In trying to make miles to give myself more time at Skyland, I pushed to the next shelter after a quick break at Big Meadows, the meadow itself. I hadn't seen a bear yet, in Shenandoah. The AT wrapps behind Big Meadows Lodge and camp ground. There in a tree I saw a bear. I took a photo or more. A while later, I saw a deer. The wildlife in this park have no fear. I call rabbits, suicide bunnies as they don't dart off until the nearly get stepped on.
I push on. I have 4 odd miles to go and the time is close to 4:30. The trail had some ups and downs all day over easy to move tread. These miles will be easy with one last up hill before dropping onto the shelter/camping area.
I look at the guide one last time to see about landmarks indicating where the shelter is. As I return the guide to my pocket, there's a bear. I hollered at it. It doesn't pay me any attention. It's between me and the sign post I'm walking towards. It moves when I get within 10 yards. I round a switch back a moment later, again another bear.
I see my friend, Ireland, beyond, setting up. I'm there. I'm relived to have gone 24 miles in 11 hours.
As I set up and do my chores, a young buck wanders into camp. Ireland questions his location and moves closer to my string up. We are both hammockers.
By dark fall, we and a few other thru-hikers, have chased the bears away multiple times so we can move around. The buck also hangs close by.
As I write, I hear crashing around me, bears. These buggers are the size of a large stuffed animal at the county fair. Except they aren't cuddly nor cute. I've hung everything that has a food scent in bags and on a steel pole aptly called a bear pole.
The last time I was in a beary active area, Lake Watuga Shelter, a section hiker strung a bear bag the traditional method while everyone else used the pole. In the middle of the night, we heard the pole rattling. In the morning the bear bag was gone. Someone found it a hundred yards away empty of all contents.
What will tonight bring in this beary active location? Who cares about bed bugs biting now?
Hike on. Store your food with care...