June 3, 2017
Tonight we camped atop Black Rock Summit in the Shenandoah National Park. We arrived about 7:00 p.m., set up our tent, hung our food bags, then climbed up the rocky peak to take in the view. Three small puffy white clouds accented an azure sky. Folds of green mountain ridges followed one another to the horizon. We were alone with this alluring vision of God’s world. There wasn’t much to say beyond, “Wow.” We sat, soaking in the beauty for a few moments, then prosaically climbed down and crawled into our sleeping bags, content to rest our tired bodies, our minds filled with wonder. I immediately drifted into sleep, and Jay lay in isolated tranquility, listening to the evening birdsong concert.
This solitary peace did not last long, however. Just before sunset, two young thru-hikers, Crusoe and Bat, arrived to watch the sunset. They seemed unaware of our tent, just a few yards away in the cover of the trees. Thus, Jay became an unintentional eavesdropper to their conversation.
Crusoe: Is this what Pennsylvania is like?
Bat: (very literal minded) Well, it has rocks, and this is rocks.
(My note: Pennsylvania is known for very sharp rocks.)
Crusoe: Yeah, but it would be easier without 50 pounds on my back.
Bat: (surprised) Your pack weighs 50 pounds?
Crusoe: Hyperbole, man!
During a short silence, Bat was possibly thinking, ‘I don’t know what a hyperbole is but it must be heavy.’
Crusoe: (happily) You know, after this, I’m gonna hike the PCT and the CDT and keep my same name!
Bat: What’s the CDT?
Crusoe: It’s this trail that goes all the way from Mexico to Alaska, except there’s no trail. You have to find your own way!
Bat: No wonder I’m not interested.
(My note: The CDT actually runs from Mexico to Canada, along the Rocky Mountains.)
Another short silence, then Bat began to talk about a game on his phone.
Crusoe: (virtuously) I have to keep some battery for when my parents call. (Then, with a burst of candor…) Sometimes my mom calls, and I have to be nice, even when I don’t want to talk with her!
At this point, the two hikers descended from the peak, and continued on their way.
June 4, 2017
We met Crusoe and Bat about 11:00 a.m. They had hiked six miles after sunset, then cowboy camped upon a rock ledge at 2:00 a.m. Full of wide-eyed adventure, they were sure they had seen a mountain lion during their night hike. Excitedly they described the pointy ears, the stance, and the short muzzle of their nocturnal sighting. What a great memory for the two of them!
I asked the boys how they got their names. Bat, literal minded as ever, replied, “Well, when I was practicing for this hike, I wore a Batman t-shirt, so people called me Bat.”
Crusoe had a different tale. “In 2015 I was gonna thru-hike the AT and live off the land. That didn’t work out. By the second day, I was looking at bugs. But they weren’t very big, and they didn’t have lettuce and tomato on them!
By this time I was laughing so hard, tears leaked down my cheeks. With hopes that we would “see y’all down the trail”, Jay and I left the two boys and continued on our way.
The night hike evidently whetted the boys’ appetite for more nocturnal adventures. A flashlight accompanied by radio music woke us about 10:30 p.m. We lay in our tent, wondering what was up. Then, as the light passed us on the trail, we heard Bat’s unmistakable voice, “Can we go slower on the uphills? I’m gonna vomit!”