Heroines like Hannah Duston

Virginia is for lovers (and haters)

Virginia gave me a challenge. I looked forward to the ease of Pennsylvania and Maryland, but I quickly realized what I wanted I didn’t. So bored over the flatlands, I yawned, wondered if there was something else worth doing, and entered a malaise. A sign greeted me to the Virginia rollercoaster with dark humor, “enjoy the ride.” Over the next thirteen and a half miles the trail goes over several ascents. Deep fog cloaked the forest coating everything with a layer of moisture. The coaster turned macabre with the scene and the stories I listened to.

The story of Hannah Duston, the first statue dedicated to a woman in the U.S.A. during the 17th century, enamoured my attention for the last ten days. I heard it from the 99% Invisible podcast “Monumental Dilemma” episode. She stands thirty feet high holding ten scalps of the Abernaki she killed in the night in response to killing her newborn. This statue stands on an island off the coast of Massachusetts with the strange plaque verbiage:

The War Whoop Tomahawk
Faggot & Infanticides
Were at Haverhill
The Ashes of
Wigwam-Camp-Fires at Night
& of Ten of the Tribe
Are Here
I listen to many stories, but this one has stuck out the most , moreso for hiking in such strange conditions. Sun prevailed until it gave way to a fast approaching storm with ricocheting thunder bolts from either mountain on each side of me. A quarter mile away from the Sam Moore Shelter and the floodgates let loose. I ran past the “1,000” mile marker without ceremony and rested with wet pants.

Black Bear Greeters

Outside the gates of Shenandoah, I regrouped with Blood Blister (BB) and Good People (GP). BB is a cautiously outgoing girl from Jersey who looks like a grown up Anne Frank. GP has long wrinkles running down his face with the disposition of kindly old judge, though he’s around fifty if I guess. I keep getting in trouble by pointing out the age of people older than me that they are in fact old. Not old old, but you know middle aged. I guess 50 is the new 25? In Russia, being middle-aged is around 37, a more realistic version, but in the U.S.A. we are optimists. Anyway, age looks more becoming when it’s accepted.

We were all getting chummy after I cooked my spaghetti when GP pointed to a log fifteen yards behind me and said “bear.” I thought he was joking and only paid mind when he was insistent. Sure enough this medium-sized black bear with a curled lip look at us as if we were a food bank. He sat earnestly like a dog at the dinner table asking us for scraps. GP yelled at him to “git” and directed us to throw rocks, but the bear deftly jumped around walking in a wide circle around Tom Floyd’s Wayside (shelter). He was there awhile and even greeted GP when he walked down to Ginger Spring. The tame animals of Shenandoah extends outside it’s borders, but careful because hunters lurk there too and the season is fast approaching.

BB and I saw seven more bears over the next day, two families and a lone bear. We boogied out whenever we saw a mother. White-tail deer paid little mind to us too only ambling on further if we’ve gotten ten feet or closer. They don’t act surprised at all and go about their business. One day, I sat eating lunch trailside and an eight-point buck in velvet walked up. We ate lunch beside each other glancing up once in awhile. I’ve never met such creatures nonplussed by the presence of humans.

Another night, a mouse crept along to me and tickled my whiskers with his. The shelters in Shenandoah are filled with mice and rats. I rip out of my wary sleep with my light and stare in vain for the suspect. Oh, but in Blackrock Hut I finally got some sleep. A tame rat sat a few feet away from my head nodding away at me. Hiking Dude (HD) handed me my trekking pole and I went hunting in the loft. It circled around the loft, but still stayed up high. Cautiously, whap! I thumped the rat in the head and it curled into a ball reaching towards its brain damage. I disposed of it into the forest leaving it for some shrew or Barred owl to take care of it. HD says, “now I have something to blog about,” a telling statement.


It’s easy for a hiker to spend their money like water in SNP. Waysides and campstores line the trail daily, helped by virtue of Skyline Drive paralleling the trail. The trail crosses over Skyline dozens of times and the sounds of motorists are a constant. Yet, I’m ever a fan of pop (I’m from the Midwest) and cooked food. BB and I stopped there. Shortly after I slipped into a food coma. Two beers severely effect my dehydration and that’s evident soon after leaving. Half mile down the trail with BB a few steps behind I attempt to step over a foot-wide spring. I said attempt because I failed. BB asked if I was all right and I laughed at my fallen state. Another reminder to stay humble as I look at my ruin. Done in by two beers. What a reversal of fortunes. According to the authors of Freakanomics, each mile walked while drunk is eight times more dangerous than a mile driven. I wasn’t even drunk, but maybe I didn’t drink enough water.

SNP has a way of encouraging either a slow contemplative hike or an exhaustive one because of shelter and campsite spacing. One either hikes twelve or twenty-four miles. I chose the later and proved a lot to myself. Yesterday, I managed twenty-one miles by three p.m. Hiker hunger has yet to spoil me and I’m really hauling ass. Getting out of the easy parts of PA and MD made my hike more interesting. For that I’m glad.

Annoying flies used to float in front of me everyday, but now my glasses are slathered in spider webs. Hundreds of them coat my arms, hat, and glasses. My glasses now have hundreds of windows to look through like little prison cells. GP wonders why the flies have disappeared and I point out the proliferation of webs and he asks sarcastically, “are you biologist?” If anyone has an opinion nowadays it has to be backed up by a four-year degree. Everyone is a specialist, but not necessarily well-rounded.


Setting up camp at the hiker campsite in town, I walked to the Greenway towards the YMCA. When I rounded the corner, the jogging lane went a little along a lawn and the dividing forest between my campsite. Just as I was calling my friend Nate on the phone and he said hello, a black American who looked a cross between Lamar Odom and Jermaine O’Neal jogged haggardly towards the forest. A fat white police officer followed closely in his grey SUV and jumped out yelling “get on the ground.” The suspect look towards the forest for a moment, but laid down on the lawn as the officer drew closer with his stun gun. I paused the call and looked upon the surreal situation. I translated the situation to Nate and another jogger walked by and mouthed “did you just fucking see that?” No comment.



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