Strange But True!?!?

It’s now been two weeks since I got a cold after sleeping in a hostel in Waynesboro,  VA. I slept in the top bunk while a young man with a cough slept on a couch next to and below me. There were actually 12 of us hikers sleeping in a small basement room with bad air exchange. Seriously it was wall to wall hikers. Then two sores developed between my toes on my left foot. They were so painful I started to limp. I don’t know if the sores were athlete’s foot, a poison weed, or spider bites. I don’t know if the combination of the illnesses lead to the peculiar sights of the past week or something else? Let’s see what you think.

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The day began innocent enough. The sun was shinning. You can see it in the picture above. It’s what the picture says that gave me pause. “RESTRICTED GROUNDS; BREEDING CENTER; NATIONAL ZOOLOGICAL PARK.” The sign Belo it was like a second warning.  “PETS ON LEASH; NO CAMPING; NO FIRES; STAY ON TRAIL.” Needles to say, I was beginning to get all kinds of thoughts of government experiments. Then came the gate.

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And then the fence.

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I wondered whether something was being kept in, or being kept out.

The trail got darker and darker as we worked our way further into the woods. As we rounded a tight curve in the trail, a smell so fowl hit me in the face. It was so awful, I sped up to get past and beyond this area. Then right before a powerline, I saw something fast, grey and large dart through the brush parrelel to the trail. I quickly caught up to Spirit and said,  “A bear just darted in the woods and are in that brush.” We looked at the brush, but nothing moved. Even as I had said it was a bear,  I knew the statement want true. I knew I hadn’t just seen a bear,  but something I couldn’t identify.

It is now that the sky got dark and thunder started to rumble in the sky. We were only a half a mile from the next shelter. I picked up my pace with Spirit coming behind me. It was up hill and soon I was alone as Spirit picked her way carefully along the trail. I heard something coming across the top of the trees. Not knowing if it was wind or rain, I stopped and threw down my pack and started to pull out my rain gear. Within seconds I was in a down pour, desparatly try to get my rain jacket on, curled in a ball trying to keep my shoes dry. As I was doing this, an older couple came walking by and asked me if I was okay. I replied, “Yes, I’m just trying to get my rain gear on.” Within minutes the storm had past and as usual, I was wet.

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We got to the shelter and it would be two hours before we saw the next hiker. Pace came in telling us he had stopped to put his rain fly on his pack. The next thing he knew, a tree fell in front of him and then one feel behind him. It was then he got as small as possible behind another tree and waited the storm out. The next two hikers were an hour after him and they reported 20 downed trees. The following day we would hear that a tornado went through the area. We would be the last  people to go through the undamaged trail. It was now an obstical course.

The next day was overcast and threatening rain. We had areas of rock to hike over and around. While doing so, I came across this interesting print and water mark.

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I’m not sure what kind of creature left this behind, but it reminded me of the story in an old Saga magazine about the Ape-man of the Whiteface Reservoir. http://www.bigfootencounters.com/articles/hansen.htm

I wasn’t sticking around in case the creature came back. It wasn’t much longer and we came to the infamous Roller-coaster of the Appalachian Trail. This is the part in the trail where hikers enter with anticipation, excitement and joy.

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All kidding aside, we think that the person or people who put in this part of the trail was a sick, sadistic, bastard. It is 13.5 miles of ups and downs that only a lunatic would enjoy hiking.

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Thankfully not too far away, there is a slice of comfort called the Bears Den. The outside is a little forbidding, but when all was said and done it was a safe haven.

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The next day was actually the nicest hiking day in quite some time. We were at the top of a ridge and it looked and felt like it had been occupied before the civil or revolutionary wars. In fact, I once again found a point from an arrow. Then I found some thick, glazed pieces of pottery on the trail. All evidence of another time.

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It really was peaceful.

Now we were on to Harper’sFerry, WV. I had just entered another state.

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Now it was time to hike into the city and get my picture taken at the ATC headquarters and register my hike.

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With that completed, we headed up to our hostel for a good night’s sleep or so I hope. I hope everyone hasn’t had a week like mine, but if you have I would like to hear it around my next camp fire.

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PS-please don’t share this with my mother as she is already anxious enough. 

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Hiking Through a National Park.

Spirit had been telling me for weeks about how much she enjoyed hiking though the Shenandoah National Park on previous hikes. She told me about easy hiking, waysides, and animal sightings. So, a week ago we left Waynesboro, VA and two days later we entered the park. Because we were on the Appalachian Trail, we had to fill out a backcountry permit. This permit tells the Park Service who you are, where you will be and when you leave the Park.

