I woke up bright and early the next morning. The birds start singing before it is even light outside. When I finally made it out of my tent, I looked over at the tent that was my companion the night before. There was a harmless looking gray haired guy milling about. I went over to say hello. His name was ‘Boffin’- a British term for ‘computer nerd’. The guy was not British, but had done ‘I.T.’ work most of his life. I apologized for not responding to his ‘hello’ the night before, and explained why I didn’t want anyone to know there was a woman in the tent. Boffin was very nice.
I went back to my tent to have breakfast, and a little while later I heard Boffin yelling out that there was a bear. I got out of my tent to get a look. It was outside of the camp, looking toward our camp. He must have smelled oatmeal and coffee! I was filled with gratitude for two things: 1) I had thrown one of my best Bear bag lines the night before. 2) I was not alone.
The bear did not seem aggressive. He seemed afraid. Boffin said that bears can be hunted in Virginia, so they are afraid of humans here in this state. I didn’t get a good picture-just a black blob.
I packed up, and was soon on my way. It was a long, hard day. The trail was thick and wooly this day. I did 16.8 miles this day.
I had lunch at ‘Wind Rock’. It was one of the few times I took enough time to take off my shoes and socks. My feet hurt, and my socks and shoes were wet. Man did it feel good to take my shoes and socks off. The view was beautiful.
The woods had not been ‘friendly’ that day, but as I neared the shelter, the Mountain Laurel was peppering the woods with blooms! It was so beautiful, and it warmed my heart to see it. The blooms were prolific, and I must have gone a couple of miles with a sea of blooms on either side of me.
When I reached the shelter, I came into the clearing and heard raucous laughter–the stoners. I had passed The Angry Man earlier without a look or word. He was off to the side of the trail. These were his friends, and they asked if I had seen him and his girlfriend. This was when they told me he hiked fast, ‘when he hiked’. I felt unnerved. They were the only ones there, and they had an energy about them that told me they might be doing more than weed.
I found a place to set up my tent in the Mountain Laurel bushes, and it was a nice, hidden place. The stoners had taken over the shelter, and I couldn’t even see the shelter from my tent spot.
Can you see the deer in the picture above?
The next day it rained. It was to be a short day for me, but with several long climbs, it was a long, hard, day doing only 12.2 miles.
I saw another black snake-this one was on the trail and poised to strike. It’s head looked awfully triangular. Does anyone know the differences between a Cotton Mouth and a black snake, and are there Cotton Mouths in Virginia? They are also black.
I gave it wide berth, just in case! It looked angry. Even if it was just a black snake, they can strike and be fierce. I don’t like them, even if they are non-venomous! I have watched Bud kill them when they have found their way into the hen house. They eat chicken eggs and chicks! That’s all I need to know!
The shelter I had planned to stay at was about a 1/2 mile off trail, and it was downhill, which would mean a long, hard climb back up in the morning. It was pouring rain by the time I got there. Papa J, Tumble and Will were there. I was relieved. They are friendly and protective. I always feel uncomfortable going to shelters that are that far off the trail. Having friendly faces around is always nice.
Papa J invited me to his Birthday party. I asked him if that meant he considered me to be part of his trail family and he said yes. Cowbell and I had this conversation, and he said you don’t have to be hiking with someone to be a part of their family. If you see someone you know after not seeing them for a while, and you want to talk to them or have lunch with them in town, they are your trail family. I have passed Papa J’s group and talked with them many times. I stayed with them at Mack’s Hostel, and we bonded.
Since it was raining, I decided to stay in the shelter- a rare occurrence for me. I don’t like the shelters. I like the caccoon of my tent. There were only 4 of us, so we spread out. There was room for maybe one or two more people if we squeezed in, but as it was, the spacing was quite nice and not awkward.
Later, the stoners arrived. We had already bedded down, and we acted like we were asleep. 😂 Instead of cooking at the shelter, they set up their tents (it had stopped raining) and they did their thing down at the tenting area. They were respectful since we had the majority at the shelter, and they left us alone to breathe clean air at the shelter. Praise the Lord!
It rained off and on all night. I covered my ears with my sleeping bag liner to keep the bugs out of them. My hips hurt. I had this a lot in 2016. It started about this point on the trail. I flip and flop a lot due to hip pain, trying to find a comfortable position that doesn’t hurt too much. Papa J said he has it, too. I don’t know whether it’s due to pack weight on the hips taking its toll, the walking, or loss of fat on the hips, leaving less padding to sleep on.
In the morning, I changed back into my wet hiking clothes in the privy. This would be the longest stretch so far that I would go without a shower. I had been on the trail three days already without a shower (and another three to go!) and I was smelling pretty ripe! It had been warm, muggy and strenuous. There is a misnomer that Virginia is ‘easy’. It’s just not true!