I wake up with none of the loneliness and sadness of yesterday. I plan a short day and a lazy morning, with the excuse of resting my knee. From my tucked away campsite I watch as a forest service employee hikes by and this stirs me into action at 9:45. We end up chatting twice, and she is very kind. She knows Teddi, who is this amazing woman I met at Kick Off who coordinates trail crew volunteers and thru-hiked solo in 1977, which was way more challenging on several levels. I meet Stretch while taking a break and we commiserate over aches and pains and he is kind enough to give me some extra-strength anti-inflammatories. I meet and walk with Caveman and a dayhiker named Kevin, for a few hours.The weather is beautiful and I nurse the 2 liters of clean water I saved from yesterday, making it last.
The bluebells are incredibly prolific and are an extra luminous blue-purple in this area. I didn't realize I would be walking through yet another burned forest today, but here I am. I can't say I love this terrain the way I do NH and ME, but it is beautiful in its own way. Just before the final road crossing of the day I stumble across a real hobo camp, with chair and solar light and old pick up truck and tent but no occupant in sight. It's slightly unnerving just because I don't know what the owner is like or where they are. I keep walking and a few minutes later smell smoke and discover Chili and Pepper camping by the stream. They are a father son team that I first met on the AT. Chili is only 13 and is on his second long distance hike. They had met the man living near by and said he seemed harmless. I chat for a while and they offer the use of their filter, which is a great relief, since I wouldn't normally trust this water source.
Walking on I discover the perfect tent spot, dropping down from the trail onto a sandy beach protected by boulders and abutting a small cataract of water. It's lovely. I do struggle to find a site that isn't overrun by ants, though. I immerse my knee in the cold water, rinse off, and dig a fire pit and have my first fire of the trail with driftwood. There are tons of stars and a white-throated wood rat comes creeping round as the fire burns down low. He is moving around sluggishly and seems unafraid, even when I crouch over him with my camera. Dinner is mashed potatoes with olive oil, textured vegetable protein, sun dried tomato, dried vegetables, and melted mozzarella stick and pepperjack cheese - it's delicious. It was a good day, and my knee barely hurts. I do experience a brief moment of anxiety when I realize how close I am to another road, and I think I see a bright light off in the distance but I calm down because the bed of coals is warming me nicely and the sound of crickets and the dull roar of water are the only sounds.