Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Day 69: Bears! Bears! BEARS!

May 15: Since Amanda came out to slackpack me, I got my earliest start on the trail to date: 8:00 AM! Part of it was due to the short, quick drive from the hotel in Luray to the trailhead at Thornton Gap, but it helped that I ate breakfast right in the hotel room that was nothing more complex than a bowl of cereal.


Although we didn’t stay at this campground,
Amanda still wanted a photo with Yogi. =)
This would only be the first bear sighting of the day!


In any case, I got an early start to the date and felt like it was a good start to the day! Sunny and warm, no less!


I caught up with Happy early in the morning and we chatted for the better part of an hour before I peeled off to go to a shelter a bit off trail. Later in the day, I crossed paths with Beaker and Bostrich again—they seemed to be stalking me! I was seeing them on a near daily basis now. And late in the day for the last hour or two, I hiked with Beaker and Kilroy. Well, maybe Kilroy. I wrote in my journal “(I think?)” next to his name, so clearly I wasn’t 100% confident about his name. =) He was a new face to me.


Originally I intended to stop at a certain point where the A.T. crossed Skyline Drive that my guidebook showed a parking lot nearby. Amanda was there with cold drinks and Beaker stopped long enough to partake of one before moving on. I was going to quit, but Amanda pointed out the next road crossing also had parking—a fact not mentioned in my AWOL book—and the weather was still looking good. We also planned to move hotels further north on the trail to Front Royal as well, so Amanda talked me into hiking a few more miles to the next road crossing. It would put us closer to Front Royal so I’d have a shorter drive into town, and a shorter drive for both of us back to the trailhead the next day.


So I got back on the trail and quickly caught up with Beaker again and we fell into hiking together the rest of the way. She was planning to move to Seattle in about a month after she finished her hike (she was stopping in Harper’s Ferry and her finish date was only about a week away). So we talked about Seattle a lot. What to see and do, hiking trails in the area, the Wonderland Trail and even gave her a copy of my Washington Trails Magazine that I had been carrying when Amanda brought it.


Speaking of which, it’s not to late to sponsor me for the WTA’s annual Hike-a-Thon! If donating towards a worthy cause isn’t reason enough to do so, I’ll be sending a postcard from somewhere in Europe as a thank you to anyone who contributes at least $10 to the cause! =) Be sure to email me your address in case I don’t have a record of it already, though.




But I digress… At one point, Beaker and I reached a trail junction at the top of Compton Peak and found ourselves stumped about which direction to go. We knew which way the trail went, but signs marked a viewpoint 0.2 miles to the east and another viewpoint 0.2 miles to the west. We were both interested in seeing a viewpoint, but neither of us felt like hiking 0.2 miles off trail twice to see two different viewpoints. Which one should we try?


The signage had no hints about which might be the more interesting of the two. It just said “view.” In both directions. I finally came up with a clever way of making a decision: We flipped a coin. I flipped it, and Beaker called out tails. I missed the catch and the coin hit the ground coming up tails, so we headed west.


We admired the view—pretty much what we expected to find—then continued north on the Appalachian Trail eventually reaching Compton Gap and where Amanda picked me up for the day. Beaker continued onwards. Signage at the trailhead described the two viewpoints at Compton Peak and I was a little disappointed to find out the other “viewpoint” had led to a bunch of columns like you’d find at Devil’s Postpile. It wasn’t a “view” so much as it was an interesting geological feature, and I was a little bummed we hadn’t gone in that direction. I’d been seeing views all over the place. Geological features like this were much more rare, however. And why didn’t they have signage about the viewpoints in the direction we had come so we could have made an informed decision?!




Anyhow, I hopped into the car and we started the long-ish drive to Front Royal when, a few miles away, we saw a bear on the side of the road enter the trees on our right. Bear!  Bear! The trees were too dark and the sighting too fast to get a photo which bummed me, and as we drove past, I noticed a smaller baby bear peeking out of woods as mama bear was entering it. Baby bear! Baby bear! Cute as a button! But again, it was too dark and too fast for me to get a photo. Amanda missed the baby bear completely.


So we were both pretty excited about the bear sighting when, a few minutes later, we had another bear sighting! A mama bear with two cubs crossing Skyline Road in the other direction. Amanda stopped the car in the road and rolled down her window to get photos. I took photos through the windshield, but they weren’t as good since I had to film through the bug guts on the windshield. She got the good shots! The cubs were on the top of a stone wall, scrambling over it. The one got over, but the second one seemed to hesitate more about jumping down the other side which was a pretty steep slope. It was up there for several second after the mama bear and other cub were out of view, then the mama’s head popped up looking at the stalled cub as if saying, “Come on! Get a move on! We’ve got places to go!”


The cub still stalled, not wanting to jump off the wall, and the mama pushed it a bit with her snout. It was soooo adorable! Eventually she got the cub down the other side and the three of them disappeared down the slope for good.


I was seeing more wildlife driving down Skyline Drive than I had seen all day walking along the trail. That seemed wrong, somehow. But all-in-all, I was just happy to have gotten a close-up view of some bears and those cute little cubs. =)


We made it into Front Royal without anymore bear sightings and checked into the local Super 8, then ate dinner across the street at Spelunkers. Spelunkers, according to online sources Amanda looked up, is the best food in town. I was a little surprised at this because it was basically just your typical fast-food establishment. Not a chain (so far as I know), and the food was fine, but I’m not sure what all the fuss over it was. Nothing extraordinary!


And that was that for the day. Another 22.3 miles of trail were now behind me. =)






















Is that our hotel? I think it might be! =)


Kilroy (maybe?) is on the trail!






Beaker is on the trail! She should have already moved to Seattle by the time you read this…


I flip a coin to determine which of two viewpoints we should check out. I will readily admit, however, that this photo is a mostly-accurate recreation of the actual flip. The actual flip I missed catching and it hit the ground. =) Other than that detail, though, this is exactly what it looked like!


Beaker is hiking! Beaker is hiking!


The first bear sighting was fast and with the darkening skies, this was the best photo I got. The cub in the woods I didn’t get a photo at all.


Amanda, however, got this fabulous shot of the mama bear trying to prod her younin down from the rock wall at our second bear sighting a few minutes later. (The other cub had already jumped down and is no longer in view.)


You can practically see the frustration in the mama’s face.
“Get your butt down here! Don’t make me call your dad!”
“No! No! No! You can’t make me!”

“Oh, yes I can! You’re coming down here right NOW!”


Topcollector said...

Awesome bear sighting! What fun.

MoonshineOverKY said...

Awesome pics... such cute cubs!

Amanda from Seattle said...

Saw bears in NH too and then of course there was this family in NJ who had bears in their back yard. Definitely the summer of the bears!! I love listening to the children in the background of this video!!

Unknown said...

Awww soo cute! ! Great shot indeed!