Wapiti Shelter [mile 613.2; mpd 8.52]
Aside: The first time I heard the word wapiti was in the eighties. I’d recently gotten a job in publishing, and one of the editors had a book on his shelf: Farming Red Deer and Wapiti. I laughed! Wapiti! Wapiti? And here I am at Wapiti Shelter, and the word still makes me giggle. Woppity.
Anyhoo. It was another dry overnight—not even a drop of condensation on the footprint. That’s what I like to see! Got packed up early and said goodbye to Jenny Knob. There was only Mouse there. It feels so odd to see a shelter with one inhabitant. The other night at Partnership there must have been twenty. And back on the day… you remember. Thirty people, easy (including the tents)!
I hit the trail at 7:05. It was a weedy morning, and overcast. The floor was dirt for the most part, with patches of rocky areas, and, of course, the day started with a climb.
Poison ivy was everywhere. Great granny plants with fangs and bony fingers, little baby plants lying in wait and pretending to be harmless, whole jungles of it flanking the summer-narrow trail to brush your legs or poles.
The plan was to get to Trent’s by 11 and have lunch there. But guess what? On the way to Trent’s, on a long weedy section of trail with not enough white blazes, I almost stepped on a snake. A snake!
I know the AT is classified as rain forest or somesuch, and I know I see turtles in Pennsylvania (which also always makes me laugh, for some reason; I just don’t think of Pennsylvania as the wild turtle capital of the world); and I know there are snakes all over the AT. I just figured they were like ponies—mythical and invisible.
It was four feet long and nearly as thick as my wrist. A big black snake meandering across the trail.
How cool is that?
I don’t think there are any poisonous black snakes in the US, or this part of it, anyway. (Edited to add: Another hiker told me it could have been a water moccasin, which makes perfect sense given that we were within a mile of a river. Oops.) It wasn’t molting or angry-looking. Still, I couldn’t walk around it—voluminous poison ivy on both sides. So I stuck my pole near the middle of the trail and sproinged, pole vault style, over it. Tada!
Trent’s was a tiny hole in the wall with a grill—kind of like a 7-11 with two little tables on one side. The store had three aisles: hardware, camping stuff, and fishing supplies. I stocked up on two days’ worth of candy and chips (my food bag is almost empty, so for once I can afford to carry some snack weight) and ate a cheeseburger, fries, and an excellent vanilla milkshake. There might even have been some milk in it. 🙂
For the afternoon, the trail was like a trip to Florida: creeks, waterfalls, and rhododendrons. Well… I don’t think they have rhododendrons on Florida, do they? But the whole atmosphere was warm and succulent and tropical and shadowed. Alligator country! (And very little poison ivy in that section.)
Today’s theme might have been bridges. There were foot bridges everywhere! Yesterday’s water issues weren’t a problem today. I even had to cross a suspension bridge over a river. It wobbled and rolled and twitched with every step. Actually, that bridge made me much more nervous than the poor snake.
At the end of the day, I had another dilemma. If I’d had phone service, I might have called somebody, lol. The dilemma was this: Pearisburg is at mile 631. Do I stop at Wapiti? Or do I try to go on past and make it to Pearisburg tomorrow night? In the end, I decided I’m just not familiar enough yet with stealth camping in Virginia. If I was sure I could find a site, I’d have pushed on. But a big hill is coming, which means I might be on a shelf again, if I were lucky. I decided to get up ridiculously early tomorrow. I’ll plan to stealth camp within 5 miles of Pearisburg, and if I can’t find a poison ivy–free site, well, at least the end of the road at that point is town, rather than an emergency shelf. Although it would be an 18-mile day, and I’d be near death (or feeling like it!)
So here I am. Woppity!
I think it’s going to rain tonight or tomorrow, maybe even thunder—the kind of thunderstorm that breaks the back of a heat wave. We’ll see.