I left Kailee's place in Augusta at 530a this morning and arrived at Spectacle Ponds around 8a. (How fitting that I begin my second jaunt into the HMW from the same place that my last trip ended.) Would've been there sooner except that I kept stopping to take photos. The early morning light and the reflections of color in the still water of the lakes- epic. From my last hike in the HMW, I knew that the true trailhead is marked a few hundred yards north of Spectacle Ponds, which saved me over 3 miles compared to last my trip. In many ways, I'm far better-prepared than I was last time. My base weight is a mere 10-ish pounds, and I'm a seasoned thru-hiker. I'm in far worse shape now, though, and that might cancel out the former. Guess we'll see.
Progress was slow early today, because I just kept stopping to take photos. I was so excited, and everything was so new and so familiar all at the same time. It was exhilerating. When I did hit my stride, I was cruising. Had to consciously slow down in order to prevent shin splints or some other early injury. I'd forgotten how different the AT is from the PCT. It's steep, and the Chairbacks mercilessly highlight that truth. Steep and seemingly endless ups and downs. And the downs are sketchy.
I'd been pushing all day long and finally bonked around 8p. It was dark, and I was within an hour of the AT shelter I hoped to stay in. Didn't wanna stop to make dinner, but I was stumbling up the trail and really had no choice. Made dinner right there in the middle of the trail, a nice hot pot of instant mashed potatoes. Just the ticket after a long day on the trail. I finished, packed up, and made good time for the last 0.75 miles to the shelter. Finally arrived around 9p to find it full, and all of the reasonable nearby campsites occupied. For all of the solitude I've experienced today, I'm surprised at how packed this place is. I'm set up in a tiny spot that's not even really adequate for my little tarp. There isn't enough space for the corners to extend fully. Ah well, making it work.
Concerned about the weather tonight. The humidity is thick in the air, and I've felt some rain drops here and there the last few hours. Hoping it holds, but the forecast wasn't overly promising the next few days. Either way, hope I manage to snag a few sweet shots. Certainly got some today! It's hard to tell how far along the colors are. From much of the trail corridor, it looks like very little, but the big views suggest more like 50-60%. Regardless it's definitely not peak yet.
Hiked for 13 hours today and averaged 2 mi/hr overall. Way out of hiking shape, even more than I'd realized, and way dreading getting back into it, but excited to ultimately arrive. Tonight I'm sore from the long day, but not in pain which is certainly better than I was doing at this point of my last trip in the HMW. I'll take it.
Miles Hiked: 26