About 6.5 miles
I got up at 5:45, after what I think was my most restful night on the trail! No animals tried to get into my food bag! It took me a little while, but I slowly started to get excited for breakfast, the package I was supposed to receive from my “friend” with my crocs, and the hot springs! I was on the trail by 7. My toes are already numb from nerve damage (especially my big toes!). I wasn’t sure that I had only 4.4 miles to hike before the springs, but it soon became clear that that was indeed the case. There was lots of uphill at first, then I walked along a ridge, and soon after saw power lines (a sign I was getting closer to civilization!). I saw a jeep parked at the edge of the road (usually an eerie sight to me- I never know who could be waiting….), and then walked down the dirt road for quite aways. The views and winding parts of the dirt road reminded me of the hut that my Swiss friend drove me to for fondue one evening.
I passed under a touristy sign reading “Mt. Princeton Hot Springs”, walked by a horse coral, and then started the paved road section. The mountains were pretty in the distance.
Since this was part of the official trail, I had no desire for anyone to give me a ride. Of course, a car drove by, and a young, cute guy with curly brown hair asked me if I needed a ride. I thanked him and told him I was fine (although on second thought, maybe I should have taken him up on his offer!). I took lots of pictures and enjoyed the walk as much as possible.
As I got closer to the resort, I saw a cute bunny on the side of the road and wanted to take its picture, but a passing car scared it away! At last, I saw tennis courts and two swimming pools below me.
I made my way down the hill and headed into the main office. The couple coming out asked me if I was going for a hike. I told them I had just hiked 230 miles. “Not by yourself?!” the man exclaimed, shaking his head. “You can’t hike by yourself!” the woman said. I just smiled… (Of course, I can…I just did!) and went inside. The couple I had met coming the other way yesterday had asked me if I was planning to stay at the hot springs and said it was worth it. I was kind of leaning towards doing that. I told the man at the desk that I was hiking the CT and asked him how much a room was. He said they had a condo for $180. Okay, I guess I will just spend the day and head out…He told me that the hot springs cost $17 and pulled out a map to show me which building to go to pay. “These pools are for guests only,” he also pointed out. I asked if I could have breakfast in the lodge, went into the bathroom to change into a clean shirt, put a bandana on my head, and waited a very long time to be seated. Everyone else in the place was a tourist and I felt very alone and disrespected. I finally got seated at a table in the middle of the room. I was given a huge bowl of coffee, which didn’t taste so great, and once again, had to wait a very long time for the server to take my order. I was not liking this place that I had looked forward to for so long…I ordered an omelet with everything and sat and waited while my coffee got cold. I felt very sad and lonely. Then, I got a text from my “friend” telling me that my crocs hadn’t arrived in Boston yet, so there was no package waiting for me here (I had hoped to wear them around the springs). I was not going to be able to rest in a nice bed, nor watch the Olympics, nor shampoo my hair. Other people in the dining room were looking at me, but no one said anything. Tears began to roll down my face. My phone battery was very low, so I looked for an outlet to charge it while I ate. I didn’t eat as much as I had expected to. I think my stomach shrunk.
It took a lot of effort to ask for more coffee to warm up my cup, and more water. And this meal ended up costing me $21!
I bought my pass for the water, showered, and put on my buff as a tube tube. I could either go in a rectangular pool with hot water or the outside creek with rocks, where everyone else was. I decided to check out the creek first. The water was very cool, but I found a spout with warm water coming out to sit under. Then, I went into the rectangular pool to warm up, but found it a bit boring to float in all by myself. I got out and sat in one of the lounging chairs. The sun was burning down on me.
I headed back to the back room in the dining hall with the outlet I found to charge my phone and skyped with my Swiss friend. We had a better talk than last time. I decided it was worth the stopping time and cost of the place to sit and talk with him. I was feeling dehydrated from the warm water and all of the coffee I had. At 2:00, I felt hungry again. I sat at the bar and had a happy hour burger ($13), another coffee because I was cold, and some chocolate mousse. Again, I didn’t eat as much or as quickly as I thought I would have. My stomach wasn’t feeling so great. I guess it was not used to rich town food! The sky had clouded over and it looked like it was going to storm. I was not at all motivated to hike back to the trail and camp.
I’m not sure why the bartender, Todd, wanted me to sit at the bar and keep him company, when he didn’t really talk to me… I asked him if there were thruhikers ahead of me. (It seemed so strange that I was the only one in my vicinity!). He said there were lots of them and that in the last week alone, three dozen of them had come through! He told me that I would catch up to them, adding that the terrain becomes very steep and challenging in the last few sections, which slows everyone down. (First of all- I had been through some challenging terrain already and this only made me worried about the end of the hike, when I had been looking forward to the beauty of that part! And second of all, if the terrain is so challenging that it slows everyone down, I will be slowed down as well! Therefore, I will never catch up!) Grrr… I asked him where another 14,000+ mountain was located that I was interested in climbing, but he didn’t know.
As Todd gave me my bill, he said, “Just for the record, you’re the cutest hiker that has passed through here in a long time.” I bet he was just trying to get a big tip.
I decided to check once more about room availability, but by that point, they were fully booked. As I returned to the pools to retrieve my pack, it started to rain. I had to decide if I was going to take one more dip. There were many people still in the water despite the rain. I remembered sitting in the hot pools with my Swiss friend while the snow fell. That was a beautiful experience. Since I was completely cold, standing in the rain, I decided to go into the warm pool again for a quick dip, and then went into the 107 degree sauna for a minute. I rinsed off in the shower, returned to the lodge, picked up my resupply box from the store, and sat in the lobby, repacking my pack. I waited, and waited, and waited to give the lady at the front desk my empty box to throw away. I was blatantly ignored. Meanwhile, she helped two teenaged girls who were all dressed up for a wedding. All of the workers there made me feel like a second-class citizen. I was not welcomed there at all.
I headed back out to walk a couple more road miles. One driver asked me if I was lost. “Nope. I’m good!”
The paved road turned into a dirt road with little cabins along it for rent, houses built of wood and stone, A-frames, and then more modern houses at the end. Finally, I reached the trailhead, crossing the bridge over the creek and returning to the familiar pine forest- my home!
I instantly felt better. I climbed up through more arid brush, walked across a road, then started up Raspberry Gulch. About 0.7 miles into this section, I found a place to camp underneath two huge pine trees. There were small, but very sharp and sticky pine cones all over the place!