Um… I don’t know, really. Mile 926? OK, sure.
I’m stealth camped somewhere within two miles of the Skyland resort. Truth be told, today was one day where I could have eeked out another couple of miles. But I realized something about how I’m hiking in Virginia: My biggest fear is not being able to find a campsite when my feet have called it a day. It happened last night, and it was terrifying. After literally limping for over an hour I was worried that I’d have to pitch my tent right on the trail after dark. Virginia’s a little stingy with the campable spots! Although as it turned out, if I’d gone another 45 minutes there was a patch of plentiful flattish spaces. It’s the not knowing that’s frightening.
And the best shot for ‘knowing’ is to aim for a hut (ie, a shelter). The problem with that is that I’ll always get there late in the day. And in late June there are boy scout troops and all manner of hikers filling up those shelter spots. You can’t be sure there’ll be room for your tent when you get there. (And the demeanor of the trail has changed with the advent of summer camping season. It used to be that hikers would always move aside to squeeze you in; now there’s less cameraderie, and people on the trail are more distant and more territorial. They’re still wearing their ‘city’ hustle, and trail etiquette is mostly out the window, or at least not guaranteed.)
So how do you give yourself the best chance of finding a shelter tent spot? You get there early. And how do you get there early? You take advantage of one of the best features of Shenandoah—the practically unlimited ability to recharge your phone!
In other words, you set an alarm.
Tonight’s spot is flatter than I’ve been getting (not level, mind you; despite rumors to the confrary, nothing in Virginia is level. It’s not raining for once (at least not now). I’m going to try to sleep well and get up early. Even if I have a quick breakfast at Skyland, I should be able to get to Pass Mountain Hut by about 4:30. I’m going to try! I’d really like to get to the halfway point on July 4, so I need to make some miles. It’ll probably be cold in the morning, so I’ll need a dose of kick-in-the-butt. Kick me!
So. The day. It was pouring rain when I woke up, as usual. Is it ever sunny in Shenandoah? I lingered, hoping it would clear, but it didn’t. After I was up and outside the tent and squeezing my soaked fly into my soaked pack, I realized the problem wasn’t rain—it was pea soup fog, wind-driven and dripping so hard that it was acting like rain beneath the trees. A lot of rain.
Visibility was as bad as I’ve seen it—no more than ten or twenty feet. I eventually made it to Big Meadow, and guess who was there having breakfast? Freebird, Red Specs, and Whirled Peas. I ate and got the phone up to 80% before the waitress kicked me out.
It was chilly, but the fog had lessened a little. And after I’d gone two miles, guess who I bumped into going southbound? Freebird! She got turned around coming out of the campground. So we hiked together all day!
Oh, oh, let me backtrack. About a mile after breakfast, my gut decided it had had enough greasy delicious food, and it declared a claxon warning. Emergency poop! The trail was sparsely covered with trees, so I went far, far, far info the woods—or twenty feet, anyway. I found my spot at the split second my body decided I needed it. Then afterward when I turned around to hide the evidence in the ‘leave no trace’ manner, I realized fhere was a side trail not five feet away… and a lot of tents just up the hill. D’oh!
So anyway, after that I met Freebird. She’s a hiking beast. She can do 20, 25… a lot of miles. And she’s fast! No foot problems. But she hurt her hip yesterday and wanted a slow day, so she decided to stick with me until my feet were done, then she planned to keep on going to the next shelter.
It was fun! She told a lot of stories; in fact, we chatted most of the day. It really passed the time. 🙂 Then, alas, I had to stop, and she kept on going. We exchanged phone info, though, since if I flip we’ll be north at around the same time.
Speaking of flipping, 50/50 texted me. He’s got some bad injury issues and he’s off the trail for a few weeks. He’s now planning to flipflop. So there’s one more flipflopping compadre.
Now the sun is out and a strong wind is blowing… hopefully carrying away the last of this wet front. My rainfly is almost dry from last night’s downpour.
Critter report: Found a baby snake near my tent spot. I saved it!
My food weight is getting more manageable (although seriously, I might not even have to buy food in Harper’s Ferry; I bungled this resupply so badly!) I hope I can squeeze out some Karma-sized big miles for the rest of Shenandoah and into Harper’s Ferry.
Here’s some pics. Look! My lucky number on a wayside menu! And Red Specs and Whirled Peas! And terrible pictures of me, as usual!