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Hike report

	It dawned as another in a long string of hot, hazy,
humid Northern Virginia summer days.  Although the summer so
far has been enjoyable, there seemed to be something missing.
I have been helping my daughter Christie as she makes her plans
to take off a semester from UVA and hike the AT in March.  Both
of us were getting itchy to be out on the trail.  So we
gathered our gear, obtained the necessary permissions from the
rest of the family, and hit the road for Shenandoah National
Park.  We planned a short overnighter of 15.5 miles from
Pinnacles Picnic Area north to Rattlesnake Point Overlook,
spending the night at the Pass Mountain Hut.  We parked one car
at either end of the hike and started out about 1 PM.  
	Within moments of getting on the trail, we were no
longer suburbanites, but now become individuals of the woods,
Mtsandsky and Firefly.  The day turned warm and gently our
muscles stretched out to fully enjoy the freedom.  The packs
even felt good, not too heavy or restrictive.  And the trail
worked its magic.  We have always been close as mother and
daughter, but on the trail, we find a new relationship of
trust, openness, and respect.  Hard to come by in these times,
I treasure that we both enjoy hiking and roughing it.  The
trail was great, gently ascending to the Pinnacle (3730 feet),
as if to give us time to adjust to the exercise.  We were
moving smoothly and enjoying every sweaty, hot moment.  Even
being drenched with not a spot of clothing dry somehow seems
different when you are hiking.  We guzzled our water and talked
about things that neither one of us would broach in the
city...you know the topics, life, love, happiness, and where
our lives were going.  Pretty heady stuff to talk with your 19
year old about without hearing moans and seeing the eyes glaze
over and roll back in the sockets.  How I love the woods and
the magic that it works!
	We reached Byrds Nest #3 and took a break, gorp and
water and log book reading.  On our way again, we soon reached
the spur trail to Marys Rock and decided to lunch at the
summit.  I think we surprised the two older couples at Marys
Rock.  They had just hiked up from their car, and they kept
giving us strange looks, probably wondering what two women were
doing caring heavy packs and obviously enjoying it.  I think
they kept waiting for the men to show up!  ;-) Firefly and I
fired up the stove and went on to fix a lunch of campers
delight....hot dogs and beans!  (Her choice, not mine, but even
this tasted good on the trail.)  We took some pictures and
admired the view, hardly believing that our next stop would be
way down the mountain at Thornton Gap and Panorama.  After a
loooong descent, we reached Panorama about 5 PM and enjoyed
some ice cold drinks and a phone call home to tell spouse/dad
that we were fine.  From Panorama, we could see where we had
been and where we were headed.  Rather impressive when viewed
from the Gap, and we felt proud that we were actually doing
this and having fun!
	Off again, with the next stop, Pass Mountain Hut for
the night.  The trail makes the almost 1000 foot climb
gradually, winding through beautiful woods.  We spotted the hut
at about 7 PM and were ready to unload and dry off.  It had
been a fairly easy, but hot 6+ miles for the day.  We found the
Hut already occupied by Stan from South Carolina and we settled
in and shared pleasantries.  The hut is a beautifully
maintained three sided shelter that will easily hold at least 7
hikers and gear.  All the niceties of home with an ice cold
spring 20 feet from the door and even mens and womens privies!
Hats off to the PATC maintainers of this area, it is well
done.  Firefly and I got our dinner started (souped-up Lipton
Kettle Chicken Soup, French bread, butter, and chocolate
pudding a la Ed Garvey).  Outlier joined us to make it four in
the shelter for the night.  We all enjoyed the cool evening as
we talked and shared the pudding.  Bambi and some of his older
relations came out to graze right in front of the shelter.  I
never knew that the deer made noise, but these seemed to be
talking to one another.  Bambi skipped and gamboled around,
stopping now and then to eye us, almost as if to check to see
if his antics were appreciated!  Then came the job of hanging
up the food bags for the night.  As we clanged and laughed our
way through this, the thought entered my mind that no self
respecting bear would dare to come near for all the hilarity
going on....Ever try to thread a needle at 10 feet?  Finally,
the food was stowed, the backpacks were hung and we all hit the
boards for some rest.  We also shared the shelter with several
very active mice, as we discovered when the candle lanterns
were extinguished.  Outlier quickly retrieved his pack from the
shelf and hung it with the rest and we were all off to
dreamland at about 10:30 PM.  The night passed fairly well,
although my muscles quickly declared that they would not camp
again on the old Ridge-rest and would insist upon a new
Therma-rest for their continued cooperation.  
	The night proved to be comfortable and cool enough to
climb in the light weight bags by early morning.  After a tense
moment when Firefly had a bad dream about a bear, we all had a
restful night.  Then at 6:15, the city reared its ugly head as
my watch alarm beeped out its suburban time schedule!  But the
day was dawning and we were all ready to hit the trail again
anyway.  Some coffee brewed and a cup of soup for breakfast, we
said good-bye to Stan and Outlier as they headed off to do 15
or more miles for the day.  Firefly and I got started about
8:30 and soon reached the summit of Pass Mountain.  As the day
would show, Fireflys bear dream was a premonition!  She seems
to attract bears when she hikes, and we were first startled by
a cub bounding off the trail.  We moved cautiously, and tried
to remember the words to our old favorite songs.  Hiking and
singing our way up the mountain, I was glad that there was no
one else in ear shot...we are definitely not singing stars!
But it seemed to work, at least for a while.
	We followed the ridge crest for a long time, again
drinking lots of water and nibbling on gorp.  We decided that
we would wait to eat at the Elk Wallow Wayside when we reached
it.  Eight very sweaty miles later, we hiked in to the Wayside
area.  Unloading the packs, we received again some funny looks
from the day visitors there, but I guess we deserved them...we
looked as if we had been swimming in our clothes!  So we
cleaned up as best we could, ordered a huge lunch from the
counter, and took it outside to a shaded picnic table.  With
the boots off and ice cold drinks, we replenished our energy
for the last mile and a half to the end of the hike.  A quick
call home and we were shouldering the packs again.
	What was to be the last little section of the hike
turned out to be quite a challenge!  All uphill, we really
began to feel the effects of the packs and boots as muscles
screamed and toes cried out in pain.  And to top it off, we
seemed to be in bear country again.  We heard a cub cry out and
then heard crashing through the bushes.  Once again, we were
singing our way through the woods.  Shortly after this we saw
fresh bear scat beside the trail.  The area seemed to be
crawling with bruins!  Finally, gasping and dripping our way up
hill, we reached Rattlesnake Point Overlook and the car about 4
PM.  The hike had ended and we were tired, aching, but pleased
with ourselves.  We shuttled back to the other car only to be
rewarded with one final bear sighting as we drove!  Grazing by
the side of the road was a beautiful adult bear, unconcerned by
the car passing!  We were both glad that this particular bear
was viewed from the safety of the car and chuckled as we
realized that this was more bear sightings in 24 hours than I
had seen in 12 years of camping in the area!  Firefly must be a
bear magnet, she has had encounters with 6 bears in three
trips.  (One very close encounter was when a bear licked her
tent, carried her boots in his mouth and made off with all the
	So the big-little adventure had ended!  We both had a
wonderful time in spite of the grumbling muscles the next day.
And it has left us aching in another way...aching to spend more
time on the trails!  Hmmm, I think Ill call my friend Haley and
see if she wants to go backpacking.

*********************************************************** *
Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner, * * I've been involved
in a desperate search for my sanity! * * Translation for the
reality impaired:  GONE HIKING ;-) *
Susie in the suburbs