Thursday, May 10, 2012

One of the best days yet. 5-9

The past 2 days in the Shenandoahs were so foggy I could barely see. I saw 1 deer in this park that is supposed to be teaming with wildlife. But when I got out of my sleeping bag this morning at 8am and could see more than 15 feet in front of me, I knew it would be a good day.
I was the last person to leave the shelter this morning and I was ok with that. I don't like to get up before 8 and I knew the further in front of me people started the better my chances were to see critters. I ate my breakfast (granola with raisins) and set out excited to be able to see. Before I had summitted my first mountain of the day, not even a mile in I heard a noise in front of me so I continued on quietly and turned on my camera. When I turned the corner I realized it was a guy who left the shelter before me named hawk. We chatted for a moment and I told him I had a good feeling about seeing creatures today, and walked on. SNAP! went a twig and my head to the left, I knew immediately what it was "There's the first one!" I excitedly said to hawk as we watched a 100lb black bear clamber onto a slippery log 35 yards from us to get a better view. I tried to get a picture but my phone doesn't zoom well, and I wasn't going any closer. You can see the bear though so I was happy enough, and I had a feeling I would see more. Hawk got some great pictures so I gave him my e-mail and he told me he would send them to me. We eventually left the seemingly curious bear, summitted the mountain and parted ways, as I was a slightly faster hiker. Hours later I'd given up hope of seeing anything else. Honestly, I forgot I was looking for anything at all; I was trying to take some of my dad's advice and figure out how I'm going to get a design job after my trip, when I thought I saw something black out of the corner of my eye walking the same speed and direction as me 30 yards up a hill. When I stopped and looked I saw nothing but a large tree. I knew it was another bear I had seen, this one slightly smaller than the last, about booboo bear sized. I took 2 steps forward and saw the bear mirror my 2 steps then when he saw that I noticed him he scrambled up the hill and out of sight all before I could get my camera out. How exciting, I thought, 2 bears in a day and continued another mile or so before stopping at a spring for water. A couple more hours go by, a couple more springs, and again I find my mind wandering as I'm summitting probably the hardest mountain in the past few days. Finally I'm sweating as I reach the top and I hear a crashing through the brush as 2 more bears about the size of the one mirroring me run away from my terrible hiker stink, and ferocious mane. I only saw their little tales as they took off, they were not as curious as the first, or sneaky as the second. They must have been French bears the way they ran off lol just kidding I love the French, their fries, women, and who can forget Pepe le Pew? Anyway, 4 bears in one day! It was great, then around 4:00 it began to rain and get foggy again. Lucky for me I was 3 miles from a wayside which in Shenandoah National Park means food!! I got there right before they closed had a hamburger, and their famous blackberry milkshake which was great but would have been better had I not been soaking wet. The nice lady who unlocked the door for me to leave (locked because they closed right after I got there) felt bad sending me back into the rain when I was already obviously soaked told me the campsite a mile down the trail had a laundry room that was warm and open all night if I needed it then kind of gave me a wink and locked the door. Sure enough there was a park campsite sign not even a mile down the trail which I took, spent the next 45 minutes drying my clothes and figuring out where I'll be staying the next few weeks. When my clothes were dry the rain had stopped and I was warm, so I headed out back on the trail around 7:30 with 3 more miles to go to the shelter. It gets dark around 8:15 and I can do about 2.5 miles an hour so i figured it would be another night hike to cap another 23 mile day, which I was not looking forward to. Before I had gone half a mile I noticed I was walking right by the campsite with RVs, and trailers. I walked past a group of people who'd been assigned a spot not 10 feet from the trail and noticed another thru hiker sitting with them around their fire. They asked me if I liked margaritas? Duh, within 10 minutes they had given me one and told me to finish off a bag of chips for them, while they went to get ham and cheese to make me a sandwich, talk about trail magic! These trail angels seemed to get more pleasure out of feeding me than I was eating, not possible as you know but they really enjoyed feeding us. Thru hikers are the one wild animal in national parks it is ok to feed, and these people, Kathi, Ginger, and Joe were loving every minute of it as much as we were. So now I'm in my tent on their campsite excitedly awaiting morning, like a little kid at Christmas, when Joe said he will make us his famous apple pancakes before we head the 5 feet back to the AT. Breakfast was amazing, and Kathi and I had a wonderful talk!

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