11 April 2021. Day 14. 15.0 Miles + 159.4 Miles = 174.4 Miles. Rockfish Gap to Stealth Site at 179.4. Just Thankful To Be Here

Red Beard of Stanimal’s Hostel

Into the Shenandoah National Park

The next morning brought renewed strength and I sought out Pilgrim to thank him for all of his assistance. Because of the situation in Massachusetts I had stayed at Stanimal’s on three separate evenings. It felt like home.

Red Beard drove CVS, Roadrunner, The Onion and I back to Rockfish Gap. I was pretty much lost in my own thoughts on the ride. I knew all three of them were strong hikers so I basically wanted them to get registered first to enter the park.

Roadrunner, The Onion and CVS

It was, of course, a climb up from the highway and I thought that I had left enough time for them to be long gone by staying and talking to Red Beard for a moment but…….after climbing a bit there they were. Self registration for the Shenandoah National Park. It didn’t really make much sense to me. A triplicate form with all your input but no place to leave a copy. As a matter of fact it specifically stated not to leave. So we all took off with one copy wired to our packs and two copies and the carbon paper inside . I guess that is how they identify the bodies.

09:15. There’s An Emergency in Staunton, Virginia.

As I climbed toward McCormick Gap I suddenly heard a fire truck initiate response to some sort of emergency. It was soon joined by other emergency vehicles from around the city. Whatever was going on it was on the North side of town. The sirens echoed through the valley from my vantage point way above them. As much as I lived that life for 33 years I often wonder why I don’t miss it more. I guess that I gave it 100% of what I had it was time to move on.

11:01 West into the Shenandoah

11:47 Cairns Can Lead the Way

When my daughter Whitney and I hiked the Rockies these Cairns could be very helpful. Many of the mountains there were nothing but thousands of rock fragments. They showed the best way to reach the summit. Here the trail is marked by the footprints of thousands of hikers not to mention the more than adequate addition of white blazes to show the way. It seemed a bit redundant but I guess there is just an abundance of flat rock lying around here that needed a purpose.

12:30. Tractor Seat Amphitheater

Just below a communication tower someone had planted several tractor seats around a square table. I know not why and it remains one of the worlds great mysteries to this day.

12:43 The Climb To Little Calf Mountain

12:54. The climb Continues

13:27 The Summit of Little Calf Mountain

Martine says that her husband Jeff Zimmer lost his bandana/snotrag somewhere between here and Riprap so if any of you find it please return to him so he won’t have to buy another one.

I came upon a lone hiker sitting here having lunch. We both ate not saying a word. Finally as he was leaving he said hello. It turned out that he was some kind of government agent out of Washington D.C. who comes out by himself to day hike sections to get “Away from the mess.”

13:35. This was Lunch

This appetizing conglomeration is my lunch. It’s a mangled flour tortilla because of too many days in my pack, tuna salad that tasted like chicken mixed with some grass and hay from Little Calf Mountain. Yes I dropped it several times because it wouldn’t stay on my dirty, wounded, rounded knee. ( also shown)

14:15 The Summit of Calf Mountain

It was near here that I met a really nice couple out day hiking. The woman immediately asked me if I was a through hiker. I told her that I was. She was so excited and told me that she had just read two books about it. One was The Appalachian Trail Hiker and the other was…….. ah…… et….. she turned to her husband for help. “A walk in the Woods”, he responded. She fired off about a dozen questions and I answered. She looked at her loving mate who just smiled. “See? He says all of those words… just like in the book!” Once the conversation ended we all went our own way. I heard her tell her husband that she was so glad that she got to meet “one of those”.

14:54. Butter Again and Snickers

I tools a short break in order to eat a Mounds bar that I had bought in Waynesboro. It was warm and I was concerned that my best treat available would be lost to a pile of mush. At that moment Butter appeared for the third time. As we caught each other up on our adventure two women came by day hiking. One was very friendly as she saw me munching on my Mounds bar how I was doing. “Great!” I said. “Loving a Mounds bar!”. She smiled but her not so friendly companion with a not so friendly face said in a not so friendly tone, “You should be eating a Snickers bar.” Be off with you Troll!!!!!

16:10 Water Resupply

Jan and I had been discussing the upcoming shortage of water sources over the next 9 or 10 miles. I came upon the final source mentioned. It was clear and plentiful. I got a drink from it but my pack was maxed with 5 days of food and I had massive climbing ahead of me before I could reach my 15 miles. Besides several hikers at Stanamals had told me that there were several sites ahead to get water. I didn’t refill.

16:28. It Turns Out That His Name Is Taskmaster

Just past Sawmill Gap I came upon a female day hiker who was booking it. Not far behind look who I found. Yup Stanimal’s guy whose girlfriend was going back to Massachusetts . It turns out that she did one more hike with him.

19:23 Never Sure how these things work out

About 30 minutes after seeing Taskmaster I began to labor. I was beginning to regret my desire to reach 15 miles and I had not found either a stealth camp site or water.

I about two miles to go and I was climbing toward one of the Skyline Parkway parking areas. I took a drag of water and the bladder went empty. From a side trail I saw a woman with her three young daughters see me, put on their masks, and back away. I wondered if I was COVID-19.

I crossed into the parking area realizing that I had no water to cook with, no water to drink and no water source. There were two couples getting into their car to leave and I approached them. I asked if they might have some spare water… I offered to buy it. “Oh no, the girl in the back seat said. We would love to give it to you. But it’s hot!”

“I love hot water”, I replied. The boyfriend scrambled to get it for me. At the same time the woman and her daughters who had shied away from me moments before heard our conversation. She immediately brought me another bottle.

As I was undoing my pack I saw the young man look toward the sun which was beginning to set. He then turned around, faced the East and kneeling prostrate began praying toward Mecca.

I found myself standing near him but also in prayer thanking God that he had brought me these two diverse families to me that were so willing to help. We shared some time together after that. … all three groups……. happy that circumstances had brought all of together.

I found my 15 mile stealth site. I cooked my meal with my gifted water. I made a cup of Orange Crush with that same water. It was the best meal ever and I knew that those people and that water would allow me to hike on.

This is Taskmaster. The picture won’t post where it belongs.

I also can’t make corrections….. sorry

The Summit of Calf Mountain

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