Day 94: Mile 870.7 | Calf Mountain Shelter
The church had us up bright and early. I had some coffee and cereal for breakfast. I woke up grouchy and I did not feel like hiking. We were supposed to be starting the Shenandoahs this day. I don’t know why, but ever since Glasgow I had just lost a lot of my motivation. I was homesick and constantly tired. No matter what amount of miles I did I wasn’t feeling like I was making enough progress but I was also really achey when I did feel like I was making progress. I was sick of salt chafe and rain and camping. I, for real, just wanted to go home for a week and come back. But I knew that wasn’t an option. And I felt like if I did I might give up. I’d already been through so much and I couldn’t let that all stop me. So how could I let this dumb bit of rain and chafe stop me? I was grumpy and I took it out on Miles. I spoke to him sharply. He wanted to leave right away but I didn’t. He was using my charger and I needed to pack up. I, meanly, asked for it back. We still had to go back to Kroger because we forgot a few things. We were compromising for each other. We weren’t hiking our own hikes. It wasn’t good but we weren’t realizing that that was our problem. He was supposed to be getting a new pack in the mail and I had told him the next place to send it would be Luray, VA, just before the end of the Shenandoahs. I do most of the mail drop planning. So I thought he got it sent there but he didn’t tell me until this morning that it had taken longer than expected for it to be ordered so it wouldn’t be sent there.
I got a package sent there thinking we would need to go there to get his pack anyway. I got annoyed with him. My packages weren’t vital and this town wasn’t a necessary stop to make it through the Shenandoahs. Front Royal, the next town after would be much easier to get in and out of. Now we would have to go into Luray anyway, even though it wasn’t necessary, to get a package of mine that I wouldn’t have sent there in the first place. I got annoyed. [TMI WARNING] I had also started my period this day...
None of this was a big deal. Luray, my lack of motivation, my terrible monthly pain, my exhaustion that seemed never ending. None of this was Miles’ problem either. He stormed out of the church and walked quickly away down the street toward Kroger. I packed up my stuff and walked slowly after him. Odd Job was right behind us. I let Miles get ahead and have his space. I went into the store and got what I needed. When I came back out he was sitting on a bench with Odd Job.
I tried to apologize but he was mad at me, rightfully so. And I was still blaming him for things that were actually my fault. He got up off the bench and walked away from me around the corner. I sat on the bench for half an hour. I didn’t know where he went. I tried to look for him but he wasn’t in the store. He wouldn’t answer his phone. We needed to get a ride back to the trail.
Odd Job wanted to leave so I told him to go, I guess he had been waiting for us. He called a ride for himself. I walked around to the other side of the building and finally found Miles. Charging his phone and eating. I tried to ask him about a ride and he told me “whatever” with an attitude. I asked if he just wanted to meet me up there or if he wanted to spend a little more time in town, I could go get coffee and we could leave later. He wouldn’t give me an answer. Odd Job’s shuttle arrived and Miles said, “Fine. Let’s just go.” He unplugged his phone and got up.
We rode silently back to the trail head. When we got there he sped off again.
I walked behind Odd Job for a bit but eventually ended up walking alone. I walked for 5 miles without seeing anyone or anything. The beginning of the Shenandoahs were weird. I passed a cell tower, a for sale sign, a large pile of rocks, and the trail was narrow. It just went up and down up and down quickly and over no real hills or mountains. My salt chafe stung. I couldn't even wear a shirt because it just rubbed the chafe more. I looked around every corner for Miles.
After a couple hours, I finally came upon him eating a snack. I immediately started crying and ran up to him. “Im so sorry. I don’t want to lose you.” I said through my tears. He pulled me into a hug and said he was sorry, too. “Take your pack off, silly.” He told me. I took my pack off and pulled out a snack. We sat and snacked and I dried up my tears.
We hiked on after that. It was hot. We were both tired and frustrated. Miles said he felt like he might be getting sick. We decided to go to the next shelter and take a nap.
When we arrived there was no one there. We set up our beds in the shelter and attempted to sleep. After a little while, a guy called Twinkie showed up. He had started the trail a couple years ago and he was back to finish the rest. We chatted for a bit and then we told him we were going to take a nap. Of course as soon as I was about to fall asleep, Shirt Pants showed up. Shirt Pants and Twinkie talked loudly. I started wishing I’d set up my tent. I got up, eventually, and talked with them and ate.
When Miles woke up we decided we would just stay at this shelter for the night. We sat around with Shirt Pants and Twinkie while we all ate dinner. Miles set up his tent. Eventually, the Woo Crew (TNT, Biscuits, Supersize, Krafty, and Blackbird) showed up, too! We were all in bed around 9:30pm.
Around 10pm a group of hikers rolled in, loudly, with their white lights on their headlamps shining into the shelter. There was a bit of room for them so we all woke up and moved over, annoyed. They asked, again loudly, “oh, were you guys sleeping?” TNT sarcastically said back, “Nah, we were just chillin’.” The group continued being loud and making their dinners and blowing up their sleeping pads. By 11 they were still making noise. I put in earplugs, took a melatonin, and went to bed.
