Now posted are images from Joe’s hike into Damascus, VA, for Trail Days 2010 and the parade of the AT Thru-Hiker Class of 2009.
The next morning I was up at 6:00. I was happy! The day was breaking clear. I had re-visited a spot that was very meaningful to me last year. It was the place I had randomly opened a book of Psalms and Proverbs my daughter had given me in Hot Springs and read the story about “Suffer the Little Children to Come Unto Me.” It was the place I learned about humility. I became a different kind of hiker. I shifted in my feelings toward the trail, approaching it with the mind of a child. No longer was I going to be the “lean mean hiking machine” on my thru hike journey north. No longer was I a know-it-all. I was a child on the Trail in wide-eyed wonderment of the beauty and lessons offered around every bend. I credit this change in attitude with helping me be successful on my thru hike.
Cruiser and I had our breakfasts, packed up, and were on the Trail at 7:55, our earliest start yet. We only had 11.7 miles to go until Damascus and Trail Days. My leg was holding up. We were going to make it! The Trail was providing what we needed just as Cruiser had said yesterday. Once again, a dream of mine was coming true. All I needed to do was let go, let go of the fears and pessimism.
That morning we hiked by many streams and springs. Cruiser and I were both in awe of the many blow downs of trees that had already been cleared off the Trail. The deep, heavy snows and ice storms of the past winter had taken their toll. We were thankful for all the Trail maintainers who had made our way passable and who had given us the great experience of the last few days.
At 2:00, we descended the steep wooden stairs that led us out to Highway 58 outside of Damascus. We hiked the Virginia Creeper Trail beside the road into town and headed straight for The Hikers Inn where I had left my car on the street. It was still there! What was I expecting? The Trail had purged me of pessimistic thinking last year, but it had been creeping back in to my consciousness bit by bit. I resolved to do better in dealing with this tendency. All of this was like a dream happening on fast forward. Suzanne, the owner of the inn, greeted us with hugs. Old Goat and Check Six, who I had not seen since they tracked me down to a road crossing in Maine last year, came down the driveway, all smiles. Suzanne appeared again with two tall glasses of iced tea. Life is good!
I left my pack upstairs at the inn, and we put Cruiser’s pack in the back of my car. Off we went to retrieve his truck at the trailhead near Troutdale. It took us 45 minutes to cover the miles by road that we had covered by the Trail. At the trailhead we found hikers waiting, hoping someone would come along and give them a ride back to Trail Days. It was Zen Dawg and Coon Cat! We had met them on the Trail two days ago. They were among the many we tried to talk into coming back. It turned out that Cruiser and I were pretty effective ambassadors after all! Cruiser took two more hikers in his truck and headed in to Jerry’s Grocery to see if there were any more hikers there.
Back in Damascus, I directed Zen Dawg and Coon Cat to “The Place,” a house owned by the Methodist Church, where they could set up their tents for free. I settled in at the inn with the first order of business being a shower. I was glad to get clean, but the water of the shower actually irritated my leg. I applied a new coat of Neosporin and headed to one of my favorite places in the world, the front porch of The Hikers Inn. I watched the cars, trucks, and hikers go by. I waved to everybody! In no time I was having grand reunions with scores of hikers from last year: Swift, Gezza and Top Shelf, Hellbender, Storm, Rocket, Skittles, No Nails, O.G., Spaz, Old Man, Navigator, Jeremiah Johnson, Egg, and Buzz. Limbo, Mama Bear, and their traildog Mama Bear came by and gave me the banner for the AT Class of 2009. I had met them last year near the end of the Trail, in Monson, Maine. I had found out that Limbo was a professional mural artist and was from North Carolina like me. He and I hatched the plan then to get together back in North Carolina and paint a banner that we could all walk behind in the hikers’ parade at Trail Days. I had driven to their place in Old Fort, NC three weeks ago, and Limbo and I spent the day painting the banner.
Suzanne appeared with two highly coveted tickets to the hiker feed that was happening that night at the Baptist Church next door. I knew that Cruiser would gladly join me. And a great feed it was: pasta, baked chicken, beans, fresh vegetables, salad, and chocolate cake.
The next day, Friday, I attended a reception put on by the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers’ Association (ALDHA). Even more hiker friends from last year came forward to exchange hugs and handshakes. My dear friend Laura “One Pint,” who I had met in a snow storm on Max Patch, came to greet me and asked if she could “plant a seed” for me to think about. She asked if I would consider running for a position on the board of directors of ALDHA. I was floored and complimented by her confidence in me. I told her that I would think about it.
