End: Stephens Pond Lean-To
The adventure spirit is back. I'm feeling much better today. I'm staying at a lean-to with a group of boy scouts. When I got here (at 6:00), they asked if I was staying the night or just stopping for a rest. Now, the next closest lean-to is another two miles from here, and is a mile off the trail, and when a hiker arrives at a lean-to at 6pm, chances are they plan to spend the night there.. So I told them I was planning to stay here and that I would find a place to tent.
There's an interesting contrast between the Appalachian Trail and the Adirondacks. Both areas are very popular among hikers. On the AT, when I got to a lean-to, the other hikers welcomed me and made room for me. In the Adirondacks, it's not that people aren't friendly, but there's more of an expectation of privacy or solitude. If I get to a lean-to here and it's occupied, the expectation is that I will continue hiking to an empty lean-to. I much prefer the friendly communal attitude of the AT.
Today was an exciting day. I was passed by trail runners all day. They were doing a 32.6-mile ultra marathon along the Northville-Placid Trail from Piseco to Wakely Dam. It was really amazing to watch them. They would often walk over sections that were muddy or had difficult footing. They all had small backpacks or fanny packs with water bottles, energy bars, and other stuff. One person pulled out a deli sandwich that he ate while jogging. The thought of eating a deli sandwich while running at 9:30am was disgusting, but I guess he needed a mid-race energy boost. The runners were all very friendly. Whenever they passed, they would at least say hi to me, if not more. I tried to keep up with some of the runners, particularly the slower ones who passed me later in the day, but with my 40-pound pack I couldn't run (even at their slow pace) for more than a minute at a time.
Though I'm a runner and a hiker, I'm not a big fan of trail running. It just seems too dangerous. One woman today tripped on a root and fell down right in front of me. She sighed and moaned for a few seconds, but then got back up again and kept running. I was really surprised I didn't pass anyone sitting on the side of the trail nursing a sprained ankle or broken leg.
I got to Wakely Dam around 3:30. It's a very popular spot for car campers and RVs. I sat and had lunch near the finish area for the race, watching the runners come in and celebrate their feat. I started to leave at 4:30, knowing I had another 9 miles to the lean-to. As I was leaving, the race director asked if I was thru-hiking the trail, offered me a hot dog (they had a barbeque for the runners), and asked if I wanted a ride down the road (the next six miles were a road walk). I said I would take the ride if he was heading that way. He said he wasn't, but he stopped one of the runners who was driving away and asked if he would give me a ride. So I got a ride for the six-mile roadwalk section from one of the runners.
He said he was 56, and he had never really been a runner until six years ago. When he was 50, he had heart surgery, and he decided it would be a good idea to run to help his heart. So he started doing 5Ks, then 10Ks, and eventually worked up to do this ultra marathon two years ago. He said the longest race he did was a 100-miler (he only finished 77 miles of it). He was also a hiker and told me about a few of the trips he had done, in the Adirondacks and in Yosemite.
He dropped me off where the trail left the road, and we were both on our ways. The ride saved me two hours of hiking, which was nice.
The boy scout group is very nice. They had already completed the first 50 miles of the trail on another trip, and they were going to finish the trail on this trip. I'm planning to go into Blue Mountain Lake Village tomorrow and visit the Adirondack Museum, so chances are I'll be camping at the same lean-to as them tomorrow (one of the troop leaders showed me their plans).
Stephens Pond is very beautiful, but there are so many damn mosquitos! The scouts went to bed early. Usually I'm the one going to bed early while other hikers stay up talking, and I would've liked to stay up by the campfire with them, but it's 9:00 and they're all in their sleeping bags.