Jones Gap

Rim of the Gap Part 1

Rim of the Gap Part 1

Saturday evening Jo returned home sunburned from spending the day at the lake with some friends. While he was finishing up a bath I asked him how tired he was. He said, “It depends on what you wanna do.” I said, “Cut grass.” “I’m exhausted,” he replied. “How ’bout an overnight hike on Rim of the Gap?” (Rim of the Gap is a very strenuous 4.3 mile trail at Jones Gap.) “Let’s go!” We’ve primitive camped for 20 years but this would be the first time that we carried everything we’d need on our backs and hiked 2 hours up a steep ascent to do so. So we threw a few items in our packs, intentionally leaving out the 8 man tent for obvious reasons. We decided to spend the night in our recently purchased “travel hammocks” and sleeping bags. By the way… our sleeping bags? Way too big for backpacking. After a quick stop for trail bars, nuts and water we arrived in the Jones Gap parking lot at 7:10 pm. As we were walking toward the registration box I had a nauseating revelation. I had suddenly remembered some very important information. You’re supposed to pre-register for camping. I ran to the office and unbelievably it was open. I walked in, hands in the air, bemoaning my blunder. Elliot, one of the guys working there, said “Let me see what I can find.” After running through our options he found an available site 2 hours up the trail on Pinnacle Pass, the very place I’d hoped we could camp. A man makes his plans…thank God, He determines our steps. So with a newly purchased map and an admonition from a very accommodating Elliot to hurry to the site, we busted it up the trail which ascends about 1,000 feet in about a mile. It wasn’t very long and we found ourselves hiking under the cover of night with only my headlamp lighting the way. It was beautiful and, Jo thought, a little creepy. Suffice it to say that blaze colors look striking similar and reasonably rare at nightfall. We struggled to find our way at several junctures. But after stumbling past our trail several times we tied our hammocks up and prepared to sleep like babies. Unfortunately due in large part to out hammocks there was precious little sleeping to be had. First, they were too small, un-bearably uncomfortable and extremely prone to flip. Then factor in the bugs. There were the flying bugs: mosquitoes, gnats, “no-see-ums” and who knows what else. Then there were the ants who discovered they could leap off the tree and slide down the sloping ends of the hammock to make landfall on either feet or head respectively. I smashed well over a dozen ants and one spider directly on my forehead. Jo sustained over 32 bites of some sort just on his left arm. Did you know that the crickets (I guess that’s what they were) never stop their noisemaking as long as it’s dark? And they were really loud. Eventually we unzipped our sleeping bags (which were too hot anyway) and hid beneath them giving us at least some protection. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that while we were setting up our hammocks something nearby howled…then warbled on the end…then did it again…and again. It was almost otherwordly. After spending the night waiting for dawn, I finally got out of my hammock (for the 19th time) snapped a few pics of Jo and started packing up. We were on the trail heading back to Rim of the Gap by 6:30 or so.
For some reason Jo likes to be in front so I usually let him lead. This morning, for some reason, he’s behind me and 10 minutes into our hike (We’re on the John Sloan Connector) he stops and whispers, “Bear, bear, BEAR!” By the time I figure out where he’s pointing all I see are rustling bushes. Jo was given an amazing gift; he saw two bear cubs playing. Amazing. I know what you’re thinking, “How cute.” Yes, cute…but…we’ve read a bit about bears. Our black bear is very non-aggressive toward humans unless…yeah, you get between mother and her cubs. She’s not concerned with your intentions and no amount of explaining or apologizing will do. You’re a threat to her family and quite possibly a tasty meal. So we froze…for like 10 minutes. We heard what sounded like a large bear like critter moving through the foliage…so we waited, (Jo had his camera out of course.) and waited and waited some more. Obviously we survived so Bear tip 1? No sudden moooooovements! 2 hours later I hear laughter bubble up unexplainably from Jo’s chest. when I asked “What?” He replied, with a big ol’ smile plastered on his face, “I saw two bear cubs.” The Gifting Giver is so good.