Day 97: Mile 916.4 | Bearfence Mountain Hut
I slept in because of the rain over night. It mostly slowed by the time I got up. Miles was still there, too. We left camp in the rain together and got water on the way out. My water bag broke. It had a bunch of pinholes in it. I wouldn’t be able to get another one for a while so I tried to make do. We passed mile 900 first thing in the morning:
And crossed a sketchy road in the rain shortly after:
We walked through the rain all day. It was tough but we stayed positive. My parents called halfway through the day to tell me my tax return came through! That news really helped keep me moving. On our way to camp we stopped at a park to get water and found out there was a drought so the water was turned off. We sat for a minute anyway and met Dirtbag Dave and Playboy. They told us there was another Camp Store coming up that they were going to stop at. We decided it would be nice to get some more snacks so we followed them there.
When we arrived we saw Strawberry Milkshake sitting outside! We hadn’t seen him since the Smokies and we were told by some other hikers that he had to get off trail for injury. We were so excited to catch up with him! He was traveling with Dirtbag Dave, Playboy, Pegasus, and a few others. I got a beer and a bag of Munchies mix and sat outside to eat with the guys. After our snack Miles and I headed off. We had planned on going further this day but we got a text from Josh that he was at this hut! We decided we’d stop and say hi.
As we approached the shelter, I heard a loud sound from the woods to my right. I looked up the slope and saw a big bear! As Skywalker always taught us with his story, I yelled, “Hey there, whoa bear!” It looked at me and stopped moving. Miles yelled, “Whoa!” from behind me. “Okay bear go on!” I yelled toward it. It shook its head and turned its big butt to us. Eventually it climbed back up the hill. My heart raced a little bit after my last bear encounter I was a bit less scared. Especially because this time it was during daylight.
We went down to say hi to him and Murdock and Mark. Twinkie was there, too. After having a snack with Josh, we decided to just stay there for the night. I went down the steep water path before the rain started.
All evening we watched a large doe circling camp, keeping an eye on us. Josh suggested her baby must be near by. Rain started to come down hard. We all retreated to our tents and shelters. I set up my bed in the shelter with Twinkie, A section hiker named Soggy, and a few other hikers. After a while one of us went to go get more water and saw the bear get close to the shelter! Everyone ran outside to take photos. I’d had my bear experience for the day so I stayed in the shelter and read. We all went to bed around 9pm. I took a melatonin to help me sleep.
Sometime in the late evening I awoke to some yelling. The next morning I heard the story:
Just around dark, a raccoon came and climbed the slippery, wet bear pole. Once at the top he reached out his little raccoon paw and grabbed someone’s cuben fiber food bag. He lifted it over the hook at the top of the pole and dropped the bag to the ground. He then slid down the bear pole and dragged the bag away from the pole. Josh, Mark, Miles, and Rambo (it was Rambo’s bag) watched as the raccoon stole the bag. Josh found a large stick for Rambo to scare the raccoon with. Rambo threw the stick at the raccoon (apparently not Josh’s intended use of the stick). The raccoon ran, but not after shredding the food bag and stealing some of his food. He eventually got it back.
Day 98: Mile 929.0 | Rock Spring Hut
We awoke to the sound of a deer bleating. It didn’t sound good. We thought maybe the baby strayed too far or something. The shelter started stirring after the noise and most people were packed and gone by 8am. I made my oatmeal breakfast and sat and ate.
The local ridge runner (like the RAs of the trail) came down to get water and offered to fill my bag up, too. When he came back up the hill I asked him if he knew what that noise was. “Oh that doe we saw around... her baby... she left it too long.” He paused a few times while trying to tell me, “That bear you saw around, um, attacked the baby this morning.” The fawn has died. I was a bit saddened immediately. Bears eat berries and people food, not fawns. I had thought. Apparently, according to the ridge runner and a Penn State study, bears are omnivores and will eat whatever is convenient. The bear probably stumbled upon the fawn, an easy prey, while the doe was gone and the bear ate it.
After this news and the last of my breakfast, I headed out with Miles. We had talked the night before with Strawberry Milkshake and his crew about the next wayside. It offered food and blackberry milkshakes (famous in Shenandoah). They all said they’d be going for breakfast. I decided it’d be nice and convenient. It’s one of our last opportunities for a wayside so we might as well go.
Miles and I were both grumpy this morning so we split up. He hiked ahead of me. Somehow, I arrived at the wayside before him. After waiting ten minutes Berry’s crew and Twinkie started to show up. None of them had seen Miles. Maybe he kept going and missed the shelter. He had borrowed my tent stakes the night before because he had lost a couple of his and he hadn’t given them back to me. We hadn’t agreed on a meeting place. If he didn’t show up this morning and he wasn’t at the next Hut, I’d be forced to do a 26 mile day to be able to stay in the Hut after the next one and still make progress.
I started getting nervous. The guys in Berry’s Crew offered to eat with me. We all went inside and I kept an eye on the window for Miles. I ordered a BLT and some coffee. About 45 minutes after I arrived Miles finally showed up. He doesn’t really look at his guidebook much and he missed the side trail to the Wayside. He walked a mile back on the lodge road to get to the Wayside. I was just glad he was ok and I got my tent stakes back.
I contemplated getting a blackberry milkshake since that’s what Shenandoah is known for, but after tasting one of the guys’ shakes I decided against it. It tasted extra sweet and almost artificial. I was disappointed. The BLT was satisfying, though. I filled my bottles at a tap inside. After lunch, we all went out in the sun and dried our socks.
We hiked we saw some beautiful views during the day. A deer crossed our paths as well as a bear. We saw Josh and Mark later in the day! We got to camp at Rock Spring Hut early. We relaxed in our tents and read. I called the hostel in Luray, Open Arms, and the woman made arrangements to pick us up around 3pm the next day.
Day 99: Mile 942.3 | Open Arms Hostel
Rain fell on my tent as I awoke around 7am. We quickly hiked the 14 miles to where we agreed to be picked up by the hostel owner, just after Mary’s rock.
Every view was gray and foggy as the storm rolled through. Miles and I switched packs later in the day because his was lighter and my hip was bothering me.
The hostel owner picked us up just as it began to rain again.
She took us into town and got two of my packages for me. Then we went to the laundromat to wash my quilt. It had been over 800 miles and I hadn’t been using a bag liner. It smelled awful and needed to be washed. Miles’ jacket needed to be cleaned, too. What I didn’t realize at this point in time was that washing my quilt in the washing machine, even on delicate, voids the warranty. It came out fine after 4.5 hours in the dryer. But more on that in another post.
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During laundry we took turns getting some resupply stuff at Dollar General next door. We also went and got some Tex-Mex food down the street. By 7:30pm our laundry and resupply was done. The hostel owner came and picked us up.
Back at the hostel, we set up Miles’ tent to share and got our showers. The hostel cats hung out with me outside. Shirt Pants, his brother Jeans, and his dad Bugs were there, too. I charged my devices on the porch and organized my resupply. I finally put Velcro on my new shoes to hold my gaiters in place. We played a game of chess on Miles’ new chess board and tried to go to bed early. We would have to get up early the next day because the hostel pan could only take us back to the trail at 7am sharp.
That night it was hard to sleep. There were lots of sirens, neighborhood dogs barking, and loud road noise.