Bear!

Finally saw a bear! I’d been hearing about it for 20 or 30 minutes from southbound dayhikers and from flipflopper Cheese, who was slackpacking SOBO today. It was supposedly 15 feet from the trail, just south of Byrds Nest Shelter. And in fact, it was still there when I passed through 15 minites later. Or, rather, a bear was. It wasn’t 15 feet from the trail—more like 40. But it was small, I think. I think it was a cub, or a teenager, the way it was frolicking in the high grass, with just its cute face and round ears poking up to watch me… which made me nervous that mom was around. So I kept clacking my sticks and singing songs from Rocky Horror for the next couple of miles. Conjecture on the trail is that that bear hangs out by that shelter. I warned the SOBOs who passed me (there were 10 or 15 of them, all section hikers or weekenders).

It was a great day. My budget-busting ‘hike like a tourist’ tour of Shenandoah continued with breakfast at Skyland. Coffee, with One Way and So Far So Good! I did just over 15, and got drenched in a downpour. Saw a deer, up close and personal, like they are here, plus a couple of baby bunnies. And the bear, of course.

The trail’s a little dead, but we’re close to a town and a hostel. Most people I talked to were hoofing it into Luray. I’m skipping Luray and heading into Front Royal on Saturday. That’s going to be another one of those rushed resupplies. But I’ll be out of Shenandoah, woohoo!

Tomorrow: Lunch at Elk Wallow, and either 13 or 19, depending on how I feel. The terrain was pretty gnarly today, and I did 4 miles of it without socks.

Why do bug bites itch so damn hard? I’m filthy and sweaty and bitten from head to ankles (literally; a fly bit my head right through my hat). I’m really looking forward to a shower and laundry on Saturday!

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900!

I banged out a 20 today (19.9), so I didn’t take many pics. But I got the important one. 😁

Bear shit everywhere today! Everywhere! I was originally trying for 21, but the heat slew me, and I crapped out a mile before the shelter, at the campground. With toilets. There are a ton of thru-hikers here. Chickadee, So Far So Good, One Way, and some others I haven’t met yet. Oh, and Hufflepuff and… gah, I hate that I forget her trail name! From Denmark, I think. I have to be sneaky and wait for her to introduce herself to somebody! In the meantime, I think of her as Daisy.

The mosquitoes are getting serious now. The varsity squad is on the field. I have a bite the size of s nickel on my shoulder.

The doomsayers are saying 91 tomorrow. Lucky I’m not listening to the doomsayers anymore! 👍😀

Tomorrow: Big Meadow, I think. The diner is closed, unfortunately, but the store has some kind of prepared sandwiches, allegedly. What do you think that means? “Prepared sandwiches.” Actually, I don’t care. I’ll take two.

Have to start figuring out my Front Royal game plan.

No phone signal all day today, except for one rock outcropping.

Trail magic, reunions, and bears

OK, so today was fabulous. 😀 It did storm hard last night, but my mat survived the field of stones, and the trail was gorgeous, and by 9 AM or thereabouts I was at Loft Mountain to meet my 2013 trail angel friends Beth and Bernie, who were camping there for the holiday weekend. They made me breakfast,and gave me coffee snd Cokes and a banana and watermelon and Sour Patch Kids and goodies from their hiket box… and we chatted and laughed for a good couple of hours. I love you guys! Thank you so much! I hope your drive home is (or was) safe and easy.

That was the best part of the day. It was real trail magic—not the food (which was awesome!), but the chance to sit and talk and share some trail stories. It was a lot of fun!

Then I stopped in the camp store and got to pee in a real toilet, with its own paper! And a sink to wash my hands!

It’s the little things. 😆

I skipped the Wayside, but everybody was talking about the bears down there—a mother and two cubs, frolicking. Apparently it was adorable (and at a safe distance). I didn’t see the bears. I find I’m fine with that. People are seeing bears all over the place, but I saw a bunch last time. I don’t feel a burning need to run up the score.

