Sunday, May 6th, 2012: To me, one of the best things about the 'people-part' of this trail experience is making connections - connections with people I've only met via the internet then meet on the trail, connections between people I meet, who've met other people I've met ... even just being able to read the messages left by trail friends in shelter log books.
But today I made the first *real* connection - the one I hope to repeat often. On Tuesday, March 6th, exactly two months ago to the day, I was hiking back from Snowbird Mountain to Max Patch. I had stopped on the trail to trim toenails and remove layers of clothing when a tall strapping hiker came hurrying by. He stopped and we talked for a few minutes. I asked if he had a trail name. No, just 'Paul from New York'. Paul had left Springer February 16th and was hoping to find a hiking companion who wanted to keep his pace - about 20 miles a day. I wished him well and told him, as I have told many others since, to watch for me up north.
Well, Paul remembered. Today he saw my entry in Mashipacong Shelter's log book and knew we were close. He was worried that he might miss me - that I might be off the trail for the day already. It was 5:15PM and he was hurrying north toward NJ 23 where a friend was waiting to pick him up for a night off the trail.
I had just made my turn-around point on a short northward leg from Mashipacong Shelter. It was 5:15PM and I was hurrying back south to my vehicle, hoping to get there before dark.
"Seeks It!!" said a bearded guy. Paul from New York had been clean shaven. I didn't recognize the face. Paul said it was the beard, but I explained to him how horribly face-blind I am (mild form of Asperger's Syndrome, I suspect). In any case, I quickly remembered our meeting in perfect (savant-like) detail when he said his name. Now Paul has a trail name: 'Parkside', which he has hand-written on the back of his shirt. Better yet, he has met and hiked with 'Iceman and Viking' and with 'Achilles'. I suppose I should have asked him about other hikers I met down south. Maybe we'll meet again tomorrow before he speeds on north. He needs to reach Katahdin by July 1st. We shook hands, took each others' picture, and each hurried on our way. What a satisfying end to a beautiful day!
The day didn't start beautiful - it was foggy, and a shower moved through after dawn, delaying my start. Once on the trail, the highlight of the morning was Sunrise Mountain, with its expansive vista and a 1930's CCC-built pavilion right on the summit:
Lastly, trail signs are always fun. Today, on either side of Deckertown Turnpike, I passed two that struck my fancy - two definitive messages to keep you on the right course - to keep you making those magical connections:
Here's my route plotted on a map. The title line is a link to where I've uploaded more photos, all tagged by location.
AT Day 116 - Sunrise Mountain at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in High Point State Park