With a plan in mind to reach Fort Montgomery, NY three days from now to possibly meet up with friends, I would need a 20+ mile day to get there on time. Based on shelter locations and the trail description, today seemed to be the best bet for that. Planning for a 24 mile day to two shelters ahead, I left camp at 7:45, later than I probably should have. It'd mean I'd get there late, but aside from a steep hill late in the day, there wasn't anything that would indicate this would be a problem.
Maybe I'd have actually gotten going earlier if I had actually read the temperatures in the weather report, instead of focusing only on the (lack of) rain.
The day started off with a nice gradual downhill as the trail left High Point State Park and headed for the NJ/NY border, which it followed fairly closely for most of the day. The trail was much nicer than yesterday, not very rocky, and I was back up to my usual pace.
It was hot, though. This became especially apparent as the trail joined a road for almost a mile, and became quite not funny when the trail followed the (entirely flat, but also entirely exposed) rectangular perimeter of the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge for nearly two miles before finally turning back into the woods. At least there were benches occasionally. One was even shaded.
While traversing the Wallkill Refuge, I saw a large turtle. It clearly knew how to pose for pictures, and as I slowly moved around it, it insisted on always turning to face me.
The solace of the forest from the sun and heat didn't last long, as the trail quickly reached the base of Pochuck Mountain. At the trailhead there sat a bucket half filled with water and a trash can filled with soda cans, a reminder of just how hot it was. Sadly, I had to trudge up the steep hill without any trail magic.
Fortunately, a short distance up the hill was water, in the form of a spigot on an abandoned house a short distance from the trail. I mulled my options, and decided to take advantage of the easy water and nearby shelter to delay making a decision.
I loaded my pack up with 5 liters of water, and proceeded very slowly up the hill. Fortunately, it was a short haul: only 0.4 miles uphill, and another tenth off-trail to the shelter. If I decided to stay, I'd have all the water I needed. If not, I could easily dump the excess or give it to someone else, and continue on.
Of course, that climb up the hill was still grueling, especially in the heat, so by the time I reached the shelter, I knew exactly what I needed to do: take a nap.
When I arrived at the shelter, the only other person there was Torch, who immediately wondered how it was he passed me. (The three zeroes in Branchville helped.)
I took a short nap, and besides that and general lazing around, decided to stop here for the day since getting to the next shelter in a reasonable time was now impractical. Also, it was still very hot.
A few other hikers showed up throughout the rest of the day, but most only were there to sign the log; those that were staying here tented, so it would be just Torch and me in the shelter tonight.
Shortly before starting dinner, someone arrived and indicated that the trail magic had been refilled. I mulled going back down to get a soda, but after doing the math, decided the hike down and back would cost more calories than a soda would give me. As much as I wanted a cold soda, it just wasn't worth it to hike down to get one.
Torch was on the fence about going back down the mountain for a soda, and decided it was worth it to him. I asked him to bring me one up, since he was going anyway.
After Torch left, I started on dinner. Shortly after, two day-hikers arrived: Donnovan and Kim. They were no ordinary day-hikers, though. They were responsible for the trail magic at the bottom of the mountain (which they had just refilled), but they also brought cold beer up to the shelter with them. They also had left cookies in the bear box the day before, and some were still left!
They'd been providing trail magic here for at least a few days, and had been hiking up to the shelter and back on a daily basis to help get them into shape. (Repeated climbs up that hill caring stuff will certainly help with that.)
They stayed to chat for a bit, and were still there when Torch returned (with a soda for me). They were a bit impressed with how quickly he'd gone down and back up, having passed him on the way up. When they left, they took our trash too. (Yay, slightly less weight to haul around tomorrow!)
Since today wound up being short (only 12.4 miles), to get to Fort Montgomery on time would require revising my plan. The easiest thing to do would be to try for the shelter I originally wanted to hit, and move the 24 mile day to tomorrow. It'd be harder, but should still be feasible. I just need to get going early tomorrow...