Speaking of bears… Unicorn and J-Rock had another bad encounter! They were dispersed camping 6 miles before Blackrock, and a bear showed up and chased them. It kept circling in front of them. They were scared and freaked out and did anothet 6 miles to get to Blackrock at 10 PM. Ididn’t hear them. They reported it to the ridgerunner. They, and some other people I talked to, aren’t planning to do anymore dispersed camping until we’re out of this area entirely.

Two of the Scandinavian girls were also at the shelter! I saw them tonight. Haven’t seen them since… the Barn? I’m not sure. Thunderpee is a couple of days back, because appatently she has more time on her visa.

Tomorrow I’m going to try to get back on track with a big day. We’ll see how that goes.

Update

It looks like some locals dumped a bunch of food into the firepit! Like… beans, rice, potatoes. Somebody watched them do it. So that’s what’s calling the bears. Then the people left, of course.

I’m on the furious side, to he honest. Like… why on earth would you do that? At least the thrus are showing up. Burner’s here, and four gents I just met. Colonel, Red… and I already forget the rest. Yesterday’s Waynesboro crowd, doing 22 in a day.

I think somebody’s making a fire to burn the garbage. BEARS, STAY AWAY!

I can’t wait for this blithering weekend to be over.

Shenandoah!

It really is beautiful here—or, I should say, the beautiful parts alternate with the Virginia-ugly parts. This shelter, though, Blackrock Hut, has the worst tenting spots I’ve ever seen on the AT. All rocks, and nothing flat! I hope my mat doesn’t puncture. I think I’ve stuffed enough padding under there, and it’s lying on top of my 1/8-inch foam.

This holiday weekend presented a lot of challenges. In the end, I decided I didn’t want to fight the park, the heat, the rules and regs, the holiday crowds, and the flora and fauna, so I gave myself permission to hike this weekend as though it’s a hobby rather than a job. So, 13-mile days, and stay at the shelters. But then, you know…you’re stuck with whatever the shelter is. I’m planning to go back to normal on Tuesday or so, when the weekenders have gone home. The Guthooks sites seem to be following the park rules, so I have a little more confidence.

I’m a little bit nervous. There are bears here. At this shelter, I mean. Guthooks has plenty of reports. Two people saw bears just a little while ago, maybe 2/10 back (or they both saw the same bear).

Last night it rained. This afternoon it rained and thundered, but it was fleeting. This is the summer pattern. Hot days, afternoon or evening rain.

Hard to believe I’ll be in Pennsylvania in a couple of weeks. When I get to Front Royal, I’ll try to work out some dates, in case any of my PA peeps want to meet up.

Pilgrim’s off the trail. 🙁 Somebody in his family was put into hospice, so he needs to go home to support. He might be back, though. He’s got a plan where he wants to get two sets of car keys and a partner and drive/hike all the way north.

Oh, speaking of plans! There’s s young hiker, One Way, who’s been calling sn Ubet from Skyline Drive every day and getting a ride into Waynesboro for food. He wad there three times yesterday! 😁 Still made his miles, though!

[Beth, if you see this, I should be at Loft Mountain tomorrow sometime, probably late morning or early afternoon. If you’re not on the way home and you want to say hi, text me! Do you still have my number from Facebook? And if you’re heading home, then next time! Raincheck!]

Have I mentioned the buttetflies? They’re everywhere, and gorgeous!

Shenandoah

Stanimals Hostel, Waynesboro, VA

Got into town, resupplied, bunking in the hostel, and it’s into Shenandoah in the AM. Stanimals picked me up at the trailhead. I love these guys.

Today was HOT. That sun was really beating at 1 PM. Or maybe it really is the humidity.

Saw another snake. Man, the snakes are kicking ass. Maybe the frogs won last time because it rained like… every single day. It hasn’t rained during the day in a while, although it did storm and thunder and gust for a while last night. The tent held up well!

People I know are starting to drop out. One older guy who’s been banging 20s is out—IT band (knee) injury, although he also seems to have reached his fill of misery.

Next stop on this train: Front Royal. Not sure when; Shenandoah is funky. But Front Royal will be the last stop before Harpers Ferry!

Happy summer weekend!

