Location: Bearfence Mountain Hut
28 miles today and I am spent. The Shenandoah Park has tons of mountains. I was up and down all day and the burning in my calves won’t let me forget it. I started fairly late for such a big day. This morning resembled the last two days so I wasn’t too excited about getting out of my sleeping bag. The only reason I did get out by 9:00am was that a weekend hiker got out of his sleeping bag, and I couldn’t be showed up by him.
Last night the mice were aggressive. Some entries in the register warned of their behavior, but I wasn’t expecting them to be that bad. Last night a couple ran across my face as I tried to sleep. Certainly some went into my sleeping bag while I slept. This morning I found little mouse droppings all over my things. To be so small, the droppings stunk. The weekender at the shelter woke up saying that he wasn’t bothered by them, but when he took his backpack off a nail on the wall and reached inside, he found that they had chewed his tent to ribbons. He held two armfuls of shredded nylon. He was really upset by the whole ordeal. He had every yuppie hiking gadget and equipment imaginable. He cut his weekend short because of the weather and the mice incident and went home this morning. He was an interesting character though, a cello player at George-Mason University planning to make a career of his instrument.
This is Columbus Day weekend and the first sunny day of the weekend so it seemed that half of Virginia was on a day hike today. Well, not all Virginians, I came across a group of about 50 Chinese day hikers. This evening I met a family that didn’t speak English, only Korean, I think. They showed me a map and pointed to where they wanted to go. They were obviously lost and on the wrong trail, but I didn’t know how to tell them that they were on the wrong trail. I patted the ground with my hand and pointed to the AT on the map. We weren’t making much progress so I took the map from the man who wouldn’t stop spinning it and gave them a wave with my hand to follow me. I walked the family to the trail intersection and pointed them in the right direction. I received several bows from them as I left. People were everywhere today so I was held up by question and answer sessions regularly. Always I heard the same questions and generally I gave the same answers about food, sleep, bears, etc. I answered the same ten questions fifty times today. I can deal with it though. It’s fun sometimes.
Although I started late today, I made it to the shelter right at dark. I put on my headlamp at the very last minute so I could read the signpost on the trail. When I turned the corner to the shelter, my heart jumped into my throat and I stopped when I saw eyes glowing in the dark woods. One, two, three sets of orange and yellow globes staring at me. I said something, I can’t remember what, and two more sets appeared as heads turned towards me. Soon I recognized them as a herd of deer. I walked another twenty steps and looked over my shoulder. The eyes in the darkness followed me.
I finally reached Bearfence Mountain Hut. After a quick dinner and conversation with a section hiker, I crawled into my wet but comfortable sleeping bag. My quads ached until I finally fell asleep. Like they did when I slept on the banks of the Potomac, my leg muscles fired involuntarily, tightening and loosening as though they believed me to still be taking steps. The Shenandoah has proven to be more difficult that I originally expected. I think the weather contributes to the increased level of difficulty.