Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Bugged Out In Virginia: Part 5 - Chasing The Girl

I woke up early one morning, and the most surprising part was that I realized that I must have fallen asleep. It was almost possible that I was adapting to the environment of stickiness by laying on top of my mattress with my sleeping bag nearby, just in case I got cold. I was almost comfortable, pretty sure that no ticks had made it into the tent that night, or if they had, they were already well-hidden and sucking contentedly on my blood while it lasted. I felt good and awake, realizing what woke me was all of the other campers Packing up. I got out of the tent and saw that perhaps 1/2 of the hikers were already heading out. All of them seemed to be in the tent area and no one had slept in the shelter at all. That surprised me at the time, and it wasn't until later that I learned why; it was haunted. Meanwhile, the person that was calling this the worst trip ever, was still snoring away in his tent. Paul had found the solitary happy place for him on the trail, and that was sleeping in. I think I finally got him going around 8:30 and the only other person left was Popeye, who seemed to be in no particular hurry. For a through-hiker, he was the most laid back guy I'd met. I kept thinking that there must be a real mess somewhere that this life was preferable to. It turned out that Popeye was a very good friend to have around. He talked to people and they liked telling him stuff. For instance, that the shelter was haunted by the ghost of Ottie Cline Powell, a 5 year-old that got lost in the woods back in the late 1800's. I never did get a clear picture of how a 5 year-old happened to be up here on the mountain. Things must have been quite different back then. Popeye also had some special 'trail-grapevine' information: There was a copperhead snake laying in wait for anybody that decided to sit on the step on the concrete block on the mountain view at the top. I thought that was a joke, and then I read the same thing on the trail app on my phone, and multiple people we met on the trail warned us as well. Sure enough, I spotted the snake right away when we got there, well right away, after another guy pointed at it...how was I to know that copperhead snakes were not copper-colored?

The day was full of meeting interesting people on the trail, and beautiful overlooks, and sticky, hot weather. The good part of the day was the people. I can still remember coming across this very attractive young girl with bright red hair and a flouncy hat. She was moving fast, and I almost thought she was a mirage, because it's hard to look that good when the conditions were like this and we were so deep in the woods. The thought that went through my head was something like this: "She looked that good after hiking hard for 10 miles and it's not even lunchtime?!" I remember reflecting on that and then running into a young guy an hour later, about her age. I said "Man, there is a quite attractive redhead up in front of you..", he  replied, "I know, I've been following her for 200 miles!". I thought right then, that is how natural selection works....if he can't keep up with her, he's not her type. It got more interesting another hour after that when we met a young woman on the trail, and she asked if we had seen a young redhead that she was trying to catch up with...I would love to hear what happened at the end of the journey, but it was enough to be able to say 'hey, I'm an old guy, nobody expects me to be fast'. I started to realize that in these groups of highly motivated young people, there were some that weren't having as much fun, like the French guy from the day before. I thought for sure, the worst place to be was the guy that said to his girl, "Sure, I'll backpack the AT with you, how hard can it be if a girl can do it?" Yeah, I would not want to be that guy, because in couples, almost always, the one that was happy and up for anything was the girl. 

This trip I saw more groups of people that were hiking in support of a person that was doing the whole hike. We stopped at one overlook and were joined by a group of 3 girls and a guy. The leader looked like the captain of the women's pro soccer team and her friends that joined her for the weekend looked like the people I played with in high school band. More of her group arrived soon after, including one bigger person that looked like she was ready to have a heart attack at age 18. I was reminded right then, that I was very happy to be doing this now and not when I was young. I was not really into big endurance hiking back then and could suddenly remember my dad getting us to climb Mount Addams and having little old ladies pass us on the way. Now, all I had to do was keep up with Paul...and make sure that he didn't run out of cigarettes....

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