Day 51: nero edition 

My watch alarm went off at 440 this morning. I heard it instantly and stopped it after a few beeps. I had been worried about waking up the world for my sunrise ambitions, so I set the alarm on my watch assuming it would be less offensive if I slept through it than whatever noise my phone would produce (I can never remember what the alarms are set to play). I felt so groggy and unenthused about putting weight on my feet. I grabbed my glasses from the floor and peaked out the bunk room door. Not much in the way of color in the sky. I decided to give up on the sunrise and go back to sleep. That lasted for about five minutes. My experience with sunrise is that it can look like a dull nickel one minute and turn into a cotton candy surprise 10 minutes later. So I crept out of bed and grabbed my bug spray, my raincoat (for warmth and mosquitoes can’t bite through it! or so it seems), and my phone. I stumbled down the path to the privy and then the beach. When I say stumble, I mean literally stumble. My feet are like inflexible little bricks first thing in the morning. When I got to the water, I saw the view in today’s top picture. It didn’t get any pinker, but I still felt satisfied by my efforts and by the solitude. As I sat on the dock waiting to see if the sky would go wild, I heard the loud report of a pileated woodpecker, which sounds kind of like someone banging two by fours together. Judging by the volume, it was right along the edge of the water. I searched the treetops in vain and nearly gave up when I saw a flash of red. Then I watched that giant gawky bird peck at the trunk of several trees. I was hoping to witness the rapid fire attack I often hear in the woods, but this one took a more measured approach for his breakfast. 
The sky brightened, but didn’t change much, so I walked back to the cabin and laid in my bed. The caretaker, who sleeps in a curtained off section in the back of the bunk room, got up around 6. Shortly thereafter, I could smell pancake batter. One of the perks of staying here is that the caretaker makes a pancake breakfast and apparently sometimes other meals depending on the person. It’s volunteer based and the caretakers stay anywhere from a few days to 1 week every year. I thought about actually trying to go back to sleep since I had plans to hike all of one hour today, but my stomach disagreed with that idea, plus I knew other hikers would not linger in bed. I didn’t want to miss the social time or the pancakes. 
I got up, put on my puffy coat and hobbled down to the picnic table behind the shelter. People slowly filtered out of the bunk room and around 630, Nancy, the caretaker, announced that breakfast was ready. I grabbed my 4 pancake allotment, butter, syrup and then sat at the table with the same group from the night before. I added my own honey and peanut butter to give it some nutritional benefit since pancakes are basically not food. I went a little crazy and decided to try to the coffee because it seemed like it would go so well with pancakes. The second I poured it into my mug, I could smell my mistake. I passed it off to another hiker after two sips. 
After breakfast, hikers left in waves. The trio that I felt pulled to follow loitered on the porch joking around with me and filtering water. It was incredibly tempting to invite myself into their group, but I knew it would be a terrible idea physically and it wouldn’t solve my tech situation. So I sat in my chair and waved as they left. Intrepid and I were the only hikers left after 830. She decided to take a zero at the cabin. Her first of her entire trip. I sat on the porch in a rocking chair and worked on a plan to hike with Cotton. Two short days would get me to dalton and then we could hike Mt Greylock together ending Sunday afternoon at route 2, which is the road crossing for my stay with my college friend whom I will identify as Mama so I can stop with the generic friend attribution. It’s a nickname she’s had in our group for years. I warned Cotton that it might be a soggy weekend and she joked about needing to be cleansed anyway, so we set a tentative plan to meet in Dalton. I also ordered a new phone charger that has almost 7 charges. It was hard to take a hit on the weight (12oz vs 6 for my current one). I don’t think I should stay out of town for 7 days because it would involve carrying too much weight in food, but it would be nice to not have to rely on power a few days longer, so I can have the flexibility to space out the town stays. 
Intrepid and the caretaker went on a mission to fill all of the water jugs on the porch. It involves carrying about 30 empty Arizona tea jugs that were strung together down to the canoe, paddling across the lower end of the pond, refilling them at a spring and then unloading them on the beach for hikers to carry 1-2 at a time as they come back from swimming. I wanted to help, but I knew the walking and lifting were the opposite of rest, so I sat on my hands and let them go without me. 

When they came back, they were discussing plans to go canoeing (for recreation this time). Intrepid asked if I would like to join her and I considered saying no because I assumed it would aggravate my tailbone and lower back, butthe weather  was so perfect and the water looked so peaceful. I couldn’t resist. Intrepid said, “okay, if you come with me I’m going to pretend that I’m alone.” Little did she know how perfect that scenario is for me. I agreed to the arrangement with enthusiasm and we all walked down to the beach area. Intrepid had the smart idea of bringing an extra life jacket for me to sit on as a cushion. I took the back and she took the front. Somehow I ended up doing a lot of the paddling as we meandered around the pond. Upper goose connects to a larger pond that we aren’t allowed to paddle because of hikers in previous years trespassing or some such nonsense. That was fine with me because it was far more residential than upper goose. 

