May 22, 2013
Today’s mileage: 15.3
Total mileage: 938.6
This morning I was not awoken by the birds singing. Nor was I woken up by the sunlight peaking into the tent. A chorus of flies outside my vestibule got me up bright and early. They swarmed nearby ready to attack the moment I stepped out into the open.
We dodged the flies as best we could and left camp before 8 so that we could eat breakfast at Skyland. This was definitely the best decision of the day. It was 4.4 miles from the hut to Skyland. We got a table with father and son hiking duo, Medicine Man and Kudo. We clashed with the clean, well-dressed tourists in our salt-stained hiking shirts and dirt-covered legs. We all got the buffet and filled up our large plates more than once. The food was delicious and our stomachs weren’t disappointed. We spent a couple of hours there charging our phones and letting our food digest.
We left around 11:45, our breakfast still sitting in our stomachs. I had some cramps as we climbed up towards Stony Man. A trick I had learned from running is to breathe deeply until the cramps go away. That method was most certainly utilized in the midday humidity and was successful. We had clear views from Little Stony Man Cliffs out into the valley. Our wildlife sightings were vast today. We saw a bear in the morning that hurried off the trail as we approached and climbed up to the rocks above us. We didn’t stay long, but got a quick look at the bear before leaving it be. I also saw two frogs, a lizard, and a snake in the afternoon. I can’t believe we’ve seen three bears already in the span of less than a week. I know the Shenandoahs are active with bears, but we know some hikers who haven’t seen any yet.
With about 6 miles left in the day, I stopped at a picnic area to wait up for Miles, who had left Skyland about 20 minutes after me. As I filled up my water, a nice woman with an Acadia National Park t-shirt came over and offered me two homemade brownies. I gladly accepted and she said that they love to visit Acadia, which is where I have grown up hiking since I was young. Seeing her shirt made me excited to hike the mountains of Acadia when I get back. Dorr, Penobscot, Beehive, Beech, Cadillac, and one I’ve wanted to hike for awhile, Champlain. But first, we must finish the task at hand. There are still plenty of miles to hike.
We met a couple of friends of one of our fellow thru-hikers, Crazy Frogg, and then we headed on towards the hut. We walked across a road that led to Luray, which I only know from my visit to the caverns there ten years ago. We passed over this stop however, since we only have one more day until we get picked up. No cavern organ for us this time around. 😦
We made it to the hut, built in 1939, at 4:30. This is the earliest we’ve made it to camp in awhile. We are tenting in a nice shady spot and had time to dry out our clothes before the thunderstorm hit. Needless to say, I’m a bit scared as usual as the sun goes down and the thunder moves closer. We met Heart Rock and Tall Boy, two thru-hikers who had been ahead of us but whose names we had seen in the log books. YOLO is here with us again. We talked soccer with him and about the upcoming Champions League game on Saturday. FC Bayern München vs. Dortmund! We will definitely be watching while we’re in DC this weekend. There is a bluegrass band here filming a video and a section hiker going to Harpers Ferry. This guy had an 18 lb. food bag and he couldn’t lift it on the bear pole by himself. It took five guys including Miles to get it up there. We were all laughing so hard as the guys took turns, two at a time, trying to hoist that huge bag onto the pole. YOLO stepped in and the bag was finally secure. We were clapping after the ordeal and some photos were taken. How many hikers does it take to hoist a food bag? Five, apparently.
Tonight is our last night in the Shenandoahs before we head off to the DC area for the weekend. We’re very excited for our short break and to have the chance to hang with friends. The rains a’pourin’ and the thunder is cracking loudly overhead. Will I sleep tonight? Probably not.