Day 76 – 18.6 miles to stealth camp at 911.1

What’s got 4 bears, 3 deer, 1 rabbit and 97 chipmunks? Today of course!

A glorious sunrise and dry start to the day for once.
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I was happily hiking by 7.15 hoping to put some decent miles in since today seemed to hold few distractions. I reached Pinefield Hut to get water at 895.2 at about 8:20 after 2.6 quick miles. 3 people were still getting ready, two NOBOs, Sticks and Croc’n'Roll, so named for the cool Star Wars ‘crocs’ he wears for camp shoes. They warned me of the forecast for a storm tonight lasting through much of tomorrow bringing up to 2″ (5cm) of rain. A lady who was not a thru was somewhat horrified by my tale of 3 bears coming to call and said she had never figured out how to hang her food but she keeps hearing stories about bears so maybe she should. Er, yep.

After the shelter I soon hit the section of the trail closed off last month due to a wildfire that covered over 10,000 acres. It was contained eventually by over 340 personnel drafted in from 33 states. The AT wasn’t heavily burned – it was more the leaf litter – but it was odd to walk through a blackened forest devoid of leaf litter, a bit like when a person has no hair.
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I saw my first bear of the day late morning. It was only just a couple of yards of trail but was obscured by a large tree and we didn’t see each other until about 15 yards apart. Not sure who was more startled. He wheeled around and scampered down the wooded slope of the mountain, amazing how they can move through thick forest so easily and quickly – much too fast for a photo unfortunately. I did see this bear-related clue later in the day though.
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I had lunch at Hightop Hut at 903.4 for no other reason than it’s picnic table and chatted with Croc’n'Roll from Connecticut again and a nice chap from nearby Richmond who is doing SNP now but one days wants to thru-hike the whole AT. Finding I had 1-2 bars of data signal I spent 45 minutes updating the blog. Right after leaving the shelter there was another great “Virginia Valley View” but you’ve probably had enough of those pictures by now.

A solid afternoon of hiking ensued. Overall there was more than 2000′ of climbing today but it somehow felt like more. The weather was very pleasant all day and the miles passed easily. Just after 4pm I startled another family of Mama plus 2 good-sized and they again took off quickly after checking me out first.

Just after that I walked by 3 deer who were out and about and weren’t bothered by my presence. Funny how big bears run away and deer don’t care.
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Everywhere I go there are chipmunks busily being busy. I see or hear maybe 20 a day. They are hard to photograph since they scurry away so quickly but today I nailed a couple for posterity. (Also I saw a rabbit but we’ve done that already).
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I made camp at 911.1 having done 18.6 miles, my longest day so far this trip. I think I’ll keep going and try to do the whole of SNP in one 105 mile section, though since I have now run out of food I will be relying on the small stores and waysides en route. Have battened down the hatches for tonight’s storm and will squelch onwards tomorrow.
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