Friday, September 10, 2010

Shenandoah Strikes Again

From Shenandoah Day 2 Album
    I awoke on Monday, and during breakfast, I decided I’d had such a good time in the park, I’d stay another night.  There were a few activities that the park offered during the day that looked interesting plus I didn’t have to be in Philadelphia until Thursday.  I walked down the AT to the amphitheater to listen to see a bird raptor presentation.  The perky ranger lady gave a short talk on the importance of predators in the wild and how their role wasn’t understood early on and most predators were killed leaving a bazillion deer in the forest today with no natural predators.  I read later that around thirty deer are hit on Skyline Drive (main road through park) every year.  Hopefully not too many of those collisions are with motorcycles.  The main focus of her talk was on bird predators.  They day predator she had for us to view was a falcon.  All of the birds she showed us had been injured by cars and hadn’t passed the “mouse test” that would allow them to be returned to the wild.  I don’t know what kind of set up they have, but basically if they can’t catch a mouse four out of five times, they figure it won’t be able to survive in the wild.
    She warned us before she pulled the falcon out that despite the strong probability that it would desperately try to escape (slight exaggeration), the animals were treated very well and had nice homes.  The second she took it out, other birds in the area started freaking out.  The falcon was pretty calm until she was about to put it in his cage and then I understood why she had warned us.  The thing jumped off her gloved arm, swung by a rope attached to its foot toward the ground and started flapping its wings madly, flailing around in the process.  After a little time and patience, she was relieved to get it back in the cage.  The next bird was a very fluffy owl (barred owl I believe) which looked stoned and not happy to be in broad daylight.  Before she took it out, she had warned us not to move our feet around the rocks because they use sound to find prey.  The owl’s chilled out state completely changed when a couple of kids walked in to the amphitheater, scraping their feet along the rocks.  The owl pooped and then began its own frenzied attempts to get the f out of there.  The ranger asked the kids to take a seat as calmly as she could, apologized to the now wide-eyed, bewildered owl, and then put it back in its cage.  The last bird she took out was a tiny owl which she said usually only operates in pitch black.  It had a facial expression that seemed to say, “WTF you lookin’ at beotch?”  I enjoyed the presentation a lot despite the sixty something year old lady sitting next to me who blurted out answers to the rangers questions before the kids on the front row had a chance.
    While I was registering for another night, the lady at the desk recommended I hike down a different trail than I had planned.  I decided to take her advice and began my stroll along a three mile loop that had a waterfall on the way.  I saw a chipmunk cross the trail in front of me and run under some rocks.  I wanted to get a picture of it, but couldn’t think of a friendly way to get it out from under the rocks (perhaps a loud sneeze from one side of the rocks would have been acceptable?).  There was a fair amount of up and down on the trail, lots of rocks and the waterfall was okay (perhaps I’m a waterfall snob?).
    After the hike, I picked up a couple of my favorite liquids, wine and milk, at the camp store.  I rarely have a tent set up in the middle of the afternoon, so I took advantage of it and took a nap.  I awoke to the sounds of a generator owned by the lady “camping” next to me (she slept in her van).  That evening I had pasta with sauce and wine.  After dinner I took a stroll down the AT with a camping mug of wine in hand (don’t hike and drink – it’s a bad idea).  I had plans to have some moonshine (at the lodge bar), and well, get drunk, later in the evening.
       When I got back to my campsite, I was invited by the family across from me to have dinner with them.  I had already eaten, but decided to join them anyway.  The dad was a stereotypical American dad, the wife was from Spain and they had an eleven year old daughter and a nine year old boy who was supposedly a Webelos but had the most dangerous wood chopping technique I think I’ve ever seen.  They were also having pasta except were doing it in a much fancier way that I did.  They chopped up onions and other vegetables to make a sauce with and cooked it over some coals along with some corn.  They also had fresh bread and salad to go with it.  They invited another solo guy who was probably in his fifties and generator lady to join them too.  This other solo guy was quite a character.  He had damn near every quality in a person I don’t like.  He brought over a bottle of wine which was nice, but then went off on a long explanation of the wine’s origin (from Washington State he claims) and how the wine in the New York area was horrible.  He gave me some of his wine.  It tasted like shit, even compared to the camp store wine.
    I talked to him some about my travels, but he had one of those personalities where anything I said about anywhere I’d been turned into a perfect opportunity for him to tell me some of his experiences and how much of an expert he was in such and such an area, even if it was nowhere near where I’d been.  When dinner was served, he told the wife of the family, “I’d really like to say the prayer unless you’d like to be the man of the family,” or some bullshit like that.  While we were eating, he was explaining to the boy about some type of bug bites and began poking the boy’s body with his finger to demonstrate something.  It was one of those times when I wish the world had some kind of system to deal with people like that.  If only someone could drop down from the sky and say, “Congratulations, you’ve been identified as a dumbass.  Please take this manual and read over it carefully before you do anything else.  Take careful note of Social Interaction Rule Number 234: Don’t put your hands on a stranger’s children when they invite you over for dinner or ever for that matter.”
       I did end up eating some food because fresh bread and salad was too good to turn down.  Generator lady avoided eye contact with me at first, but once she found out about my trip, she began asking me all these questions.  She lives in some town an hour or so away in Virginia, but was only there about five days of each month because she traveled around so much.  She avoided interstates on her travels, but didn’t stray too far from her home (partially because of her lack of faith in her van).  She called me her hero when she found out how far away from home I was and was planning to go.
       Captain of the social misfits dominated most of the group’s discussion, telling us how much of a backwoods hiker he was one moment and then about his fancy cot the next.  He said he was divorced with two kids.  The only thing I couldn’t figure out is how his wife put up with him long enough to have two kids.  I didn’t bother to ask.
       We roasted marshmallows after dinner and I had my first smore in a long time.  Delicious.  I thanked the family for inviting me over and for the wonderful meal.  Captain Schmuck accepted thanks on behalf of the family of course.  All in all, it was a nice dinner experience.  While I was in my tent about to go to sleep, I heard something nearby and shined a light at it.  All I saw was the back end of a small white animal with a white fluffy tail that looked very similar to a skunk except there was no black.  Could have been an albino skunk.  I set my alarm and made plans to leave early the next day.


Anonymous said...

I was really looking forward to seeing a picture of Captain Schmuck, so I could be sure to dodge him if I go traveling like that again.

Mr. M

Ryan Fuller said...

Well, hopefully running into a guy like that while camping is a rare occurrence. I'm glad I talked to you about Shenandoah - it really is a fantastic place.

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