AT Day 52 – Racing to town 

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6th June

30.9 miles

Byrds Nest # 3 Hut (938.8) to Front Royal (969.7)

I have a tendency to walk fast when I’m hiking towards a place that sells food, specially when I’m hungry. I was on route to yet another Wayside Restaurant in the Shenandoahs. At least I thought I was walking fast. A 65 plus year old hiker blasted past me with his full pack like a racehorse. I guess he was hungry too.

I caught the hiker at the restaurant and we shared a meal. I ate breakfast and was still hungry so I ordered lunch before setting off. I think the other hikers were impressed with the amount of food I could fit in my stomach. I’m suffering a case of hiker hunger.

I once read that Olympic swimmers consume up to 12000 calories in a day, which sounds excessive. At the moment I suspect I’m eating between 4000-5000 calories per day. When I reach a town that number might increase to 6000 plus calories or drop down to 3000 calories, depending on the availability of salads and vegetables which are not always common in small town America.

With a full belly I made good miles in the afternoon. I looked at my map and noticed the town of Front Royal was much closer than I thought. I figured I could keep going at this pace and make it to the trail head an hour before sunset. So I started walking fast.

While hiking it is common that bowel movements can happen at any time and when the urge starts it can finish real quick. I dropped my pack and raced off into the bushes away from the trail. There was a slight hill with small trees. I wanted to get to the other side. As I crested the rise I looked ahead for a suitable site. In front of me about 20 meters away was mamma bear. Two small Cubs about the size of footballs scurried away. One of the cubs climbed a tree, the other tried to climb the same tree but fell when it was about 3 feet off the ground. It didn’t take long for the second cub to run down the hill away from mumma bear. The cub in the tree climbed down to follow its sibling.

I’m standing there rather desperate to evacuate my bowels watching all this. My first instinct was to grab my camera but it was with my backpack. With no camera I shouted at mumma bear to let her know I’m human then slowly backed away. Luckily I was not between mother and Cubs or I might have had some trouble.

I walked back to my backpack and realised I was no longer desperate to make a toilet stop. Not to mention the trail went downhill and took a turn in the direction I last saw the Cubs run. I didn’t see the bears again.

I kept racing towards town and made it to the trailhead around 7.30pm. Who would pick up a random stranger on the side of the road late in the afternoon on a busy road. Turns out it was an easy hitchhike. The second car stopped to pick me up after about 30 seconds of waiting. Well that was easy.

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