That evening, Old Goat, Check Six, O.G., Zipper, Zombie, and I had supper at Quincy’s on the main street. It was a great time full of reminiscing about our shared experiences on the Trail.
Saturday, the main day of Trail Days, was a blur. Foremost on my mind was getting the 2009 banner to the Hiker Parade. With the parade starting at 2:00, I got there around 1:15 and unfurled the 4 X 12 foot banner in the parking lot of the Sun Dog Outfitters. I laid out six permanent Sharpies. Hikers from 2009, some I knew, some I didn’t, streamed to the banner as if it was a magnet. Soon, the place was full of kneeling hikers signing their trail names. In no time the banner was full with more than 100 names.
The fire truck blew its horn to signify the start of the parade. We lifted the banner and led the hundreds of hikers from 2009 down the parade route. I had heard earlier that 560 hikers, both thru and section, had completed the Trail last year. I looked back and saw Old Goat and Check Six walking behind me. It was very meaningful to me that they joined us. They had to leave the Trail last year after hiking all the way from Georgia to Massachusetts. Check Six had taken some bad falls and had lost her confidence that she could continue to safely hike the Trail. I had told them when I first saw them at The Hikers Inn that all of us thru hikers regarded them as members of our class of 2009, but Check Six had gotten very emotional, saying she didn’t finish the Trail and therefore did not deserve to be with us. I felt so good when I saw her and Old Goat in the group behind our banner.
As the parade continued, I felt good about another more self-centered thing. I was concerned that, by my helping to carry the banner, I was going to be a target for all the water balloons and water soaker squirt guns used by the townspeople and bystanders on the hikers in the parade. Let me not paint a distorted picture here. The hikers come similarly equipped. The parade is a slow moving water battle. Indeed, I was a target, but I found that the banner served as a kind of shield, deflecting many of the water balloons from hitting me. Yes, I did get wet. There was one guy on top of a two story building who showered us with a water hose! But I didn’t get soaked. I wasn’t so against getting wet, I just didn’t want to be soaked at the Talent Show that was happening at the Town Park at the end of the parade. I had my harmonica in a ziplock bag just in case.
At 3:30, Leon, a hiker I had first met in Virginia last year, and Dutch Treat, who I had met at the ALDHA Gathering in Gettysburg, PA in October, and I got together behind the gazebo stage. We rehearsed “The Hikers’ Song.” It sounded good to me with this additional musical accompaniment. We were billed as “Braid and the Hiker Trash” and were listed as act 14 out of 18 acts.
When we were called, we took the stage along with Leon’s traildog Halifax. Halifax was one of the few dogs to ever hike the final mountain of Katahdin in Maine. We adjusted all the microphones to pick up the guitars, harmonica, and voices. I took the mic and recognized all the hikers from 2009 in the audience. A raucous cheer went up. Then, I took my hat off and paid tribute to the current thru hikers of 2010. Another cheer.
We started an instrumental introduction to “The Hikers’ Song.”. I was scared I was going to fumble the lyrics, but I managed to mentally focus on Cruiser’s words: The Trail will provide, even in this circumstance. The song went beautifully! Some of the audience members sang along on the choruses.
Amicalola was the place
Springer Mountain was calling to me
Calling to me, right to my face.
I am a hiker on the trail
The Appalachian, one and the same
It runs from Maine clear down to Georgia
It’s from that trail, I got my name.
From Neels Gap up to Bly Gap
North Carolina and Tennessee
In the state of old Virginia
My true love, she said to me.
The Shenandoahs, they led me northward
West Virginia was just ahead
From Maryland’s gentle mountains
Into Pennsylvania was I led.
There’s New Jersey, and New York.
Connecticut was next in line.
When I hiked into New England,
I had all the beauty I could find.
From Massachusetts to Vermont,
New Hampshire came soon thereafter.
The mighty mountains of the Whites,
They gave me pain, they gave me laughter!
In the north state they call Maine
There’s a place that not forgotten
For two thousand, two hundred miles
I have come to Mount Katahdin.
We are hikers, on the Trail.
The Appalachian, one and the same.
It runs from Maine clear down to Georgia.
It’s from that Trail, we got our names.
It’s from that Trail, we got our names.
It’s from that Trail, we got our names.
