After enjoying a wonderful breakfast at the Devil’s Backbone Brewery it was time to hit the trail. I got a late start and figured any mileage over ten would satisfy me for the day. The hike was fairly easy though, and I caught wind that in Waynesboro, VA there was a Buffalo Wild Wings. That would mean hiking 20+ miles instead of 10, but would definitely be worth it.
Even though it was a hot day, I was moving at a fairly swift pace. The sweat pouring out of me was seemingly exceeding the amount of water I could chug. I stopped at a cool spring with Zipp, Rebel Yell, CJ and Camel to refill my platypus. The sound of crunching leaves and snapping twigs caught our attention and we all looked up to see a bear approaching. We immediately softened our voices in hopes of not scaring him away. Little did we know, he was not scared of us AT ALL.
I got some video footage that will be available on a video update in the future. I wanted to take additional pictures, but got a good scare while capturing the one above. As I went to take the picture, I stepped forward at an angle to stand on another rock for a better vantage point.
Not a good idea. Wrong move number one.
Next, the bear looked up at me as my stepping forward caught his/her attention. When I realized it noticed me, I spoke to it as if it were a dog. Maybe a docile puppy, even. I said “Hey there, darlin’…” in my sweetest southern tone.
Again, not a good idea. Wrong move number two.
I obviously said something offensive in bear language, and the bear took a few charging steps towards me, stood up on his back feet, threw his front paws up in the air and loudly hissed at me. Yes, hissed…like a cat. Of course, after that display of aggression, my natural instincts kicked in and I did what you are told not to. Yep, I started to run away.
Really not a good idea. Wrong move number three.
Immediately, one of the other hikers hollered out, “Don’t run!” Then, out of nowhere all of the information I had studied regarding bear encounters suddenly came flooding back. I stopped in my tracks, turned to face the bear and my group of friends walked towards me. We all huddled together to appear bigger than the bear. He slightly backed down, the hair that had been raised on his back relaxed and eventually he went back to feeding. It was then that we decided it was time to move on down the trail.
Finally, did something right!
All I can say is, please read up on bear encounters and how you should behave if you come across one…and try to actually implement it. Move swiftly through areas that are currently experiencing ‘bear activity/issues’ and do not camp there. I’m just happy that despite all of my thoughtless actions nobody was harmed. Whew!
That night I made it to the road to Waynesboro by dark. A man in a fancy car pulled over to give a few of us a hitch into town. He was dressed in a crisp business suit and smelled strongly of cologne. I wondered if he knew his car may never be the same after shuttling a pile of sweaty, soured hikers. He didn’t seem to mind. In fact, as he threw our packs on top of other pristine suits in the trunk, he seemed thrilled to offer his assistance. He told us he was out of town for business and had moments ago been talking with other hikers at…the Devil’s Backbone Brewery. We mentioned that we had stayed there the previous night. Then, the realization sank in–and we all laughed at how it took him moments to travel the same distance by car that took us hours to walk by the exertion of our bodies. We thanked the man as we pulled up to BWW, then went in and gorged ourselves.
After a big hike and an even bigger meal, I decided to take a zero day the following day. I finally caught up with Chance, who I hadn’t seen since leaving Damascus, VA. That night, a group of us went to see Jurassic World, and Rigga caught up and hitched into town just in time to make it to the theatre. It was nice catching up with the group! Chance informed everyone that Right On had temporarily left the trail, but he wasn’t sure about when he might return. We still haven’t seen Right On, but hopefully we can convince him to get back on when we pass through New York. It’s so disheartening to learn fellow hikers have left!
Rigga, Zipp, Land Mammal, Chance and I all stopped at all four waysides along the trail. A wayside is the term used to describe the restaurants within the park. I think I entered the park with three days worth of food, and had some leftover when I left. That area is highly known for their blackberries. We all enjoyed blackberry pancakes, shakes, sundaes, cobbler, etc.
It was definitely a nice change being able to eat some kind of real food. The only thing I didn’t enjoy about being in Shenandoah National Park is the strict camping policy. There are many rules, but the main one I learned was you are NOT to camp close to Skyline Drive. I guess they don’t want the car travelers having to see seemingly hobo hikers. I was used to being able to camp wherever, and was reminded that SNP is not as lenient when a park ranger screamed at us one morning for camping in a parking area. He warned us, and we took care not to disobey the rules again.
Another exciting moment in the SNP was the crossing of mile 900! Only 1289 miles to go…
The last evening I spent in SNP offered an amazingly beautiful sunset that I was able to view from North Marshall Mountain. I swear, I would rather watch sunsets, sunrises, camp fires and rivers flowing over TV any day.
Below are some additional photos from this stretch of trail–