Location: Unknown Shelter in the Shenandoahs
I woke late this morning because the sun took forever to reach the floor of the valley. 9:00am looked more like 7:00am. Thunderstorms, waves of them, kept me awake much of the night. I don’t think Wrongway slept well either. He tossed and turned and woke up to pee several times last night. I could see his naked silhouette when he stumbled to the edge of the shelter to urinate off the platform. He didn’t bother wandering into the woods in the rain, and I didn’t blame him. He says that his back bothers him badly after an injury he suffered on the job as an ironworker in Chicago. He has spent most of his adult life walking on the beams of skyscrapers and riding his motorcycle. At 52, he has hit the trail with a new outlook on life and a worker’s compensation settlement check in the bank. He takes a few puffs on a one-hitter every morning and every night. He asked me if I minded, but never offered me a hit. He says he’s not a pothead, but that he needs it to help soothe his back pains.
I had planned to hike 20+ miles today, but after a late start this morning, I decided to just hike 15 or so. The terrain wasn’t that tough, but I had a difficult time today. I was just dragging after a hectic day in town yesterday. I took about an hour break at a shelter along the trail. I was cold for most of the break, so I sat on the ground in the sun. The shelter was shaded. If it hadn’t been, I would have probably taken a nap. I was that tired just after a few miles.
I moved on after my break. Not much happened on the trail today. The leaves are changing. There are some spectacular colors in the forest. Crispy leaves litter the forest floor, so every step I take makes a loud rustle. My left ear throbbed a bit at the end of the day, from hearing the loud swish of my feet through leaves all day.
When I reached the shelter, minutes before dark, I could see that there was another person there. I was surprised to see that it was Wrongway. He said that he walked fast, but I didn’t really believe him. I figured that an old man’s idea of fast wasn’t my idea of fast, but he is fast by any standard. He started well after me and passed me. He said he took a lunch at the shelter side trail where I had stopped but that he did not visit the shelter, so I suppose he passed me then. He had already drank one cup of coffee before I arrived at the shelter this evening.
The air cooled quickly after the sunset and even before dinner I could tell that the night was going to be one of the colder nights on the trail. I still have the cotton work gloves and cheap beanie that I bought in the Shenandoah. I don’t, though, have pants or underwear, long or short, so everything from the waist down was freezing while I cooked dinner. I crawled into my sleeping bag early tonight but I continued to talk to Wrongway.
Wrongway got named his first day on the trail. Leaving Harper’s Ferry, he hiked three miles the south instead of north and was corrected by two NOBOs he met on the trail. Wrongway hiked much of the northern half with the Professor and Jesse James, a grandfather-grandson duo, but they didn’t make the turn, ending their flip-flop thru-hike at Katahdin. Wrongway is a strange fellow. His demeanor is as goofy as his appearance suggests. He has a long ponytail with several hair ties around it and he wears it in a bun when he hikes. He came to the trail ‘to do something with his life’ after a few of his friends died of different types of cancer. He doesn’t know if he’ll finish the trail, but he said he’s excited every day to be out here.