Trail Update #7: the week all the animals came out
Hi everyone! Apologies for no post last week – I took 5 full days off the trail for a long weekend with Mr. snapchat and got back on the AT last Tuesday.
Non-Wildlife-Related Status Update
I spent this week singularly focused on putting in big miles to catch up with Slim Shady who had left Damascus two days ahead of me. To that end, I walked 147 miles in 6.5 days until I finally met up with him as he was coming out of Wapiti Shelter after a mid-morning snack break! ? (Wes, now finally settled on the trail name Pumba, headed out of Damascus a full four days before I did so he’s effectively in Pennsylvania or New Jersey by now, but hopefully we’ll be reunited after Trail Days next week. I miss you, Pumba!).
After an awesome night at Woods Hole Hostel, Slim and I are now zeroing for a day in Pearisburg, Virginia as we both could use some rest.
My time away from the crew was both good and bad. Because I had set out on my own all the way back at Roan Mountain, I ended up walking over 250 miles without Slim or Pumba!! (In fact, none of the three of us have been together in that time, except for some overlap while we were each in Damascus. ?)
Getting to Damascus was all excitement for me, so even though I was alone I hadn’t felt particularly lonely then. But I was definitely lonely coming out of Damascus on my own; and being back on the trail after seeing loved ones and having spent a couple days in society like a normal person was hard, both physically and mentally. BUT, they say the trail provides and that was totally the case for me. I made some new friends in Barbelle, Sour Patch and Charley and at the same time Slim was making new friends with a group I had met coming into Damascus: Candles, Sherpa, Roni Boy and Ladypants. The weather has been kind of awful, rainy and cold cold cold (back in the 30s for three nights in row!) so I basically hostel-jumped with my new friends and saw even more people I knew indoors who were also escaping the weather at night. And on my journey catching up to Slim I ran into old friends Sir P, Piper and Mary Poppins. (Trails names are ridiculous). So basically now I have friends everywhere from 4 days ahead of me to 4 days behind me, which is awesome and comforting and more and more the trail feels like one big, familiar community.
(Side note to anyone on the trail behind me who’s reading this: don’t miss the Quarter Way Inn and Woods Hole Hostel! And don’t skimp on the homemade meals at either place.)
But really this week has been majorly hard too. The rain and grey skies and wind and cold kinda suck the life out of you after a while; doing big miles every day is exhausting; and missing your friends and loved ones back home is a challenge. Luckily the terrain has been awesome – so that’s a bonus – the hostels have been great, it was really nice to hike with women for a few days!!, and I hear there is a breakfast buffet in town so if you continue reading below you’ll see I’m all about that life now. ?
And Now to The Animals
I saw so much wildlife this week and it made me so happy!! (Chipmunks and squirrels and birds that I’m not able to identify abound, so I’m not really counting these guys.)
In order of appearance:
A wild turkey ?
A pileated woodpecker (like woody the woodpecker, and it’s on this list because I was really really close to it) ?
Wild(ish) ponies w/foals ?
An alarmingly fearless raccoon (*we’ll come back to that)
Longhorn cattle w/calves ?
(regular?!?) Cows w/calves ?
A rabbit ?
A MAMA BEAR W/TWO CUBS!!!!! ? (*we’ll come back to this too)
Pigs w/piglets ?
A duck ?
An extremely puppy-like bumble bee ?
A toad ?
All sorts of dogs & cats at hostels ??
And, lastly, me. I have an animalistic hunger now. The other day I ate the following:
BREAKFAST (at the Quarter Way Inn)
Spinach and cheese quiche
Chocolate chip scone
1 liter water w/Propel
Tortilla with Nutella and peanut butter x2
1 liter water
Fruit snacks x2
Kashi coconut granola bar x2
Banana moon pie x2
Cheese and peanut butter crackers x2
1 liter water
TRAIL MAGIC SECOND LUNCH
Chocolate chip cookies x2
4-cheese mashed potatoes
1 liter water
Last night at a Pizza Hut buffet I ate salad, 5 slices of pizza drizzled with ranch dressing, a plate of macaroni and cheese, and 10 cinnamon sticks dipped in chocolate pudding.
Longhorns and Raccoons and Bears, Oh My
The highlight reel of this week’s wildlife encounters include basically walking into a herd of longhorn cattle in a misty fog (fear factor: 5 out of 10); a completely habituated raccoon at Wise Shelter in the Grayson Highlands that decided to come INTO the shelter at 10pm (fear factor: 8 out of 10); and my first solo wild bear encounter (fear factor: 1 out of 10). After seeing everything else I just knew in my heart that I’d see bears this week, and though I was still a bit surprised when I came upon them, it wasn’t scary at all and in fact they looked far more startled than I felt which just made me feel guilty for disturbing them! I simply backed up until the cubs felt comfortable enough to come out of the trees they had climbed, and then they all ran off. I also spent 20 minutes talking to some cows at the end of a 22-mile day when I was grumpy and tired and hungry and being out in a pasture next to these adorable gentle giants completely turned my mood around. This is so why I’m out here.
(Well, and the opportunity to eat rainbow Fruity Pebble cereal bars with reckless abandon. ? )
And now here are a bunch of pictures, as people seem to like this feature of my posts where I get lazy of writing and instead just put up all the photos I take ??:
Happy hiking and more to come…
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