Monday, July 16, 2018

Bugged Out In Virginia: Part 9 - The World's Most Popular Campground

I stood outside my tent, looking at the colorful array of tents all around me in every direction, in a place where you might expect to see a person or so. We were on top of a mountain, far from civilization, I thought. This should have been a place of woods, and possibly 4-5 people blending in with the surroundings. Instead, it looked like I was at Woodstock. . Another thing was in spite of my light sleeping, if you can call what I do on these trips 'sleeping', I was apparently one of the last people to get up. The Boy Scouts were hard at work and all around me people were putting their tents away, brushing teeth, boiling water, and more. The youngest scouts were getting lessons on how to pack things, and finding out who had KP duty that morning. Somehow through all of this, Paul snored on. As I surveyed my surroundings and marveled that we had somehow managed to find a postage stamp-sized bit of grass to pitch our tents in the dark, I found another amazing thing...there was Popeye, kilt and all, emerging from his tent on the far side of our group. It turned out that he had shown up way past dark and managed to find a spot anyway. It seemed that he could hike faster than us, but liked to take his time stopping to just enjoy a beautiful view now and then. This was quite different than the normal through hiker, who seemed to be seeing how fast they could get this thing done.
People were everywhere and everything was wet, but not as wet as it could have hadn't rained the night before and we knew that we had dodged a bullet there. I finally got Paul going and by that time only one or two people were left at the campsite. What we found out from some of the scout leaders was that inadvertently, two scout troops from two different states planned a trip to the same place on the same night. What we didn't understand beforehand, was how they ended up here with so much stuff. It turned out there was a gravel road only a mile away. There was nowhere to park, but plenty of room for a bus to drop off a load of kids and camping gear. They were going to hike 5 more miles to another spot and then get picked up again. There were plenty of grumpy backpackers about all of that, and how it's against the rules to have more than 8 people in a group, but the advice I gave the scout leaders was this: bring cookies. A nice package of Oreos will shut up even the grumpiest through hiker, and Paul would probably carry their packs for a bit as well.
We hiked on out of the shelter area on to the top of the mountain where we encountered Popeye once again, sitting there in his kilt, in a field of tall grass, free of trees and an almost unobstructed view of mountains in all directions, except for the giant radar tower behind him. We stopped and talked for a bit, wondering aloud if the radar tower keeper ever shared snacks with hikers...sort of a trick or treat thing? But no friendly ranger appeared, and we marched on, me fully renewed in my talk about the village of Glasgow, with free showers, more pizza than a man could eat, milkshakes, brownies, and probably the most coveted thing in the world: a hamburger. I didn't dare let my mind wander to the sides I would have with that hamburger...would they have those crappy shoestring fries, or those really good crinkle cut steak fries? Paul tolerated this for a few hours and then came back with how we had to stick to the plan and Glasgow wasn't on it.....

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