After a large eggs and meat breakfast, with a fruit salad appetizer, Kathy shuttled me back to the trailhead, and I got going at 7:30. Today's goal would be to make up for lost time yesterday, with a 24.5 mile day to the Kirkridge Shelter.
As has been typical of Pennsylvania as of late, the ground has been filled with tons of pointy rocks that wear out your feet (and shoes).
I took my second break of the day at the Leroy A. Smith Shelter, my original target for yesterday. After a short while, I saw the first two hikers I had seen all day, two south-bound section hikers.
Ahead, a few miles before the next shelter, is a section called Wolf Rocks. I asked the two hikers about it, and they confirmed my suspicions that it was another rock scramble. Because of the rain yesterday, it was especially slippery, and one of them had even bent one of his poles catching himself from a fall. Fortunately, there was a bypass, and I decided, after two days of annoying rocks, that this was not a section I needed to be a purist about on a long day. The Wolf Rocks is relatively near a trailhead, though, so it would not be too difficult to come back and do that section later, on my own terms.
After my third break, at the trailhead in Wind Gap, PA, it was my turn to provide a tiny bit of trail magic. In a clearing, with an unmarked side trail, and somewhat hard to see AT blazes, I came across two locals, a young couple, who got turned around and were unsure of which direction they needed to go in to get back to their car. After figuring out where it was they came from, I was able to point them in the right direction (north; so they needed to follow me).
The warm fuzzy feeling from helping someone out provided a tiny bit of a boost, but my feet were quite unhappy when I stopped about six miles later for my fourth break. It was starting to get a bit late, but there were only about four miles to go, so I was hopeful I could make it to the shelter before sundown.
I reached, and took, the Wolf Rocks bypass, and was immediately happy with the decision: the trail was smooth. It was the nicest stretch of trail I'd been on all day. I flew down the bypass at probably 3 mph, and the friendly terrain continued after the bypass ended, up to the next road crossing. Between the road crossing and the shelter, the trail wasn't quite so nice, but it was still better than it had been most of the day. Finally, at 7:55, I arrived to the surprisingly empty Kirkridge Shelter, my latest arrival at camp so far.
I took a few minutes to wind down from the long day, unpacked my pack, got water from the tap near the shelter, and prepared to cook dinner. By this point, it was 8:20, and I would have much rathered just falling asleep to cooking, but I needed food or tomorrow would be miserable.
Just then, Mike and Phil, south-bound section hikers arrived, and we chatted for a bit. They would be tenting, so I'd still have the shelter to myself. Then, just as I was about to start cooking, Mike offered me half an Italian sub he had extra from when he was in town earlier in the day. I took it; it was delicious. Rather than cooking, I just had the sub and a protein bar. It was probably not enough food, but since I was so tired, it was much better than cooking. Later, Mike offered to take my trash, since they were done with their section hike the next day. (Thanks again, Mike and Phil!)
They left to set up their tent, and retuned to chat a bit more, but at that point I was basically starting to fall asleep, so we cut our conversation short.