Wednesday Sep 29th, 21, 0605-1940
Calf Mountain Shelter to near Humpback Rocks, SOBO AT mm 1337.5
3170 gain, 3350 loss
All the SOBOs were up early to see the sunrise at a nearby overlook. Problem was, for the first time in nearly a week, the sky was obscured in fog. Mother nature foils our plans again. The 2 couples stayed to have coffee, hoping the fog might burn off. I continued on, having gotten my fill of sunrises from the previous 2 days of road walking. Heading down from the foggy meadow in the gloom of early morning, I came to a confusing trail intersection. I followed white blazes, then was amazed to end up right back at the top of the meadow, staring at my fellow SOBOs in disbelief. The 2 couples stared back at me, just as confused to see me again. I was caught in an endless AT loop it seemed. Stellar had done the same thing, so I knew I wasn’t going crazy in seeing blazes where they didn’t exist. On the second pass, I took a left where I had take a right before, finding more blazes. I checked my GPS to confirm that I was on the correct path, finally breaking the loop. Usually navigation is really simple on the AT but this hiccup literally threw me for a loop! Some trail maintainer’s idea of a joke maybe.
It was 8 miles (plus my loop) to the highway where I planned to go into Waynesboro for resupply. This final stretch exited the park and was mostly downhill. For the last few miles, I jumped on the road. The fog had become even thicker as I descended, so there wasn’t much to see anywhere. At least the road afforded me the opportunity to take pictures with the park entrance/exit sign. There was no such sign welcoming hikers along the trail. My simultaneous pictures of both sides of the sign seemed fitting for my experience in the park. It had flown by, or rather I had flown through it in just 3.5 days. It’s not that I wanted to get it over with. On the contrary, I enjoyed it immensely. With the weather being so nice, it made sense to take full advantage of the days by walking as much as I could. In this way, I took in all the scenery…except for the last few miles in the morning fog.
Someday I’m sure I’ll come back to visit, spending more time exploring the side trails and such. For now, my goal was to thru-hike in an efficient manner. As such, I also wanted to do a quick in & out to town. The forecast was for more brilliant weather, so no sense wasting it hanging out inside. Stellar and I arrived at the highway together, sticking out our thumbs for only an instant when a truck honked at us, beckoning us to get in. The driver, Mr. DuBose of the ‘yellow truck’ was a shuttle driver and had just dropped off another hiker. Perfect timing! The notes said that rides to this town were easy but this was beyond expectations.
Our driver was a very funny and sweet guy. He wouldn’t take any money for the ride. Instead, we helped him drop some cardboard off at the recycling center. I requested a ride back to trail later and he didn’t charge me for the return ride either. He delivered us to a breakfast dinner so we could first fill our bellies. That’s always priority #1. I had an ice cream cone after this, followed by more snacks that I found in the hiker box at the hostel. I bought a shower there for $5, enjoying the best time getting cleaned up on the cheap. The YMCA also offered free showers to hikers but this was just easier. Hostels always have all the amenities…toiletries, free food, space to organize stuff, etc. Something as simple as being able to acquire just one ziplock bag goes a long way in helping a hiker.
I probably overstayed my welcome at the hostel. I hand-washed the clothes I was wearing as I took a shower, then hung them to dry. I marched around wearing a towel as a skirt for several hours while I worked on my phone and organized my resupply. Most of what I needed came from the hiker box. The rest required a quick visit to the Dollar General. Hours later than what I’d hoped for, I left the hostel. I stopped at a pizza place, Benny Stivale’s, for a to-go snack. I ordered one $6 slice and was amazed to see that it was nearly the size of my pack! They make only 26″ pizzas, so a slice is about the same size as one small pizza. While not as extraordinary as the pizza I had in NY/NJ, it was a hiker’s dream for bang for buck. I later talked to SOBOs that had eaten 2 slices. I could barely finish one.
Back on trail shortly before 5 pm, I decided to still make some miles. I passed by the first shelter 5 miles in, even though that’s where all my newly made SOBO friends were hanging. Altogether there were 7 or 8. There appeared to be plenty of tent sites left plus ample room in the shelter, I just wasn’t into another night with so many people. I needed rest, peace, and solitude to recharge my introvert batteries. I walked for another 3.5 miles into the darkness before settling down at a tentsite. Everyone had avoided the site due to reported bear activity. For me, this was an advantage, ensuring a quiet night.
BEAR is an acronym for Belief in Extraterrestrial Animals Religion (I’ll come up with something better later). Like Bigfoot, I’m convinced they don’t actually exist. They’re over-hyped to support the BEAR spray/container/sack/bell industrial complex. It’s a sales gimmick designed to bilk hikers of their money. Not surprisingly, the only thing present at the campsite all night were the katydids and probably my light wheezing….a very good night’s sleep was had, sans BEAR.