"Wait. Weren't you here two nights ago?"
Turns out he had been there by way of backtracking one mile where he had been dropped off. He was now covering those 7 miles after spending 2 days with relatives. Makes sense.
Shortly after leaving the shelter, it started raining. Then thundering. The pouring. And all the gear we had just spent 2 days drying out was wet once again. Fortunately, the storm was short lived, and we came to a road crossing with a parking lot. The lot quickly filled with hikers drying out their gear. That sun works wonders!
June 10: Today we played a little game called "outwit the weather." We lost every round.
The day dawned on a steady, heavy rain. I packed up my merely damp stuff from inside the shelter while Subaru and Road Runner came into the shelter for breakfast dragging their sopping tents behind them. The folks at the shelter quickly divided into two groups: those who had NOT hiked the previous Thursday in Andrea (who packed and hit the trail) and those who HAD hiked last Thursday. I was in this group.
We sat inside the shelter for a couple hours, just knowing that the rain would lighten up and stop soon.
We set out on our hike, feeling very proud of ourselves for being so smart.
And then it started raining. Hard. The trail turned into a river. Our boots and socks became saturated. Our mood turned south.
Fortunately, we were in Shenandoah Park, which has a plethora of campstores and restaurants. So we made our way to the Loft Mountain Campground Wayside (restaurant). It stopped raining as soon as we arrived. I removed my boots and socks, my raingear, and my packcover and hung them to dry. Road Runner and Subaru unpacked their tents and hung them over the rail of the deck. Then we went inside.
Our little lunch stop turned into a two hour break to dry everything our completely and to allow our stomachs a chance to digest and make room for the famous blackberry sundae. Finally, dried out, full, happy, and quite smug about how smart we were, we headed back onto the trail.
It started downpouring 10 minutes later.
We arrived at Pinefield Hut just as the rain stopped. And tonight, I did get to tent, since the shelter was full of hikers who didn't stop for a two hour lunch.
June 11: Later than planned start today (8:30) because I just could not get moving this morning. Which is hard, because today was a planned long day. We started hiking, and rather than lunch at the shelter (mile 7), we decided to stop at a road crossing parking lot, since that had proved to be so successful two days ago drying gear. So once, again, we ate and dried out our gear. Then began the climb. We hadn't had any big climbs since entering the park, so this was our first. It ended up at a nice viewpoint which also was coincidentally, the 900 mile mark. Nine hundred miles! No wonder my feet are so sore.
We hit the trail again, with me in the lead, and while climbing a hill, I saw my first bear! He was little, about the size of a Labrador retriever. He was crossing from one side of the trail to the bushes on the other and paid me no mind whatsoever. No picture of him, sadly.
We had dinner in Lewis Mountain Campground with food from their camp store. (Italian sandwiches and ice cream) Ate with Condo and GaMaine, who are from Germany. Then pushed the one last mile to Bearfence Mountain Shelter.
June 12: Another big mile day. Another big food day.
We left early in anticipation of our big miles (7:30) and quickly did the 7 miles to Big Meadows Wayside. But first, we stopped for morning trail magic! Sodas and chips from some folks who thru hiked last year. We got to the wayside hoping for lunch, but they were still serving their breakfast menu. So we had a big second breakfast.
After our flat, fast morning, things turned steeper. And rockier. And slower. I hate it when that happens. We kept pushing through the next 9 miles, actually treated to some pretty nice views and vistas that we didn't have to cross Skyline Drive to see! And had some decent ridge walking, as well. We finally ended up at Skyline Lodge for town food meal #2! Two restaurant meals in one day! How awesome. We considered getting a room and staying at the lodge so we could watch game one of the Stanley Cup (me rooting for the Bruins, Subaru rooting for the Blackhawks, and Road Runner not caring either way. Then we saw the room rates and decided to keep hiking)
Then we set out to cover the last 7 miles and were pleasantly surprised with this view: