Miles Today: 19.6
Mile Marker: 920.3
Last night I camped near an overlook with a sunrise view. Bold move on a holiday weekend. I woke up at 5:00, visited the tree, and went back to bed with the intent of getting another hour of sleep. Thirty minutes later a group of six walked up. Guess it's time to get up. I quickly packed and got on the trail at 6:00. By 7:30 I had made it the 3.5 miles to the shelter to gather water. I ran into Hop Along again who said he only hiked to there last night because he was out of water. We chatted about what we were doing for the day, and then I headed off.
A bit later we caught up again and hiked for a while until we hit a gap and saw a shade tent and several ice chests through the trees. We immediately turned to each other and whispered Trail Magic! We popped out and sure enough it was. Jim and Carol greeted us and said their son did the trail in 2014 and was named Wiki (I think). They had a spread with EVERYTHING a hiker could want. A handwashing station, donuts and coffee, chips, snack cakes, honey buns, sloppy joes, apples, string cheese, candy bars, Smart Water bottles, soda, Gatorade, beer, and likely a dozen other things I can't remember. Incredible start to the morning. Finally around 10:00 Hop Along and I started to head out. Just then Jim hit us with a surprise. Mini bottles of Crown, Bacardi, and I want to say a top shelf brandy. I grabbed a Crown and several snacks for the road. Absolutely outstanding treat.
The rest of the day cruised by. I saw several deer and a massive bear print. Toward the end of the day I past a car camping site with toilets. I stopped by to use the bathroom when I was waved down by three couples who were camping with their kids. They asked if I was hiking the AT and if I'd like a snack. I said I'm always hungry, so yes. They gave me bear sausage, some shrimp, cod, a bell pepper, some potato salad, and a beer. I've never had bear before. It was a bit surreal. I felt a bit guilty, but they can be a pest animal and have no natural predators. Hunting of them is allowed. Verdict: Bears are delicious. Shortly after I finished eating there was a downpour. I helped the group move their shade tent over the stuff they didn't want to get wet. However the vents at the top let in a torrent of water. One of the guys said “Well it is a sun shade, not a rain tent” and laughed. They were able to use some binder clips to close the holes. I said my goodbyes and got back on the trial.
Shortly after I started hiking I heard something squealing that sounded like a piglet. It turned out to be a baby deer. It must have been very young because if could still barely walk. I got several pictures of it before it froze and hunkered down in the worst hiding place possible. I continued up the trail and found a mama deer with another baby. Hopefully they find each other.
Finally I got to the peak where I intended to camp. I found three locals camping in front of the highest overlook with a sunset view for 15 miles in either direction. Literally camping on the trail that leads to it, totally blocking it off. On a holiday weekend no less. When I was in Yosemite in September one of the staff there told me the technical term for this. According to him this is what is called a “Boner Move”. I've seen enough of Virginia to not really care, but still super poor form. I hiked on looking for a spot to camp and ran into Hop Along again. He was all set up and was surprised to see me. He thought I was long gone. I thought the same of him. Turns out we were both hanging out at the camp ground at the same time, but in different areas. He helped me find a spot further up the hill from him to camp, and we hung out while eating dinner. Turns out he was in the Air Force for nine years as a sheet metal repair technician on aircraft. He used to work on fighter jets.