Thursday, March 3, 2011

Chapter 67: Waynesboro, or Where I Give Hikers a Bad Name

The Paul C. Wolfe Shelter was filled with weekenders and section hikers, seemingly all of whom were bragging about their monolithic efforts getting there from Waynesboro, where they had presumably started the day. Five miles. What an accomplishment. I hated them all instantly. Still, many of them were only out for the night, and were anticipating a short trek back into town the next morning.

Good, I thought, maybe they'll let us sleep in.


At first, I thought they might have been conspiring to keep us from sleeping at all. There was, of course, very little room left in the shelter when I arrived, forcing me to squeeze in on the floor by everybody else's feet. Occasionally, an errant raindrop or two – blown in by the wind – would splash on my face, or on the floor right next to me, inexorably soaking my sleeping bag. And by occasionally I mean constantly. Yeah. Pretty much all the time. It was bad.

Then there was the snoring. An unearthly, full-throated growl of such impressive timbre as to make me fear losing bowel control. And it was coming from a woman! It was impossible to sleep. Death seemed like a prudent if distasteful alternative.

And then I was violently woken by the sounds of people moving about, packing up, and making breakfast. P-Nut was awake too, and sat up groggily next to me. I grabbed his watch. It wasn't even six in the morning.

Boiling with barely-suppressed rage, I wrote the following in the shelter registry:
Dear Day Hikers, Overnighters, and Section Hikers,
You take our space in the shelter, and we fall back. You keep us awake with your outrageously obnoxious snoring, and we fall back. You generally act like a bunch of rude, unthinking ass holes, and we fall back. Where I draw the line is when you wake up at five in the morning and start talking in normal voices and banging pots and pans together like it's fucking Mardi Gras! Please be more considerate in the future. Some of us have literally hiked hundreds of miles to be here, and we're very tired, cranky, and desperately need our beauty sleep. Or just drop dead.
Yours forever,
Major Chafage
It was going to be a good day.

I was in a terrible mood when I hiked out, and maybe wasn't paying enough attention to where I was or where I was going. The fact that it was incredibly foggy didn't help matters. It was like walking through a marshmallow. And so I suppose it was only inevitable that I got lost.

I chose to blame The Thru-Hiker's Handbook, which says the following:
1327.9   Stream (1780') crosses A.T. ............................. w 851.2
Notice! Northbounders, go right on Blue Ridge Parkway where A.T. leaves woods, then follow blazes across bridge over Interstate 64 and US250; directions reversed for Southbounders. 
1326.0   Rockfish Gap, Interstate 64 (1900') ......... R, M, L 853.1
left 4.5m—to WAYNESBORO, VA 22980 ........... H, G, O, Lm, f
To me, that sounds like you leave the woods, cross Interstate 64, and then – 1.9 miles later – reach Rockfish Gap. Right? No! Apparently, where you cross Interstate 64 is Rockfish Gap.

And the next road crossing isn't for another 3.7 miles.

I was cursing a lot when Bandito caught up to me.

"What's up, M.C.?" asked Bandito.

I said nothing for a while, stewing in my anger. I was afraid if I opened my mouth I might scream obscenities at him, or that sparks and flames might shoot out and start a forest fire. Really.

Five minutes later, I had finally composed myself enough to spit, "This is ridiculous! We should've walked nine miles by now, not five!"

Bandito was worried, too, but didn't share my particularly acidic or profane perspective about it.

And then we emerged onto a road at last. A Forest Service SUV parked nearby. A sign by the road said McCormick Gap, and I let loose a vociferous string of vicious obscenities, threw my Leki pole over my shoulder, and then drop kicked by handbook. Or tried. I missed a couple times before finally – and feebly – connecting.

I think Bandito may have been talking to the Ranger throughout all of this. Yes, there was a Forest Ranger in the SUV. Yes, he saw my entire outburst. And yes, he promptly drove off, leaving us there.

I walked into the road and threw my hands up in disbelief.

