I finally woke up at 11:00 AM, feeling very good about myself for getting up at 8:00 AM. This was not the case at all. I know I must've gotten up at 8:00, since I was so bloody tired, and the whole world was simply a little fast that morning. I forgive you, world. Between this and the pouring rain outside, I could tell this wouldn't be much of a day. As neither Becky nor Mana were up yet, and I didn't care to wake them, I spent the next two hours reading and cleaning some of my gear. The others got up a couple of hours later. Mana made eggs, fruit salad, tofu sausages and toast for breakfast, all of which were quite good. It was tough to talk much, as Mana's baby brother was throwing all kinds of little fits and temper tantrums. I ended up juggling for him and playing ball, even teaching Willow a little juggling.
Shasta, Mana's older sister, came home around 3, which meant that there was now a car available to drive me back to the trail. Mana drove me back to where I'd left off. We said our goodbyes, resolving to see one another again, after my hike was finished.
That is trail magic. Thank you, Mana.
It had cleared up considerably by the time that I started hiking. While it was still somewhat overcast, the rain had stopped and the sun seemed to be giving it the good ol' college try. Not far into the park, I found the blue-blazed sidetrail to get a backcountry permit for camping in the Shenandoah National Park. I kept up a decent pace, though I found I was forced to take a lot of breaks. Not out of exaustion, mind you, but due to the large number of blackberries that lined the trail. Finally I just gave up and dropped my pack, while ascending Bear Den Mountain, and gathered a bandana-ful of blackberries. ("One for me", popping a berry into my mouth, "and one for me," adding one to the growing pile in the bandana.) There's nothing quite like the tart sweetness of a ripe blackberry. A lot of people swear by chilled berries, chocolate-dipped this, powdered that, but give me some sun-warmed fresh blackberries and I'm just as happy as a kitty in a catnip factory.
Up on top of Bear Den Mountain, amongst the radio towers, repeaters and broadcasters, I found a bunch of tractor seats. All had been driven into the ground on a springy post, all facing west towards the valley. It was a nice spot for a break, what with that tough berry-picking session.
The rest of the day proved fairly easy - as did the former portion of the day's hike. It looked like the park was going to be as easy as I'd remembered. I reached Calf Mountain Shelter in early evening. There I was happy to find Wooden Nickel, Jayhiker, in addition to Totin' Chip and thru-hikers The Professor and Gilligan. I hadn't seen Wooden Nickel and Jayhiker since Trail Days, so I was awfully glad to see them again. When I first met Tony and Chris they were...well...not really overweight, but I'd say both could've stood to lose a little. Well, two months later, they were the picture of fitness. Aside from this, neither had changed and seemed to still be happy with the progression of their trip.
The discussion, before long, turned to time paranoia. Totin' Chip and the Brothers Kansas (Jay and Nickel) all expressed concern about being at the back of the bunch of thru-hikers. I'm told that most everybody believes that they're the last thru- hikers, and that there's hardly anybody behind them. I think that, in our case, it was true. I was not concerned about being where I was when I was. But, bein' as how everybody around me was always fretting about being too far south, I'd begun to wonder if maybe I was just too dense to know I was going too slowly. The Brothers Kansas had two plans in mind. Either they could flip-flop (drive to Maine and hike south until they've completed the trail) or get a car.
With the car, they figured, they could slackpack every day! It would work like so: They'd camp by the road. One of them would hike north, the other one would drive north and hike south. They'd pass off keys when they met in the middle. Then one would get the car, then drive south, pick up the other one, and then they would drive up north again to where they'd left off. All in all, it would add up to about an hour of driving a day, 20 miles for one guy, 40 for the other. Sure, roads wouldn't always intersect where appropriate, but things would work out. They just wanted to find a couple of other guys to go in with them on a used car who could accompany them north in the Slackpack-Mobile. We talked about it for a bit, and we decided that a good group for things would be the four of us. We would talk about it more over the days ahead, but it seemed like a good plan, to be put into action around Duncannon, PA.
Entering the shelter, I'd noticed that Kozmic Zian, who I'd not seen for some miles, had once again inscribed his name upon a shelter. I've got a problem with people leaving their mark like that. It's bad enough on my shelters (yes, mine -- they're everybody's, really, making them mine, in part), but some people go as far as to carve on live trees, write on signs or bark with magic marker, markings left on slow-moving forest creatures. As far back as I can remember, we've all been seeing "Mouse + Wildflower" written on anything and everything, along with "Shoogar", which is somewhat less prominent. It's just akward to be strolling through the forest, enjoying the morning air, perhaps spotting a few deer, following some tracks, and then find graffitti written across something. I even once found my name carved into a tree, around the PUDs (Pointless Ups and Downs) around Bears Den Mountain. That freaked me out.
After an extended movie round of reviews of recent movies (based on ads we'd seen on motel room televisions), in which the other three gave their review of Independance Day ("sucked") and scorned my taste in flicks, I decided to go to bed. After reading more of "Song of Solomon", I finally curled up in my bag and went to sleep.
Song Stuck in my Head Today: Phish, "Glide"