10.5 miles, 821.7 overall (The Priest shelter)
My body is now programmed to wake up before 7. I first wake at 6:30, then at 6:45, then at 6:55. I finally decide it is pointless to try to sleep any longer at 7:05 and get up. I start packing but take my time, knowing I am not in a big hurry to get miles in this morning. While I am packing my tent Einstein walks by. He stayed the night at the meadow with Runner and Dakota Dan and is making good time for lunch. Soon after he leaves Runner passes, followed by Mac and Snap. It seems that my head start yesterday has already evaporated. I eat my breakfast and then become the caboose to this train of hikers.
The trail to the Dutch Haus is simple – a ridge walk for about 6 miles and then downhill on a road for another mile to a parking lot. Because it is a short day and because chances of seeing wildlife are low since there are several hikers ahead of me , I decide to add some music to my hike. I put in my earbuds and put a playlist on shuffle to listen to while I walk. It has the desired effect and the time flies by. Pretty soon I’ve done 4 miles and arrive at the shelter that lies along the way. I check the register and find out that Tamir camped 2 miles past me last night and passed through here at 8:00 this morning. He is nero-ing to the hostel.
The last 2 miles go by quickly and when I reach the road I jog down it. I get there at 10:45, leaving 15 minutes to spare before the shuttle is supposed to arrive. Einstein, Runner, Dakota Dan, and Mac and Snap of course are there already. Teflon is also there. He camped a little short of where I got to las night and apparently passed me this morning before I got out of my tent and before Einstein came along. Tamir is not here but Teflon says there is an earlier shuttle at 9:30 which he likely caught.
While we wait for the lunch shuttle several cars arrive. A few day hikers come through as well as a couple backpackers. Then a van and truck arrive with lots of boys, obviously a Boy Scout troop. I look closely at their shirts to see where they are from and I’m shocked when I realize it is a troop from my hometown! I introduce myself to one of the leaders and let him know of my association. The troop is out for a quick overnighter. He asks a bit about thru-hiking before they set off up the hill.
Just as they are leaving the shuttle arrives – a large pickup truck. We throw our packs in the back and I ride shotgun while everyone else rides in the back. I chat with Earl, one of the proprietors. He cautions me about two snakebites within one year that have occurred at an upcoming shelter and I appreciate the warning.
Pretty soon we are at the Dutch Haus, a large and beautiful log cabin home only minutes away. We are instructed not to walk on the carpets in our socks – bare feet or shoes are ok. Inside coffee and Arnold Palmers are waiting for us as they finish preparing the food. When it is ready Lois, the other proprietor, herds us to the table and starts bringing out plates with cheeseburgers, carrots, and potato salad. While we eat she brings out sticky buns before asking who wants a second cheeseburger – a silly question to pose to thru-hikers. After everyone has had a second burger she brings out dessert – sweet potato pie with ice cream. The amazing part is that they offer this to thru-hikers for free every day during the season.
After lunch I ask Lois about options for showers and laundry. While I, Mac and Snap don’t plan to stay we would like to clean up a bit. Lois graciously offers to let us use their shower and to do a load of laundry for us. Generosity like this should be rewarded so in return I ask her where the donation jar/box is and leave a sizable contribution.
While we were waiting for food and now while we wait for clean clothes Tamir plays the piano. The house (haus?) has an upright Steinway piano. I’m no piano aficionado but this excites Tamir and Lois explains that it is one of only several that were ever made. We listen while rummaging in the hiker box and playing on our phones to pass the time. In the hiker box I find some drink mixes and chai spice tea bags along with a few oatmeal packets that I figure I can use to supplement my breakfast for the next couple days.
On the way back to the trail we stop at the local campground store to get a few items to get us to Waynesboro. Having enough food already I instead buy stickers which I plan to leave in the trail registers. Back at the trail I fill up on water at the stream that flows by the parking lot before I head back up the road with Mac and Snap. When we get to Spy Rock I convince them to scramble up it for the view. Alert blog readers will note that I have been here before on one of my shakedown hikes. In fact this is where I learned (relearned?) to respect thunderstorms when I came face to face with one on that hike. In fact for the next 100 miles or so I will be re-hiking trails I’ve done before. This time up Spy Rock though I am treated to a much more pleasant view and we spend a while on top snacking before coming down.
I consider stopping here for the night. The troop from my hometown is here and it could be neat to visit with them around a campfire. However I also think it could be less pleasant than I think, especially if the boys stay up late. I decide to hike on the 4 miles to the shelter with Mac and Snap. We pass the time by playing the movie game – naming movies that begin with each letter of the alphabet – and I win (am allowed to win?). I really enjoy hiking with these two. The dynamic is different hiking with 2 other people than hiking with a single person and I get to see a bit more of Mac’s personality which I haven’t seen too much of. He is a quiet guy and I’m only just getting to the point where I’ve hiked with him long enough that he talks more often.
When we arrive at the shelter we find another Boy Scout troop, this one from Virginia Beach. They have overtaken the shelter to cook dinner, though they are polite and ask if I need space. They have also taken a number of tent spots but luckily this shelter has plenty more, some far enough away that I think noise will not be a problem. I cook my dinner and while eating get to visit with Catnap, Opie, and Parmesan. I had met Catnap only briefly the other day. The other two have caught up from behind me and recognize my name from the trail registers. By the time I finish eating and socializing it is after 8 and I haven’t set up my camp yet. I quickly hang my bear line, successfully catching the branch on my first throw but catching it in the right spot on my third throw. I put my tent up and am inside before 9.
I am not in a hurry to get up tomorrow either. I am only 4 miles away from where my family plans to meet me and do some trail magic. They are planning hot dogs, hamburgers, fruit salad, snacks, sodas, and all kinds of other goodies for thru-hikers. It should be a great time and I’ll get to see family who I haven’t seen for over two months, as well as Christy. After tomorrow though the hiking must resume its previous intensity, although I should easily be able to do miles since I’ll be entering Shenandoah. Lots to look forward to in the coming days on the Appalachian Trail!