Thursday, June 9, 2016

Second Bear, Two Deer, and a Lizard

Marys Rock was a harder climb than I expected for only 1200 ft over 2 miles. It does follow Pass Mountainn at 3000  feet with a 2200 feet gap in between that escaped my attention, but the real problem for me was rock stairs and just plain rock.  Also, keeping an eye out for vipers.

There was a deer, grazing in a field. When it saw me, it approached close enough to see if I had any food to offer, and only then turned away. (Please, everyone, Do Not Feed The Wildlife.)

A nearby bear sitting on the trail showed similar disregard. After a few minutes of staredown, it got up and strolled away to find nourishment, revealing a nortbound hiker who had also been following protocol.

His first bear sighting -- though he had me easily beat , two rattlesnakes near Loft Mountain.

A slighty younger gent passed me by and retured downhill to caution me that a heavy rainstorm was heading in from Luray in our direction. With sunset coming soon, I stopped to put on rain gear and get out my head lamp. Then, up the slope as fast as I could manage.

The wonderful view at Marys Rock got shortchanged, other than to confirm the rainstorm and check the sun's distance above the horizon. Then, on to Byrds Nest 3 to share dinner a quiet and chilly night with a half dozen thru hikers. The clementines given to me by a trail angel two days ago were happily welcomed; fresh fruit is hard to come by when you're racing north.

There was also a deer lazily foraging the tent area at Byrds Nest 3. Only irritation with the place, common to ridge line was the spring's location a half mile down the hill I had just climbed. Complaints have been filed with Management about the water supply, but have received only referrals to the established protocols for constraining the mighty oceans deep to their own limits (Navy Hymn).

 I startled a largish lizard on the way down, which was only fair since he startled me.  Legs, whew. Too close for a legless scaled animal.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Blown out

Down and up, only six miles? Easy, a stop to enjoy the view at the Pinnacles, then on to a late lunch at the Skyland Restaurant with their renowned blackberry cobbler
 ( notice a theme about hiking in the SNP?)


Like the overwhelming majority of AT hikers this year, I take a lot of cues about the trail ahead from AWOL's AT Guide ( a stripchart encyclopedia of key locations, mileage, and elevation changes. What it does not include is information about the trail surface: smooth earth, rock stairs,  or boulder rivers. It also does not incude switchbacks.

So I was running late when I reached a summit where the side trail to the Pinnacles turns off, and the blackberry cobbler sounded more attractive. It was a good choice, and an excellent cobbler.

However, enjoying that late lunch cost me an even further schedule delay. My best hope was to complete 15 miles before sunset. This would put me at Big Meadows Campground,  8 miles short of my planned stopping point 10 miles to go and for my resupply rendezous at Pocosin Cabin on the 9th. That would likely be 14 hours of hiking.

Nevertheless, on to Big Meadows! Except, there were three boulder rivers to cross, and exhaustion set in. I made it to Rock Spring Hut, 14 miles from Pocosin.

With a split across the toe box of one boot.

While I was thinking about how best to tape up the split,  it came to me that (a) I was racing past interesting locations next to the AT like a thru hiker worrying about daily mileage, and (b) I was not having fun. 

And decided to end this section of my AT hiking experience early, to,return another day with a more flexible hiking plan and a new set of boots.

Fortunately, cell phone connection was good at Rock Springs, so I was able to exchange messages with my resupply angel and change plans again to bring me off trail on the 9th.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

One bear, 1 1/4 snakes

The black bear was foraging about 30 yards away from us, studiously ignoring the fan club; the infant ring-collar was curled up and immobile along the margin of Skyline Drive. No evidence of physical assault, so I am guessing that the young'un crawled out onto the pavement seeking warmth, only to discover too late the dangers of hiking in the desert - very few prey and no water.
Fortunately (?) Shenandoah Park's tourist support system provides hikers with ample supplies of water, ibuprofen, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, blueberry ice cream and shakes. I asked my support angel to postpone the planned resupply event tomorrow. Urp.
A personal achievement: today I hiked over 18 miles, with a total climb of over 4000 feet. Many hikers overtook me and one or two asked if I was all right; truthfully, the last three hours might have been more accurately called clawing my way forward.
Many of the NOBOs (northbound thru hikers on the trail since March and headed for Maine) take bragging rights  for back-to-back thirty mile days. They also report multiple sightings of bears and vipers, outpacing both my limited achievements and my paltry wildlife encouunter count, but neither concerns me. My greatest concern is that I may be struggling along the trail right past snakes and bears without noticing, not a best practice.
The northbound thru hiker race to Mount Kahtadin is in full flood here. Most are college age men and women, but a reasonable number are men and women older than I am, and taking justifiable pride in rejecting the stereotypes of their age. Rumors echoing along the  trail gossip network speak of a woman in her eighties, well on her way north!
I wish her and all of my fellow white blaze fanatics happy trails and godspeed. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

First Snake!

Well, the first to cross my path this year, at least.

Just a northern ring necked snake, making his way down the path.

I used the teachable moment to talk basic herpetology with a young women who was having panic attacks. See? Non venomous. Still to be avoided, bite may infect
Forecast rain for Saturday and Sunday? No worry, I won't melt and everything eles that matters is in waterproof bags. Besides, the rest of the week is forecast sunny.

The sun will come out {thedayafter} tomorrow ....

My good friend, mentor, and landlady drove me to the trailhead before dawn Good bye, tenants, real estate agents, rush hour traffic, I may come back when I run out of food.


Lots of northbound thru hikers on the trail today, scantily clad and muttering about replacements for their REI shoes they expected to be waiting in Harpers Ferry.

One of them took a photo of a southbound freeblazer emerging from the mist onto Sky Meadows, then apologized for not getting my permission first

Courtesy Running Mink