The Animal Evening

April 14, 2018

Destination: Jenkins Shelter Today's Miles: 16.40

Start Location: Lick Creek Campsite Mile 563.5 Trip Miles: 579.90

View from Chestnut Knob
At camp last night I rinsed out my shirt and shorts. I strung up small laundry line inside my tent since they were not yet dry when I went to bed.

This would work fine under normal circumstances, but I had set my tent up on a slight pitch. I wanted my vestibule to open out to the creek, but usually I sleep with my head by the vestibule. I didn’t want all of the blood to flow to my head, so I had to change my position and sleep with my head at the back of my tent where the clearance was lower. Long story short, the clothesline dipped my shorts just over my face. That was my morning wake up view!

I had my coffee and breakfast. It had been nice sleeping to the sound of the stream. At some point last night and early this morning some kind of animal came down to the creek. I’m guessing deer but it’s hard to say. At around 5am something woke me walking behind my tent. I’d guess it was a small deer or a raccoon. 

I discussed a potential plan with Sauerkraut of aiming for Jenkins shelter tonight if possible. Then on Sunday we could hike to Brushy Mountain and camp nearby, hopefully somewhere outside the shop! Monday morning we would eat there and be on our way. We were starting to get funny notions in our head that they might have a soda machine outside, a covered patio, a water spicket,  and some outdoor electrical outlets. Oh - and ATT cell service. We joked about this but we both knew we were hoping for it. I headed out of camp first. 

Walking along in the morning is so peaceful. I listened to the birds sing as I hopped across little creeks. It was chilly to start, which was fine as I had my long sleeve and pants on while my T-shirt and shorts continued to dry on the back of my pack. I came to a road crossing and Captain America was there, smoking a cigarette. He said he was texting his wife. I, of course, had no ATT signal, so I started the big climb for the day that would eventually take me to the top of Chestnut Knob. It was a big climb, but there were decent switchbacks and I was feeling good. I drank a lot of water to try and stay a bit cooler, and to hydrate. I passed Wallace taking a break. He said he was also targeting Jenkins Shelter. I kept climbing and eventually got to a kind of grassy, bald looking meadow with a small pond and a stream. It was the best water source for Chestnut Knob, so I filled up. I also spread out my tent tarp to dry and let my feet air out. Wallace and Sauerkraut arrived and got water, then headed off. I changed into my shorts and t shirt, which were now mostly dry, and then  hiked on. Bear Meat had dropped me a text warning me to be sure to get water at Walker Gap after Chestnut Knob. Apparently water was scarce after Walker Gap until almost to Jenkins Shelter. By scarce I mean none!

I hiked the rest of the way up the grassy meadow bald to Chestnut Knob Shelter, which is actually enclosed with a door due to the wind up there. It was kind of cool inside, but I have not stayed at an enclosed shelter yet and wondered if it would feel claustrophobic at all. Sauerkraut and Wallace were outside taking in the view. It was a lovely view indeed! Wallace described it as “God’s Thumbprint.” It was hard to disagree with that. After appreciating the view, I hiked on. The ridge continued for a bit and then dropped into Walker Gap. I made sure to fill up on water, and had told the others about Bear Meat’s recommendation. There were a few young kids at the campsite at Walker Gap. Wallace was drinking a beer with one of them when I passed by him. I put on some sunscreen before leaving the water source. It was again very hot and sunny.

The climb out of Walker Gap really wasn’t that difficult, but it was hot. Once I was up on the ridge, I spent a lot of the afternoon there just kind of going up and down, up and down. Some of the terrain was pretty technical. I looked for a lunch spot in the shade but struggled to find one, so I settled for a nice rock instead. I kicked off my shoes and socks and had a lovely little lunch on that rock. There were a lot of flies out enjoying the heat, but the cross breeze was strong enough to chase them away periodically. 

After lunch I carried on my merry way, singing to myself and hopping from rock to rock. I was still on a Billy Joel kick, so I sang “Don’t Ask Me Why.” As the song goes, don’t look for answers, just take your chances, don’t ask me why. Done, done, done! I passed a group of kids hiking with a guy who said he was a meteorologist. We talked about the expected storms tomorrow. I kept on going feeling strong and taking in the beautiful views on the ridge. After a while I dropped down again to a road crossing. I walked through a parking lot and across to what I thought was a trash can based on a Guthook comment. It was actually a can of bags of wood chips for the mouldering privy at Jenkins Shelter and a sign explaining that, stating that it was not a trashcan, and then requesting hikers to take bags of chips up to the shelter. I opened the barrel. There were no chips in it, but I could see where people had dropped a fair bit of trash in it. I’m sure the people who tend to the blue barrels love that.

I kept on going and when I started getting close to the shelter I passed a female hiker who looked familiar. I couldn’t quite place it, but I knew I had met her before. I said hello and found out her name was Shocktop, after the beer. Apparently she had done trail magic one time and brought that beer to a shelter. She said she was from Centerville, VA and was hiking the section from Damascus to Pearisburg. She wasn’t having the easiest of days as it was tough and technical going in the heat. She was headed to Jenkins, so I told her I’d see her at camp and hiked on. At this point I was getting pretty thirsty. I was close to the shelter though, within 2 miles, so I just pushed on. 

I was the first one to arrive at the shelter. I stakes out a spot with my sleeping pad/bag and went to get water. I washed up a bit in the stream as well. As I was getting organized Sauerkraut arrived, then Wallace, and then Shocktop. Wallace and I were the only ones staying in the shelter. I rinsed my t shirt and shorts lightly in the creek and hung them to dry. We all chatted at the picnic table for a while and ate our dinners, and then MacGyver showed up. He said he had seen a baby bear about 6 miles back and had gotten a video of it. I watched it and, sure enough, back on the ridge a baby bear had crossed over the trail and then retreated back the other way, presumably going back to mama. When a baby bear appears, the question is always “where is mama,” because she is never very far away. 

Sauerkraut and I decided that on Sunday we would hike a short day to Bushy Mountain Outpost and, since it would be closed, figure out a game plan after that for stealth camping. We knew it was supposed to rain and produce a few thunderstorms, but it was hard to tell when that would start. The mosquitos and buzzy things were out now with the warmer temperatures. I had to stop journaling because the light from my phone attracted Mothra into the shelter. At first I thought it was a bat, but it was just a giant moth. I wore a bug net over my  face to keep the mosquitos off of me. The Low was supposed to be 60, so I barely needed my sleeping bag.  As I was just settling down to sleep, all of a sudden some coyotes started calling back and forth and howling. They were so close, and on both sides of camp! It sounded like a couple were down at our water source and the others were just back above camp near the privy. It was both unnerving and awesome at the same time!   I wish I had recorded it. They moved on fairly quickly into the night. 

Today was awesome! I had a great day hiking and was grateful for the views, clear weather, and that my legs felt good for the day. I took the tape off my heels to check them out and everything is healed. The skin is still a bit new so I will tape them again before heading into wet weather tomorrow. Now I must lie low to avoid mothra ....  

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