Day 31: donkey edition 

The wretched whiporwhils cranked into gear at 430 this morning. One of them seemed like it was camped out over top of my tent, but it would occasionally fly to a neighboring tree to make the sound minutely more tolerable. DEAR GOD. Their call is shrill and repetitive. I counted the revolutions in an attempt to not yet at the top of lungs. One bird went through 150 rounds of the call before pausing a second and returning to its duty. JD muttered something from his tent around 5 and I heard chrissy give up and get out of her tent around 530. I never did fall back asleep.
I was packed up and ready to go by 7am because of the early start. buzzcut and I set out around the same time and walked in relative silence for the first hour. Well, if you don’t count the occasional swearing when one or the other of us hit a sharp rock. The first half of the day was another painful one in terms of shit kicker rocks. Some of them look like half buried dinner plates. Not so kind on the feet or the ankles. It was another morning of not seeing the forest for the rocks. There were a few bits of relief, like this view, which we hit about twenty minutes into the hike. 

The day started out gray and cool. Perfect hiking weather. We came upon high point state park headquarters around 9, just in time for our free soda and bathroom break. 

I abstained from the soda because it was just Pepsi. Now if they’d had orange Fanta, I would have had a 9am soda. The group slowly filtered in as buzzcut and I loitered. I ate a snack and finally remembered to empty out my trash, which is a sneaky way to drop a few ounces of weight. Buzzcut and I left the HQ around 930 and continued along the rocky mess after crossing the road. Shortly thereafter, we came upon the high point monument: 

I didn’t go up the side trail to the monument because, while .4 doesn’t sound like much, it adds up when you’re intending to hike 13-15 miles. Around mid morning, Buzzcut expressed concern about making it 17 miles (our intended plan) because of sore feet. My feet were also pretty unhappy, so I started to settle on the idea of a shorter day. This is pretty hard for me to do. Once there’s a plan in place, anything but The Plan feels like “failure.” 

We went through a series of fields this afternoon, which was a welcome change from staring at my feet! There was a dearth of lunch spots today, so after not finding the alleged stream from AWOLs guide, we plopped down in the grass at the side of one of the fields. Buzzcut took off her boots (cursing the whole time) and I ate a very dull tuna wrap because I’m out of cheese and hot sauce. JD and treebeard happened upon us while we took our break. We ended up walking with them for about a mile until we hit a nice little stream. 

I decided to soak my throbbing feet since we only had a little over a mile to go until the Murray property. Buzzcut took the opportunity for a dunk as well, so we sat on rocks and talked a bit. We spent most of our time walking in silence today. I had a zillion questions to ask, but I took her lead on the amount of talking she wanted, which turned out to be very little. I tried not to take that personally. 

The last mile to the road crossing was pleasant and relatively flat. There was one steep hill that led to this view: 

When we hit the road crossing for the Murray property, we took a left and came upon a field of small buildings, one of which is a shelter for hikers. 

You can also tent in the yard. Jim Murray has let hikers stay here for something like 40 years, but word is that he will be closing the property to hikers as of June 1st. He is aging and has decided that the time has come to close up shop. 

 It’s supposed to rain tonight, so we decided to stay here instead of tenting near the pavilion in Unionville, NY, which is 2 miles north. I’m sure at some point I won’t be able to strategize my way out of packing up a wet tent in the rain, but when it’s possible, why not do it? Chrissy, who is actually going by cfunk now, came and left because she couldn’t handle the bathroom situation here, and she wanted to get into town before the rain. The privy is a small wooden structure that is basically just open to the ground. Not even really a pit, just the ground two feet from your butt. 
We got here around 230, which is pretty early to stop on such a beautiful day. The option for the next shelter would have involved 7 more miles of hiking. I think I could have done it, but again, when you think long game, it doesn’t make sense. Could I do it? Yes. Would I be sore and miserable tomorrow? Probably. So I told my pride to calm the f down, with moderate success, and tried to relax into being here. Took a walk over to the donkey field to say hello to the jakes. Apparently jim just calls them both jake because they answer to it. Buzzcut and I did a little bit of planning. I had a minor freak out about cutting tomorrow short as well instead of going with our original idea to make it 13 miles north to a hostel. The hostel was advertised as free in AWOL, but in reality it’s $37.50. I don’t need a shower (at least by hiker standards), and we can resupply in unionville, so there’s no real need to pay the money except to break up the mileage into moderate chunks. 
My stomach rang the dinner bell around 5, so I boiled water for a dehydrated meal. The others slowly did the same, and we ate together on the porch of the shelter. 

As we lingered on the porch, the donkeys came to visit. At one point, a donkey had his head on tai chi’s. Reasons unknown, but tai chi was a good sport about it. 

As I’m writing this, it’s still daylight, but we are 4 across on the floor of the shelter (no bunks), doing our respective idiot box tasks. Tai chi is in a hammock outside. I’m trying not to think about the gnarly spider I saw in the doorframe earlier. Let’s hope I don’t have any uninvited bed guests. Going to be a soggy one tomorrow! 

Mile 1333.4 to mile 1343.3 (9.9) 

Total miles: 340.1
Creature feature: so many chipmunks! And 3 garter snakes, one of whom was hanging out at attention right next to the path and made me jump a mile. Buzzcut had a good laugh over the hop I did to get away from the snake and then she reached down to touch it. 

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