Virginia – Part II

I successfully hiked 19 miles on Saturday, August 12, entering Shenandoah National Park halfway through the day. Although a canopy of trees limited my views, a few interesting things did occur.

A huge, freshly fallen tree lay across the Trail, probably due to the unbelievably heavy rain the previous night. It was so massive that no one could ever get their arms around the circumference of the trunk, and its accompanying very large branches made the Trail impassable. I finally got around it and back on the Trail, but not without a lot of bushwacking, a bunch of scratches and getting quite muddy.

I finally saw my first deer on the Trail. It is amazing that it took over four months on the Trail for this to happen. In Durham, they seem to be everywhere!

While on the Trail, I met a nice couple from Maryland who hiked with me for several miles. Their section of the Trail ended at a parking area, where they gave me a bag of cashews, several energy bars and filled my water bottles.

That night in a hut there was an interesting group: myself, two recent Cornell grads, one recent MIT grad, a deacon (Trail name Deac), and his wife. I enjoyed the wife’s particularly keen sense of humor and zest for life. We all had a lively conversation around the picnic table. This certainly was not your normal group of hikers, nor a cross section of America.

The next day, I hiked near Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. It reminded me of my childhood. My parents took us to the Luray Caverns, and I remember driving on this historical road.

I hiked 17.5 miles, mostly under a canopy. Folks in cars certainly get better views on the many scenic turnouts of Skyline Drive, even though the Trail roughly parallels the road. Hikers call needless ascents and descents PUDS, an acronym for “Pointless Ups and Downs.” That described my day: a lot of work with few rewards. But I did manage to get this nice shot.

Near Thornton Gap

On Monday, August 14th, it was overcast all day with occasional sprinkles. Not a good day for pictures. However, as the Trail meandered through Shenandoah National Park, I came across this area. I guess you can rent these guys, because I saw horse trails nearby. I was there for five minutes and never saw any person.

On Tuesday the 15th I got up so early that it was dark, and for the first 45 mins of hiking I used my headlamp. Then it started raining. I missed a white blaze, which cost me about 15 minutes. I arrived at Big Meadows Campground (just 3 miles later) quite drenched. I took a shower, did laundry, charged my devices and had breakfast at the very nice lodge restaurant. But I realized that the camp store was a mile away (this campground is really big). I felt so comfortable after the shower and nice breakfast, that the thought of walking in the rain for a mile (then another mile to return) was less than appealing. So I went to the reception desk, got a room and took a Nearo.

Since I had to wait for my room to be cleaned, I rested in the lodge’s Great Room, where I met an 11-year-old boy who knew quite a bit about hiking and is fascinated by the AT. He peppered me with several good questions about the Trail. His parents are both teachers and we all agreed that he will be a future thru-hiker.

Much later in the day, it stopped raining, so I went to the camp store. I resupplied and bought a pair of protective glasses for the solar eclipse.

My goal on Wednesday the 16th was to do two things I have never done on the Trail. First: do a 10 by 10 (hike 10 miles by 10 AM), and second: hike at least 20 miles in the day. I was successful on both accounts, as I hiked 10.3 miles by 10 AM and 20.4 miles by the end of the day. I was pleased, because these goals would not have been realistic or achievable when I started on the Trail in April.

The weather was much better, and I managed to get these shots.

I walked in a green tunnel most of Thursday the 17th, and hiked slightly over 15 miles. There was only one decent view, near Loft Mountain:

I got off the Trail to go to The Wayside, a restaurant that’s famous for its Blackberry milkshakes. It was worth the half-mile side trail. I enjoyed a meal and a shake along with another hiker, Firetruck, who I’d met earlier in the week.

That night I stayed at the Loft Mountain Campground, because I had the option of a shower, which is always a luxury. I will be cozy in my little house.

Please Remove Boots Before Entering

It rained during the night but I remained dry. But packing a wet tent and muddy ground pad in the morning is not one of my favorite tasks. Nevertheless, I was on the Trail by 0700 on Friday. I hiked a little over 19 miles, to Calf Mountain Shelter.

At one point, I heard the snap of a branch breaking. I looked to my left, and about 40 yards away was a black bear. He wasn’t moving, just standing there looking at me. I kept moving ahead, and eventually he was out of sight. This was the first bear sighting for me in over 1300 miles. How many times a bear has watched me without me knowing? So I saw my first deer and my first bear at Shenandoah National Park.

This picture was taken near Doyle’s River. It’s a different perspective when you can look down at clouds.

This very nice picture was taken near the summit of Blackrock Mountain.

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