My Walk in the Woods, Ch 9

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2008.

Chapter Nine (June 2nd-7th)

Day 56: (VA)  14 miles from Rockfish Gap to camp past Calf Mtn Shelter

We all get up and go to Weazie’s for breakfast, then the post office followed by the library for the internet. Trail magic happens at the library when I run into ROZ whom I met on the trail earlier and lives in Waynesboro. She offers me a ride to the trail so we drive to the Y, pack my stuff and stop at the local outfitter and Kroger for supplies before dropping me off at Rockfish Gap.

It is a beautiful sunny day as I head down the smooth trail into Shenandoah National Park. At the park sign I smoke some Virginia Skank and savor an easy afternoon walk past a nasty shelter (Calf Mtn?) to an unmemorable camp. I write this bit of sarcastic movie monologue in the shelter’s logbook: “Look at this shelter,…its a DUMP! To stay in a shelter like this you should get a bowl of soup. Oh, but it looks good to YOU!” –Rodney Dangerhawk, “Caddy Shelter”

Day 57: (VA)  20 miles from camp to Pinefield Hut

It is a quiet , easy morning of walking on smooth dirt trail. For a few miles during the hot part of the day, the trail circumnavigates Loft Mtn less than a mile from the top. There is a small store at the summit and there are three side trails to the store about a mile apart.

I take the first side trail and like a guided missile head directly to the store’s cooler. Lo and behold they have a six pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale! Along with the essential Mt Dew, I grab two beers and sit at a picnic table outside for a nice break. By the time I hike back to the AT and get to the next side trail, I am thirsty again. I trudge back up to the store and slam two more Pale Ales. Again I labor down to the AT. All I can think of is those last two beers. When I get to the last side trail I consider the extra miles and energy required for a third climb but I only hesitate a second before turning toward the blue blaze trail and the remaining West Coast ales.

My eyes try to focus on bear #3 as it attempts to hide from my tottering gait. I meet a queer hiker named ROBIN HOOD at the shelter. It starts to rain as I cook dinner and we get rain and lightning all night. 

Day 58: (VA)  23 miles from Pinefield to camp on wet ridge

A long day of hiking; I see bear #4 standing on hind legs sniffing the air. I get to Lewis Mtn Campground at 4:30. The store, laundry and shower room closes at six so I have to hustle. While getting these chores done I drink five beers (two in the shower).

I hike about a mile to Bearfence Shelter thinking I will use the shelter because storm clouds are building for an inevitable storm. The shelter is full when I arrive and I recognize some of the hikers. One of them pulls out a big fattie and we pass it around.

At this point I am feeling no pain so I decide to push on into the impending storm. I give everyone my standard “Aloha!” farewell and charge into the trees just as the first crack of thunder shakes the forest. I keep climbing toward the higher ridges as the thunder and lightning get more intense and the rain pours out of the sky. I hike until the storm passes then I find an adequate flat spot and make a wet camp.

Day 59: (VA)  18 miles from camp to cowboy camp on rocks near pinnacles

Today is the day of the bear.  As I get going I immediately see  bear #5 foraging for food in the brush. Later I walk through a boggy creek area and am startled by the sound of a large body breaking twigs as it moves out of the bushes into the clearing. It is the largest bear (#6) I have ever seen and it is coming my direction. I would love to photograph this behemoth but he is not stopping to pose so I hurry along.

I get to a road with a sidewalk that will take me to the Big Meadow store. As I walk the concrete footpath, I see a group of tourists stopped along the road with cameras clicking. I see a sow and her two cubs calmly going about their business as the mob of gawkers increase. I watch this fascinating scene for twenty minutes.

The power was knocked out at the store from last night’s storm so there is no hot breakfast available. A sympathetic employee gives me a couple of sodas from the dark cooler in the shadows. I take the sidewalk back to the AT. More effortless walking on well maintained trail to the Skyland Restaurant. I eat a big lunch with beers and dessert then sit in the shade at an empty picnic table and smoke pot until I feel ready to continue the day’s hike.

There are plenty of good views in the afternoon and I stop at the pinnacles to cowboy camp on the rocks. It is breezy but I still get eaten by bugs. I take a photo at sunset which becomes my avatar for this blog.

Day 60: (VA)  20 miles from cowboy camp to camp near South Marshall Mtn

I wake up early from a surprisingly comfortable cowboy camp on the rocks. It is warm and buggy this morning. Around noon I arrive at the rustic Elk Wallow Wayside Grill and order a tasty burger, milkshake and beers.

I see a sow and cub moving through the brush. The momma is making clucking noises as the cub follows her into the forest. I camp near the S Marshall Mtn viewpoint hoping to find a breeze but it does not help. I watch weird cloud formations as I lie on top of my sleeping bag, too hot to sleep.

Day 61: (VA)  Exit Shenandoah NP, hitch to Front Royal

The weekend is bringing out the tourists so it is the end of my solitude. Before exiting the park I see bears # 12 and #13. I am downwind of one which allows me to get closer and watch as it stretches on a tree, arms overhead clawing the bark. The sound of my camera turning on spooks it before I can get a picture.

It is an easy walk to a road and I get a quick hitch to Front Royal by a woman who jokes she may ask me to duck in my seat if she sees her husband in town. After shopping at the outfitter, I stroll through downtown to the Scottish Inn. I use their laundry to clean my pack and sleeping bag. While washing my clothes, I have to walk around in my stifling raingear as a digital sign reads 94 degrees.

I find an air-conditioned BBQ restaurant and drink four Magic Hat beers with dinner. Back in the room this evening I get the munchies and go to Spelunker’s for a big ice cream sundae. I am still hungry so I order a hamburger and milkshake.

Sidetrack: Shenandoah NP summary civilized hiking; Beers 16 vs Bears 11

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