(6/2/19) I slept in my tent last night. I woke up several times by coyotes nearby howling through the night. Plus some owls that flew into our camp site and were ooh ooh’n all night as well. I swear one landed on a tree branch right beside my tent. Or at least that’s what it sounded like anyway. Another chilly evening. But I stayed bundled up in my sleeping bag most of the night. So I slept okay. I completed my morning ritual of eating breakfast, checking / responding to work emails, and packing everything up. Last night, Show Me and I discussed leaving at 7AM to get an early start on the day again. We ended up rolling out of camp around that time. Surprisingly, everyone else had already left as well. Well, except for Mulligan:)
Again the terrain was pretty nice. Lots of rolling hills. Even though it seemed like we were going uphill more than down, it wasn’t bad at all. However, I could feel the effects of hiking 22.5 miles yesterday. I’m sure a burned a lot of calories. And I didn’t eat enough this morning. I often got a kick out of how much Mulligan ate in the mornings. 3 – 4 packs of oatmeal, a bar or 2, etc. Here I was still eating like I was living in the real world, on a diet, watching my weight, only eating 1 packet of oatmeal and 1 bar. But Mulligan knew we needed fuel to propel us through the day, up and down and over mountains. So I should have been eating more. This morning I only had a moon pie though. Just eat it and go, I thought. We’ll stop later and I can eat some more.
We had a few views throughout the day. As always, we stopped and took pics. I was running a little low on water so we stopped and took a small side trail down to Pocosin Cabin. There are several enclosed cabins in this national park, and this is one of them. It was built in 1913. We expected it to be empty, but it wasn’t. There was a father and son there. They were cooking lunch. We just assumed they were thru hikers, or at least day hikers, they were neither. They reserved the cabin for a few days, and were just hanging out in the woods, spending quality family time together. We kind of felt like we were intruding. They paid money to stay there and here we were invading their privacy. So we chatted for a bit and then got our water and headed back to the AT to continue our journey north.
We made it 13 miles to one of the park’s camp stores. It wasn’t even noon yet. So we were making good time. It was surrounded by places people could reserve to park their RVs. There were quite of few RVs there and people cooking outside enjoying the weather. The smell of food made us even more hungry. We went inside and grabbed some food for lunch and parked ourselves outside on a bench to eat. We ran into Two Fingers there. He was at the shelter / campsite last night. So we chatted with him for a bit. He got his trail name from the reference of how much alcohol you drink or want to drink. The width of your finger while holding a glass, from top to bottom, refers to the amount of alcohol. A finger is roughly an ounce. Though obviously if you have a bigger glass, it would be more than an ounce. I guess he ordered some alcohol while in town and used to term “two fingers” when telling the bartender how much he wanted. So they dubbed him “Two Fingers”. We finished our meals and he headed back up the trail.
While Show Me and I waited for Mulligan to arrive, something on my to-do list was to try and fix my shoe. I had some insoles I purchased and they kept sliding forward in my shoe while hiking. Show Me had some duct tape he thought might work to keep the insole in place. Duct tape is one of those items they recommend bringing with you as it can be used for so many things. Unfortunately I didn’t have mine anymore. After my rough start back in GA, with my pack weighing over 40 lbs, I dumped a lot of things, to reduce my pack weight. I know, you’re thinking, how much can duct tape really weigh, right? It all adds up. Some extremist out here actually cut the handle off their tooth brush to drop weight :O
Show Me and I decided to get back on the trail figuring Mulligan would catch up to us at some point. As we were about to step back on the AT, Mulligan was stepping off of it, so we practically ran into each other. After a few minutes of debating whether to go with Show Me or stay and wait on Mulligan, I decided to stay. Show Me had a schedule he needed to stick with. So we parted ways and said we’d catch up with him later that day (or so I thought). So I walked back to the camp store with Mulligan, and sat down again, while he ate. I needed to make a business call anyway, so this worked out. I returned to the table after my call and Mulligan and I discussed our plans for the rest of the day.
As we sat their a park ranger came up and we struck up a conversation with her. She was really nice. She asked us about bear sightings and if we saw anything of concern. We told her about what Brooklyn told us the night before. About a bear stealing his food bag in the middle of the night. About how he tried to scare it away with rocks and sticks. Not only was the bear not scared of him, it consumed human food, which is not good at all. It tells the bear that “humans have more food like this”. So when it sees more humans, it can become aggressive, and attack them for their food. She asked us where it happened. We weren’t 100% sure. If it happened in Shenandoah National Park it was a concern for her. Mulligan seemed to think it happened before the park, some time ago. She gave us the number to call if we caught up with Brooklyn and found out it happened in the park.
