For the second day in a row, I left camp before 7 am. I'm enjoying the day being cooler when getting started, but the glare from the sun being so low in the sky is kind of annoying at times. The trail this morning started off a bit rocky, but gradually mellowed out towards the afternoon.
Almost exactly five miles in, I spotted Tink Tank, a hiker I first met at 501 last night, at a small, sort of disused, campsite just off the trail, so I decided to stop for a break there and joined her. She mentioned that she had been trying to hike the AT in 100 days, before realizing she couldn't actually keep that pace (it requires an average of 22 miles per day, which is both grueling, and impossible to maintain in some places). She's still shooting for an aggressive goal, especially after she also mentioned that she had been hiking with Giardia for a few days (which she thought was just an ordinary bug before she finally got to a doctor). Apparently, she hadn't been using her water filter for some weeks. Brave, if reckless, I think.
About seven or eight miles into today's hike, the trail started to spawn numerous short side trails, which ran for varying length up to 25-30 feet away from the trail. It seemed to me that the trail was going through a low area and, in the rain, turns into a stream, so the "side trails" provide a path at a slightly higher (and hopefully dryer) elevation.
Shortly before my second break, I passed another hiker going south who mentioned that there was trail magic up near the road ahead, with beer. Awesome! The trail was somewhat easy here, so I picked up my pace a little, and shortly before the road, found a cooler on the ground. Mostly raided already, the cooler contained a few fans of Perrier, two opened bags of chips, and really not much in the way of anything that interested me. This was nice, but not really the trail magic I was hoping for.
Fortunately, that was not what the hiker had been referring to. Shortly ahead, actually at the PA 183 trailhead, was some fantastic trail magic by 2015 thru-hiker Sir. He had watermelon, bananas, hot dogs, water, and beer. I sat down and had my fill (in lieu of my second break), enjoying Sir's company and that of the other hikers that were there with me.
My destination today, Eagles Nest Shelter, was roughly 15 miles from where I started. After the trail magic, I especially didn't expect to need a third break, but about two miles from the shelter, I stopped for one anyway at a small campsite. Lately, I've been taking off my boots and letting my feet (and socks) air out and rest, but I didn't get to do that at the trail magic, so by this point, my feet were hurting. And if I was going to stop for my feet, I might as well snack as well…
From my break point, the trail to the shelter was a breeze. On the side trail to the shelter, I ran into a series of hikers who were there only for water, and intending to push on, including Tink Tank, who was pushing another nine miles into Port Clinton to meet up with some people that had previously helped her out after she got sick.
The Eagles Nest Shelter is the first nondescript shelter in awhile, though it has a pretty lousy water source. On the way to the shelter is a small stream, which has a low flow rate and doesn't have any drops of more than an inch or two, so filling water containers was excruciatingly slow. I had to collect and filter one liter at a time.
Arriving at the shelter somewhat early in the day, I briefly considered pushing into Port Clinton that night, and being a day ahead of schedule. (This would give me more flexibility with the section into Branchville, NJ, which currently has a 24 mile segment.) but with a hotel reservation for tomorrow, I decided pushing into town today would be more trouble than it was worth.
It rained lightly and briefly during dinner, but it was otherwise a quiet night in the shelter.