Part 2! A 20 mile day through the tail end of the whites and into the Mahoosucs. So while i was hanging out at the shelter, the caretaker, a fine gent named Matt suggested that I try to go to Gentian pond for the next day, since my original goal was ~70 miles over the course of the trip… this he said, would be an easy day, relatively pedestrian terrain, so pulling 20 miles with pack should be no problem… so i thought. Now it’s no secret that I started “streaking” meaning I have a minimum requirement of 1 mile per day, no breaks, no matter what, so, naturally I put this on at the beginning of the backpacking day, before packing up (oh the joys of moving unburdened!) and then proceeded to boogie for my 20 mile backpacking day.
It’s worth mentioning here, that the average section hiker seems to be much less ambitious than I was in the planning of their trip, in fact, typically the section hiker averages >10 miles a day… nevermind attempting to pull 20’s… but, figuring that I’m training for an ULTRAMARATHON, this seemed reasonable. So, with that in mind… let’s go 20!
Initially, the day seemed to meet Matt’s description, mostly downhill, a few nice summits (we were already at ~3500ft) and by mid-morning I was nearly halfway there! What I didn’t expect, however, was the terrific lows throughout the rest of the day. As most runners know, hitting the wall/bonking/whatever you want to call it is usually associated with low blood sugar relative to activity level. So, not realizing how little I had eaten, i quickly found my mood deteriorating… quickly!
Fortunately, on my ascent of Mt. Hayes, I met “Kites” and “Cakes” a 20-something couple from Minnesota who had been hiking since Bear Mtn, NY and were hiking to Katahdin. It’s amazing how much some company can help your mental health, since when I met Kites and Cakes I was bonking pretty hard, had already hiked ~10 miles, rather quickly, and still had ~10mi of increasingly rough terrain to cover before I reached my sleeping destination (I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep…).
So the three of us continued on Toward Gentian Pond as the afternoon slowly disappeared. What we didn’t expect, is that Gentian pond was far from the first pond we’d pass over the course of the day, in fact, it was the 3rd pond in the final 5 miles… with both “false” ponds being increasingly depressing. As the hours ticked away, the three of us found ourselves getting hungrier (how much GORP can you eat in a day..) and increasingly desirous of making camp, enough so that by the time we spotted Gentian Pond, instead of celebrating our destination, we rolled into camp like three very weary travelers… until, we noticed… Youth, and Exuberance!
Yes, Youth and exuberance, it turns out that the campsite we had elected to sleep at was occupied by 12 fourteen-ish year old girls on their first backpacking trip, with two 20-something trip leaders. The girls had hiked in 3 or 4 miles, and this was their first night, and first exposure to the AT “thru-hiker” (or over-ambitious sectioner) let the entertainment ensue.