Today we were up pretty early as the result of uncomfortable sleeping conditions and the bear threat! We were determined to make good miles today and get through the park as fast as possible. With it being Sunday on Memorial Day weekend, the traffic on the trail was heavy and we were fed up with being treated like a sideshow attraction by the tourists. We don’t mind answering questions and talking to people, but when tourists ask to take our pictures, it gets borderline creepy and rather annoying!
So we ended up heading 6 miles up to the first shelter, our original destination the night before, and had a huge early lunch with Swiss. We hung out there for nearly an hour drinking the nice, cold spring water and having wonderful conversation. Swiss mentioned there was a river with a picnic area about 12 miles away and we got excited with the prospect of swimming and told him we’d see him there. We continued on up the hill to our first good view in days! The rest of our day was uneventful and we were so hot by mid afternoon we couldn’t help but daydream about going swimming. As we got close to the river, we took a wrong turn on a fire road and ended back up out at Skyline Drive. We just wanted to swim! We turned around and backtracked back to the AT to find more sadness: the river was more than 1.5 miles down a hill, meaning we’d have to add a total of 3 miles to our day and hike UPHILL away from the it back to the AT. By this point we were delerious with anger at everything, the hills of Virigina, the guy who wrote our guidebook, the tourists, the whole national park system… you name it and we hated it! We decided we’d push on to the next shelter, Bearfence Shelter, and the campground just before it to hit up the store for some junk food.
After singing ridiculous songs about all the junkfood we wanted to eat and hiking a few nearly level miles, we came to the campground. Nokey was a few steps ahead of me and I noticed him talking to two women at the trailhead leading into the camp. When I caught up, I asked them if there was some place around to get some Doritos, as that was all we’d talked about for nearly 5 miles. They told us the campstore didn’t have them, but they did at their campsite if we wanted to come over for some! When we got there, they offered to make us some grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches and gave us some cold beer too! We sat there with them for about an hour, talking to them about the trail so far and telling their kids about our trip. We were both excited as we’d hit the 900 mile mark earlier in the day as well.
The camp store closed at 6 and it was 5:30, so we thanked them and headed for the store to get something good to eat. We sat on the porch of the store with Lee Bob and Skunkape for a little while and then a man came over and asked if we were thru hikers. We told him we were and he invited us over for hamburgers. They also had quinoa salad, orzo salad, and several other fixings as well! We ate our second dinner and had to head out to the shelter before it got dark. When we got to Bearfence, it was twice as far off the trail as the book and signs told us and was in a swamp :( There was also a thruhiker there who was very hateful to everyone, so we set up our tents right in front of the mouse-laden shelter and went to bed, cursing Virginia and SNP. We both hoped for a better day the next day to be sure!