Currently sitting at the picnic table...
Today was a day to see critters. It started almost as soon as I got back to the AT; I saw a black bear's round butt as it scuttled away into the brush. Soon enough, the same scene repeated itself. I had heard that Shenandoah had an active bear population, but I didn't expect the change to be so instantaneous. The bears here are not very big, and they're harmless to people who know not to feed them. I feel like I would stand a chance of winning a wrestling match with one. Also, the ground is crawling with millipedes. It must be the season or something. Or maybe they're trying to get out on the trails before the big Labor Day rush. Either way, they're all over. The walking today was incredibly pleasant. It was basically a hike down the ridge, all the time criss-crossing with Skyline Drive. I had some of my best views in a while, as well as reaching a 3000-foot peak for the first time since I can remember. Early in the day, there was a patch of leafless trees that allowed a glance at the ridge extending out in front of me and to my left. It looked how I had always imagined the AT to look: a long, tall, rolling, green ridge stretched out so far that it looked blue in the distance. I was so overjoyed to find this spot that tears burned my eyes before I told myself to quit being so sappy.
I hiked along and listened to the last part of Mockingjay, a book from The Hunger Games. I was very disappointed in the ending (or lack thereof), but it made the hike entertaining. After 15 miles, I approached my first wayside. These are buildings set up along Skyline Drive that have a convenience store and, more importantly, a grill. I got a black bean burger and a milkshake, devouring both. Can you devour a milkshake? If so, I did. Independent of my hunger, it was really good food. After sitting and reading over my AT Guide for a while, it was time to head on. I didn't have very far to hike to my destination, but I enjoyed the idea of getting in early and enjoying the afternoon with no rush to do evening chores. There were more good views and cool breezes before I spotted an opossum a few feet from the trail. He was doing his thing, playin' possum, and he looked just disgusting. He watched me with his fully black eyes as I passed. Something about him laying on his back made me want to scratch his belly and punt him like a football all at once, so I split the difference and yelled at him. "Get OUTTA here!" I said, using a few more words to express my sentiment.
The shelter tonight is pretty nice. They call them huts in Shenandoah apparently because they are all made out of stone rather than logs. As usual, I am alone tonight. I can't really complain though, because I turned down a bunkmate last night. To be fair, that guy was pretty nuts. I found his entry in this shelter log, dated three days before he got to the shelter where I found him yesterday. It was so profane and rude to fellow hikers that someone had crossed it out. Besides, I'm not totally alone. A bird must be nesting nearby and keeps flitting around with worms. The shelter log tells me I may be visited by bears. And I hear my mouse roommates setting up shop in the top bunks! So it's a party. Finally, I forgot to talk about my newest piece of gear. It's called a buff, and it's a stretchy tube of material that you can wear on your head every which way. Tonight, I had a fashion show. Enjoy.