Wednesday, May 8

I tried to sleep in, but everybody stumbling over me on the floor prevented much of that. After a Power Breakfast (three packets of Quaker Oatmeal with powdered milk, vanilla Carnation Instant Breakfast mix, granola, raisins, banana baby food and butter) and some warmups, I started hiking at 10:00.

The air was thick and humid, the skies clouded over. The sides of the trail were blanketed with bluelets. I've decided that these are my favourites, as they are so simple, but so beautiful. I stopped at noon to find a message for me in the shelter log. A few day hikers out on a five-day trip had asked me to e-mail them when I got the message. So, Tim "Red Barron" Stough, expect some soon.

I took a 45-minute break with The Brothers, Jim, Trail Snail, the three from Michigan and others, resting in the sun, amongst the gnats. The rest of the day was a nice hike. I spotted a lot of digging done by the wild boars (considered a pest by the park, as they were imported and crowd out other species) and bear scat during the day. The afternoon was spent hiking alone.

I arrived at Russell Field Shelter for the evening, arriving in late afternoon. I justified this short day by doing something industrious -- making juggling clubs.

I found a recently-felled tree, not far from the shelter, with a number of branches of a decent size. I borrowed Younger Brother's Sven Saw (a portable saw for hiking) and sawed off three equal lengths of wood. Nathan had lit a fire in the fire pit, lowering the grill to boil water. I laid down the wood so that three quarters of them were on the grill. I let them sit for a few minutes and then turned them, resulting in a nice zig-zag pattern on the top of the clubs. I carved down the handles, the bottom quarter, to make a nice smooth spot to catch on. After removing a few juts and shaving here and there for balance, I had some clubs! ("Yay, me!", as my friend Jessi says.)

As all of this was going on, I heard some commotion behind the shelter. The word that stood out was one that I'd been listening for: "Bear!" Looking around the shelter, I spotted a bear. It seemed small, around 200 pounds, an adolescent. Following Crag's lead, I hopped up on the roof of the shelter to get a good view, bringing my digital camera. If I was going to get a bear shot for the web page, I surely didn't want to have the zig-zag of fencing between me and that bear.

I went to take a few photos, but the bear was to far away. It surely would have shown up, but it would have just been a big brown blob. It would have to be pretty close to be a decent shot. As I attempted this, the bear moved closer. It tipped over a heavy wooden box behind the shelter, tossing it about easily. Every now and again it would give a great shake of its head, rippling the muscles down its neck and back. It was obviously a strong animal.

It was then that the "Japanese Tourist" feeling began to set in. I put my camera in my pocket and decided not to get a photo. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I figured I'd just have to use a thousand words if I had to. I didn't feel as if I could connect with nature if I had a box o' electronics between me and it. Crag leaped off of the roof and crept up to within a few yards of the bear, snapping a photo and running. I'm not sure if that was brave or foolish, but I do know that I wouldn't do that. The bear was content playing in the grass and eating acorns for a while, but it was obvious that he felt our eyes on him. After half an hour or so, he looked up and just stared at all of us. It was enough that we backed off a bit, wary of what he may have done. After a couple of minutes of glaring, he sprang forward, taking three or four great, big, bounding steps towards us. He was surprisingly fast.

He was not as fast, however, as all of the people below me, who dove for the shelter to lock the gate. Our friend Bear decided that he'd had enough fun with the tourists, and made himself content, hopping away through the trees.

The rest of the evening was spent in anticipation of the bear moseying through camp, though he never got around to it. Everybody was laid back, sitting in their Therm-A-Rest chairs or on stuff sacks of clothing, talking and eating. It's a good feeling, being familiar with everybody that you're with at a shelter. A ranger came by, carrying a fanny pack and a large rifle, on which was mounted a large light. He introduced himself as Ranger Rick, telling us that he is out hunting wild boar. They are considered to be a pest, to the point at which the National Park Service pays employees to dispatch them. We told him of our bear sighting, and so he remained in camp for several hours, waiting for the bear's return, which was not to be.

Heidi Gone Burglar, after watching me juggle for a bit, began to show some interest in learning. She didn't know how to juggle at all, but I figured that it should be easy enough for her to pick it up. She plugged away for a few hours, managing to get a single rotation by the end. She may end up learning this by Maine!

It was another late evening of talking around the campfire for us, Crag playing guitar again ("Driver 8" Sing-Along!) and more discussions of food and bodily functions, jokes involving farmers and their sheep. Such a cultured bunch.

Sleep made itself known around eleven, which was fine by us.

Today's Song: G Love and Special Sauce, "This Ain't Livin'"
(Note on this: I have this song in my head every day. This is because my walking stick, when it hits soft wood, vibrates at the first note of the song.
Fortunately, I really like the song.

Miles Today: 7.2

Next Entry