The crowd seemed quite appreciative of our efforts. When all the acts were finished, and after a period of deliberation by the three judges, the winners were announced. Emiline, an eight-year-old who captured the hearts of everyone when she proclaimed, “I’m a future thru hiker!” won third place for her rendition of America’s “Horse with No Name.” A girl and guy duo that sang and played fiddle and guitar to an Old Crow Medicine Show song, got second. Then a lengthy pause. “And first place goes to . . . Braid and the Hiker Trash!” The crowd went wild. I stood up and motioned to Dutch Treat and Leon to join me. The officials gave us a box literally brimming with hiking equipment that had been donated by the vendors at the festival. Backstage, we divided the prizes. Dutch Treat would only take a headlamp and its case. Leon took a nice backpack and a sleeping pad. This left me with a Big Agnes tent, a Katadyn water filter bottle, Leki hiking poles, some wool socks, a compression sack, and an alcohol stove. Many of my 2009 hiker friends came by to congratulate us.
Yet another dream has come true for me. The song that I composed on the trail has been embraced by others. In the moments that followed the talent show, I was asked if I would perform the song at the grand opening of the Appalachian Trail Museum in Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Pennsylvania the first weekend in June and at the next Gathering of ALDHA in West Virginia next October. I was speechless.
A hiker, Buzz, joined me for the walk back to The Hikers Inn. I carefully carried my box full of prizes. Up ahead, I recognized an elderly man. It was Gene Epsy, the second person to ever thru hike the Appalachian Trail. He did it back in 1951. His daughter was helping him negotiate the crowded sidewalk. I stopped to thank him for coming to Trail Fest. I told him that he was an inspiration to me. He smiled and shook my hand.
That night, there was a cookout at the Hikers Inn. Leon and Halifax came as my guests. Later, a bluegrass band assembled on the front porch. I played harmonica mainly in the background. They gave me a solo break on “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” It was then I realized that the bonds formed by hikers on the Appalachian Trail, and the lessons learned there, are now and forever will be the circle that is unbroken.
All my best,
Braid, AKA Joe Liles
Monday, May 17, 2010
I am spending the day inside my house with incessant rain reminding me of my time on the Appalachian Trail last year. It is turning into a day of reflection because I have just returned from a week devoted to Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia. Actually, a lot more than just Trail Days was involved.
Fellow 2009 thru hiker Cruiser, who I met in the 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine, approached me a month or so ago about spending almost four days and three nights hiking the Appalachian Trail, south this time, into Trail Days. I had definitely planned on going to Trail Days, but had not considered hiking in. The hiking would be a fitting mode of travel and would put us in the mood for the three-day festival. Last Monday, May 10, we met in Damascus and drove his truck to a Trail crossing near Troutdale, VA. Before hitting the Trail, we stopped at Jerry’s Grocery for supper. A friendly waitress served us the daily special of grilled chicken on pasta with a marinara sauce. You see, we only had to think about getting on the Trail, and our thoughts immediately turned to food.
We were on the Trail at 5:30, heading to the Old Orchard Shelter, only 1.7 miles away. My pack weight seemed manageable at 35 pounds, but I was unsure of my backpacking competence since I had not done any of this since my climb down Mt. Katahdin at the end of my thru hike the middle of last September. I had another concern, though. Three days before this reunion hike, I had a fairly severe accident in my backyard. I had been polyurethaning the floors in my house, and to escape the fumes, I had erected a big cabin tent in the yard for a place for my dog Millie and me to sleep. It was dark, and I was carrying a load of supplies to my new domicile. I had forgotten that I had rearranged my backyard for this new living arrangement. I walked right into a large wooden Adirondack chair. Why wasn’t I wearing my headlamp like a veteran hiker?! It was no mere grazing encounter. I practically threw myself onto and over the chair, landing hard on the ground with camping gear thrown in all directions. There was a stabbing pain in my left shin. I lay there for a minute cradling my leg. I limped back to the house and found a 10 inch gash in my leg. It was more of a bad scrape, but the bruise to my shin was significant. I cleaned myself up, applied some Neosporin, and returned to my tent, this time with headlamp illuminating the way.
I didn’t get much sleep that night. My leg was throbbing, and I couldn’t find a comfortable sleeping position. Over the next few days, I nursed the wound on my leg the best I could.