Happy, joyful, lazy rattlesnake

Mile 850.3—Campsite [13.8 miles]
Thursday, May 24

Isn’t it funny how, when you see a big fat rattlesnake, you’re looking for rattlesnakes all the rest of the day? Don’t you hate it when that happens? 😁 I can’t even take credit for spotting him. A day hiker saw him after I’d walked right past. Snakes, +1. The frogs are pitiful this year.

Misty, sluggish morning with a brutal 3-mile climb and rock scramble. I could not get any mojo today. I was just sick of hiking every day. I just wanted to be like the rattlesnake—warm and relaxed and horizontal. And I realized I probably need a zero. I don’t have one scheduled until Harpers Ferry, but maybe I can steal some recharging hours in Waynesboro, if I can manage to get into town from Rockfish Gap.

I passed some memories today. That place where a little stream had become a raging thing with all the rain, and chucked me over the edge to the tune of a couple of whacked ribs. Today the river was a pretty little trickle. Then that night, I had to find an emergency camp because my ribs hurt so bad, and I realized the fall had punctured my air mattress. And it rained on all my stuff. 😆 Wow. That was a bad karma day! Today was good karma; just wish I could motivate a bit!

The trail was dead. Where are all the hikers?

Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug

Mile 825.2—Spy Rock [18.4 miles]
Tuesday, May 21

Trail Days is over, and the herd has returned! Last night I had a late-arriving roommate at my little bush camp (Siren, whom I hadn’t met yet), and two hikers night-hiked past us at 1 AM. Turns out that was Ding-Dong and Roadrunner, so I’m back in their orbit again, for now. I saw Reset and Buttshot from that crew today, along with Pilgrim, So Far So Good, and a bunch of others. And I met some new folks. If town days shuffle the hiker deck, then Trail Days is like 52-pickup. 😁 I hope I run into more people I know. Oh! Unicorn and J-Rock… I saw them, too.

The trail was roughish today. Started with a brutal 5-mile climb, and ended with the brutal half-mile climb up to Spy Rock. I fell twice and skinned both knees, and we should all be hugging toddlers more. That shit hurts! 😆 I’m pretty sure the pack was just loaded in a top-heavy way. I repacked it and stopped falling.

So far so good! I’m thinking I’ll get to Waynesboro (my next resupply) on Friday morning, hopefully stay at Stanimal’s hostel, and head into Shenandoah on Saturday morning.

800, yo!

Mile 806.8—Bush camp [14.8 miles]
Monday, May 20

Guess who’s going to be in Shenandoah over Memorial Day weekend? Oy vey! Well, at least it’s not Disney. I totally forgot about Memorial Day. Pilgrim reminded me.

800! There were the usual two (sometimes three) shrines. Not sure what’s up with that. One of them was directly across the trail, so we wouldn’t miss it. Thank god, because I forgot about it, and I would have missed it. 😆

I’m finding the heat and humidity to be unexpectedly challenging. I guess I’ll adjust!

Nice trail today—pine forests and little creeks. I’ve been starting at 5:30 to get in some miles early, but even by 6:30 it’s starting to get hot. I stopped pretty early today at the very base of the climb that leads to the ridgewalk that ends at the Priest (mountain and shelter). I’m going to start paying better attention to where the big climbs are, and try to set myself up to tackle those at 5:30 AM. (Wish I could manage 5:00, but getting started in the morning is also challenging. To start hiking at 5:30, I have to set the alarm for 3:45 and fight for 45 minutes before I can force myself to motivate. It’s all good, though. It is what it is! 😁)

I must have 20 or more mosquito bites. What’s coming out now are the little flesh-eating gnats. Might have to break out the bug pants! Actually, I wore them once, to cross a mile-long field of waist-high grass with practically no trail to speak of. That’s one of my least favorite types of trail.

What else? Not much! I’ve been thinking about things that used to just kill me, but that don’t bother me anymore. Like false summits. I used to detest them with a white hot passion. Now I’m like, “Meh. If you haven’t walked for 30 or 40 minutes, you’re not at the top of this mile.” I don’t even think of them as false summits—just ‘not there yets.’

