Rod Hollow Shelter [mile 988.7]
Today was another day where the AT Guide and the Virginia signage (not to mention the trail itself) were at odds. Landmarks not mentioned in the book, different mileages, landmarks mentioned but in different places… it all got a little confusing. I wonder if the Companion is better in Virginia? I do have the Companion in pdf on my phone, but it didn’t seem worth the battery to open it, since I was coming here one way or the other. If I were doing the hike over (hah!), I think I’d bring the Virginia pages from the Companion. Actually, I might bite the bullet and bring both books, cut into quarters; the Companion is better reading, and the information in both books sometimes differs. I’ve run into at least one situation where the Guide wasn’t clear, and I had to open the Companion to figure something out.
I was not carried off my chipmunks in my sleep. (I hate it when that happens.) It wasn’t even oppressively hot when I woke up—but boy, did that change. Do you know how hot it has to be to melt Mentos? Today, that’s how hot!
The hiking was typical for most of the morning: tall weeds, dense forest, rocks, and poison ivy. Oh, and bugs! The amount of bugs flying around even at 7:00 this morning was insane. Note that I said amount, not number. There were so many bugs that they moved beyond discrete entities and into some level of sheer tonnage. Bugs flying in all directions at all times! A whirring, buzzing, biting frenzy of bugs! The bug activity didn’t die down until the day got hot enough to boil them in the air; then only the stupid ones stayed out.
Around midday the trail passed through a little state park. Pretty meadows, open spaces… it was nice to see a change of scenery. Oh! That reminds me. Something I’ve been meaning to say. I’m in awe of the trail maintainers. People go through with weed wackers and chainsaws and keep the trail open. Seeing how high the grass and weeds are, I imagine the trail would be overgrown and gone in a single summer if the maintainers weren’t out there hewing and wacking and clearing. That’s some excellent service there. Thank you so much! I might have to do some of that when I get home.
I saw two toads and a turtle. I see a toad most days, but that was only my second turtle (not counting that one empty shell). I love the turtles!
Aaaaannddd… is that it? Oh, no—one more thing! There’s a nice tent pad here on the side trail up to the shelter itself, and I decided to grab it. While I was setting up, another hiker wandered in. Super nice guy. We chatted for a few minutes, and I mentioned that the trail seemed so dead today. (And it did. I saw only one other hiker, and he was going southbound. I figured I had to be the last person on the trail, or else everybody had pushed into Harpers Ferry or Bear’s Den Hostel to beat the heat.) And the guy said, “No, I saw like twenty people. You’re just going in the same direction.” So I asked if he was SOBO, and it turns out he’s the ridgerunner. D’oh! I didn’t even notice the uniform.
He said there are at least fifteen people right ahead of me at the next shelter. “You’re just in the bubble,” he said… meaning that there may be fifteen ahead and fifteen behind, but if we’re all moving at the same general speed, nobody sees anybody else. I know that, but I keep forgetting. I know Rerun is in that group; they were trying for the Bear’s Den tonight, I think.
Tomorrow: 92 degrees, and I tackle the first part of the infamous Roller Coaster—“13.5 miles of densely packed ascents and descents.” Not the whole thing, though. My tentative plan is to do ten miles then stop overnight at the Bear’s Den. I know HF is close, and I have plenty of food, but I want a shower and a bed and some humans. Not to mention pizza and some ice cold sodas. Ice cold.
Tonight, a glorious evening of toenail cutting and ten more pages of The Two Towers. If memory serves, tonight Wormtongue makes his appearance. At some point I’m going to have to get hold of a disposable copy of Return of the King.
Edited to add: Ohmygods, somebody up at the shelter is practicing guitar and singing. Badly. Ohgod, ohgod, ohgod. It’s like karaoke torture! Where are those earplugs? Argh!
Edited to add: Ohgod, I can hear him through the earplugs! That poor ridgerunner!