Up at 530a and out by 615a this morning. One of the perks of not sleeping in the shelter was that I didn't have to be especially quiet as I packed up this morning, which made the process fairly quick and efficient. Grateful to finish packing up before any significant rain started, and happy to be on the trail early. There was still a thick fog that seemed to only get thicker as I climbed up into the mountains again. And the rain was intermittent. It started falling more steadily around 1030a, and I hit a shelter about a half hour later where I stopped for lunch. I was pretty wet and happy to have a dry space to eat. Nice to chat with Cavebear and Fairy Baby too. They're some of the few hikers I've met so far. Really haven't seen as many AT hikers as I'd expected. Cavebear told me that everyone at the shelter last night was hiking together, which gave me some hope for space at the shelter tonight.
The rain persisted today until about 330p. Ugh. I was feeling pretty miserable. Had my head down and my camera packed away for much of the day. Did manage to snag a few nice shots, but there seemed to be a lot that I missed. I met a day hiker, Charlie, and his two chocolate labs atop Whitecap Mountain. He gave me a piece of chocolate, which was about the coolest thing ever. As I made my way down the north aspect of Whitecap, the sun started to break through the clouds here and there. Charlie had mentioned that the weather should be good the rest of the day and into tomorrow morning before it gets worse again. Supposed to be iffy the next few days, so we'll have to see how all of that plays out.
I passed both Logan Brook and East Branch shelters as I made my way toward Cooper Brook Falls knowing that it would be another late night. I felt anxious, because both shelters I passed had room for me, but it was still too early for me to stop, especially given the suddenly nice weather and the unstable forecast. I ran into some southbound hikers just north of East Branch and asked how many folks they'd seen, hoping to get a sense for the odds of there being space for me at Cooper Brook Falls. They said maybe 8, which made me wonder whether I should stay at East Branch. I decided to press on, figuring I could camp if I needed to, even though I really didn't wanna have to do that. I was feeling pretty lazy.
I stopped to filter water around 7p, and I just turned on the jets after that. Covered the last three miles of the day in an hour, a significant increase from my 2 mph average pace today. I was elated to arrive at Cooper Brook Falls a little after 8p and find that there was space for me to set up along one of the shelter walls. Everyone was asleep, so I unpacked as quietly as I could in an effort not to disturb anyone. Surprised I'm not starving after the long day today, but I'm actually not that hungry. Decided to skip dinner. Considering a short day tomorrow, so I'll shoot for a hot lunch to make up for tonight. I might only tackle like 20 miles tomorrow, and try to get under cover for the night before the predicted rain starts. It should be pretty flat for a while from here, and the weather should be nice to start, so I'll get going early again and try to maximize the miles while the conditions cooperate.
I'm so tired. Covered 29 miles in 14 hours today. The miles were tough, but I'm generally getting my legs back, even if they are a bit sore. I'm doing better than I was the last time I hiked the HMW, but I'm also wondering whether the trek is just really this hard. Yes, I'm way outta shape. But still, I can usually manage things like this pretty well. Seems this hike is beating me up all over again, albeit more slowly and to a lesser degree. Guess that's progress. I wonder what it's like for thru-hikers who have already covered over two thousand miles. Are they doing days this big? Bigger? Does it take them as long? Does it take the same toll? This trail is so different than the PCT, I really don't know how big thru-hikers are going at the end of it. Doesn't really matter; I'm just curious.
Miles Hiked: 29