Nero

Mile 792.0—Bush camp [5.2 miles]
Sunday, May 19

Nero today [on trail]. I really, really need those neroes on resupply days to get myself together. Yesterday I did that 20 by brute force, after not sleeping well the night before (slanted tent, crowded shelter, local partiers at the shelter having loud fun until late at night) after that other wickedly long dsy. I didn’t even have time to eat yesterday, really. Then I got to the hostel at dinnertime, ran down to the sub joint for a burger, hit two not-great resupply stores, finally showered, and did laundry. I managed a half-assed sorting of the food, but I was dizzy tired by 10 PM. Then up at 5, make coffee, pack the pack, grab a breakfast sammich for the trail, and out the door for the 7:30 AM shuttle. And the first 4 miles were a deadly uphill on a day that was already steaming (over 90 degrees in Glasgow all week), and 5 miles took me 4 hours and just killed me. So I took my nero today. I think I’m back to 2 days ahead, but I won’t know for sure until Waynesboro. So it’s all good.

Here I am, happy in my tent at 2 o’clock. 😀. When the blistering sun starts to go down, I’ll pop out and put on the rainfly.

This morning when we piled into the car, it wouldn’t go into gear. Sounded like a transmission issue. Poor Donna! So we didn’t hit the trailhead until after 8. Me, Tiny (whom I’ve known since before Hot Springs), Kiwi and So Far So Good, whom I hadn’t met yet (although I’d heard of Kiwi), and new LASHer Dan.

It’s windy. Did I mention the heat? 😆 I try not to listen to the doomsayers, because they get into my head even when I know it’s bullshit, but they were on and on and on about the temperature and the steep climbs and how awful today wad going to be—and yup, it got into my head.

Don’t listen to the doomsayers. Stay far, far away from the doomsayers.

Tomorrow: Looking forward to 5 AM!

Glasgow, VA

Mile 786.7—Stanimals Hostel, Glasgow, VA [20.1 miles]
Saturday, May 18

Man. Glasgow. There is nothing here. If I were crazy enough to do this again, I’d probably stay at the hostel again, but send myself a box. Or go into Buena Vista instead.

Long day yesterday, but I was mostly running to get to the trailhead shuttle by 5. Made it by 4:30. 😀

I cobbled together a Dollar Store resupply, and I’ll be back on trail by 8, heavy. At least I avoided the accidental zero! (They only shuttle to the trailhead once a day, at 7:30.)

I’m really discombobulated. Tomorrow will probably be a low mileage day. These long days are like… borrowing time from the next day!

Onward!

Accidental milestone

Mile 766.6—Cornelius Fudge Shelter [21.5 miles]
Friday, May 17

Just kidding. It’s Cornelius Creek Shelter! A little Harry Potter humor, there.

Holy crap. No wonder I was sobbing and slogging and dragging that last brutal 2-mile climb. Like… every step uphill felt like an act of will, and I was ripping myself for not being able to even get 19. But it turns out it was 21.5. And I double-checked the math, because I inadvertently camped close to an overlook last night. The math is right. Holy crap. It took 13 hours, but, yeah. Yeah. 😀👍

This shelter is crowded. I thought Trail Days would have done some winnowing, but a lot of these guys appear to be locals out for a section or the weekend.

So. Frogs +1, turtles +1. Here are the current standings:

Snakes: 4Frogs: 2
Turtles: 3
Red salamanders (elts?): 4

But I’m telling you, the frogs will win in the end.

It rained hard for a few hours this morning, but the afternoon was hot hot hot…er, humid. Humid and also hot. And sunny. The skeeters are out in force! I’m getting pin-cushiony.

Wicked’s hiking with a guy named Green Blaze. GB’s brother, Bruh, is off trail with tendinitis, so he did a little “trail magic” today—Cokes and Snickers for the win! Bruh will be back in a couple of weeks.

What else? Nothing. I’m beat.

Tomorrow: Well… 15 or 16, I guess, then into Glasgow on Sunday to resupply!

