Miles Today: 16.4
Mile Marker: 952.8
I woke up this morning and summoned all of my energy to get packed. I kept reminding myself that any moment a Ranger could round the corner and decide to give me a ticket. I needed to get my tent down pronto. I threw all of my stuff in my pack and went a tenth of a mile to the picnic area to regroup. I reorganized my stuff, planned my day, took advantage of indoor plumbing, and lazily ate my breakfast of protein bars. Have you ever seen one of those post apocalyptic movies where everyone is assigned a food ration? When they open it, it is this nondescript grey colored bar, and that's all they get to stay alive. Then later you find out it's an amalgamation of crushed crickets for protein and corn and wheat as a binder. That's my breakfast. Every. Morning.
Around 11:00 I caught back up with Hop Along and planned our day to the Wayside. The Waysides are these diner and camp stores every 15 - 20 miles in the Shenandoahs where I mentioned doing my resupplies earlier. We decided we could make the 8.5 miles by by 4:00. I started booking it trying to get in as quickly as possible. Deep into a podcast I flew by something my brain threw up a LOOKOUT warning. I looked to my right and saw something big and black and jumped backwards. Turns out I should have jumped forward. I looked over and saw a black pointy head I immediately recognized to be that of a viper less than two feet from me. I stepped back in confusion trying to figure out if it was a cottonmouth or something else. Then I saw the rattle. Growing up in Texas I'm used to the western diamondback rattlers. This thing had an all black head and a darker body. I waited for Hop Along to catch up so I could let him know it was on the trail. Eventually the snake retreated back into the brush, but it never once rattled. Hop Along will probably have footage of it up at some point. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK4Vne3uUNkq4D6TqvXLBJQNot too long after that we were approaching the turn off for the Wayside. I took a right hand turn, and boom! Bear running full speed off to my right. It stopped and looked at us after about 50 yards, and then walked away slowly. Animals in the Shenandoahs are so desensitized to humans.
At 3:30 we strolled into the wayside. A total of 14 miles to get there. We were motivated and made solid time. Waysides to hikers are like when the cricket eating proletariat mentioned above realize the wealthy upstairs are eating real meat, vegetables, and wine. It's the exact same thing except cheeseburgers, chili cheese fries, and beer. Revolutionizes your outlook. We ate, hung out, resupplied, and charged our phones. Then we set out for the next flat place we could find. 2.4 miles later we called it a day. Unfortunately today was the last Wayside. Tomorrow we will be through the Shenandoahs and have to go back to carrying full loads of food and waiting days for a good meal. We will likely be in Front Royal by Wednesday, so that will help bridge the gap.