Summary: Melville Nauheim shelter: 1612.2 Random campsite: 1634.6 Total miles: 22.4 We were all beat from the day before and did not get up as early as we wanted/needed to. We didn't start hiking until 8, and would need to institute some strict martial law to make 28. More annoying, we could either do about 22 or 28, the miles in between were over Stratton mountain which has no place, from what we've been told, to camp. The mud in Vermud was starting to get really annoying. Our acrobatics to avoid the ankle deep mud pits were more desperate, creative and necessary. We still busted out 8.5 miles in great time. That meant from the shelter where we refilled water we had 20 miles to go, again at 11 (near noon after we ate an early lunch and snacked), an excessive long day seemed dead in the water before it really started. Emily also wasn't feeling one hundred percent yet which worried the group. After the break, the up downs continued. For every ten yards of normal trail, we had to avoid ten yards of mud. Some of the mud was shallow enough to walk through, other pits would probably take off a boot, forever lost in the mire. It's hard to convey how frustrating terrain can be when we are trying to make miles. We often yearn for flat boardwalks, not scenic boulder scrambles.
*Patch and Tyler
Dean and Duckfart were able to navigate the mud a little faster than Patch and the two of us, but we caught them again at a water break at the next shelter. We learned at this shelter, that Stratton Pond Shelter also may cost $5 per person to stay or tent at. We are staunchly against paying for tenting with so much free tenting around, so we used the payment as an excuse to not night hike over Stratton Mountain. Instead camp at the base before the climb. 22 miles it would be. It meant 15 miles into town tomorrow, but this time, we said, we would definitely wake up early.
*Jackson Pollock painting with mud
Our day suddenly got a lot shorter which raised some spirits. We only had about four miles to go and planned to pick up water at a stream, then hike a last mile to a forest service road which was reported to have camping spots. The stream turned out to be dry, so Tyler and Dean ran back to fill up from a river a half mile back. We then hiked the final mile to some fairly mediocre (at best) camping spots in the woods at the base of the mountain. Despite being away from water, and remote, the mosquitoes were out in full force. The brief morale boost we got from having a shorter day dissolved. We were frustrated by the water situation and now having to go 16.1 (not even 15 as we originally thought) into town. We have called 16.1 a nearo before, but it's not. We wouldn't have much time to rest after another sizeable day, even if we woke up early. Spirits low, we still ate dinner together, swatted mosquitoes and hung the communal bear line. Hopefully the day tomorrow would be less muddy, faster, and easier than expected. Though that has happened about zero times.