19.2 miles (1733.6 to 1752.8), plus 0.2 to/from spring
The first four miles are easy. Then, my feet start to ache. I sit on a log and eat a snack. I’ve seen five deer in 4.5 miles: two does with fawns and a solitary doe who wasn’t the least bit concerned when I walked by. I give my feet a good rest, then continue on. At the crossing of Little Hyatt Reservoir’s outlet I find Torpedo and Keeper, who I met yesterday. I get a little water and continue on.
The next two miles pass so quickly that when I reach the next water source – a spigot – I think I’m in the wrong place. But no, I really did just hike two miles. I get more water. I attach my new solar panel to the top of my backpack. This thing is a monster. It’s three times the weight of the panel I used in the desert(!), and nearly three times as powerful. I loved my little Suntactics S5 panel, but in the forest it can’t keep up with my demand. With all of my picture taking and blogging, I use a lot of battery. I have two requirements: 1) I cannot run out of battery and 2) I will not sit in town all day (or all night) in order to charge batteries. With a large enough battery charger, I could meet condition number one, but I would be forced to spend many hours tied to an outlet in order to recharge the thing. Not how I want to spend my time. I had a positive experience with my Suntactics panel in the desert, when other hikers disliked the panels they’d purchased from other brands, so I decided to try the largest panel Suntactics makes, the S14. If this baby doesn’t work in the forest, nothing will. Today will be its first test. It’s huge. It’s heavy. It doesn’t really fit on my backpack. It looks ridiculous up there. But if it can get the job done, I’ll be happy to carry it.
I cover another five miles before I have to stop for lunch. My feet hurt, like they haven’t spent the last three months hiking. Like I’m starting from the beginning. Ouch. I sit on my tent’s footprint and massage my feet and eat lunch. After lunch, I plug my GPS unit into the solar panel. The sky is mostly cloudy and I’m in forest, a double problem for solar power. Let’s see what this new panel can do. In an hour, it adds 8% to the GPS battery. Impressive.
By now the sky is completely clouded over. Around 2pm, I hear thunder. Shortly after, it starts to hail. I stop under a white fir and deploy my backpack’s rain cover. Hail turns to rain. Rain continues for over an hour while I shelter under the fir in my rain jacket. Eventually I pull out my rain kilt and my rain mitts, too. Should I set up my tent and camp here? I’m 2.3 miles from the next water source. Because I expected to get to that water tonight, I’m not carrying much. And it’s still early. I’d like to do a few more miles. Actually, I’d like to do a lot more miles, and I have the daylight for it, but my body isn’t ready for the 27-mile day my mind wants to do. If I camp at the spring in 2.3 miles, I can give myself plenty of rest this evening.
I hike on in a drizzle. It appears that I waited out the storm in the very place that received the most rain. Water puddled on the trail here, but as I continue the trail becomes more dry than wet. Rain stops. I take off my rain gear. Humidity is 100% and I’m overheating.
I arrive at the turnoff to the spring. The clouds overhead are still dark. I investigate two camping areas and select the one without dead trees standing overhead. I set up my tent, eat dinner, and fill up with water for tomorrow’s 18-mile dry stretch. I’m enjoy a relaxing evening in my tent. A group of section hikers arrives and settles into the other campsite. A few rain drops hit my tent. I sleep.