Catch and Catch Up

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Up and at ‘em, 11 miles to Glasgow and something Italian to eat (only restaurant).  It stormed hard last night right after dinner.  Toward the end I heard a loud sharp snap like the crack of a whip followed by a thud.  Rambo forgot his hammock straps 8 miles south so he was improvising with line too small for the load.  Eventually it gave way and took him from a cloud sleeper to the ground.  I ran over to tie his tarp back up which was tied into his hammock.  He laid down unharmed but slightly trapped.  His Hennesy hammock zips closed and the tarp blanketed everything.  He admitted later to have panicked before he saw me run over.  In a moment the tarp was back up and he unzipped himself.  He quadrupled over the rope and got through the night. When he thanked me for getting the stellar DSM tarp off of him I told him that it was standard operating for our customer service department.

When he thanked me for getting the stellar DSM tarp off of him I told him that it was standard operating for our customer service department.

     The trail dropped us lower and lower as we went north towards the James River Face Wilderness.  A few years ago I saw my first bear here. I cherished the excitement even in the distant memory. I hoped to double down, but to no avail.

     Glasgow was the town of the day and is a hiker haven.  It is a tiny town of only a few hundred but has everything a hiker could want.  Free camping in the town park with a shower and an “experienced” Porta-Jon, a pizza joint with world cup soccer, a family grocery and beer shoppe, and a dinosaur.  Another accepting town in Virginia.  Yes the state is long but it’s kind and beautiful.  After a good afternoon and morning we were ready for the trail.

     Patch decided he wanted to jump the James River Bridge before we left.  Yes it’s illegal but only if they catch you.

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Patch has a stoic presence that kept me guessing how he felt about anyone or anything at first.  With a dense beard covering his commanding chin line he always appeared prepared and strong. Interacting with him required eye contact that lasts a few extra seconds before a blunt answer is given.  Patch is taller than 6 feet with legs up to his chest making him a supremely fast hiker.  Early when I started to warm up to him I was worried he wouldn’t want to be delayed by a sizable group.

     Luckily Patch’s speed and ultralight style wasn’t used to sprint to the end of the trail but rather to squeeze every drop out of his hike. Patch wasn’t afraid of doing side trails and going the extra mile for an adventure. The nonchalance and lack of ego makes it impossible not to respect and like him. Patch successfully jumped into water that made chewy throw up from the smell two days before.

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     The following morning, Rambo and I hiked south a half mile to get to the heart of an old growth stand of trees. The first thing that strikes you is how tall the canopy is. It’s well over 100 feet high, twice as high as the general average we’d seen in Virginia.  Even the young trees were much taller for their diameter to try to compete and reach for that sweet, sweet sun. 

     Rambo and I stopped at a particularly large American Beech that might have been the biggest I’ve ever seen. Beeches have some of the prettiest, smoothest barks of all the trees in the woods but it seems like a curse. All along the trail, this smooth beech skin serves as a canvas for fools that want to try their hand at wood carving, forever tattooing and damaging the tree. This one fabulous specimen had more tattoos than the city of Portland. Names, symbols, and even the cliché of two sets of initials in a heart. It was disgusting.

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Names, symbols, and even the cliché of two sets of initials in a heart.  It was disgusting.

    After a long maté in a beautiful place our reasonable morning changed into starting at noon. Unfortunately, this setback had us camping away from the group for a night. We caught Snugz, Jack, Tesla, Caboose, and Sambo the next night in a big open field.

We decided to milk it and play like it was a summer afternoon before the takeover of the internet and such.

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     Rambo and I hiked a lot later and slept accordingly.  We’d also started playing games with the 5 balls in his backpack.  A foam baseball, mini vortex football, and a few hacky sacks turned into the biggest competition with our time and miles.  At first these hour long sessions of catch or home run derby might feel like you’re slacking but this boyhood bliss was so rare in the adult world. We decided to milk it and play like it was a summer afternoon before the takeover of the internet and such. That morning we roped in Snuggles and camped at Spy Rock.  It was just us three that didn’t make the miles before nightfall but we were always confident we’d catch the group the next day.

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     We ended behind the group for the next few days. Rambo and I were strong hikers, but the lure of nice woodland spots played us like Sirens did Odysseus. We just loved long breaks. We got a few cases of trail magic that held us up too.  Here’s a picture I made Rambo take with one nice lady that gave us some Heineken near the priest. This really made him feel uncomfortable so I’ll keep trying to do it.

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This really made him feel uncomfortable so I’ll keep trying to do it.

     We camped on top of Humpback mountain. The next morning Rambo found a massive snake skin feet away from our hammocks.
With food bags empty and packs light we ran into town and caught our friends.  Waynesboro marked the start of our second national park, Shenandoah.

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