I stayed up until after 9:00 with the guys so I ended up setting my alarm for 6:00 to make sure I didn't wake up at 10:00 the following morning. I was packed up and almost ready before they even had their coffee. Clay gave me 4 bars and some toilet paper in addition to the 2 Mountain House dinners which was so kind of them! I was more sure now that I had enough food for the time I would be in the 100 Mile Wilderness with a zero. I walked over to the river I would be fording, and as I did I heard a very distinctive voice; Puzzle. Now, I hadn't seen any fellow hikers in quite some time so I yelled over, "I thought I recognized your voice!" He was talking to someone of course and I asked him to take a photo as I crossed since every other crossing I am alone. I sat beside him and dried off my feet while listening to him and a woman I didn't recognize talk. Seems she was a ranger and had thru-hiked a few years back. Once she left and crossed the river, I learned Puzzle was just getting back on trail from a trip to the ER. Seems he had a cyst in his leg that got infected and needed to be treated. He was pretty lucky to get in and out the way he did in order to finish the trail in time to get back to a job he was starting. We hiked together until he lost me and I was back to being alone, which was fine with me. In the start of this trip I hated being alone; walking alone, camping alone, eating alone. Now, I embrace and enjoy it. Before the trail I wouldn't think of going out to eat alone, to the bar, or an aquarium; but now, I am comfortable with myself. If I want to do something and no one wants to join me, I can still do it. I do miss that moment when you run into an old familiar face, but the solidity is invigorating. I climbed the first of four peaks today in no time, then the second, and already today is so much better than yesterday. I got to the third and sat for lunch, cold Ramen and chicken packet; can't wait to never eat chicken cold out of a packet again! I hiked up Whitecap, the last of the four mountains today and also the last of the larger mountains until Katahdin! Once I got up there I found Puzzle drying out his shirt and taking in the view. From this summit, we got a distant glimpse of Katahdin; my first. It had been some time since I had a yoga pose photo taken and Puzzle offered which was nice. I popped two Advil and put my knee brace on my left knee knowing there was a long, steep downhill ahead of me. The day was actually hot and a little humid, but the fall colors popped in the distance vividly. It was nice to be above tree line and Puzzle and I headed down the mountain together. The hike down was a steep descent but the trail maintainers did a great job with the rock stairs. It was a piece of cake thanks to them. Again, not before long he was off and ahead of me. I enjoyed the vibrant blue sky among the red, orange, and yellow leaves. I took as many photos as I saw leaves and yet none of them portray the beauty I saw. It was like walking in a fairytale, Wonderland; the colorful leaves reminded me of colored sprinkles and bursting confetti. I felt like a child in a candy store walking down the trail with a smile from ear to ear. Once I was down in the trees it was all downhill from here to the shelter where I would set up camp. I found Puzzle debating if he was going to stay at the shelter or night hike another 8 miles or so, I surely was proud of my 16 mile day. I walked in the pine forrest with the roots slowing me down making me feel like a football player jumping in and out of car tires. Each placement of the foot needs to be thought out and strategically placed so you don't twist your ankle. The flat elevation was deceiving to the complexity of the roots and mud; the future was revealing itself to me, and I was not sure I liked what I was seeing. I remembered to when the Southbounders said that the wilderness was full of roots and it only got worse further North, I couldn't handle worse than this. Annoyed I finally saw the privy, which meant the shelter was nearby. I walked up to the shelter to find Puzzle talking to Kerosene, which I hadn't seen since the Lakeview hostel. I walked around looking for a good spot to set up my tent, there was a nice spot up by the shelter in between the walk to the water source, but I decided it was too close to the shelter when I found the spot I did set up at. Down by the stream was a tiny sand beach and a big tree and wood bench, my own little campsite. I set up, jumped in the freezing water to wash off some grime and rinsed out my sweaty, salty clothes. Back at camp, I hung them all from branches on the tree in hopes they would dry by morning. I went up to the shelter to eat dinner with the guys and poor Kerosene couldn't get a word in with Puzzle there. I guess that is why I tent, when I have had enough for the night I retreat back to my safe place. It wasn't long after finishing my dinner and dessert that I said my goodnights and walked down by the water. I was getting eaten alive by mosquitos too which made me want to crawl even more into my tent. I sat on the bench for a little enjoying the last of the daylight to write in my journal when Puzzle came up saying my campsite looked like it belonged in Backpacker's Magazine. I enjoyed a small cotton candy sunset and after Puzzle got water and left, I got inside and fell asleep to the sound of loons in the near distance. Doesn't get better than this.