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Backcountry permit

It is free for hikers to camp and pass through the park. This year our National Parks are celebrating it’s 100th birthday. To celebrate, the Park Service has picked 16 days for everyone to get a chance to enjoy the great outdoors.  There are still a few days left this year for you to plan a visit to one of our parks: http://www.nationalparks.org/connect/blog/2016-free-admission-days-national-parks

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Our first night in the park we camped in a location other than the shelter or hut. It was a sunny evening and so we hiked further into the park than the first shelter. We had just finished supper when we heard a noise in the woods. It turned out to be two deer and the slowly worked their way into our camp. It was interesting to me to see how close they came. I guess animals in a park have nothing to fear. It made me wonder about the bears…

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The next morning we headed out and hiked to Loft Mountain Campground.  We were able to take showers, do laundry and eat snacks before we headed to the Loft Mountain Wayside for lunch.

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Shower time
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Laundry time

Now because of bears in the park, Spirit wanted to hang our backpacks and not take them the .5 mile down to the wayside. I just didn’t want to do that, so I kept my pack on and watched the antics of the ever hysterical throwing of the bear rope over a tree branch. Before it was all said and done, Spirit had 1. Stepped on the rope then threw.   2. Just missed hitting herself as the rock came back to earth. and 3. Fallen to the ground. At this point I was trying hard not to laugh as I could see the frustration of the situation was getting under her craw. Finally,  the pack was in the air and we were on our way for cheeseburgers, fries and blackberry milkshakes.

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Blackberry Lemonade

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On the way back Spirit and I took two different routes. She went back the way we came to retrieve her pack, an uphill trek. I went back towards Ivy Creek. When I got to Ivy Creek, I remembered a ridge runner stating a day earlier about a possible bear problem in this area. I wasn’t too concerned until a hiker passed me heading north. He went around the curve in the trail and for the next 5 minutes I hear, “Go away bear, get out of here.” Then I think, “Well, the bear must have left? ” My pack is on the ground and I look south to see if Spirit is coming yet and then I look north and I see a black bear come around the corner and continue walking towards me. I grab my pack and put it on and I tell the bear, “Go on.” The bear stops, looks at me and then walks off the trail two whole feet.  The bear just stands there. I figure I better keep the bear south of me because Spirit won’t know it’s here if I go by it. I work my way south on the trail towards Spirit around a curve in the trail. Five minutes goes by and the bear is on the trail, coming around the curve. I repeat what I said before and the bear goes off the trail and I go south some more around another curve in the trail. Now there is a hiker coming towards me but it isn’t Spirit. I tell the young guy what has been going on and where the bear is. He goes a few feet and says, “Wow, it’s right here.” I take a step towards him and lean to look so I don’t get any nearer and I see the young guy is eye to eye with the bear only

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three feet apart.

The guy yells and waves his arms at the bear and the bear just looks at him. The hiker edges by and leaves. Finally, Spirit shows up and I tell her what has been going on. We head down the trail and there is the bear in the trail. We both say, “Get out of here.” The bear walks into the brush next to the trail and we walk by and finally leave the area. We did see a lot of deer and seven bears

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plus a lot of signs.

The next day we were visited by my husband Tom and his siblings

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They were in the area for a family get-together.

They had brought us lunch and later Spirit said I devoured the sandwich in 5 minutes. Then I went to our vehicle and did a small resupply and then down the trail I went with family in tow. At one point Spirit looked back in time to see one in the group running to keep up with us. At the half mile point 2 in the group were heading back and in another quarter mile, Spirit, Tom and I were on our own. Tom turned back at the one and a half mile point. He was on his way home to Minnesota and had a long way to drive. Once again Spirit and I were on our own.

Of course the trail was super nice through the park at the time my family was with me. The park service makes sure that the park trails are people friendly.

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The Trail Maintenance Crew works hard to see that it is so. My son Kevin was employed at Mesa Verde National Park on such a crew. I saw the hard work he did and so now I can appreciate the trails even more, knowing the hard work it took to make them that way. I make sure that every time I see someone working to maintain the trail

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Trail Maintenance Crew

I tell them how much I appreciate their hard work.

Even though the park had been a great place to be, I was ready to be out of the park. Spirit always tells me, “Be careful what you wish for…” I had forgotten in a short time what the trail could really

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No longer in the Shenandoah National Park
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We just came down what trail?

be like. I’m beginning to dread the rocks of Pennsylvania.

All in a Day

It has been another full week of hiking on the AT. My days become a long series of forgotten thoughts as my feet take me mile upon mile north towards Maine. I start my day anywhere from 5:30-6:00 am. I start somedays wishing I  could sleep in. Then I  think about the miles for the day and I reach over my head and release the valve to my air mattress and begin packing for the day. I stuff my sleeping bag into it’s tiny bag,  change into my hiking clothes which I wear every day till the next town I resupply in. Unzipping my tent I look up to the sky to see what the weather will be for the morning. I know that like the changing terrain of the trail, the weather can change just as often. My stinky socks that I have left outside my tent are put back on as well as my gaiters. I use gaiters to keep small rocks and sticks from entering my shoes.

