Friday the thirteenth!

AT miles hiked today: 15.3
Total AT miles hiked: 765.7

I am tenting at William B. Douglas Shelter, a flat half mile off the trail with an easy bear bagging tree and easy water. What luxury, plus it's pretty here.

I loved the lookout tower on Stratton Mountain today. Great 360 degree views with lakes and a cool breeze and cell phone signal. It was hazy and bad lighting for nice pictures, but it was great to spend more than an hour up on the tower and visiting with the caretaker. We got a picture with all five of us. Then we headed down to Stratton Pond and spent an hour and a half swimming, eating and hanging out there with Pepper Boy who inflated his nero air mattress and floated on it in the water. We also met and chatted with the caretaker, Kim, who was very nice and friendly. I wonder if the caretakers get lonely? It's her fifth year doing this or other trail related jobs so she must like it.

The last few miles of the trail were gentle and we hiked the last 5.5 miles in about two hours and got to camp around 6:30pm. The bugs are a bit nutty but I have my full body bug suit and I am thrilled with it except for when they bite me right through it. I have to make sure to keep it loose and not snug on my body to make it less easy to bite me. Even though the other hikers laugh, I know they are secretly jealous.

The Sawyer water filters and bags that three of my group have been using are barely functional now. The bags leak untreated water into the treated water because they break, and the filters are all so clogged they barely function. They were letting me filter my water with their filters but it takes so long now that I've gone back to my Aqua Mira drops rather than take all that time filtering.

Flint showed up without his brother, Big Fella. We met them at the Birdcage. They were hiking at such different paces that they finally separated, but it's cool that Big Fella wanted to hike longer than the week he had originally planned. I hope he's still enjoying his hike, even as his brother continues on to Katahdin.

Hiking pace is a big deal, and the number of miles people want to hike, or are able to hike, along with how they hike them (for example: morning vs night hiking) can all make or break a hiking partnership. We have struggled with that a bit in our own group, but we are similar enough that we can make it work with some effort. It's worth it to keep our group together, though sometimes I do get frustrated. When you hike alone, you make all the decisions. No fuss. The more people you involve, especially a bunch of strong women, the longer it takes and the more frustrating it can be. It truly can be hard to hike your own hike within a group. In this group I enjoy the women and the benefits more than I get frustrated, so it's worth it to me to stay with them. I do always keep the option open of leaving if the group strays too far from what I want my hike to be, but so far I have been able to get most of what I need to feel like I'm still hiking my own hike. I do love my Runaway Train and I can throw a good bear bag, so they like me, too. :)