6.8 miles, 863.3 overall (Calf Mountain shelter)
I wake up slowly. It is hard to get out of a comfy bed, especially knowing that I’m heading back to the woods. Eventually I force myself up and get dressed. It is 7:00 and Teflon is already up. Einstein is stirring. We discuss breakfast. There is an AYCE place down the street that seems preferable to the hotel’s free continental breakfast so we head there. It is called Weasie’s and when we arrive we quickly realize that it is a local hangout, the kind of place where the waitress knows everyone’s name. We take a table and check out the specials. We all end up ordering the “hungry boy” which includes 3 pancakes, bacon or sausage, 2 eggs, and hash browns or home fries. I also order a cinnamon bun for dessert and wash everything down with both coffee and sweet tea. I finish everything but a few bites of pancake and cinnamon bun, the syrup and icing proving to be just a bit too much sugar this early in the morning.
On the way back I head to Kroger for resupply. Einstein and Teflon don’t because they still don’t know whether they’ll be hiking or canoeing. At Kroger I pick up a couple of Odwalla drinks to go with my resupply items, figuring I’ll chug them before I leave to get some extra vitamins. I drink one on the way back to the hotel.
Halfway back to the hotel I run into Blue Fox who is considering aqua-blazing with the others. I bring him back to the hotel where planning commences. The options seem to consist of either renting boats or buying them. The group is leaning toward buying 2 used canoes and a kayak. They figure it is slightly cheaper and they may be able to sell them to someone at the end to get some money back. If they can’t sell them then Einstein may get his family to bring a trailer down to pick them up and sell them on Craig’s List. I listen to them talk themselves into this option while I pack up.
Around 11 we part ways, them to figure out their logistics and me to catch a ride back to the trail. Not wanting to bother the same person twice I call a different trail angel to get back to the trail. I find out Roy is recently retired. He still teaches occasionally and apart from giving hikers rides to and from the trail he also serves as a court appointed special advocate in cases where children are involved in abusive or violent situations. He sounds like a great guy and I’m sorry I only get a few minutes to talk to him before I’m back at the trailhead.
When I get there I find Brownie and Krispy Kreme. They are waiting for KK’s uncle to arrive who they are going to stay with for a day. While chatting I discover that Brownie has had the closest encounter yet with a rattlesnake having stepped on one a few days ago. Luckily she wasn’t bitten but now she is picking ticks off of Diesel the dog. My two least favorite things about the trail – snakes and ticks.
I turn and head up the trail. I am getting a late start and although I had originally planned to do high miles today I am happy with setting my sights on the first shelter. It is about 7 miles in so I’ll be able to take my time and get there in the late afternoon. On the way I take care of my backcountry permit for Shenandoah. Although I’ve filled these out before this is the first time I get to put “thru-hiker”.
The trail is easy enough, meandering around a few hills and criss-crossing Skyline Drive. I see a deer, but not for long before it runs away. I also see a wild turkey with the same result. I arrive at the shelter mid-afternoon and find a few hikers trying to decide if they want to go on. I discuss Shenandoah with them while I set up my tent and get ready for the evening. Although Shenandoah allows tenting along the trail you are supposed to be 20 yards from the trail. I have heard about them enforcing this rule recently on thru-hikers so I advise that if they wish to continue to do so soon so they can find a spot an appropriate distance from the trail. They decide to stay.
I cook dinner a bit early so that I can get in my tent a bit early. While I’m cooking Catnap arrives along with Frodo, Dropout, and Pancake. They also got a late start from town and I’m glad to see them. The only one I’ve met has been Catnap but as soon as they arrive the energy in the shelter changes and it becomes more positive and social. Catnap seems to have that effect because he is able to carry a conversation with anyone. Frodo packed a sweet potato from town and starts a fire to cook it on. Pancake packed out a beer and drinks it with his dinner.
The shelter is full of conversation until and after I decide to turn in for the night. I get into my tent and start writing about the day while I listen to the bustle outside. By the time I am ready to go to sleep everyone has calmed down and it sounds like they are likewise in their sleeping bags. I plan to wake early to try to make it to one of the infamous Shenandoah waysides on the Appalachian Trail.