Thursday, June 28, 2018

Bugged Out In Virginia: Part 8 - The Peak Of the Trip

I stood there in the soaking rain, thinking I was very glad that I brought the waterproof cover for my backpack. Paul scoffed at such a thing, but I had noticed that every backpacker in Scotland had one, and those people know about rain. What they don't know about, is raining when it's hot. I stood there in the woods with steam coming off my clothes as the rain subsided a bit. Paul and I were laughing together, not the good kind of laughing, but the 'what else can go wrong?' kind of laughing. We, or should I say Paul had everything planned out perfectly. The weather app was saying rain at 2pm, so we just had to make it near the top of the mountain before then. We knew that we had a pretty much straight uphill day in front of us, so we were pumped up on protein bars and caffeine. The weather folks were a little bit off and we were drenched before 11am, and were nowhere near halfway up the mountain. We met many other hikers on the way and it was during this time that I first heard about Glasgow (a small hamlet in Virginia, not the large city in Scotland) and the campground. People on the trail love to share stories and for me this one was like the 'Big Rock Candy Mountain' was to hobos in the past. If we could just climb the mountain and get down the other side, Glasgow was waiting with hot showers, pizza, and probably, free table massage  for those that needed there was anybody that didn't need a massage after this hiking stuff. The stories we heard from backpackers coming the other direction were glorious. Paul said that Glasgow was too far off the trail, but he didn't know about the drivers that would come pick you up for free. All we had to do was to make it to the top of the mountain, camp one night and then there would be pizza for breakfast, perhaps with some ice cream after, or maybe before...your brain just starts freewheeling while on the trail and mine was spinning like a hamster in an exercise cage.
We were moving pretty good, considering but soon I heard a sound I hadn't heard this whole trip, somebody coming up behind us. It was a guy traveling alone, he was in his 30's, a tall thin guy that didn't look tired or even wet. We spoke for a bit and he wondered if we were heading to the shelter on top of the mountain. We affirmed that and told him about the family ahead of us. Instead of hiking with us and telling stories, he took off like a rabbit for the top of that mountain, to stake his claim in the shelter.
I fumed for hours about where we were going to camp at the top, and if we were going to be setting up tents in the rain. Paul was still not worried, and proclaimed he had seen 8 people squeezed into a 4 person shelter. I was trying not to imagine a night of 8 wet, stinky strangers crammed into a small, open rickety building. I was feeling a lot of gloom and doom, but even my darkest pessimism did not prepare me for what I encountered at the top. Tents everywhere, there must have been over 40 people camping there, a crowd around the shelter and people as far as I could see in the woods in all directions. A through hiker was standing there on the trail to greet us and informed me that through some strange coincidence, 2 separate Boy Scout Troops decided to camp here on the same night. Sure enough, 4 tough-looking backpackers were guarding their base in the shelter....and our skinny guy was one of them. The family was spread out with 3 tents in one of the only flat places I could see. I quickly asked the through hiker guy if he had seen any stealth spots on the downward side of the mountain, and he said there was nothing before Glasgow, and it was already getting dark....I turned back to grab Paul by the neck, but he was already off in the tick-infested woods, looking for a flat spot with few rocks and roots....yeah, this trip was turning out to be a lot of fun, the kind of fun you cannot imagine while standing in an REI store, looking at backpacking gear, when everything is nice and shiny, and the air conditioning is running full blast...and somehow there is always a photo of a tent pitched near a fantastic view...

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