Day 95: Mile 883.7 | Blackrock Hut (apparently shelters are called ‘huts’ in the Shenandoahs)
I awoke at 4:45am to someone’s alarm going off in the shelter. That group that came in late, apparently, decided to get up early. They packed up loudly and ate breakfast right above our heads at the picnic table. Someone tried shushing them. They responded with, “Wow, how mature.” I tried to stay out of it. I was so groggy from the melatonin. I didn’t have the energy. Eventually they left. The risk you take sleeping in a shelter is experiencing disturbances and annoyances. I'm to the point where I won't stay in many more shelters. It was easier in February when there were less people out.
I fell back to sleep and got up again around 7am. Miles and I packed our stuff.
We walked slowly through the Shenandoahs. The scenery was better this day. We talked about how we could get out of this slump. Mostly how I could get out of this slump. We decided maybe we should be more consistent. Doing manageable but consistent miles for a bit, around 15, and then working our way up to bigger days. Taking less zeros.
We arrived at the next shelter where the Woo Crew was taking a lunch break and Twinkie was set up for the night. It was only 2:30pm. In the Shenandoahs you are supposed to camp at shelters, so other campsites aren’t marked on maps and stealth camps can be harder to find. The majority of water sources are at the shelters, too. The Woo Crew was planning on going to the next shelter after this one. We strongly contemplated it, but realized a 26 Mile day might be a bit much for us right now.
We set up our tents and I went and took a nap. After my nap, I felt MUCH better. The Woo Crew had left to finish their 26 mile day. Twinkie and an older section hiker, who didn’t have a trail name, remained. I ate dinner with them. The section hiker showed us his large, external frame pack and some of this older gear. It was cool to see what was once considered ‘state of the art’ that hikers now scoff at and call ‘too heavy’.
After dinner, I enlisted Miles to help me hang my bear bag on the bear pole. I was too short to reach it. Swimmer and his son showed up after dinner along with a couple of weekend hikers. I went to bed around 9pm as the sun set. The weekend hikers stayed up talking til 11pm. They, obviously, were not adjusted to forest time. Out here we call 9pm hiker midnight because it’s usually dark out and most hikers are going to sleep by then. I tried to ignore them. Eventually, I took a melatonin and fell asleep.
Late in the night, around 3am by my watch, I heard a loud noise. The sound of tree limbs falling. I rolled over and looked out my tent. I had left my vestibule open for air flow and I could easily see most of camp and the shelter. In the moonlight I saw a big, dark animal walking near the shelter. I snapped around and grabbed my glasses from behind me. My sleeping pad crinkled the whole time, damn Therm-A-Rest! I nervously slipped my glasses on and looked out my tent.
Across camp by the bear pole I saw a small bear trying to climb a tree near the bear pole. It swung its arm at the bear pole but it was too far away. It tried a couple more times and then got bored. Down the tree it went, taking a few limbs with it. It noisily ambled across camp and down the hill toward the spring. Just about 30ft from my tent the bear passed by. No one made a sound. Usually you want to be loud to scare bears away, but I wasn’t sure if I was the only one awake and I was nervous. Thankfully, this bear was just looking for food, not humans.
1. My tent
2. Time to read + nap
3. The sight of familiar faces
Day 96: Mile 895.8 | Pinefield Hut
I woke up in a kind of negative mindset. Mostly because the section hikers had kept us awake so late. The section hikers redeemed themselves by sharing some of their food with us. They had way too much. They shared English muffins, goober (pb&j mix), and oatmeal with us. We ate with them and discussed their gear problems. Eventually, we headed out.
It was relatively sunny and I tried to keep an open mind. Maybe today would get better. We hadn’t made much progress in the past week. I don’t know why but I just couldn’t let go of the PROGRESS. It, like, fueled me. I craved it. But I also liked what we called ‘chillin’. Doing 15ish miles a day. Taking naps and reading books. It was all fun and games but I wasn’t sure if it was right for me. I really was trying to grapple with the idea of progress. It didn’t matter. I didn’t matter if I was making crazy progress or just a little bit of progress. It didn’t matter if I summitted Katahdin on August 1st or October 1st (finances provided...). What mattered is that I was learning lessons and growing and becoming a more content person. But I couldn’t see this yet...
We walked for a while. We saw some great views.
There weren’t too many water sources this day and we saw that there was a wayside and camp store coming up (Waysides are restaurants and stores in the Shenandoahs. They are located along Skyline Drive and provide limited menus and convenience store type goods). We decided to stop. Maybe it would brighten our day. We’d also been going slower than expected and Miles needed more food. There was a water fill up station there, too! I got a sandwich, chips, a honeybun, a Drumstick, and a small box of wine to carry to camp. It was a delicious 900 calorie lunch that still wasn’t enough to satisfy my crazy hiker hunger. Those Dill chips were incredible, though!
As we ate outside the camp store I heard someone in their car honk their horn. It immediately irritated me. We’re in the ‘wilderness,’ why are you honking your horn?! It amazes me how little patience people have, even put here on ‘vacation.’ It amazes me how stressed and pushy driving makes people. We all need to slow down and realize time as the concept that it is. There shouldn’t be road rage on a 35mph ‘highway’ through a national park where you are on vacation! (Okay end rant).
After lunch we filled our water and walked to camp. We made dinner (summer sausage and a mushroom rice side) and drank our boxed wine. The sun was still up so we hung out in Miles’ tent and played chess and listened to music.
Eventually I headed back to my tent to go to bed early. As I lay in my tent I heard something coming up from the woods. A deer came running right up next to my tent and off through camp! Shenandoah was filled with these close encounters! I, eventually, went to sleep. Sometime in the night it began raining. I rolled over and slept through the noise.