Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Stories from the Trail, part 2

This is the 2nd of a multi-part blog piece on my saga surviving 3 days on the Appalachian Trail.  Please click here for the 1st installment.


Snakes?

Cindy didn't even flinch as she proceeded towards the trail head, but I seriously felt like maybe we should walk a different way.  I had that feeling in your stomach of going on a rollercoaster and getting to that point where it's too late to change your mind.

"I think that Audrey is having a problem not being the alpha leader.  Should I lead?", Cindy asked.

Let's see-Ax-wielding mountain couple just stated that rattlers are on boulders on trail.  Go for it Cindy!

We walked into the woods about 20 yards and got to a trail marker.  The trails in the Shenandoah Park have markers that look like this:
The marker that we saw marked that the Appalachian Trail was straight and the trail for the South River Trail went to the right.  I was silently praying that the rattlers were on the trail to the RIGHT while we went LEFT.  What concerned me was how narrow the trail was.  I wasn't picturing a paved highway by any stretch of the imagination, but I wasn't expecting ankle-brushing grasses so close on the trail that some mysterious fangs could creep out and bite me.

Cindy and Audrey leading the way on the AT.
Within the first 20 minutes we encountered some day hikers.  One group was lead by a kindly looking minister type with a group of about 6 preteen/teenagers behind him.  I gave out a robust "hello!" and waited to hear shrieks in reply from the girls about their encounters with poisonous snakes they just saw but everyone smiled and just walked by.

Maybe it was the other trail?

The first 45 minutes were filled with snake-induced fantasies and I continued to keep on talking to Cindy about various topics in order to keep my mind off of it.  Our task for the day was to hike 5.3 miles according to our "beginner" hiker plan.  We would end up at Lewis Mountain Campground where we would spend the night after pitching our tents.

I don't know how I missed the description in the campground name of Lewis MOUNTAIN Campground.  It wasn't a steep climb but it was enough for your legs to know that you were ascending a mountain.  At one point, I turned around to check on Belle.  She was slowly walking and sulking as if I was punishing her for something.  She reminded me of a prisoner on a death march.

A sullen looking Belle.  I promise Belle that you are not in trouble!
Audrey, on the other hand, never seemed tired.  From the first step on the trail to every mile after, she continued to be an endless bundle of energy to Cindy's dismay.

It was after the hour mark, when we came across THIS!

Unidentified Scat on trail
"Cindy, check this out!  You know what this is?", I said.

"Oh, that is probably horse.", Cindy said in a reassuring voice.

"Horse?  This isn't a horse trail", I replied.

"It's from wild horses", she confidently told me.

"I know that there are wild horses in Virginia but they are nowhere near this trail.  There is only ONE thing in these woods that would make a circumference like that!!!", I said panic stricken.  "I'm taking a picture so I can post on Facebook and get everyone's opinion", I said as I snapped away.

I can't remember how many times we came across the scene that is pictured above of the bear feces. I lost count. Every time I encountered it,  I felt like I was being watched; like there were eyes hidden behind a rock or a group of trees watching our every move.

"I just don't get why a bear would go right in the middle of the trail. I mean look at all these woods.  Why right on the trail?", Cindy tried to reason.

"Oh, I don't know.  Maybe it is sending us a message like "this is my trail. get off of it"", I reasoned back.

The focus of the trip moved from thinking about being killed by wild animals to what are bodies were telling us.  It is a lot different hiking 5 miles and hiking 5 miles with a backpack on and going uphill and I will admit I totally underestimated it.  We really didn't want to take the backpacks off but when we wanted to get something to eat or go to the bathroom we had no choice.  Yet, we had no trunk of a minivan to help us get them back on.  Thus, we were slow moving.

It was sprinkling and tiring and was getting late. Cindy pulled out this neat yellow rain cover for her $50.00 backpack that magically appeared from a secret compartment on the bottom of her pack. I started to curse why my $119.00 backpack didn't have a rain cover.  Cindy must of been sick of hearing me complain about getting ripped off because she checked my backpack and I had a secret compartment too with a rain cover!  How convenient!

We were very tired and talked often about food and how long it would be until we arrived at the mystical mountain camp.  There were not a lot of signs stating that we were coming up to the camp.
 
We finally arrived to the misty campground at 5:30pm.  We walked off the AT and a woman named Susan came out of a RV to greet us.

"Coming off the trail and spending the night?" she asked.  She was the campground "host".

She walked us over to the registration hut and told us what to do to get a campsite.  I asked her to pick a tent site for us because I was done making decisions for the day.  She said that there was a campstore that was open until 6pm and Cindy immediately perked up.

Susan walked us over to the tent site explaining where everything was.  She showed us the "bear box" and reminded us to put all our food including dog food and dog bowls in it.

"Also, girls, make sure you put your soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant in there too", she warned.

"Really?", I asked.

"Yes. Bears are attracted to the scent of those items," she responded.  We thanked her and she went away.

"Cindy, if bears are attracted to the smells of our personal toiletries shouldn't we not use them then?", I asked.

Cindy agreed as I pondered not brushing my teeth for the night.

To be continued....


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