This was my best day on the trail.
I moved on from feeling guilty (thanks for all the messages) – in a way this is what makes it so special: a walk in nature (complete with mountains, springs, wild life) interspersed with being a tourist in small town America and indulging in an 18inch (never again!!!!) pizza.
I mentioned that Devils Backbone (named after the nearby mountain) brewery allows thru-hikers to camp for free (having access to hot showers). We also got free access to the music festival (charge was $25 per person of which part goes to the Appalachian Trail Consevancy: the owner clearly supports the hiking community). I counted about 25 hikers tents.
Before we were taken back to the trail head we had a $5 hiker’s breakfast (which is reasonable as it included a $3 batista made coffee). The breakfasts were maybe prepared with less than maximum care (ours stood on counter for 10mins and were cold by time we got it) but the person who decided what the contents should be had it spot on: Biscuit (which is actually a scone), scrambled egg, lots of fatty crispy bacon, potatoes and a cling wrapped muffin (which we packed and had for lunch).
The day started late as the shuttle only takes hikers back to the trail at 9. On the plus side we had a relaxed get-up, big breakfast WITH GOOD COFFEE, and after the previous night’s relaxation we were just two happy people.
Then we started walking. And eventually, after 59 days on the trail, there was 15km of trail EXACTLY as I expected the trail to be. When Trevor and I were sitting on our couch in SA talking about me joining him, I thought (as in the title of Bill Bryson’s book) that it would be “a walk in the woods”. Surely I expected some hills but not nearly to the extent we are getting. It also carries the description “scenic nature footpath” – which sounds like something one can take your grandmother on?
So here we were, walking along with a little bit of up and a little bit of down but nothing which hurt us. It was exactly as I thought it would be before I knew better and it was so pleasant. We saw lots of squirrels, three times we saw deer and often beautiful butterflies (oddly always dark colours, almost never yellows or whites).
In the afternoon the terrain became a bit unfriendly, walking wasn’t as pleasant, but we had saved up energy from the morning so we remained upbeat.
And then we had our first full-on sighting of an adult bear. We have seen cubs twice before, some distance away. And i had a glimpse of an adult running away. But there, ON THE TRAIL, 20-30m ahead of us, was a bear turning over stones and looking for berries. These are not the aggressive type of bear but we held our position for a while untill it moved off the trail, then carefully walked past (at this stage there were 3 of us and we walked closely together: the bear would theoretically see us as one big entity and be scared off by us).
The photo isn’t great – they are not the most photogenic animals but it is proof that I am not just making this up 😀.
We finished the walk and got to Waynesboro where we are staying in a hikers hostel. We are forever weighing up the pros and cons of hikers hostel vs motel, this time we didn’t make the best choice I’m not crazy about this one (it is interesting how different they can be, they all have different characters).
We went for a pizza and even Trevor, who loves pizza, wouldn’t want to have another one soon. Last week we shared one which was too small to fill us, today I ordered the largest one on the menu but I think it is probably designed for a family of 4. We finished it but think we will not need food again for two days!
Tomorrow we are zeroeing and I am buying new shoes. I have, up to now, hiked in pre-used shoes. I am quite nervous about hiking in brand new shoes but my Camino shoes have now done more kilometres than I could have asked for and holes are starting to appear on the top of the shoe. If it rains it will be a mess. Time to be brave.