Total Miles: 381.5
When short days like this dawn, it’s hard to think about much else than the shower and town food waiting at the end of the rainbow. But standing between us and that promised land was another 13,000 foot summit and a perfect morning to climb up and over it.
As quiet and still a morning as yesterday afternoon was windy, the switchbacking climb of 3,000 feet was impeccably well built. Stretched across miles of high elevation terrain covered in nothing but talus (boulders of all shapes and sizes), untold hours of trail work must have been spent to lay flat as many of those rocks as possible to make the grade and footing so consistent. It was a change we all happily welcomed.
Up on the summit of Mt. Flora, the day-hiker traffic began to pickup given that the nearby pass to the south where paved highway cut through the divide was a mere 3 miles away. For so early on a Thursday morning it was great to see so many people out enjoying the mountains on another picture perfect summer day.
The number of people on the trail and the number of cars on the highway far below also gave us hope that it would be easy hitchhiking into our resupply stop in the town of Winter Park, 14 miles away. Although I’ve done it many times now on various trails, hitchhiking for the first time in awhile always feels strange, like I’m doing something my Mom told me never to do (even though she never did). It’s about that point when someone pulls over and your faith in the kindness of strangers is renewed.
Within the first 5 minutes, a truck pulled over to offer us a ride but only had room for two so we told Beardoh and Sweet Pea to go ahead and that we’d keep trying for another ride. Hardly 5 minutes later, history repeated itself and we were riding down the highway with a man named Jake who had hiked a large portion of the Appalachian Trail nearly 15 years earlier and has been trying to pay forward all the help he’d received on that hike ever since.
It’s hard to top the story he told us of his most serendipitous moment from that hike. After the sole of his hiking boots had blown out, he had limped his way to a road in the backwoods of Maine. When a man pulled over and asked what he needed, he said he needed a ride to town to buy a new pair of boots. The man then asked what size he wore. “Ten”, said Jake. The man then handed Jake a brand new pair of boots, size ten, to try on, saying “My son told me to pack an extra pair of boots today, and now I know why.” Off he went, and off went Jake in his new pair of boots. That’s the trail life. If you didn’t believe in the basic goodness of people, you would if you were here.