Calf Mountain Shelter [mile 865.0]
I had an image in my mind of what Shenandoah would be like: sort of like Valley Forge, with rolling hills and more grass than the trail has been offering. That hasn’t been the case, though—and I realized that that mental age was probably a relic of fhe 1971 family vacation that included the Skyline Drive. And while the trail and the Skyline Drive play hopscotch for the next mumbledy miles, the Skyline Drive isn’t exactly backcountry.
This morning Bill from Tree Streets drove all of us back to the trail: Springbock and Kitty from South Africa (Springbock is Mulungu on WhiteBlaze), Codger and Trashbag, and me. Codger and Trashbag have an interesting story. A month ago they were on the trail, and Trashbag slipped on rocks and broke her arm. They went home for treatment, and now they’re back on the trail.
Did I tell that story before? I feel like I’m repeating myself!
Anyway, all great people. Very funny. It’s been a nice couple of days conversing with them, and leapfrogging today. The South Africans are doing 20 tomorrow so I’ll lose track of them, but I’m glad I got to meet them live and in person. I might still be leapfrogging with Codger and Trashbag for one more day, then I’ll be neroing to visit with friends from home. (Can’t wait!)
Anyway. The weather was beautiful: cool and breezy enough to keep the bugs at bay. Even with the reprehensibly bloated pack, I wasn’t overheated. The sky alternated between blue and overcast, which was lovely. When it got hot, the clouds came out. When it started to look like rain, the sun came out. Perfect.
As far as terrain goes… much easier, as promised. Gentle ups, gentle downs. Some rocky patches, but generally a dirt trail. There were long weedy stretches just like everywhere else in Virginia, but with enough width to avoid the Mean Green.
Trail magic twice! First, a trail angel left a cooler full of clean water and some cups right by the first crossing of the Skyline Drive. Then an elderly lady and her blind companion (husband maybe?) gave me a pound and a half of cookies! Those I had to share as regifted trail magic. I couldn’t have carried another two ounces, let alone thirty. But what generosity! Thank you, trail angels!
A snake slithered across the trail where it wound through high grass—just a little green one. It’s funny; I was just thinking that the snake-viewing days were probably done, when BOOM! Snake!
After that it was clear sailing to the shelter. The shelter’s beautiful: lots of low trees, two levels to bunk on, and a wooden floor under the picnic table. There are tent pads, which I love. It’s a whole new crew of hikers here, of course… but guess who was heading out when I walked in? Quaker! He and Fifteen are hiking together now. They’re just a day ahead. That was a nice reunion.
As far as the body goes, the bruises are fine. Getting saddled up is a little sore, but once the pack’s on, it rides painlessly. The feet are another story. Even after eight miles… hamburger feet! Oh no! Tomorrow I’ll add an extra pair of socks back into the mix. It’s the pack weight. Nothing to be done about it. I’ll eat the weight down, and it’ll be a little better. And Springbock taught me a Jedi mind trick for feet, so I’ll try that tomorrow. I hope it works. I want to do some big-mile days next week. New shoes are coming, but not until Harper’s Ferry.
I was nervous about the camping restrictions in Shenandoah, but it seems unfounded. At least in this first stretch, there were plenty of stealth sites.
It’s funny. Up until now, I’ve been focused on getting through the day, or getting to the next town. With the halfway point approaching, I’m finding that my thinking is expanding to a different focus: getting to Maine.
We’ll see how that goes.