Day 83 May 29 – 26.2 miles (plus 0.3 from the shelter) – Calf Mt. Shelter to Pinefield Hut
The day started out hot and humid. As we walked through the woods I couldn’t tell if I was sweating or if water was just condensing on my body. The shafts of light falling through the tree canopy made it all worth it though.
Soon the humidty decreased and it was smooth sailing from there on out.
We were moving at a good pace but we still made time to take in the views.
Even with all the recent rain there was still a limited number of water sources. One of those water sources was located in a picnic ground slightly off the trail. We went to the picnic grounds and began filling our water bottles from a outdoor faucet. A father was bringing his daughter to the nearby bathrooms and he stopped to chat with us. After talking to him a while we walked over to a bench to take a short rest.
With the rest was over, we began to make our way back to the AT. We passed by the father who was now back with the group of people that he was picnicking with. We waved and said goodbye. A second or two after we passed the father called out, ” Do you guys want some food? The steak is almost done.” Stoat and I turned around in one fluid moment and walked right back.
The father asked how we liked our steak and I said, “We will eat whatever you want to give us.” Soon Stoat and I were handed plates with all kinds of food heaped on them. The steaks were still cooking but we sat down to start on what they had already given us. We asked them what the picnic was for and they told us they were a group a Brazilian friends and family that had an annual Memorial Day picnic.
When Stoat heard them say that they were Brazilian he asked them, in Portuguese, if they spoke Portuguese. One of guys in the group said “Thank you, most people think we speak Spanish!” Then someone asked if we spoke Portuguese and , in English, we said no. So while we were eating a little boy was gaveus Portuguese lessons.
When the steak was done they offered us the first bite. It was mind blowingly good. Stoat doesn’t eat red meat and I’m not a big red meat eater, but that didn’t stop us from eating that steak. It just smelled too good. I found my body craving the fatty parts just as much as the meaty parts. Normally I don’t like to eat the fatty / chewy parts of steak, but I found that my body was embracing it like it had just found all that it ever needed in this world.
They were a little surprised that Stoat knew the names of a lot of the dishes they served. When asked about it, we explained that where we live in New Jersey is close to an area with a high Brazilian population. It turned out that one of the women at the picnic had lived near us at one point! Prior to the trip, if someone told me that I would be talking to Brazilians on the trail about the Ironbound section of Newark, I would have doubted it. But there we were.
After a little while,the children tired of watching some strangers butcher their language and went off to play. The adults stayed and began the ask us all kinds of questions.
When they asked what was the strangest thing we had seen on the trail, the story of when we accidentally camped at lovers lane came to mind. ( Day 2 ) So, I told the story and, when Stoat added the part about when he wanted to do a slow clap, the table burst with laughter. Amid the laughter, they said they thought we were going to talk about wild animals or something.
We talked for a long time and it felt like we found new friends. When we finally got up to go they offered us even more food. We declined. We figured bringing steak into bear country was a bad idea.
Before we left we all got together to take a group picture. When we got back on trail we were on cloud nine. These people had welcomed two scruffy, smelly hikers into their group, and fed us. Not only did they feed our stomachs, they fed something more important, our spirits. They had taken us in and treated us like family. That’s something that I’ll never forget.
With our bellies full and our spirits high, the next several miles seemed to fly by. The terrain was fairly easy, by AT standards, and there were several nice views
About two miles from the Pine field Hut we had a scare. I thought I saw (and smelled) a bear. Stoat said it was a squirrel and we kept walking. Soon we saw that it was definitely not a squirrel. About fifty feet, down a small hill, was a bear. We started to make a bunch a noise and the bear gave us a look. It was a look that said,” What do you want buddy? I see you guys traipsing through here all the time. You think I want to eat you? You stink! Here, I’ll move five feet over here. Feel better? No? Well too bad, I’m not moving one bit more.”
Thankfully the trail led us away from the bear. That is , until it led us right back to the bear again. Except this time we were much closer. This time we were less than 20 feet from it. We kept making noise and slowly backed away from it. It just looked at us and kept sniffing the air. The bear clearly didn’t want anything to do with us and I think all parties involved were glad when the moment passed. There was never a point when we thought the bear was acting in an aggressive manner towards us. We just happened to be in the same place at the same time. Still, I’m glad we didn’t happen to have have any of that steak with us.
We got to the Pinefield Hut ( In the Shenandoahs they call shelters, huts) after 7:30 PM. Zeus and Flashfire were already there and we caught up on the events of the day.
We had hiked 26.2 miles, the length of a marathon. We were tired, our feet hurt and we were ready for bed, but the feeling of accomplishment was undeniable.