Sunday, November 13, 2016
Everyone started getting up at 5:00. There were three up top. I apologized profusely for waking them, and told them my story in a shorter form. They were sympathetic, but all business. They were just there for the night and a two-day hike, so they headed right out to a beautiful overlook up the trail. Two young ladies were out before them. I had the place to myself, so I collected wood and started a fire, made coffee and decided on the dehydrated bacon and eggs bag, adding boiling water to it. It was a beautiful morning, and after a long night, I decided to relax a bit.
Soon the ladies returned, asking if they could use my fire to cook breakfast. Of course. It turns out they were roommates at UVA. Now graduates, they agreed to meet here for the weekend. Rachael is a resident in OBGYN at UVA, and Casey has an MBA from Harvard and now does consulting for a company in DC. It was a very nice morning chatting by the fire over breakfast with these two very nice ladies. Obviously having camped a fair amount, they were skilled at cooking over a fire, and they had all the gear. I was impressed. Soon enough, we all had to get on our way and said our goodbyes.
As I headed up the steep mountain, it was a mile to the beautiful vista they had all gone to see. I thought I would die climbing out, carrying that backpack. I had filled up with water at the spring at the hut, but only two bottles, and I was sweating like a dog, as only I can do. I had no idea how far it was to the next hut, but felt sure 10 miles wasn’t a big deal. Actually it was about 12 miles, and I would learn that for me, that is a very long day.
Another beautiful buck greeted me in the morning. He was beautiful and totally unafraid. At 12:00 I passed a picnic ground, so I went up for a lunch break. There was beautiful running water! What a delight. I washed my dirty clothes, cleaned my feet and ate some lunch. I was so tired that I really had a hard time eating or even drinking. I was there maybe 45 minutes before getting back on the trail. There were some beautiful vistas and some great campsites with beautiful views. It is very pretty below and around Loft Mountain Campground. I almost went for one campsite, but something had marked the territory. I don’t know what this is, but there are a lot of them in the park. It is not a bear, not a deer and I don’t think it’s a coyote or a raccoon. That leaves Bobcat or Cougar. Mountain Lions are officially extinct in these mountains, but sightings are pretty regular. My friend, Diana, has seen one recently, and I trust her implicitly. I had not regained my confidence of sleeping in the open, so I kept moving.
I passed Ivy Creek, not stopping to get water at the spring. Should have, but I didn’t. It’s a very pretty stream that turns into the Lynch River. Climbing up the other side is steep and narrow, and it was getting late. By the time I got into the neighborhood of Pinefield Hut, it was dark…again! Using my flashlight, I tried to watch my step but still watch for the sign post for the hut. It would be a terrible thing to miss the hut, and it is possible. I almost did it twice. Next trip I will enter the GPS coordinates of each hut.
I came upon a couple in the trail with their lights shining. I couldn’t tell if it was a father/daughter or husband wife in the dark, but I think the lady had the GPS programmed. She said it was about a mile. It’s amazing how long a mile can be at the end of the day when you are tired. I heard voices at one point and stopped to try to determine where they were, sure that was the hut. The man behind me bumped into the lady. Turns out he has night blindness! There were several times he almost fell. She was very patient and in total confidence. It was cool. I think the people talking were at Two-mile Run Overlook. All we could do was keep walking. Finally we found the signpost to turn down another trail for a quarter mile. A more welcome sight could not be imagined. A Great Horned Owl greeted us with his calls.
We were all tired. I started by blowing up the air mattress and putting out the sleeping bag, up in the top right corner, an unlikely place for bears to bother me. Actually, I was so tired, I couldn’t care less. The couple set up their tent out back. I checked the spring just long enough to be sure there was water before guzzling down most of what I had. I tried to eat something, but couldn’t do much. I hung the food bag on the bear pole, quickly brushed my teeth and hung my backpack. In short order I was in the sleeping bag. It felt so good to stretch out and rest, and I slept a very long time.