I slept in my tent last night. I slept ok. A storm came through that brought some high winds and light rain. I awoke a few times but was able to fall back to sleep fairly quickly. So everything felt a little damp and cool but was a nice change of “pace” from sweating all day while hiking in the heat. I wanted to get a jump on the day before it got too hot. I quickly downed my cold oatmeal and protein bar, took care of a few work items, packed up my gear and tent and was ready to hit the trail. I REALLY needed to go to the bathroom though. You know, #2. The shelter was surrounded by campers and hikers. The privy was pretty close to everyone. I figured I’d just hit the trail and find a nice place to go in a few miles north.

Show Me, whom I met the night before while having dinner, was heading out at the same time I was. We both needed to refill on water so we did so at a creek on our way out. He asked me about my shirt– what “hike for hope” meant. I explained to him I was hiking to raise awareness about the near half a million kids that are living without parents, without families, here in the US. I told him about ShowHope, an organization that helps break down barriers between waiting orphaned children and loving families who are looking to adopt.

Though we finished getting water about at the same time, I felt like I might need to go to the bathroom sooner as opposed to later, so I let him get ahead of me. I trailed behind him for a while but didn’t engage in conversation in case I needed to make a “pit” stop. We had to take a detour off the trail onto some private land. Apparently a bridge was out or the trail washed away and they were repairing it. We ended up on a dirt road that connected with another dirt road. When we hit the intersecting road, ShowMe went left, on the AT, and I glanced to my right to see what was in the opposite direction. There was nothing to my right other than dirt road and forest. I thought this might be a good place to go.

I hiked another 100 feet up the dirt road in the opposite direction of the AT and saw where another little dirt had been pushed off the road about 25 feet or so. I thought this might be a good spot. That way I don’t have to go walking into the thick brush looking for a spot. I glanced around, didn’t see anyone, took my pack off, glanced around again, the coast was clear. I started to undo my pants in preparation to squat and thought, let me take one more look directly behind me, just to make sure no one is back there. HOLY POOP! (pun intended:)) There was a wildlife camera on the tree directly behind me! Not but 5 feet. Pointing right at my rear! These cameras are triggered by motion. So it was on and snapping pics of me as I stood there! I quickly buttoned my pants, grabbed my gear, and staggered off out of sight of the camera. Wow, that was a close call, I thought.

I found another spot to go, circled the place 10 times, confirmed there weren’t any more cameras or people, did my business, geared back up, and scurried back down the dirt road headed up the AT. Of course by now, I was laughing (out loud) about the incident as I hiked along. If anyone saw me at this point they’d probably think I was crazy. I could only imagine the owner of the land checking his cameras for any wild life pics, and instead seeing me, half butt naked, doing my business, on his land. I then got a little concerned, thinking it was such a great place to make a “pit stop”, that women might end up doing the same, and not see the camera. By this time I was a mile or so up the trail. What was I to do anyway? Put up a sign saying “don’t pull down your pants here– there’s a camera on this tree!”

As I hiked along I noticed a big pile of bear poop in the middle of the road. It was fresh. Which meant a bear was close by. A few minutes later, I hear a “snap” on a branch in the woods close by. I glanced over immediately and scanned the woods for any movement. Nothing. I sat there and waited. I walked forward slowly, again scanning the woods back and forth, looking for any movement. Nothing. I figured it was probably nothing and just continued on my way.

A few minutes later I caught up with Show Me. The first thing out of his mouth was “did you see the bears back there?!?” My reply, “nope, but I did see their poop, and I heard a sound in the woods, but couldn’t see them at all.” He described what he saw and where he saw them. It was the same place I heard the noise. Dern it! I missed my first bear sighting. Had I not stopped to handle my business, I would have been right behind him, and saw them. Oh well, there’s supposed to be tons of bears in the Shenandoah National Park — I’m sure I’ll see some soon, I thought. Of course I had to tell him about my almost most embarrassing moment. He cracked up. I asked him if he was laughing with me or at me:) He just kept laughing 🙂

The terrain and elevation were nice for once. We were moving quickly. We knocked out 13 miles before noon. Not bad at all. Hell, Mulligan and I were lucky to get in 13 miles for the entire day:) It just reiterated one critical thing I learned on the AT… “the early bird gets the worm”. Something I’m a big believer in, in the real world. There’s a saying on the AT too, its “10 by 12” or “10 by 10”. The idea is to try and get 10 miles before 12pm, or if you get up really early or are moving really fast, 10 miles before 10am. If you get a lot of miles done before noon, you can kind of coast the rest of the afternoon. You can do half as many and knock out 15 miles a day by say 3pm or 4pm. Which is not a bad day at all.

