I've crossed the state line into Virginia! The trip so far has wound its way up the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, fishtailing back and forth so often I'd have been hard pressed to tell you which state I was in at any given time. Late last night, however, I came to this signpost. I've been humming a terrible rendition of "Sweet Virginia" ever since.
The trip has been going smoothly since the last post I'm glad to say, though I remain firmly in bear territory. A very distressed looking couple hurried up to me two days ago to tell me they'd just seen one. Their looks of shock were so complete I'd say at the very least they'd had no idea there were bears in this part of the country, and quite possibly no idea that bears were even real creatures, having perhaps labeled them safely under the "balderdash" column between jackalopes and Bigfoot.
Either way, they asked me how far the nearest road was, which confused me because, unless you have a car waiting for you, hiking to the nearest road doesn't really get you much. So I tried to clarify and asked if they were looking for the nearest road to a town for supplies and they responded, "No, the nearest road to anywhere. We're gettin' outta here."
I would have laughed but they were having a rough day clearly. So I told them the next road was three miles on, though there was nothing there and little chance of passing cars so far out at that time of day, but they took off anyway. Hopefully they don't make it as far as this sign. I'm not sure they can handle two such revelations in such a short span of time:
I've now seen so many bears that my bear counter is threatening to overtake my snake counter (bears: 4, snakes: 5, bigfoots: 0).
Come to me serpents. Protect me from the bears.
Where's a parselmouth when you need one, am I right?
On the subject of parselmouths, I've been re-reading the Harry Potter series, among other things. One of my favorite things about backpacking has always been that it gives me time to just lay back and enjoy a good book, making progress on my never ending "to read" list. (It's a magical list, every time you finish a book five or six more titles have mysteriously been added to the end of the list. I haven't figured out how it works yet.)
Since I'm solo hiking I don't bother to make campfires most nights. (Have you ever collected wood for a fire all by yourself? It gets old fast.) Instead, when nightfall comes, or as we call it on the trail "hiker midnight," I crawl into my hammock and read for a few hours. You'd be surprised how much you can get through in a couple of hours a day. I'm now averaging a book every two to three days.
With such a long hike I figured I'd power through a lot of books, and I know from past experience that I struggle when I change authors and stories so rapidly, becoming fatigued and eventually disinterested. I call this phenomenon "literary whiplash" and, at least for me, it's usually caused by the changes in tone and style between authors, combined with the obvious changes in characters and worlds when you're jumping between books so quickly. I've always been a very emotional reader. I like to get absorbed in the story, until the characters and world feel real. This is great for the most part, though it can sometimes lead to difficult emotional reactions (upon reading John Knowles's A Separate Peace years ago I was wrecked for weeks afterwards. A warning to my fellow emotional readers, maybe just say no to that one... Or at least brace yourselves.)
But I digress, the point is that I decided to try and solve the issue by spacing out the new books with books I'd already read, and which were linked by author and story. I chose the Harry Potter series because I've always loved them and I've read the whole series numerous times before so I knew they would flow easily. I've been reading a new book, followed by one of the Harry Potters for several weeks now, tossing in some non-fiction (Mary Roach's Packing for Mars, and Stephen King's On Writing, both great reads and good for a surprising number of laughs), catching up on a few series I follow pretty regularly (any Dresden Files fans out there?), hitting a couple novels that people had reccomended (Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, which I mostly enjoyed, everyone can stop telling me to read it now haha, and Glendon Swarthout's The Homesman), adding in a strange detective novel that I haven't made my mind up on yet... (Dorothy L Sayers's The Nine Tailors, the slowest of slow burns... I had to take a break but I'm hoping to go back to it again with fresh eyes, so I'll reserve further judgement for now), and a few random others.
In between them all I've plowed through most of the Harry Potters. I skipped the first two I'll admit. Not knockin'em, but the third has always been my favorite and I like the darker tone the story takes from that point forward, but story aside.... wouldn't you know... I was shocked to discover Red Caps are listed multiple times in the books (in their murderous goblin form, not their smelly hiker form of course).
I was so tickled the first time I came across it that I actually looked around for someone to show it to, and then I remembered, "Right. I'm alone in the woods."
I would have shown the bears but they're still having an averse reaction to Velcro. I suppose I shouldn't have been so surprised. After all, my initial Google search for redcaps did reveal they were prominent in English folklore, and JK Rowling is British, but it still came as a shock.
Well... I think I've rambled on quite long enough about all that. If any of you have reading recommendations though, feel free to send them my way. I'll add them to the magical list.
Now back to my humming. Because there's no one out here to beg me to stop, mwahahahahmmmmmm sweeeet Virginia.
Also: "Bears are smart, yo."