I don’t think northern Virginia likes me. When this whole thing started many moons ago, I hiked through thirty or so miles in a thunderstorm that stopped when I reached West Virginia. This time, I had a couple of muggy, but otherwise pleasant days before it rained for a whole. Damn. Week.
I had anticipated that starting the second half of the hike would be difficult, and all the comforts of living under a roof were indeed tough to walk away from again. I could find a job, sleep in a bed, clean myself every day, and so forth.
But then I thought: “Nah”
So I returned to the place where the trail crosses route 50, looked at where I had started walking back in June, and went the other way. I had a lot of food with me, and I’d been off trail for a while, so I started off easy to get used to it again. At first, walking southbound was a little eerie. I only passed a few day hikers, but even they were heading north. Compared to the crowds of northbounders in first half, the trail was deserted. I was aware that one of my friends, another flip-flopper was only a day ahead of me, so I had a goal.
Upon entering Shenandoah National Park, the fog rolled in and the rain started. It wasn’t too uncomfortable most of the time, but I couldn’t see anything but white. It felt otherworldly, like a fairy tale.
A little later, I started to meet the friendly bears. My bear count has reached ten, and those are just the ones I’ve seen. There have been plenty of large animal sounds in the mists, which changed the atmosphere to that specific type of fairy tale that ends with the children getting ground into meat sauce, probably to teach them a lesson about sassing their elders.
I don’t like bears. I like them even less when they pop out of the fog ten feet away. The top link of the food chain is mine, dammit, and I’m not sharing.
The turning point came when I got a message from my friend. She was also cold and wet and starting to hurt, and had stopped by one of the lodges to rest for a bit. A person, known to me only as “Fred,” had overheard her telling a waiter about her travels and bought her a room for the night. She offered to share her good fortune if I could catch up, and I came running like a cat to a can opener. I don’t think I’ve ever hiked so fast.
I don’t know you, Fred, but you’re a pretty cool guy.
Having a buddy doesn’t make the rain any less wet, but it does help to make it less miserable. We still had to wait days until we saw the sun, and a few more after that until we were finally dry.
The sky eventually cleared while we were camped at the Devil’s Backbone brewery, a wonderful place that is in the process of building a shower and laundry room for the hikers that get to camp for free on the grounds. I don’t even like beer, and I’ll probably end up back there at some point.
Since then, we’ve just been moving. There are miles to go, and winter is coming.
Total Milage: 1404.6
Praise the Sun
Seriously, praise the sun so hard.