Big Meadows Campground

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July 4, 1983 Sunday (1293.3 mtg) From Gonzo!s Appalachian Trail journal

In order for Mom and Dad to get back to Illinois in time to rest and be ready for work on Tuesday, it was necessary for them to leave very early this morning. That meant that we had to get up sometime around 2 am so we could drive back to Swift Run Gap overlook, where I had been picked up. I was dropped off at about 3:45 am and of course it was still dark. Too dark for trail travel. We said our goodbyes, and then they were gone. I used my flashlight to find the trail, then headed into the woods just a few hundred yards at most and then stepped off the path into the woods to find a spot to "park" until first light. I was never able to get back to sleep fully as I lay there listening to the silence of the woods and thinking any time now there would be a bear wandering by that would smell the food in my pack. I was off and moving as soon as I could see where I was going. I just cruised! The trail must have been so well graded that the miles flew by quickly. Soon I had put in twenty miles before noon! Of course I had started quite early. Now what am I supposed to do? That was really a long days walk for the average hiker, but I had half the day left.

The climb up Hazeltop turned out to be quite easy. As I skirted Big Meadows campground, the trail passed directly behind the campsites located there. I stopped and had a conversation with Ben Clements and John Fallon, both from Maryland, after they flagged me down and offered pancakes, eggs, and a couple of sodas. I spent about an hour there. I learned from them that the rangers were planning a party to celebrate the Forth of July to be located somewhere near the Pinnacles. I immediately said that is where I should find myself tonight, and began the journey there. I met up with another hiker at Skyland, and hiked with him for a while. He gave me an ice cold apple and water. With all the mileage I was putting on I caught up with Tom Charmichael, and hiked with him to the Pinnacles picnic grounds.

In the Shenandoah park, the picnic grounds are not a "legal" place to camp. But I had just covered thirty-one miles, my biggest mile day so far, and I wasn't going to go any further. The balls of my feet were beginning to feel hot, as if a huge blister covering the entire area was about to form. I hung out on a picnic bench under the pavilion and waited for the party to arrive. Eventually, it became obvious that there was not going to be a party here tonight as darkness was only an hour or so away and there was no large group of anykind in sight. While I waited, a group of boy scouts came by and I talked with the counselors. I helped them adjust their backpacks. They asked if I thought they could spend the night nearby and I told them that it was actually illegal, and recommended they camp in the woods somewhere they could not be seen. They went to the edge of the woods surrounding the picnic area, then all filed into the greenery. If there was not a path to begin with, there was one now after all those kids tramped through to their campsite. I set up my tent after dark as far from view as I could beside a picnic table for added camoflage, and waited for the party. By 11:30 I figured there would be no party here. What tipped me off was the absence of people, and the fact that I could hear a party somewhere nearby. Apparently the party was at the Pinnacles Overlook, not the Pinnacles picnic area. I could see the lights twinkling in the valley to the west, but could hear fireworks to the east. The view in that direction was obscured by the trees. For me, no fireworks were seen this year. Disappointed, I slowly drifted off to sleep.

Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983

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