Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hightop Mountain to Bootens Gap

This turned out to be a very nice day--a little hot--but still a nice day.  Today was an exciting day as far as hiking goes.  Gene passed the 900 mile mark from Springer Mountain in Georgia, we are now both caught up with each other, and we saw bears.

As you would expect, each 100 miles hiked is a big deal for the hiker.  That is especially true of the thru-hikers.  They count off the miles and they count off the states.  For us, every 100 miles and every state completed is something we take note of, but not worthy of a celebration.  The 900th mile of AT from Springer occurs about 1.5 miles south of Lewis Mountain Campground.  After our hike this afternoon we stopped in at the Lewis Mountain Camp Store.  There were 5 thru-hikers celebrating.  The guys were putting down massive quantities of beer and the young lady was drinking her wine right out of the bottle.  All sitting on the front porch of the store.

Break at Lewis Mountain Campground

I had hiked to Lewis Mountain in 2008, but today Gene got his turn to roll over that 900 miles.  I think he was too tired to notice.

I dropped him off this morning at Hightop Mountain parking area and he headed into the woods.  I drove north to Bootens Gap, parked the truck, and headed south on the trail.  It was a beautiful morning and there were several hikers out.  The trail was good and, in places, had recently been weed-eated.  The trail also follows Skyline Drive closely and crossed several side trails.  For the first time, I felt very comfortable hiking alone.

As I passed Lewis Mountain Campground, I stopped in for a potty break.  It is very rare to have a flush toilet so close to the trail.  About 11:30 I started looking for Gene.  I was approaching a 500 foot climb that I was not so eager to do.  I sat down and took a break.  I finally decided I better go on in case he was in trouble.  I hadn’t hiked 2 minutes from my comfortable break spot when I heard limbs breaking and a big thud.  I found the source of the noise just in time to see the back side of a black bear running away.  Normally, I would have been petrified, but he seemed to be anxious to put some distance between us so I relaxed.  I ran into Gene about a half mile away.

As we were walking back toward Lewis Mountain, we met a hiker who told us he had seen a mama bear and 3 cubs.  We were watching carefully, but didn’t see the bears.  Later, at the Camp Store the celebrating hikers said they had seen these bears.  We must have walked right by and not noticed, because those hikers were only a short distance in front of us.

On our second pass by Lewis Mountain I again went over to the restroom.  This was great.  On our next hike, I’ll be stopping at Big Meadow Campground.  I just love the Shenandoah.

We got back to the truck about 3:30 just about exhausted.  That beautiful trail I had hiked this morning had lost its appeal this afternoon.  Since we both wanted to check out the Lewis Mountain Camp Store, we drove in there on our way home.  It’s small.  They don’t have much, but a hiker could get a short-term resupply there and a shower.  The question is, why would he want to since the large store at Big Meadow is just 7 miles away.  I guess a south-bounder might resupply here.  They did have a good selection of ice cream (what I chose) and beer and wine for the celebrating hikers.

Tomorrow is a rest day, thank goodness.

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