Now, on the Trail, many of my steps were painful. I did earlier show my wound to Cruiser. There was some reddening and a slight degree of swelling going on. Cruiser said, “It looks like it’s trying to get infected!” Infected! This was the last thing I needed! But I thought back to Maine where, last year, I had come down with blisters on the bottoms of my feet with only forty miles remaining in my 2,200 mile hike up the East Coast. Then, I had remembered a saying that some of my American Indian friends use about “walking in moccasin tracks.” This saying was a metaphysical way of stating that we should live our lives in tune with our ancestors, existing gently on our Mother the Earth. This saying had become my mantra as I said it over and over again and placed my footsteps carefully on the Trail. “Walk in moccasin tracks,” I thought over and over to myself now as Cruiser and I made our way up the Trail.
By 6:15 we made it to the shelter. From a distance, we could see there was already a crowd there. One figure was immediately recognizable. It was Bunyan! Bunyan was a thru hiker from last year who lived in New Jersey. He got his trail name from the fact that he is a lumberjack. Bunyan is an older hiker like Cruiser and me, but he has us beat by being about ten years younger. He is in his 50′s while Cruiser and I have crossed over into our 60′s. It was a grand reunion! We shouted out each other’s names and exchanged strong hugs. The other hikers present were likely surprised by our enthusiasm. We learned from Bunyan that he wasn’t just hiking four days into Trail Days like we were. He had started out the first week of March from his home in New Jersey. He was hiking 800 miles into Trail Days!
Cruiser and I set up our tents in the meadow in front of the shelter and then returned to the shelter to socialize and brew up a cup of tea. We sat with Bunyan and shared stories of how we had all faired since the end of the Trail. We relived some of our fondest memories of our times together. Cruiser and I returned to our tents and were in our sleeping bags around 8:30. Before going to bed I carefully applied a dose of Neosporin to my leg.
I slept fairly well that night. When I climbed out of my tent at 6:30 AM, I was surprised to find my tent fly soaking wet. It wasn’t raining, but we were shrouded in clouds. It was fairly cool, maybe 40 degrees, but a stiff wind made it seem colder. This was quite a shift from the 80 degrees we experienced the day before. Cruiser and I returned to the shelter to prepare our breakfasts and were joined by Bunyan. I had my typical Trail breakfast of hot oatmeal, cold pop tarts, and coffee. It was great!
We packed up our wet tents and were on the Trail at 8:30. Again, Cruiser let me take the lead. My left shin was doing OK, but I had to avoid sudden movements and concentrate on putting my boots gently on the ground. Any jarring impact sent sharp pains up my left leg. Cruiser and I had over 1000 feet of elevation to gain as we approached the Grayson Highlands section of the Trail that surrounded Mount Rogers, the highest mountain in Virginia. This area is famous for its bald meadows and the wild ponies that live there.
When we came to the first bald, we realized that we were going to have a similar experience to what we had last year in this area. We were hiking in the clouds. We hiked through the place called Scales where cattle and horses were rounded up in a giant corral many years ago. The corral is still there. My thoughts raced back to my first time here eleven years ago when my daughter and I had camped at this spot during a torrential rain storm. I almost cried as the memories came flooding back. Just out of Scales, we saw our first wild pony which was larger than the feral ponies typical to this area. He wandered off into the clouds and gave several high pitched whinnies. He became a ghost pony. We were in his territory!
As we hiked on, we started meeting northbound thru hikers. I was a little apprehensive about how Cruiser and I would be received by this year’s crop of hikers. After all, Cruiser and I were now section hikers now. I remembered some of the things I had unfairly thought and said about section hikers at the beginning of my hike last year. Then, I felt that thru hikers owned the Trail. Section hikers were loud, smelled better than we did, sometimes left trash, and just plain got in the way. It wasn’t until Central Virginia until I realized that section hikers could be interesting, nice people with just as much sensitivity to the Trail as many thru hikers. But, here on the balds, I found that everyone was friendly. We exchanged trail names, hometowns, information about the Trail, and comments about the weather. I was particularly impressed with a beautiful young woman thru hiker by the name of Montana and her trail dog, a Husky, named Nika.
Cruiser and I crossed several streams in this area which were tributaries of Little Wilson and Wilson Creeks. We made the 5.9 miles to the Wise Shelter by 11:00 and decided to stop for an early lunch. Bunyan soon joined us. I had my typical trail lunch of a split bagel with each half generously slathered with peanut butter and honey. I left off the cheddar cheese of last year because my doctor back home was threatening to put me on statin drugs if I didn’t get my cholesterol down.
