I've used this photo once already before [https://ello.co/stevenb_mcgrath/post/9_p1H3xOLQLW_bEOx0VZ2A] but without telling you the story. So, below is that story to company this and the others from that day.
As our splintered group traversed the Worcester skyline we would alternatively overtake and then be overtaken by group above. Over ten hours of hiking we shared the only trail, the only lunch spots, and probably peed on a few of the same trees. Furthest to the left, White Hat was the kind of old guy you see regularly on the trails. Backpack covered in patches of his past accomplishments, you could tell he was the kind of guy who likes to talk about hiking. Unfortunately, he wasn't the kind of guy to translate those patches into interesting stories. Rather, like those patches, his stories served only to remind you he had hiked this trail before, "This view was better back in '76, gonna have to tell Jim over at the Green Mountain Club to get some chain saws up here" and on and on. Then again I was the only person in our group really bothered by this so maybe I was just being an ass. In the middle, White Visor was either his sister, wife, or mistress. Either way, she'd been on many of the same hikes. She would pleasantly chime in to supplement a story or add agreement, but I can't help get the feeling that she's the one with the good stories: Moosilauke in the '07 Valentine's Day blizzard, the Mansfield Microburst in July of '14, caught in a crag free soloing cathedral ledge. These are all made up examples, but I bet she did have a story to tell. To the right, Yellow Shirt was nice enough, probably only a 3 or 4 on the weirdness scale but he definitely had potential. He had full on wrist braces, the utility of which I contemplated often that day. The final member of their group, not pictured, was a French Canadian girl [let's call her Margaux] that very solidly cemented this groups "We organized this as a public hike on Facebook and/or Craigslist and we're kind of hoping to turn it into a key party later" vibes. She had a look about her that very much suggested "I don't know these people and I'm not totally sure why I'm here". Where all of our group and most of their group had water and food aplenty [Aidan had even brought a few slices of pizza] Margaux's entire supply for the ten hours and nearly 5,000 vertical feet of hiking seemed to be two of those baby sized Poland Spring bottles, 8-16oz of water at most and no food. Yet, as we sat at the penultimate peak, comparing blisters, watching this other group out of the side of our eyes, and praying White Hat didn't come over to regale us with another story of how he had hiked this trail before, we couldn't help notice Margaux didn't have a drop of sweat on her. We'd kept a pretty decent pace all day yet she showed no sign of exertion whatsoever. It was one of many many things that day that made no sense
And so we sat there, silently hating this other group who had been our shadow all day, whose members weirded us out, and whose grace made my dehydration that much more noticeable. I can't remember who left the peak first but we were saved their company for the rest of the hike. A little less than half our group took a short-cut trail back to the car as the rest of us took a slightly longer way to get in one more peak. Our group split once more as Tina decided to take a dehydration induced nap at the bottom of the spur trail to the last peak. We scrambled up this last summit, pausing for a moment at the top to take in a view pretty much exactly the same as the last summit, and set off for the car. On the way down we would hear the voices of the other half of our party and converse through the trees but we never saw them until all of us were back at the car.