AT Thru-Hike, Shenandoah National Park 1997

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(75) Wednesday, June 4, 9:00PM

It turned into a sunny clear day. I can't believe we finally got a break in the rain. It rained on and off all day yesterday, and I probably put in six miles of walking just around town.

It felt good to get started today on this last big section of Virginia. The group listed from Monday all went to lunch together before hitting the trail. The rigid National Park requirements of using the shelters forced us to choose between doing seven miles today to the first shelter or twenty miles to the second. Everyone opted for the shorter day which permitted a late start. I'll probably end up hiking with most of these people through the park because there aren't many variations of how to get through the park unless you're willing to press some really long days.

So tonight I'm enjoying my tent for what may be the last time until I'm out of the park. The shelter I'm camped near right now is just outside the park border. I may end up taking as many as eight days to get through this section. They'll all be pretty moderate days, but I could press one long day to make this a seven day section. I'll decide as I go.

7.0 miles Today,842.5 MTD


(76) Thursday, June 5, 6:30PM

What a lazy day today. I didn't leave camp until after ten this morning and then only did 13 miles. I had another day of lovely weather, but it won't last past tomorrow. The deer in the park are plentiful and bold. I was amazed today when I stared down a deer right in front of me on the trail waiting for it to move. I'm in a shelter tonight with nearly the same group as last night.

13.1 miles Today, 855.6 MTD

Click on thumbprint photos to see them enlarged.

Blackrock Hut--Shenandoah National Park required shelter use like The Great Smoky Mountains National Park did earlier. Green Man, Minstrel, Go Go and Smiles...
...and Mallow and Bones.


(77) Friday, June 6, 8:00PM

I finally decided to push a long day. Today was my first 20-miler since prior to Pearisburg. I did pretty well, but I'd still rather not do such long days any more. I say this as I plan to day another 20-miler tomorrow. It's all because of this damn National Park. They make it nearly impossible for me to camp anywhere except at the shelters, and spacing of the shelters is set up for a very slow nine day pace through the park. I'm trying to get through in a moderate seven days, but that makes me have to stretch a couple of long days.

The trail in the Park is very nice for the most part. The trails are well-groomed and nicely graded. Signs of frequent maintenance are obvious. I saw so many deer today that I lost count. I get a kick out of how comfortable they are with human presence. A hiker slightly ahead of me this morning had a bear sighting on the trail. I've had no such luck yet.

It was a very cool overcast day today which made for excellent hiking conditions. The rain didn't show up until mid-afternoon. Even then it was mostly just a drizzle. Tomorrow's weather seems to be totally up in the air. Conflicting forecasts call for either rain or sunshine. I guess I'll find out soon enough.

I finally made up my mind today to go ahead with my plans for an intermission off the trail. I'll return home after hiking with my parents and not come back until the July 4th weekend. It's a good feeling to finally settle this issue. I've been going back and forth on it for about a week now.

21.4 miles Today, 877 MTD


(78) Saturday, June 7, 9:30PM

After doing the long day with Mother Bird yesterday, we hiked the twenty today and are splitting a room at the Big Meadows Lodge. It worked out perfect. It was a cool partly sunny day, and I cruised. I arrived here just after 4:00 amazed that they still had a few rooms left, considering that this is a Saturday in June.

We just got back from enjoying a very nice dinner in the Lodge and then some beers in the Tap Room. Tippecanoe (from Virginia Beach) joined us for the food and drinks. The two of them are taking advantage of a slack-pack opportunity tomorrow that presented itself. Oh well, I'm still a purist.

Tomorrow's 18 miles could be fun. I plan on having breakfast here at the lodge, then I could stop for lunch at Skyland and get dinner later at Panorama before finishing the last mile and a half to the shelter. I may do it just to say I did, but it almost feels as bad as the idea of slack-packing . . . not exactly "roughing it."

My feet are pretty sore after the two long days, but otherwise I'm okay. I think I just needed to re-break-in my old boots now that they have the new soles. I may switch back to the Spenco in-soles from these Sorbo-air. They are so slippery that my foot slides around too much once they get wet. I'm getting blisters under my toes now for the first time. It's always something.

20.5 miles Today, 897.5 MTD


(79) Sunday, June 8, 9:30PM

It doesn't get much better than today. Mother Bird and I awoke after our feast last night and feasted again at 7:30AM for breakfast. The weather today was perfect. Quite cool and dry with partly sunny skies. I was actually chilly whenever I wasn't hiking. Tippecanoe camped at the campground with his dog Trooper. He joined us for breakfast as well.

I DID NOT slack-pack today, though Mother Bird and Tippecanoe did. All three of us arrived at Skyland at 12:30 to have lunch at their lodge and then on to the Panorama restaurant for dinner. Half-way through the afternoon we were greeted by some trail magic at a picnic area and received very tasty beers there.

Mind you, it as an expensive day with all these park meals, but when else will I be able to hike nearly twenty miles and have all my meals prepared for me? I get one more chance at park food for lunch tomorrow, then it's back to the old system of self-reliance. I certainly could have gotten away with carrying less food through the park had I known it would work out this way.

Tonight I'm back in the shelters. This one is nearly full for the night. After the 60 miles in three days my feet are ready for a break; tomorrow will just be a thirteen mile day. It should seem like a treat.

18.5 Miles Today, 916 MTD

Click on thumbprint photos to see them enlarged.

Big Meadows--With Motherbird, Tippecanoe & Trooper (the dog).


(80) Monday, June 9, 8:30PM

I'm in my final shelter in the Shenandoah N.P. Today was a very unusual day. I only hiked 13 miles, but split them up with a four hour break at the last park wayside. Some other hikers and myself all stopped there for a long lunch that included baking in the sun lying in the grass. I ate a burger washed down with four beers and a delicious blackberry shake. I even inflated my mattress for a nap in the sun. Unfortunately I got a little sun-burned with my shirt off. The afternoon hike went much more slowly due to the beer, but it still made for a nice day.

I've been getting grief from people because I haven't seen a bear yet in the park. Most other people have already had a bear sighting of some kind. I've had my camera handy for the possible sighting, but to no avail. I did photograph a lovely scene of a doe nursing her fawn, and a young button buck still in velvet. I have one more day in the park to see my bear. I am very optimistic.

13.1 miles Today, 929.1 MTD

Click on thumbprint photos to see them enlarged.

I saw a lot of wildlife throughout my journey. Deer were amng the most common like this doe and her nursing fawn or this young buck in velvet.
Occasionally I would encounter a section of devastation with all the trees fallen in the same direction. Gypsy moth infestation has killed a lot of trees and a strong wind can easily lay them down.
This rich green covering of fern made for a pleasant walk. The trail occasionally passed through lush moist areas that provided a variety of ground covers.


(81) Tuesday, June 10, 7:00PM

I'm in a motel in Front Royal with the Shenandoah behind me. All in all it was a rather pleasant hike through the Park, and the weather turned out quite well. Today it got very warm nearing 90 degrees. I was glad to have my miles in by 12:30 before the hottest part of the day. Still no bear sighting, but the rest of the wildlife was very cooperative as I took some good pictures.

Other than the sunburn I received from my long break yesterday, my body has been doing pretty well. No new blisters for several days now. I'm still looking forward to my break from the trail though.

13.3 Miles Today, 942.4 MTD

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