Cruiser and I hiked on and officially entered Grayson Highlands near a spur trail that led to Massie Gap. There, we passed the skeleton of a wild pony. We had heard that the Highlands had had a particularly severe winter this past season with deep snows and extremely cold temperatures. It had been hard on the ponies. The pony skeleton must have addled us because we took the wrong trail up the mountain at this point. We soon met a father-son thru hiking team coming toward us. This was Dragon Tail and his seventeen-year-old son Sherpa. I jokingly asked if Sherpa could carry heavy loads. Dragon Tail assured me that his son was indeed carrying the most weight. We assured these hikers that they were on the Appalachian Trail (because at that time Cruiser and I did not know we were lost!) and continued on our way. It wasn’t long before Cruiser and I saw an orange blaze on this trail, not the white blaze of the AT, and we turned around and backtracked. We soon met a pair of sisters coming up the trail and convinced them that they were as lost as we were. We all headed back to the pony skeleton where a post in the distance displayed a white blaze. As we resumed our course on the Trail, Cruiser and I found that we were in the company of Art Gypsy and her younger sister. Art Gypsy was a professional wildlife and wilderness photographer and was out here to hopefully get some shots of the wild ponies. She told us that she was planning a thru hike for next year. We talked shutterspeeds, f-stops, and lenses as we made our way to Rhododendron Gap.
We climbed to the famous “Fat Man Squeeze” where tumbled boulders have made a tight cave through which the Appalachian Trail passes. Cruiser and I stopped for a couple of pictures. When we reached the top of Wilburn Ridge, we ran into a section hiker coming north. He told us to be on the look out for his friend coming behind him whose name was Blue Meanie who was from Greenville, South Carolina just like Cruiser. Cruiser and I decided that we would play with Blue Meanie’s mind when we met him, telling him that we could divine his name and hometown. But when we met Blue Meanie coming down the Trail, he and Cruiser recognized each other, but the connection was foggy at first. With a little more exchange of information, they figured out that Cruiser had actually had Blue Meanie over to his house in Greenville several years ago to seek his advice as an experienced AT hiker on what he needed to do to get ready for the Trail. Small world! We all shook hands, and Cruiser and Blue Meanie promised to get together again. Cruiser and I continued on with less than one mile to go before we reached our final destination of the day, the Thomas Knob Shelter.
Because of the foggy, drizzly weather, the shelter was beginning to fill up when Cruiser and I arrived at 4:00. We had come 11 miles that day. We rolled out our sleeping pads in the loft portion of the shelter and prepared ourselves for a crowded night. Cruiser got us water from a spring in back of the shelter that was fenced in with a split rail fence to keep the ponies out. We prepared our suppers. I fired up my alcohol stove and fixed a two-person serving of dehydrated Thai Noodles with Peanut Sauce. I would have no problem eating a meal designed for two hikers, I was starving! From the social center of the picnic table, Cruiser and I met quite a few thru hikers and section hikers that evening. There was Bear Blaze, Uncas and his brother, The Katahdin Kid and his wife, Radar, HD Mama (HD short for Harley Davidson), and UCOC (Short for University of Connecticut Outdoors Club). I noticed that UCOC noticeably blushed every time he introduced himself to a woman. A late arrival was Cantaloupe (who I had met in Maine last year) and her friend Amy. By the time everyone packed in the shelter for an 8:00 bedtime, we were like sardines. There must have been at least 18 of us jammed in there. Earplugs were a necessity! I slept pretty well, but my leg was still bothering me. I felt fragile, like it wouldn’t take much to do me in.
Cruiser and I were on the Trail the next morning at 8:30. In no time we met a man hiking vigorously up the incline toward us with a heavy looking external frame pack and no shirt. Beings how it was quite cold, Cruiser asked if he also jumped into glacial lakes. Phil from Maine answered that yes, indeed, he did every chance he got. That led to a discussion on external versus internal frame packs. Just about all hikers today have shifted from the old external frames to internal ones. Except for Phil. He told us, “I think the external frame pack is coming back!” Phil from Maine is an “old school” hiker. We learned that he was an officer in the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and was a Trail maintainer near the Kennebec River. We thanked him for his service to the Trail and to us.
