After talking with Beast last night and this morning, I took my time getting going this morning, since the plan was to meet him at the parking area for the James River Footbridge, the longest foot-use-only bridge on the AT. We also changed our plan for getting into Buena Vista; we'd be taking an extra day to get into town in order to meet up with Beast's parents on Saturday. This means two short days, rather than one long one, but my left foot has been bothering me, so I'm ok with a less ambitious schedule since that'll go easier on my foot.
The day started off with a very easy hike down the mountain to Matts Creek Shelter; I did the 5ish miles at 3 mph. After a short snack break there, I headed for the footbridge to meet up with Beast.
As I crossed the James River, I could see Beast sitting on the rocks underneath the railroad tracks just past the footbridge, and I could tell something was wrong even before I got there.
To make a long story short, Beast was still mentally drained, and because of his continuing series of problems that started after he got his cold a few weeks ago, he realized he's not been enjoying the hike in quite some time, and sent a message on his Spot requesting a pickup.
Of course, being in a cell phone dead zone, there was no way of knowing if/when someone would be coming to pick him up, and since there was a shelter only two miles further, I decided to wait with Beast until he got picked up.
Fortunately, we didn't have to wait too long. Another thru-hiker who lives in the area, Great P, was offering up some trail magic, in the form of sodas, apples, bananas, a trash bag, and rides into town. After he got back from a town run, he chatted with us for a bit, and then gave Beast a ride to Glasgow. I returned to the trail. I'll see Beast next on Saturday, when he and his family pick me up near Buena Vista.
On the way to the shelter, I ran into a couple going south I had passed each of the last three days. Turns out that they're section hikers, who had been doing SOBO slacks in segments going north by leapfrogging their cars. Depending how long their segments are, I may run into them again tomorrow.
I reached the Johns Hollow Shelter around 2 pm, and immediately noticed the swarm of bugs flying around the shelter. I sprayed my clothes and exposed skin with some bug spray, and both that and the rain that started around dinner time helped, but I can tell it's going to be a long night (especially with it being warm, meaning I can't really zip up my sleeping bag too much).
Being here at 2, I had a lot of time to kill, so I surveyed the area for trees to use for bear hangs. Unfortunately, most of the trees here are very tall, and their lowest branches far too high to be of use. The shorter trees have branches too close to the ground to be of use either. There were two I found that were potentially useful, but they were too close to tentsites.
Eventually, I decided (as agreed by others) that a mouse hang was probably sufficient and that the problem bears were on the other side of the river.
I was the only person here for about two hours, until other people started trickling in, some staying, some moving on to the next shelter.
Sometime around six, it started pouring, and right around then, three students from Princeton Seminary arrived. They're doing a SOBO section hike, and this was their first day out.
The rain did not last for long, so the bugs returned, though in smaller numbers than during the day. I'm hoping it won't be too bad tonight. I guess we'll find out...