By last Wednesday, it was clear by the wheezing predictions from the Eastern seaboard’s weathermen that the temperature on Saturday was going to be close to 9000° and our skin would blister and erupt if we dared considered venturing outdoors. But if we stayed inside then the penguins win, so screw that. We cast around for hiking ideas from our friends that were manageable for fatties and dogs and Big Schloss near Columbia Furnace, VA was the victor.
What our advisor failed to mention (and may or may not have known) was that Saturday was the last day of black bear hunting in Virginia or West Virginia. (This may not be true as all my research indicated that bear hunting season ended in November or December.) This meant that the only souls we saw for the first 3 hours had guns and/or beards and/or had Dale Earnhardt style sunglasses specially designed for eyeballin’ city folk.
Not that any of that was a problem for me. You see, I’m down with it, the rifles and the camo and the sling-blading. The issue was our wussy, yellowbelly hound who was spazzing out in the backseat because he couldn’t get out of the car fast enough. You see, BD, was bred to hunt and kill bears. Actually, outside the odd wild boar who wanders across their path, that’s all Plott Hounds are supposed to do. But our dog is teh suckiest and was given up by his hunter because he is afraid of lambs. He was born in WV but now lives in Alexandria with his best friend the poodle and his most difficult decision each day is what sofa to sleep on. So it was a bit of an embarrassment when I unloaded our pathetic animal on his 16 foot retractable leash and special water bowl from my car.
Especially since this is how all the other dogs that were onsite were rolling.
You can’t really tell but there were 6 dogs in there. And there was another truck that was packed with about 20 dogs in three levels and it looked like the Beverley Hilldoggies were coming into town. Our dog couldn’t seem to get comfortable in the backseat on the way down and whined the whole way and made want to drive off a cliff like my old English teacher.*
We booked it to the trail and within five minutes met our first group of hunters. And since they had guns and we are babies, we looked at out navels and brushed by. But the next group had 7 hunters and a big dog and guns and radios and telemetry equipment and were scarier, so we basically ran past them. Even our dog sensed that he was pretty much outclassed because that other dog sleeps in a metal box. Also, it still had its balls. Something that our pooch forfeited years ago, and brother, those balls were big.
But since this group was very good at what they do, one their best was sent to track and maybe kill us. There was a lot of “Ohmygodhesfollowingusweshouldrun!” And when he was almost upon us we figured that our best chance at surviving was to freeze and hope that his vision as based on movement. Turns out, though, that he was just a regular nice guy and was just heading to lower ground to get a better read on his hunting dog pack. It was the last day of bear hunting season and muzzle-loading deer. They were using the ridge we were hiking on as high ground so they could get a better read from their tracking transmitters they have in their dogs. One guy in their group had an antenna receiver and he was relaying info along the mountain with walkie-talkies. When the dogs cornered the beast, our hunters would descend with their thundersticks and dine like blood kings on the corpse or do whatever you do with a dead bear.
Our particular hunter scratched our dog’s ears and commented that he was a good looking Plott and too bad he was so worthless. He also wanted to know if there was a third hiker in our group as we had all seen another woman power walking around. This was either because he was:
a. making sure that there were no witnesses when he purposely shot us dead
b. making sure that we were the only witnesses when he purposely shot her dead
c. keeping track of who was on the mountain so no one got shot dead.
Of course, it was the latter, and we are paranoid jerks for thinking otherwise. We wished each other well and got to our peak a few minutes later.
If you’re looking for good views of both VA and WVA, may we recommend Big Schloss. And between now and September it will be muzzleloader free.
Our trek back was kinda boring. We heard some dogs barking and a few rifle shots. There was only one hunter (the guy with the dog) but several other hikers who didn’t realize how lucky they were to have the woods bear-free.** There was another non-hunter guy who wanted us to keep our dog away because his was in heat. We could have warned him that there was a forest full of dogs, horny with bloodlust and their giant balls but he was kind of a dick so we let him pass without a word.
We got to the parking lot about the same time as other hunters got back. Upon first arrival there was this sense that our groups were not allowed to talk to each other but with our useless dog as a catalyst we all got along famously. There was as an awkward moment when one of the caged dogs was barking at ours and his owner yelled “QUIET! HE AIN’T WANT YER BOX!” a little too aggressively. But if it hadn’t happened, then our trip wouldn’t have had a catch phrase!
We waved goodbye to our new friends and drove off down the mountain, saddened that we would never see them again. But fortunately for us, Columbia Furnace’s strangely over-priced gas station also serves as the areas big game weigh station and everyone gets their picture on the wall! Even some of the ten-year-old girls who were running around showing their friends their kills! Now this enchanted Saturday will live in our hearts forever.
*The first day of class senior year, our flaky teacher told us she went hiking in Europe over the summer and had been tempted to throw herself off a cliff. If you wish to remain control over your class for the year, I would advise against sharing this.