We also told her another hiker, I believe it was actually Two Fingers, who just left, told us about his encounter with a fawn. How the fawn came right up to him, and he petted it. She calmly told us this was a really bad idea and why. She told us baby deer have no defense against bears and other predators. They aren’t big and strong and fast enough to outrun them. The only defense they really have is, they don’t smell at all. So predators can’t find them. They can simply hide down in the brush / bushes and if predators can’t smell them, they can’t find them. So by a human petting a fawn, we put our scent on them, and in doing so, predators can find them. Wow! Who would have thought? That by simply trying to be friendly to wildlife, you’d actually be endangering it. We thanked her for the information and told her we’d pass it on to other hikers.
The park ranger left and some other hikers came up with their girlfriends. They wanted to know if we were thru hiking. We told them we were. They were really interested in doing the same. Their girlfriends didn’t seem too interested in our conversation so they went inside to grab some food. We talked to the guys for a while. They had a lot of questions. We told them the good, the bad, and the ugly. Though for the most part, both of our experiences on the trail, had been pretty good, up until this point. They thanked us for our information and left.
Another guy passed by and asked us if we were thru hiking. We told him we were. He (Mike) said he doing trail magic later in the day at his camp site. Grilling out and beer! Wow, this was very enticing. We told him we planned on hiking on but if we stayed we’d definitely swing by. Another gentlemen by the name of Michael Paul (MP) had a beautiful white Alaskan Malamute. He rented a space there every summer and came up for weeks at a time. He asked us if we needed anything. We just ate so we told him we were fine. He did grab us each an apple cider beer and two apples as well. We thanked him very much. Man, this place is amazing, we thought 🙂
I was in communication still with Pretzel and Show Me. They were just up ahead. Mulligan and I finally decided to get back on the trail. It was really hard to leave. I’m not sure if was all of the great people we met, or all of the trail magic, or a combination of both. But we slugged our packs back on our backs and started headed north again. We climbed a mountain and took a blue trail out on the ridge line so we could check out the views.
Oh no, all we could see was dark clouds everywhere– and some lightening flickering in the distance too. The wind was blowing really hard too. This massive storm was headed right towards us. Remembering how Show Me left a camp site a day or two early and got his by a massive storm, we thought, perhaps we should head back? We debated it for a few minutes, and decided to do so. We thought, get back, get our tents setup before the storm breaks, hang out with some great people, get some trail magic…. seemed like a win-win-win to us. Only downfall was, we wouldn’t be meeting up with Show Me and Pretzel, and we hiked a mile or two already, so we’d have to hike back.
We got back to Big Meadows camp ground and yet again were met with more trail magic. This time, it was in the form of a free place to setup our tents. Typically you have to reserve a spot. There was a gentlemen there who had a corner lot, and a lot of space. So he said we could toss our tents up there, for free. We thanked him very much and did just that.
We met back up with Mike and his crew– the ones that were grilling and had drinks and other food for thru hikers. It was Mike, his buddy, and their two wives. They were pilots. We saw 3 other thru hikers, Blue, and Blue Jay and Ember, all whom we’ve met several times over the past couple of weeks. We told them about the trail magic with Mike, and they joined us. We had beer and bratwurst and an assortment of other food. Mike knew a lot about thru hiking. He’d definitely done a lot of research. He’s very interested in doing the whole trail one day. So of course we shared our experiences with him. We hung out for hours, eating, drinking, talking. It was really nice. The funny thing is, the storm never came. Maybe it was just in our heads. Maybe Mulligan and I just really wanted to go back? 🙂
We parted ways with our new friends and crawled back into our tents for the evening. The temp was dropping again, so I curled up in my sleeping bag to stay warm. Though we only got 13 miles under our belts for the day, we ended up doing a total of 17 miles, as we hiked 2 miles north, and then came back. So 17 miles for the day. Not bad. Just wish they all counted towards our main mission….get to Katahdin in Maine. But I didn’t regret turning back around. The culture and the people of the AT is a big part of this adventure. It was good we got to experience more of this today– then just pounding out miles.
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