AT miles hiked today: 5.8
Total AT miles hiked: 989.9

Sparky and Stubby gave us one final gift of trail magic today by taking our packs up the gondola on Wildcat Mountain D and meeting us at the top. This allowed us to scramble nimbly up the roots and rock slabs with just daypacks to hold our water (and my camera). It really is amazing how light you feel with almost nothing on your back. And the weight of your full pack feels so much heavier after you have done slackpacking. It's almost shocking how heavy 35 pounds is, especially when you start climbing rock slabs again, right after you had almost nothing on your back. It makes you question everything in your pack yet again. Do I use it? Do I really need it? Will I miss it very much if I get rid of it? Then you eat that orange at lunch and boy does it taste amazing. That was worth the weight for a few hours, but do I really need that extra shirt? Yes. Hmmm....

We are stealth camping on Wildcat Mountain. The Carter Notch Hut was full and turning away thruhikers who wanted to work for stay. Some of the rejected ones got to us before we went down there so we just grabbed a tent spot near them. We were lucky to come when we did because there are at least seven hikers tenting around here, without a roof to climb under in the White Mountains. I try not to complain too much about the AMC's hut system and policy of charging for campsites and shelter space, but this isn't really safe for us. I wish I did have the option of a shelter somewhere. Luckily, the weather is clear, though cold and windy. There are clouds overhead but it's not supposed to rain. Let's hope not, because it's very cold already. I'm wearing all of my dry clothes and my gloves and hat. They are absolutely worth the weight right now and so is the heavy sleeping bag.

The "lucky ten"have ended our amazing group trail magic encounter with Sparky and Stubby and are moving on down the trail, back in our original groups once again. Chief is taking a zero day, being sick. I hope you feel better soon, Chief. Sparky and Stubby, you are amazing, generous, and wonderful people and I feel incredibly lucky to have met you. I will do my best to pay it forward in some way, though I'm not sure I can match the scale of generosity you shared with us. Thank you so much! All this because we walked away from some yogurt and oranges that weren't for us? Wow.