Left Tuolumne campground early, walked to the store and drank a couple cups of coffee. A 72 year old woman in a denim dress with long white hair was sitting with her ultralight pack. I recognized her from the day before; she'd paid close attention to all of our discussion about trail conditions and the JMT in general, but never spoke to any of us. I'd suspected that she was a backpacker. Today, I walked over and sat down at her picnic bench with a smile. "Knew you were hiking," I said. She was pleased to converse with me, and hadn't approached us before because she didn't want to bother us. After some JMT talk (she was starting a southbound hike on that trail), she told me a story about falling in a creek a few years ago on the Appalachian Trail. Near the end of her AT hike in large sections over a few years, this creek crossing hadn't seemed intimidating. Complacency nearly killed her, she said. and advised me to unbuckle all of my pack straps before dangerous crossings. She'd been very lucky to stand up with her wet pack on while fighting the current. When she stood to leave, looking like a high school librarian out for a stroll with an ultralight pack, I hugged her and wished her the best of times.
My turn came after coffee and a last look at the hiker box. For some reason, I really wanted to catch up with my little group. Usually, the desire to ditch the others is great, but I had connected with Church Lady and Dr Fierce, already knew Far Out well, and had just spent enough time with Any Minute Now to know that we shared a sense of humor and walked at the same pace. Also, the challenge of catching them with a day's head start was appealing.
I walked 18.5 miles and up about 4500' on that sweltering day, crashing on a sloped, dry campsite after gathering water from the dregs of a seasonal stream. And I slept with no trouble.