We saw two more black snakes and my first gardener snake. That’s another 3 snakes in 1 day! If you don’t like snakes, and you want to hike the AT, just prepare yourself for seeing a lot. The gardener snake was really cool looking. Maybe because it was my first sighting of one in a long time. AND he had just eaten. So his belly was full. You could see a bulge about halfway down his body. It looked like a mouse– could almost make out little arms sticking out of the snake’s scaly skin. We also saw a young buck (deer) too. He practically came right up to us about 15 feet away. What a great day for wildlife sightings. We snapped some pics as always and carried on.

We made our way to a parking area and decided to was a good place to stop and take a break. A truck pulls up and parks not too far away from where we were standing. A couple gets out and they glance over at us several times. I wondered why. I mean, we did look kind of homeless. Or maybe I should say I did. Show Me was a pretty clean cut guy. But we were both dirty and stank like we’d been living in the woods for some time. Then the girl gets out and starts walking towards us. I hoped she wasn’t going to ask us for directions. Seeing how we had no idea where we were. I noticed she had something in her hands. I thought, maybe some sodas? Nope. Beer!

We were super excited and thanked her. I typically don’t like to drink in the middle of the day as I’m pretty worthless after any alcohol. But I figured as much hiking as we were doing, I’d probably just burn through it and keep going. Her boyfriend joined us and in on our conversation. They were from a few hours away and here to doing some trail running. Wow, you can run on these trails? I mean, it was some of the flattest terrain we’d seen since we started. We thanked them again for the beers and headed up the trail. Trail magic is always nice. Especially when you least expect it.

We made it to a shelter and stopped for water and a snack. I had to make a business call. For the most part, while hiking the AT, I’ve been able to handle almost all business via email, in the mornings, later in the day / at night, or at hotels / hostels when in town. It wasn’t that often I needed to stop out in the woods and call a client. But this was one of those time. So I told Show Me I’d catch up with him later. I finished up my call and was back on the AT within a few minutes.

I stopped at a rock formation called Blackrock. It was beautiful. If you climbed up to the top you had 360 degree views. It was really nice. The weather was amazing as well. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and there were these huge clouds everywhere. All of the trees looked so green too. I, of course, snapped several photos, and took some video too. There were some locals there, we took pics of each other, and I carried on up the trail.

I caught up with Mulligan and Show Me a few miles later. They were sitting at picnic table in a park area. Mulligan didn’t realize we got off trail at the shelter so he passed right by us. Show Me was pushing for 20 miles today. I was feeling pretty good and wanted to do the same. At this point we were at mile 16 for the day. Mulligan was done for the day though. I was looking to make up for the 7.5 mile day we had yesterday. But 16 miles wasn’t bad at all.

Mulligan was adamant about not pushing it any further. Show Me was trying to stay on a schedule where he needed to be at an upcoming city in a few days. So he decided to move on. I stayed with Mulligan. Though I was concerned about staying in this park. Our app we use for navigating the AT (GutHook) said that we weren’t supposed to say here. So we setup our tents out of the way as much as possible in case a park ranger came through. Shhhhhh 🙂

I was happy I decided to stay. Not only to hang out with my buddy Mulligan. Whom I had been hiking with for several weeks now. But also because within about 45 – 60 minutes later, after Show Me left, we barely got our tents up and, the sky opened up, and started pouring rain. We were in the midst of cooking and eating dinner. We grabbed our things and jumped into our tents to get out of the rain. It really rained too. The rain pounded the ground outside our tents. We were used to camping in thick tree cover. Not here, not in this park, we were under a tree but still really out in the open. I thought, I hope Show Me go under cover.
I caught up on some work items, writing, and prepped for bed. With the rain came a lot cooler temperature. So I curled up in my sleeping bag and drifted off to sleep. Another great day on the AT… (5/31/19)

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