Monday, June 7, 2010

Hogback Mountain to Compton Gap

It was good to be back on the trail again.  The weather was just about perfect with temperatures in the mid 60s and a light breeze.  Who could ask for more?

Remains of an old park comfort station
Gene dropped me off at Compton Gap and I began my trek south.  I was a little nervous at first because the trail veered away from Skyline Drive and I had that remote feeling of being in the wilderness by myself.  Add to that the fact that bears and other wildlife are out early foraging for grub and I could work myself up into a real state.  However, about 15 minutes into my hike, I saw the first northbound thru-hiker.  Then hikers came, one after another, about every 10 minutes all day long.  I saw more hikers today than any other day on the trail.  Two warrant additional comments.

First, there was Eddie.  Of course, I didn’t know what his name was at the time I spoke to him on the trail.  He was the second hiker I saw this morning.  As he approached, I commented that he looked like he may have started his hike at Springer Mountain.  He confirmed and I asked how it was going.  I was surprised when he said he was disappointed in not seeing a bear.  From where we were talking, he was only about 3 miles from exiting Shenandoah National Park, one of the most likely places to see a bear along the trail.  During the few brief moments of our conversation, he informed me that about a half mile back there was an arrow on the trail indicating which direction the bear went.  This was not information I needed.  I thanked him for the tip and wished him well on his journey.

The bear went thata way.
Sure enough, about a half mile up the trail, I came to the “arrow” where the bear had crossed the trail and continued on into the woods.  As I was making the photo, another thru-hiker came along.  He asked if I had seen anything interesting and I related my conversation with Eddie.  I gave him the description of Eddie--an older gentleman with a red bandana tied around his head and speaking with a strong European accent.  This hiker told me that Eddie was from Germany.  Of course, I still had not learned Eddie’s name.

About a tenth of a mile before I got to the truck, I ran into a young couple (husband and wife) hiking north.  We went through the normal, “are you hiking thru?” to which they confirmed.  They mentioned having seen 3 bears yesterday and I related to them my conversation with Eddie.  They were the ones who gave me his name and also that he had never hiked or backpacked before coming to America to hike the Appalachian Trail.  He didn’t even know about the AT until reading Bill Bryson’s book.  Bill Bryson’s book is quite entertaining, but relates little of what hiking this trail is really like.  According to this young couple, Eddie has been very surprised.  However, Eddie is still out there and has hiked over 900 miles.  You go, Eddie!

The other noteworthy hiker I met was a family group--mom and dad about 30 years old with their two young daughters about 5 and 7 years old.  Mom and dad were carrying backpacks and I assumed they were out for a couple days.  When I asked mom how far they were going, I was shocked to learn they will be out for the rest of June and plan to hike 170 miles.  You go, little girls!

View of Shenandoah Valley

What a great day for a hike and what great people I met along the way.  Gene didn’t have nearly as much fun as I did.  Tomorrow, he can hike south so he’ll meet all the northbound hikers.  Besides, the hills tomorrow are steeper and higher southbound.

That’s all I have for today.

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