"I think you scared him off," said Bandito helpfully.

"Well, that's just great!" I screamed. "The next car that comes along, I'm jumping out in front of it. We're not even going to bother to try to hitchhike. Okay?"

But I wasn't looking for his approval.

As it turned out, the next car that came along was the Forest Service SUV. I'm not sure what the Ranger thought of me running out in front of him and waving my arms in the air for him to stop, like some deranged, desperate lunatic. I probably wasn't helping my case any. Let's just leave it at that.

"Are you through having your temper tantrum?" asked the Ranger, rolling down his window as he pulled up.

I was grievously offended by this, and my first instinct was to punch him in the face. But the sensible part of my brain reasoned that doing so would probably lead to me being incarcerated, which certainly wouldn't help me finish my hike. On the other hand, it would get me back into town...

"We're lost," Bandito was explaining. "We're supposed to be meeting our friends in Waynesboro."

The Ranger actually proved rather helpful, although that would be hard for me to appreciate over my resentment at his rightfully treating me like a petulant child.

He first drove us to the Ranger station, where we picked up backcountry permits for the park. Shenandoah National Park, that is. Which we had already entered. By accident. Then he figured he could drive us into town, or at least as far as the Rockfish Gap Outfitters. We could walk into town from there. After all, we'd already hiked an extra four miles. What was another two or three?

I was in a terrible, pissy, awful mood when we arrived. I stocked up on chocolate and ate a lot of chocolate and bitterly raided the hiker box while Bandito fiddled about buying fuel. Then we left and walked to the Ming Garden Chinese Buffet in the rain.

Where we found P-Nut, Redwing, Lil Dipper, and some other hikers we didn't know or care about! And where I ate four or six full plates of lousy food, mostly deserts, and started to feel better about the world! And where we played a silly game where you read your fortune, and then add the words "in bed," or "on the trail."

"Grand adventures await those who are willing to turn the corner. In bed." said P-Nut.

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," said the other guy.

"On the trail," everybody chimed in, finishing it for him.

"You may accomplish more by being direct," read Bandito.

"In bed," we all chorused.

"I'm sorry, I don't get it. What does that mean, by being direct in bed?" asked Lil Dipper naively.

"Lie down," I commanded, inexplicably adopting a southern accent. "Now bend over! Now squeal like a piggy!"

Laughing, Lil Dipper blushed scarlet and then immediately started choking. And then got up and quickly staggered into the bathroom. Worried, Redwing excused herself and followed her.

They returned five minutes later to a subdued and anxious table.

Redwing shrugged, "Yeah. She threw up."

Lil Dipper chuckled sheepishly.

"I thought M.C. might have killed you," marvelled P-Nut.

"I didn't think it was that funny," said someone else. Okay, that was me. Ever humble.

From there we went to the grocery store to resupply, and then to the Y.M.C.A. to shower. I feared the showers would be prison-style. As surprising as it may seem, I had never gotten naked or showered in front of another man before. I figured, the way things were going, today would be a good day to start.

I was right. I went in first, and tried to be thorough but perfunctory about my business. Then Bandito walked in, saw my bare ass, and nearly jumped out of his skin. I ignored him, and started singing manly songs like "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Genie in a Bottle" by Christina Aguilera.

Another taboo broken.

Afterwards, we went to the hostel at the Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church. It was their opening night. Our hosts were gregarious and giving. We had access to their kitchen, a full refrigerator full of juice, snacks, and frozen pizza! And to a lounge with a big-screen TV. I quickly settled in to watch "Galaxy Quest" and "The Shawshank Redemption."

Caveman and Hobbes arrived. Hobbes scolded me for mischaracterizing Mardi Gras in my log entry. Like I would know. He would, having gone to Tulane for college. Whatever.

And then Bandito had to tell everybody how we had gotten lost that day, and they all laughed at me and pointed. And I hated everybody. And then I went to bed, and cried myself to sleep. 

1 comment:

  1. I feel like I talked to you on the phone while you were at this church