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Once out of my tent, it is a privy stop and then I go to retrieve my food bag which I  have either hung in a tree or off a bear pole.

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Anything to keep our food safe and the bears away. It is now time to cook my breakfast which had been oatmeal with freeze dried fruit and a coffee. While my breakfast cooks, I start packing my backpack. First clothes, then sleeping bag and air mattress. Next food bag, then on top of food bag goes a bag full of miscellaneous stuff, like charges, band-aids and matches. Along side that bag will go my kitchen-pot, lid, spoon, cup and stove. Last I take down my tent and stuff it into it’s bag and then push it into the pack.

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I close everything up, check the area to make sure I didn’t forget any gear or trash. I make sure I have enough water till the next water source then off I go.

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I hike, take pictures, talk to other hikers and think. At around 9:30 am it is second breakfast time which for me is a protein bar. 12:30 pm is lunch, tuna, or peanut butter or baloney.

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The next thing is making it to camp which has been as early as 1 pm but is much better when it is 3-5 pm. Once Spirit and I  go our separate ways, I will probably hike until 6 or 7. It is all dependent on the weather and terrain and other features along the trail which strike my curiosity.

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A significant thing that happened this week is that Spirit fell on the trail as we came down The Priest Mountain.

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Even though she was passed by a young hiker who didn’t even ask if she needed help as she laid in the trail, she cleaned her wounds and bandaged them and made it down to where I  was waiting. I didn’t know she had fallen until I saw her bandaged leg.

We rested for a few minutes and then decided to continue on. We hadn’t gotten very far when she yelled, “Sookie, look.” I looked down at her leg and it had blown up and looked like and ostrich egg was sideways on her shin and blood was bubbling out. We got her down on the ground, raised her leg on her backpack and I  grabbed my shirt to put pressure on the wound.

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911 was called and we waited for assistance. When it arrived 2 1/2 hours later, Spirit was asked if she could walk. She says yes and gets up, throws on her backpack and beelines down the mountain.

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She passes the paramedics, the gurney crew and everyone else who was there to help her. We made it down the mountain in 1 hour having gone 2.5 miles.

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I think everyone afterwards wondered why they were called.

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We did find out that some in the rescue crew didn’t  like hiking, some did, and one saw a timber rattler and shook for 4 minutes afterwards.

We ended up in a cabin in Montebello, VA for the night with no way to contact the outside world.

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The town consists of a general store, post office and fire hall. The next morning I went on the trail to hike alone to Waynesboro, VA.

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Spirit headed to Stanimals 328 Hostel in Waynesboro to rest her leg until Sunday morning.

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On Friday my husband Tom came through the area on his way to his brother Jerry’s and so I  got to see him for 24 hours and he was on his way. It was a short visit for not seeing him  for such a long time, but he encouraged me to go on to Maine.

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And so I shall. Tomorrow Spirit and I  will head into the Shenandoah National Park. We are hearing about all the bears and are sure to see a few.

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The Adventures of Yuri and His Earthling

Why oh why did I mail myself back to my earthling Sookie?

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Yuri returns to Minnesota from Hot Springs, NC

I must have been bonkers! The last week has been filled with bear threats, snakes and bad weather.

The highlight of the hike so far is when I  came across Lilly hanging in a shelter.

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Lilly lost and alone.

She looked so sad and alone. I had to convince Sookie that Lilly weighed just an ounce at most. Sookie just shook her head but agreed to carry the extra weight.

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A few more ounces.

Lilly and I hit it off immediately. Dismal Falls didn’t seem so dismal to me.

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New pals.

One evening Sookie put Lilly in the tent and forgot me on her backpack.

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Sookie, I think you forgot someone.

I fixed that though before the sun set.

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Then one day as we were heading up another mountain, Sookie pulled over to let a hiker pass us. As this hiker went by, he stated, “That’s not your bunny is it.” I looked over at Lilly and I  knew it was over. The last I saw of Lilly she was heading north with her earthling, Fried Pickles.

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Lilly and Fried Pickles

Sookie felt so bad for me that she gave me a pan pipe that she found in another shelter.

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No body knows the trouble I've seen.

Spirit though it might be a good idea to teach us how to sing rounds.

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"Rose, Rose, Rose, Rose.

Neither Sookie or I was having any of that. All I could do was think of Lilly and play the blues.

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"Play another Yuri."

I have met a few nomads on the trail. There was Helmet.

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Waiting for Helmet to show up.

Then there was Spot.

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Spot goofing around.

And last but not least, there was Ribbit.

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Ribbit looking for some shade.

Sookie and I are moving up the trail. This week we had an 18 mile day, hit 500 miles so far this trek and saw lots of great views.

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We will keep you posted as we continue NOBO. Waynesboro, VA here we come!

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Sookie and Yuri NOBO or Bust.