I was pretty happy with our progress and our hike. I hadn't realized that until I met Glacial Freeze. It was an enlightening lunch.
After lunch, we walked up the hill behind the shelter to look at a viewpoint. Meh. I could have saved my legs. The viewpoints that the guys with the dog had suggested were much better.
Our afternoon hiking was pleasant; mostly forest walking. Nothing really difficult. When we reached the summit of Mt. Moody ("I think this mountain was named after you," Subaru said to me. And then I pushed him off a cliff. Just kidding! I stuck my tongue out at him.) we called David, the hostel owner, as he had requested. "Ok, you'll finish up around 2:30." he said.
We went down the relatively easy descent from the mountain, crossed a brook, and climbed a hill on the other side of the brook. We popped out onto the road at 2:28, just as David was pulling up in the shuttle. This guy was good!
Again, we'd have a long afternoon to rest and recover. After showering and changing, we walked to the downtown for ice cream. Then we repacked our backpacks, since this would be our last slack pack. The Red Hen diner was closed for dinner, so we went to the other restaurant where they were apparently not as used to hikers and the diner. Everyone there was giving us weird looks as we each ordered a dinner for two and ate it ourselves. Plus a side salad. And dessert. Went to bed early for a longer day tomorrow.