Degrees of separation

Mile 745.1—Bush camp [15.4 miles]
Thursday, May 16

Yesterday afternoon with my friend Doug was great. He shuttled me around, and we had dinner at an unexpectedly good diner in Daleville. Thanks so much for the trail angeling, Doug! I can’t wait to hear about your next section!

The trail was beautiful today: pristine pastures of waist-high grass (where there were cows in ‘13!), then green forest of oak and rhododendron, with a lot of fierce up and down. The afternoon was hot and rocky, and now the trail is tracking the Blue Ridge Parkway. I can hear the cars below from my hidden, mossy corner.

Things should be quiet for the next three days. It’s Trail Days down in Damascus, and thousands of revelers from all parts of the trail are now making their way to the party. As somebody said, only the old farts will be left hiking. 😁

Everybody in the bubble is separated by about two degrees. Did I tell you I finally met True? True was a hiker I’d been orbiting since Fontana. I never met him, but I kept almost meeting him. People would rush into a room and say, Was True here? And I’d be like, I don’t know True. Then somebody told me there were two Trues. Just a few days ago I met one of the Trues, who told me the whole story about how he was waiting in line to pick up a package at the post office, and there was some confusion about his name, and he said, “Is it under True?” And the guy behind him in line started, because his real name was True. So those two guys hiked together for a while and it was confusing and eventually the second guy, whose true name was True, changed his trail name to Nola.

Nola stayed at my hotel last night. So I’ve finally met both Trues.

Today I saw Unicorn and J-Rock again. Haven’t seen them since Uncle Johnny’s in Erwin! They had an encounter with a bear who got their food bag, along with Strider’s food bag, in that same stretch between Fox Creek and Partnership where Freight Train and ET had their bags taken. This time, though, the bear kept coming back, even when J-Rock threw rocks at it. They had to pack up and leave the area to get away from it. Unicorn and J-Rock had most of their food in an untouched canister, but Strider’s food bag (Ursacks, both of them) was destroyed. They said she made it into Marion.

I haven’t seen Strider since Hot Springs, when she was hiking with Trotter and Birkie.

The best degree happened today. When I was getting ready for this hike, I booked my shuttle from Gainesville to Amicalola months in advance. When the shuttle driver picked me up, he swung by another entrance to see if there were hikers, and there were. We picked up a guy named Dan—his first actual trail magic, a surprise ride to the start of the trail. (And that was big magic. It’s like… 40 miles.)

Today I saw Dan! Dan from Day 1. We sat in Orientation together. 😀 Dan is now Wicked, and his long hair is gone, and he’s got the hipster hiker beard. It was great to see him! He’s having a blast!

We’re all just salmon, swimming upstream. It’s nice seeing the same salmon over and over again.

Scofflaws

Mile 720.3—Lamberts Meadow Campground
Tuesday, May 14

Honest to god, I think I’m the only hiker out here who tries to follow the rules. It’s frustrating! Both Guthooks and AWOL specify that camping isn’t permitted in this area except at designated locations, like this one. Yet every thru I talked to today was just planning to stealth close to Daleville. Even the Finnish hiker. Like… really, dudes? You think these restrictions are supposed to be for everybody but you? I know it’s hike your own hike and clean your side of the street, but it frosts my ass when I could do what they’re doing, and instead they’ll have a 4-mile stroll into town, and I’ll have to schlep 10 miles, at my slower pace.

Gah. Stupid day! It was cold (41 last night!) and fiercely blustery all day. Cold is my kryptonite. I had on all my regular clothes plus my wind pants and shirt, rain pants and jacket, and gloves. And the cool kids were all in shorts and tee shirts. I’m wondering if old people just gradually become snakelike and cold blooded. And grumpy. 😀

Anyhoo… McAfee’s was gorgeous, Tinket Cliffs were amazing. Salamanders +1.

Tomorrow: An insanely busy resupply day. My section-hiking friend Doug will be in town to polish off a piece of a section near here, and we’re going to grab some food somewhere. That’ll be awesome! Plus laundry, resupply/repackage, check in at the outfitters. We’ll see how it goes! I’m going yo try to start my 10 miles super early.