Brrrr cold front. Isn't August supposed to be warm? I was fully zipped up in my sleeping bag with the liner last night. I woke up and really didn't want to get out. I was so cozy! The prospect of food finally got me moving, and I got out of my sleeping bag to scoop my bag off the bear pole. It really wasn't that cold once I was out and about, but still, it's summer. I hiked the first mile while wearing my nano puff jacket for a little extra motivation and comfort. I was quickly warm enough to shed that layer before stinking it up too much; it doubles as my pillow. The beginning of today consisted of several sustained ups and downs before coming to Pinefield Hut. I took a short break there but continued on to my main destination: the Loft Mountain Wayside. I knew my order before I even got there. Black bean burger, fries, blackberry shake. Boo-yah. Before I got there, I met a couple out for a day hike, Wanna-be and Sunflower. Wanna-be dreams of hiking all of Virginia and maybe the whole trail. It was great to see the excitement in his eyes. I remember that feeling. Uncertainty, romanticism, unbridled enthusiasm. It isn't gone; it has just changed into something different, more practical, more seasoned. Listen to me, Old Man River over here.
I went to the wayside and got exactly what I had planned for the low, low price of an arm and a leg. I ate happily but was still hungry. I made my way to the camp store for ice cream and a brownie. Sitting outside, I met a section hiker named Michael, who is heading from Harper's Ferry to Waynesboro. He's a fireman from Oregon who is using some free time after going to the Fire Academy. He also was planning to stay at the same shelter as me. COMPANY! He hiked off before I did, so I stayed and enjoyed my sugary treats. He inspired me to pack out libations from the camp store. Michael is a smart man. As soon as I hit the trail again, I spotted a bear and her cub down the way, looking straight at me. I didn't feel fear, but I also didn't know what I was supposed to do. I raised my arms, but the bear didn't move. So I naturally moved forward a bit and took a long-range picture. Then I screamed, "GET OUTTA HERE," which is apparently my go-to for screaming at unwanted woodland creatures. They listened this time, turning tail and running off. After an hour of hiking, I ran in to Michael again. We hiked and talked the rest of the way together. He gave me tips on marriage (good ones), and I asked him about his thru-hike plans. He's got a few years to go, but he will be ready when he does. Tonight all that's left to do is drink my beer and look at the fire. It's safe, because it's supervised by a fireman.