AT-VA Backpack – Day 2 – 5/4/13 - Maupin Field Shelter to Paul Wolfe Shelter – 15.8 Miles
Sometime after midnight I heard the unmistakable sounds of someone vomiting. Cow Girl and Cover Girl were tenting close to me so it had to be one (both?) of them. The misery continued through the night. At first light I peeked out and saw the two of them sitting at their tents and went to see if I could help. Cow Girl was the sick one, still feeling too weak to move around much. Bad food? The norovirus that was making sick hiker headlines up and down the AT? Cover Girl was packing up to walk to the nearest road for help. They were supposed to hike a few more days so their car was not nearby, but perhaps they could get someone to pick them up.
Cathy and I pulled our gear together and left soon after Cover Girl, with an understanding that we would see Waldo again at the Paul Wolfe Shelter at the end of the day. My legs and knees were very sore but my feet had benefited from a good night’s rest. As we walked, a light early morning fog drifted through the trees, muffling sounds. I spooked a deer ahead of me (he spooked me too) and he leaped along the trail for a few beats before turning left into the mist.
Cathy pulled a bit ahead as we began the descent to Reeds Gap. Soon a man walking uphill met me and asked if I was the sick hiker. I said no and directed him on to the shelter. At the gap I caught up with Cathy and we learned that the local trail maintainer club had arrived for a scheduled work day. One had driven Cover Girl to pick up her car while the man I had met was hiking in to assist Cow Girl and carry out her pack. What good luck! But that is what trail angels do. As we chatted with a couple of the group members, we learned that Ned (trail name Typhoon) was a good friend of Lenny Bernstein’s and would be attending the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Biennial event down in North Carolina in July. The hiking world is filled with connections.
Cathy and I split up for the next five miles as the AT wandered across the Blue Ridge Parkway and back again, out of sight but often within earshot of the cars. An abundance of trilliums flourished like weeds all up and down the mountainsides.
There were several side trails to overlooks along this section between Reeds Gap and Dripping Rock; I confess I didn't stop at all of them. At Cedar Cliffs, though, I met a dad with his middle school age son and daughter so I nabbed a photo opportunity. A glorious day to be outside with family.
Looking at Wintergreen ski slopes
Another shout-out to those wonderful trail maintainers
Cathy was patiently waiting to check in with me where the AT crossesd the BRP at Dripping Springs. After determining that I had enough water, we parted ways for the remainder of the day. Nine miles to go to our shelter, one step at a time.
Rock walls appeared from time to time, remains of homesteads from another era
The Humpback Mountain area is a very popular stop along the BRP, featuring a visitor center, a picnic area and several hiking trails, including the trail to Humpback Rocks. I remember well as a child visiting Humpback Rocks with my Uncle Joe, Aunt Mattie and cousins Vicki and Jeff. Funny, I don’t remember hiking up it at all, just the exhilarating view from the top.
The AT northbound passes first over the top of Humpback Mountain. It was here that Waldo caught up with me. I asked if he was going to take the blue-blaze side trail to the Rocks; he wanted to know if it was worth the time. Oh yes! Even though it was Saturday and the place was swarming with people waiting to take a picture, it is an awesome place.
Waldo pulled on ahead of me and for the rest of the day I walked with my thoughts. True, my body was hurting and anyone who saw me may have noticed a grimace on my face, but I tried walking meditation and humming in time with my steps. One of my favorites is a Taize chant of “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Amazing how you can give yourself over to a song and move along the trail.
Finally, finally, finally I looked across Mill Creek and saw the Paul C. Wolfe Shelter.
Waldo and Cathy had unpacked and made themselves comfortable. This shelter was quite luxurious, room on the ground floor for at least six and a sleeping loft built around the three sides that could accommodate four or more. Cathy and I sorta took over the upstairs, no tent for me tonight. During the dwindling time until nightfall a young couple arrived to sleep in the shelter plus two thru-hikers. One set up his tent by the creek and I never saw him. The other one spread his sleeping bag out on the shelter floor and introduced himself as Paranoid. I asked him what was the story behind his name and he said, “I don’t tell it very often” and then…didn’t tell me.
We were greatly entertained with stories from Waldo and Paranoid. Waldo, a young man from Germany, was section hiking for a specific period of time, going however far he happened to go each day. Paranoid had developed a cartoon story for which he drew one frame in the journal of each shelter that he passed, whether he stayed there or not. The story involved bears outsmarting backpackers.
Waldo reading “A Walk In The Woods”
A chilly night, a quiet night, by hiker midnight (9 p.m.) everyone was snoozing.
I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in. ~George Washington Carver