Monday, July 3, 2017 (Day 61)
I rose late this morning. I packed away my sleeping bag quickly, and took my time with the rest.
It was not long into my hike before I found myself taking a break. This break was followed by yet another, more extended break by the piped spring at Calf Mountain Shelter. I had travelled all of five miles. Hikers were arriving that planned to stay for the night. It was 4:30 pm. It was time to go.
Shortly after leaving the spring I sppotted a baby cub; so sweet and clumsy and innocent. Its fur of black was accented by wild brown tufts that shot out beneath awkward limbs. Those awkward limbs scrambled up the hillside at first detection of my presence.
Five miles later…a second bear cub sighting! It was closer than the first. It noticed me and shot off in such a hurry I thought it might trip over itself. Still no mother bear in sight.
* * *
It is now 11:40 pm and I am taking a coffee break and watching the bugs. Earlier I could hear fireworks; they have since stopped. They must be coming from Waynesboro. I can see the city lights in the distance.
There are many spiders. The black beetle that wanders about is particularly heavy footed. Before matching its movements with the crunchy sound of dried leaf rustling, I would have guessed it for a mouse.
As I packed up to continue, the largest moth I have every seen haphazardly careened in to view. Stunned by the light of my headlamp, it went fumbling and fluttering– first this way then that–before it finally settled on the trunk of a tree. At this point I was able to identify it. It was not a small bat, but a glorious, majestic, sage winged creature of the night.
The spiders are such speedy little architects. They begin their work soon after night falls. They weave and lace from limb to limb. Expansions of sticky food traps now hover, at varying degrees, in line with the trail. I duck or dodge or clear with my poles those I catch sight of in time. Some catch my face, despite my efforts. Those at a lower stratus, consistently meet my legs. I feel covered in a fine sort of tinsel. Loose leaves catch to the webs that cling to my calves. I reach down to wipe them away. The effort is futile.
I hike on, through the webs and the moths and tiny bugs that are called to my headlamp. Summoned by the light, they flicker in and out of view. They mistake me for the moon. They bat my cheeks, and catch behind a lense of my glasses. I breathe them up my nose. They tickle my lips. I urge them off. They are relentless.
Finally I reach the side trail to Black Rock Hut, the southernmost official shelter of Shenandoah National Park. I drop my pack and travel the .2 downhill to gather water from the spring in front of the shelter. It is now 2 am, or thereabouts. I walk quietly, so as not to disturb the sleeping shelter-goers. I fill my nalgene, smart water bottle, and 2 liter platypus. I return to my pack. More coffee.
The night is growing old and pale; it’s starry eyes, no longer wild and bright. As I walk around the rock-pile summit of Blackrock, night is overtaken by daybreak.
I see two more bears: mature females. One is not pleased with my disruption of her trailside forage. She stomps a paw at me, aggresively. I step back. I make noise, with my trekking poles raised high. She leaves, begrudgingly.
It is 7:30 am now. I watch a squirrell jump from tree top to tree top. It lands and launches from six or seven in procession; an impressively nimble little thing.
More berries. Sweet, wine colored goodness!
A second little bunny hopping down the trail. Oh, wait! …and a third!
The park is popular with car campers. Skyline drive is never far. So many strange smells: campfire of unfamiliar wood, laundry, strong coffee, an odd burning? Checkered table cloths; a gleam of cars; full sized towels, and those round plastic-loop-woven do-dads with the string on the end that slips over a shower faucet until employed for a lather and scrub –I see these things in the distance as I peer through the trees.
A bird lifts off in front of me with a worm. A chipmunk scurries round a rock to my right. There is a buzzing of bugs; the low humming of bass to the soprano of bird-song.
I hike light-heartedly to the campstore just 70 yards of trail. I shower. I do laundry. I hoard electricity. I drink coffee(s)
Sleep? Consistency; moderation?
When I come down from here.