AT miles hiked today: 7.5
Total AT mikes hiked: 921.6
We got a late start out of Lincoln, after doing our resupply this morning and Eagle Eye was trying to get her Gregory pack fixed at the outfitter. The shoulder straps have turned themselves completely inside out. They said she'd need to come back in on Monday so we planned to come back to Lincoln when we get to Franconia Notch tomorrow night.
We called the shuttle again and saw Chief eating at the picnic table at our drop-off point. He had taken the wrong trail off the summit of Moosilauke and gone down three miles to a stream where he arranged stepping stones for us to cross on before he realized he was at the wrong place. So he had to go back up and then come down the AT trail. He got as far as the shelter and stayed there last night, so he did that big descent this morning. We started hiking around 2pm and Chief hiked with us into the thunderstorm today and asked if he could stick with us as we headed to Eliza Brook Shelter. He said that without us as motivators he might just huddle under a tree in his poncho and not go anywhere.
The thunder and lightening got worse and the rain poured down on us and turned the trail into a river and waterfalls. Soon we were all soaked and cold, so when we had gone about halfway we had to decide whether to go down to a pond where we had heard there was stealth camping possible, or go on to the shelter. Eagle Eye wanted to camp and Chief and Toe Knee wanted to go on to the Shelter (it's just 4 miles over a mountain in a thunderstorm at 5pm!). I was torn between letting Toe Knee go on alone and stopping for a dubious campsite and possibly spending a cold, wet night halfway up this mountain. I opted not to split the group and agreed to go on. It was the wrong decision. I could have let the others go on, or waited until Eagle Eye checked out the campsite before deciding, but instead we headed into what could have been a very dangerous situation.
Eagle Eye and Toe Knee went ahead and I stayed with Chief, not that I could have gone much faster, but maybe a little. I think we both thought we were taking care of the other, but either way, at least we weren't alone. The mountain went on and on, and so did the rain. Around 8pm I realized we would not make it before dark. I asked Chief if he had a headlamp and he didn't. He did have a flashlight though, and with no other options we continued on the treacherous trail. We waded through cold, knee deep water, and deep mud tried to suck off my shoes as we climbed up and down steep rock waterfalls.
Dark came and I finally pulled out my headlamp and Chief put his flashlight in his mouth, and we kept going. This was my first night hike and under less than ideal circumstances I realized that night hiking is not so bad. It was kind of fun, actually, if I hadn't been worried that one of us would get hypothermia. We finally reached the shelter just before 10pm, to find it was full. Chief decided to go make some room for himself and Eagle Eye offered to let me share her tent because all the tent sites were taken. It was a nice offer, but it's difficult to crowd two people into a one man tent, though I did appreciate the extra warmth, because I actually started shivering once I got in my sleeping bag. Eventually I warmed up and now I will sleep, though it's midnight and I won't get enough sleep for our big day up the Kinsmans tomorrow.
In the end it all worked out okay, but it was still the wrong decision to go on. I intend to make smarter decisions in the future.