We have just passed two huge milestones on our journey. The first is that we have left Tennessee, and also recently North Carolina, behind. We reached Damascus, VA exactly one month to the day from our departure. We are really thrilled to be back in Virginia, where we have many friends and family who we eager to see. Unfortunately, there are more trail miles between us and northern Virginia than we have hiked in total so far.
But let’s get onto the more dramatic news. Just a few miles south of the Virginia border, we encountered our first black bear. As we were hiking around a flat and sunny turn in the trail, chatting about something food related, Willett suddenly charged ahead of us, barking ferociously. It took me a second to see that he had spied a bear in the shrubs to the side of the trail about forty yards ahead. By the time I could react, the dog was close on it’s heels, as it tore off down the trail. Both Anne and I were hollering for Willett to stop. I started running after, just as the beast reached a great oak tree and in an instant had climbed up as nimbly as a cat. Willett heeded our calls at that point and returned to where we had stopped. The bear was not full grown, but was certainly bigger than a cub. We were unsure whether a mother bear or others were nearby, so we waited a few minutes. We couldn’t see the treed bear from our vantage, so we decided that leaving the area was best. We cautiously tiptoed down the way with the dog on leash and rocks in hand. We passed safely, but the incident left us a little shook up, since until now bears seemed kind of mythical.
Bears are a frequent topic of discussion among hikers, but no one we have spoken to has seen or been bothered by one yet. Most folks who have say that they hardly get to see a bear except the back of one disappearing into the bushes. Bears are hunted with dogs around here, so they are supposedly scared of them, which gives us some confidence. We are told that most problems with bears occur in National Parks, like the Smokies or Shenandoah, where they are protected.
Here are a few photos. Sorry, the bear was too quick to pose for us!
The Virginia state line.
Willett was waiting for us outside while we ate breakfast. He barked until he found a way to console himself by getting on top of the table to nap.