We paddled out past the little island that had what looked like cairns stacked along the rocky jetty. Then we wandered back into the marshlands. We’d been out for over an hour at that point, so I regretfully said I should probably head back. Intrepid said, “oh well can we just go to the end over there. I’m known for going as far as I can go,” which made me laugh because I think I am too. So we paddled over to the edge of a marshy bit and then paddled with purpose back to the dock on the far side of the lake. I felt pretty tired after the time in the sun and the effort of paddling. I resumed planning after I laid my sleeping bag over the sunny railing to air out. Last night, I’d woke up absolutely drenched in sweat. Even my legs were slick with sweat, which was a disgusting feeling and of course left me with the conundrum of being cold but also not wanting to sweat more by staying in the bag. I wanted to let it fully dry out before I packed it. 

As I waited for my bag to air, I called the hotel where I have reservations to ask about shuttle services, of which they offered none. I tried the number the manager gave me for a local person and got no answer and no return phone call. After surveying my food situation, I figured i could make it to friday if I was willing to eat breakfast for lunch and for breakfast. Not ideal, but doable especially considering the lower mileage. I sat there trying to figure out what to eat before I left when Nancy came out with a cutting board full of red and yellow pepper slices and a package of guacamole. She tasked us with helping her finish the guacamole, which I dutifully agreed to. We sat in periodic silence with short bursts of conversation. Nancy is a physics teacher who is heading out to Colorado after her week ends at UGP to hike part of the Colorado trail. Or maybe to finish it? I missed some of the information. Guacamole fresh veggie haze. 

A few new hikers arrived, among them were birk, hippo(!) who I haven’t seen since Delaware water gap, and five year plan. I had packed my bag and brought it down to the porch, but I was having trouble leaving. It’s just so peaceful there. I finally donned my bag as intrepid was talking about a pack shakedown with Nancy. That’s when I remembered Nancy had helped fix goddess’s pack fit, and it occurred to me that she might be a good person to help with my hip belt. My pack won’t hold an arc in the frame and the stay for the hip belt is still not seated on one side. It’s functional and comfortable enough when the frame is flat (vs flexed or arced, as the name of the bag implies), but I decided to ask Nancy about it anyway. She suggested I empty the main compartment, which I did taking satisfaction in how easy it was to dump out the contents of my bag. Then she manhandled the stay back into the stitched housing. Viola! I think that may have fixed most of the slippage in the arc straps. We shall see. 

As I was about to leave (again), a former thru hiker named friendly nate arrived and announced that he was just out for a night. Intrepid, tactless as she is, said well what kind of trail magic did you bring us?! Nate laughed and pulled out 4 different containers of fruit, a bunch of bananas, a bag of donuts. I pounced on the bananas and cherries and ate half a donut even though I wasn’t hungry at that point. Then I forced myself to leave the hiker haven and walked 2 miles up the trail to my hotel. 

The trail was not memorable (besides some blooming laurel), but I will say that it was thankfully headed away from the pond, which meant fewer bugs and mucky rock piles. My feet were still sore and on the edge of nervy, which confirmed that I was making the right choice. For once, I wished that I wasn’t hiking any miles, but 2 felt manageable enough. I did it in an hour, which was a vast improvement over yesterday’s pace. The trail crossed over highway 80 and wound past a lake and then I hit the road crossing for the hotel.

The hotel is about 200 yards off the trailand sits on the lake I’d passed. The proximity to the highway made for a noisy place, but it’s adequate, and it’s the first hotel room I’ve had to myself the entire trip. I think that might also make it the first night I’ve slept alone. 

I had absolutely no luck with the shuttle people and the price for a cab was $22 in one direction. There’s no way I’m going to pay $45 to go to a grocery store to buy $10 worth of food. I didn’t have the guts to walk out to the road and hitch. I also wasn’t in the mood for heavy delivery food, so I made myself a rice dinner from my food bag after confirming that I have just enough food to get me to Dalton if I eat the crappy hotel breakfast instead of my own. I sat at this picnic table and wrote blog posts to the sound of cars rushing along the highway and birds squabbling over crumbs.

Then I retired to my room, which always feels regretful because I’d much rather sleep outside when the weather is nice. Now I’m writing this to the sound of what I assume are bugs popping against the window, and I’m trying not to be anxious about the prospect of getting sidelined by foot injuries. I’m hoping if I slow down and try to get more rest and take more breaks, they will decide to let me keep going. Part of me is angry that I have to slow down. Other people don’t seem to have any problem ramping up their mileage. This envy and resentment are not new feelings. My body clearly needs extended time, and I guess I will have to cooperate. 

Mile 1548.1 to mile 1549.7 (1.6) 
Total miles: 546.5 
Creature feature: a garter snake that hardly even made me jump and a badger running back into the woods from the shoulder of the road 

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