I was wide awake by 5AM, lying in a depression in the middle of my thin, springy mattress. I laid still listening to the morning noises, not wanting to wake up the other guests in the cabin. Around 5:30, I started to hear rustling and thumps, announcing that other hikers were beginning to get up. I climbed out of bed and hobbled down the hallway. The stiffness, that I would encounter for this whole hike, made me look like a stiff legged zombie shambling slowly through the dark
I headed out the front door for the clothesline, to find my clothes clean and wet. I should have known better than to hang them out next to a lake. The damp air made them feel as if I had just taken them from the washer. I grimaced, anticipating the wet, cold cloth against my skin. It was going to be a chilly breakfast.
Breakfast was all you can eat (AYCE), but that was really only the blueberry pancakes. I cleaned my plate, and then waited for the other hikers to finish. Once it appeared the other NOBO hikers were done, I reached around the table and grabbed mostly empty platters, finishing what they could not. There were some looks of surprise as I was a SOBO, and had only been out for a week. My appetite was permanent. On the trail or off, I was continuously hungry. I chatted with Bill while he washed dishes, and cleaned up. I had already packed up and brought my pack up to the dining building with me for breakfast, so I was ready to go. We all had our packs ready, and as soon as dishes were done Bill took us across the lake in his metal flat bottomed boat.
It was nice to get dropped off almost a mile closer to the trail and not have to hike the blue blaze trail again, although the mosquitoes were still waiting at the intersection with the AT. WHL was a great stay, and definitely worth the stop. It get’s mixed reviews from other hikers, and even other providers in the areas, but I had a good stay, and have noted some of the rumors are incorrect. Hikers should determine their own opinions and not base them off what they hear. Social media can be brutal. I would definitely return.
Lunch consisted of a stop at Antler’s campsite. It is just about my favorite campsite on the entire trail. It is so remote, and there are tent sites directly on the water, looking out over a beautiful lake. I spent an hour eating (whoopee pies and Pepsi from WHL….love hiker diets!) and writing by the water in my journal. It was so peaceful, and the constant breeze kept the annihilators (mosquitoes) at bay. Once finished, I popped back on my head net and headed back to the trail. My Go-lite umbrella and my head net, are just about my favorite pieces of gear on this trail.
I came to the dirt road I thought was Jo-Mary, where I had my food drop hidden. I was lazy and did not double check my guide upon arriving. I searched for a half hour, walking up and down the road looking for a path into the woods that held my pail of food. I also thrashed around in the undergrowth, searching for a trash bag that was supposed to hold the pail. Finally, two teenagers came strolling down the road, and told me Jo Mary was the next road over Cooper Brook. I would have known this if I had paid attention to my guide.
The kids told me it would take me about 20 minutes to get there by trail. I got there 45 minutes later. Age is tough. This time I found the drop right away, but my bucket was not there. I had beat it by a day. I texted Sparkles, and my hero Nokey had it there in 45 minutes with two sodas as a door prize. He also tried to give me a penalty prize for going to the wrong road…a Cliff Bar. He did not realize it was a penalty prize until he noted the look of disgust on my face and began laughing. I just smiled and told him it was the thought that counted.
The hiking up to Cooper Brook was a beautiful, leafy trail with a fairly park like grade. I decided to stop a little early and rest my feet. They blister very easily, so I have to baby them. There were three section hikers in the shelter cooking, and one tall SOBO thru sitting out front writing. All nice guys, but I don’t think I will see the SOBO again, as he had hurt his ankle and was only doing five mile days while it healed. This seems to be an early theme amongst us SOBO hikers. I’ve encountered a few with injuries.
I set up my Hexamid tarp and went up to the shelter to chat and eat dinner. It was a good conversation, and of course some of it revolved around gear. The section hikers all went down to examine the Hexamid. I had exclaimed it’s virtues and they wanted to see for themselves. They properly ooh’d and ah’d at the light weight and roominess of the tarp, and also at how quickly I could set it up. Supper over, I crawled into the shelter, to nest for the night. I organized all of my gear, placing headlamp and knife by my head before settling in for the evening. I was ready for any nighttime marauders.
A couple of hours after dark, I was awakened by voices making no attempt to be quiet, while they shone their lights at my tarp. They stomped around me for a minute trying to set up their own tents in my space. I finally asked them, politely, to go away. There was not enough room for others on my little dirt patch. They mumbled something about finding another space, and headed up the path towards the shelter. I rummaged around in my toiletries stuff sack, found my earplugs and plugged them in for the night. This was yet another reason I rarely stayed in the shelters while hiking along the Appalachian Trail.