Day 78 — Sunday, June 1
Today was a beautiful and eventful day in the Shenandoah National Forest. We awoke high on the hill above the Pinefield hut. The sun was shining already at 7:30, but the breeze across the mountain was chilly. We ate breakfast quickly to get hiking and warmed up.
Mio, Tandem, and I went down to the hut and were surprised to see Johnny Utah packing up. While talking, we found out that Mio had been woken last night by a bear just 20 feet from his hammock. The next 8.2 miles to the Hightop hut went by quickly, although the terrain was tough due to steep climbs and descents. Mio had pulled forward, so Tandem and I stopped for a snack. The hiking became easier and flatter.
Shortly after leaving the hut, we crossed mile 900!
We completed the climb to the summit of Hightop Mountain and were surprised by a pair of trail angels, Christina and Malinda, with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and mini Cokes.
As we moved out to the view to enjoy our treats, we were greeted by a pair of gentlemen who offered us fresh cooked shrimp! All six of us enjoyed the frying pan full of shrimp. Then they offered us chocolate covered coconut and bananas, followed by a dessert of Brie cheese and jelly. This was fantastic food and one of our best memories of trail magic — and with a view!
We hiked the 1.5 miles down to Skyline Parkway, where we were greeted with more trail magic set up by Goat Momma. She had cold beer, sodas, water, watermelon, and guacamole for Italian bread. There were chips, crackers, raisins, peanut snacks, and Jolly Ranchers. Mio was already there, so we took seats, too. Goat Momma asked us all to sign her log with our trail names and blog sites.
Mallet showed up, coming in southbound. He is SOBO due to getting married on the trail and choosing to hike south from Harpers Ferry. His new wife had hiked for a while with him but wasn’t having fun, so he is hiking solo till he reaches the point that he got off the trail for his wedding.
Later on, Johnny Utah came down and joined us. We left shortly after, thanking Goat Momma and giving her a hug. We were headed 10 more miles to the Lewis Mountain campsite store for a small restock. We got waylaid 4.5 miles later at the South River Picnic area due to the bathroom facilities, fresh water, and AT&T signal.
At 17:00 we realized that we had 5.5 miles to go in two hours before the store closed. We took off and caught up with Johnny Utah, who needed coaxing to join us in the run to the store. On the way to the store, we passed a large Black Bear. That was the first bear sighting for Tandem and me.
Tandem and Mio arrived early at the store but found that the closing hour is 18:00, not 19:00, as the AWOL Guide stated. However, the store manager kept it open for us thru hikers so we could buy what we needed.
We completed our 20.6 mile day with a half mile hike to the Bearfence Mountain hut. We picked a campsite level enough for my tent on the hillside above the hut. We cooked our dinner by the shelter with everyone else and enjoyed the conversations about food, books, and bears. As it grew dark, we all put our food bags in the available bear box then parted ways for our different sleeping locations.
Having actually seeing a bear, Tandem is now concerned about them coming into the campsite, Today was our third day in a row over 20 miles. Tomorrow should be. too. We should be outo the Shenandoahs in fewer than three days but have the very rocky “roller coaster” to get through first.