Cruiser and I made our way to the road crossing at Elk Garden. The sun was making an effort to come out. The meadow before the road was beautiful with yellow flowers and clumps of tiny bluettes. We stopped for a Snickers break at the road and then continued on to Buzzard Rock. Rain hit us off and on. We stopped at a gusher of a spring and filled our water containers. We had our lunch a short time later under a tree with some crudely-made benches. As we continued another two miles to the Lost Mountain Shelter, we rounded a turn and came upon the largest colony of lady’s slipper flowers that I have ever seen. There must have been thirty of them growing together under a canopy of trees. Cruiser had never seen this unusual flower, and we took the time to take some pictures. When we arrived at the shelter, it was already full and a tent city had already started to form. It was clear we were getting close to Damascus, and the hikers were converging. We socialized a bit before deciding to press on. It was another 16 miles to Damascus. If we could just add a couple more miles to our day, tomorrow on the Trail would be that much easier.
As we hiked out of Lost Mountain at 4:15, the sun came out. It was beautiful and put a zip in my step. I did not want to overdo it with my sore leg, but I was feeling that energy that comes to hikers when they get close to a Trail town. Cruiser gave me the lead, and I started philosophizing as we hiked. I told him that I was surprised how good it made me feel to see the white blazes of the AT showing us the way. I had not anticipated how much I had missed seeing the blazes since I had finished the Trail back in September. I remarked at how comforting it was to know you were on the right path when you saw the white blaze, and the Trail gave you that comforting feeling time and time again every day as you hiked. I told Cruiser that, in life beyond the Trail, it was more confusing. There were no blazes to tell you that you were on the right path. It was harder to see the signs. The Trail, to me, seemed to offer more security. I was surprised to hear myself talking like this.
I had in mind stopping by 6:00 and making camp, but we ran into more thru hikers and stopped to talk with everyone of them. We met one hiker named Seven D, short for the Seven Dwarfs. He said that right now he was Happy, and tonight he would be Sleepy. We joked that Cruiser and I were ambassadors for Trail Days. We tried to talk Seven D into joining the celebration, but he said he was heading home to Maine and hiking was the only way he was going to get there. I have never seen a more determined hiker and one in such good shape. It seemed that he was made for the Trail.
We passed some beautiful campsites by White Top Laurel Creek and the Virginia Creeper bicycle trail, but Cruiser seemed to want to keep moving. It was now 6:00, I had been hiking for close to eight hours, I was pushing my endurance. My leg was hurting, and I needed to stop, but we were mostly hiking on the sides of mountains, and there were no flat places! I pointed out some less than ideal camping spots, hoping Cruiser would agree to stopping. He told me not to worry. “The Trail will provide,” he said rather mystically. He didn’t have to explain. I knew exactly what he was talking about. Generally, we all tend to worry too much. The Trail taught us all last year that we need to let go of our worries, our pessimism, and believe that it will all work out tadalafil generique. We found that if you open yourself up to this kind of thinking, you will be provided for.
At 7:00, after 16.3 miles of hiking, we rounded a bend, and there it was: the beautiful little pond I had camped at last year on my thru hike! We could see that Radar, the thru hiker we met back at Thomas Knob, had already set up camp here. I remembered from last year that the camping spots at this site were few and far between. We shouted our greetings to Radar and said we were hiking on, but the Trail led us around the pond to the exact spot I had used last year. I couldn’t believe our luck. There was just enough room for Cruiser and me to set up our tents. If I could have mustered the energy, I would have leapt for joy! We made camp and prepared our suppers. It was Spaghetti with Meat Sauce for me. We were soon joined by Radar and new arrivals Uncas and his brother who wanted to use the log seats at our campsite to aid them in their supper preparations. We welcomed them enthusiastically and made room. We cooked, ate, and talked about many of our hiking adventures. Uncas, his brother, and I discovered that we shared the common passion of flyfishing for trout. We talked about the beautiful streams we had seen that day and lamented that we were not able to delicately cast a dry caddis fly into some of the deep holes below the waterfalls. Cruiser excused himself and headed to his tent. While the others ate, I serenaded them with my Hikers’ Song. I told them that this song came to me as I was hiking up out of the James River region last year and that I was planning on performing it during the talent show at Trail Days. They seemed to enjoy the music.
The frogs around the pond were almost deafening that night. There were high pitched tree frogs and deep bass bull frogs. It was strange how one of them would start singing and the rest would join in. Then, at some mysterious signal, they would all fall silent. A few minutes later, they would start the process all over again. We all called it a night and headed to our tents. Thank goodness for earplugs, they kept the singing of the frogs to a tolerable volume that led me to sleep, a very deep sleep.