It was smooth sailing as I hiked and ate my way along the Appalachian Trail through Shenandoah National Park and even spotted my first bear! Enjoy reading my latest journal entry as I backpack the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. If you missed it, here are my previous entries and videos from the trail.
Check out my latest video from the trail as I climb mountains to reach a brewery!
I woke up a bit later than usual. I hadn’t been sleeping well and it must have caught up to me. Despite my tent being on a hill and I kept sliding down, I had a good rest. It was bright and sunny when I packed up. Some new blisters were hurting my feet so I left without Transformer and Willow. I figured I’d be slow with the blisters and they’d catch up. I’m a little irritated that I have blisters. I’ve been wearing these new shoes for two weeks now and didn’t have a problem until recently.
Anyway, the terrain was pretty easy. But each step was a bit painful and I learned to ignore it. Halfway through the day I took a side trail to the Loft Mountain Wayside. There are several wayside diners in Shenandoah National Park and I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to eat. I chowed down on a club sandwich, fries, grilled cheese, and a chicken Caesar wrap. It was worth it.
The second half of my day was a bit more strenuous. It was getting hot out and there were a few hills to climb. One of my blisters popped on its own and that was extremely painful. When I reached High Top Hut (shelters in Shenandoah are called huts), Transformer and Willow were already there. It was going to rain so I chose to stay in the hut with two other gentlemen. I popped my blisters, ate dinner, and got ready for bed. The two guys were worried about mice eating into their packs. It can be a real problem on the trail and they’d already been victims. As I went to sleep I heard some sort of canine howls in the distance as well as the pitter-patter of mice in the hut…lots of mice. Hopefully my pack will survive the night unscathed. Also, I’ve now hiked over 900 miles.
Day’s Mileage: 21.5
Total Miles Hiked: 913.9
Remaining Miles: 1,285.8
Willow lent me some band-aids to put on my blisters. This helped immensely! I hiked off into the misty morning as it sprinkled a bit. So far I haven’t had to deal with much rain. Willow and Transformer caught up quickly.
The morning was extremely foggy and any views were non existent. The trail wasn’t anything too strenuous or exciting. I came across a large tree that had fallen across the trail and then was cut in half to make way for the trail. Despite all this, a tree branch had grown straight out of the the trunk and reached for the sky like nothing happened. In life there will always be people trying to cut you down. Haters gonna hate!
By midday the sun had started to come out. We stopped at a campground that was littered with campers set up for the weekend. We borrowed a camp site, had lunch on the picnic table, and made use of the flush toilets and running water!
Onward we hiked until we reached Big Meadows. This area was comprised of a lodge, campground, and wayside diner. We had come for the latter. I had a dinner of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw, biscuit and honey, and Dr. Pepper. This was followed by blackberry cobbler with blackberry ice cream, of which I’m told Shenandoah National Park is famous for.
Stomachs full, we hiked on toward Rock Spring Hut. We were only five miles away but the sun was getting low. There were a few nice overlooks but we didn’t have the time to enjoy them as much as I’d liked. It was also around this time that something decided to drop down in my stomach (too many Dr. Peppers?). Strange, since I had taken care of business at lunch. I made it the five miles to the hut and released the demon into the privy. I’m hoping this was related to dinner and not something more serious. I don’t want to join Sticks, Mumbles, Gandalf, and Josh in the giardia and norovirus club.
There were many tents set up, but for whatever reason only one woman was in the hut. I joined her and enjoyed a wonderful view looking down from the mountains at the bright lights of Luray, VA. Venus was also bright in the sky. When I stare up at that cosmos, I always get stars in my eyes. 😉 Meanwhile a number of mice noisily scampered around the hut. I hoped my pack would be okay; I hadn’t left an offering of stray Cheez-Its to appease the vermin as I sometimes do.
Day’s Mileage: 23.9
Total Miles Hiked: 937.8
Remaining Miles: 1,261.9
I was relieved when I awoke to discover that my pack was unscathed and the intestinal demon had been vanquished. I enjoyed the view of Luray down in the valley while I ate a quick breakfast of oatmeal cookies with cream in the middle (some sort of Little Debbie).
I headed off without Transformer and Willow. They like to take their time at breakfast and leave later than I do. Also, they weren’t planning on hiking as far as I wanted. The day was pretty easy but my feet were sore. I also was earning the title of “hiker trash” by reusing band-aids on my blisters; I didn’t have any more so I had to use the day-old ones again. Hiker trash is a term used to describe hikers when they do things that normal society would frown upon or find strange/disgusting.
I arrived at Skyland Lodge and stopped to use the fancy bathrooms and buy new band-aids from the gift shop. It was a nice lodge and if I had known about the all-you-can-eat breakfast I would have gotten up earlier!
Since it was a Saturday in a National Park there were loads of people on the trail. I stopped at Mary’s Rock for lunch and joined the tourists enjoying the view. From there I picked up my pace despite the pain in my feet—there was a wayside diner I wanted to get to for dinner before it closed and I had ten miles to go!
The day would have been much easier even with my foot pain except there were rocks everywhere! It was very tedious and hard on the feet. Since I’m trying to learn Spanish on the trail, I’ll throw this out there:
Me duelen los pies y necesito una ducha.
(Translation: My feet hurt and I need a shower)
In late afternoon I saw my first black bear on the AT. It was too far away to get a picture but it looked like an adult foraging for food in the woods. I also saw a millipede and was able to get a picture.
Eventually I made it to the wayside with an hour to spare. I ordered a cheeseburger, club sandwich, fries, and chicken tenders. The meal was expensive but I didn’t care. It started to sprinkle as I stuffed my face.
In Shenandoah there aren’t any campsites for hikers. They only have the huts for hikers which usually have some tent sites but the next hut was eight miles away. I hiked about a mile and found a flat spot without rocks just off the trail. It was underneath some pine trees and the wind was picking up. Inside my tent I was safe from the rain but I did hear some branches fall. I was too lazy to hang my food. So with bears and 35mph gusts, I risked my life as I tried to ignore my sore feet and fall asleep.
Day’s Mileage: 23.4
Total Miles Hiked: 961.2
Remaining Miles: 1,238.5
Has it really been 61 days? I can’t believe it. I survived the night and it was a delightfully sunny morning. The entire day was bright and easy, though the wind was blustery. I planned to have lunch on some rocky overlooks but my food would have blown out of my hands before it reached my mouth. I ended up lunching on the leeward side of the mountain sans view. Peanut butter and honey burritos were delicious.
The day was quick and easy and I left Shenandoah National Park. I arrived at a nice hostel right off the trail. I was driven into the town of Front Royal for dinner and resupply. I ate at Spelunker’s restaurant which is fast food comparable to a Culver’s. They made their own custard of which I indulged!
After a quick stop at the grocery store I returned back to the hostel where I met fellow hikers: Gal, No Doubt, Reid, and Grinder. With my body clean and in a bed of fresh linens, I ought to get a good night’s rest. However, I stayed up until nearly midnight writing my next blog post for The Trek, journaling, and planning my next week. Big things ahead…my days in Virginia are numbered.
Day’s Mileage: 18.7
Total Miles Hiked: 979.9
Remaining Miles: 1,219.8
Daily Average: 16.1
“All Over Again” was a new song I discovered while hiking. Just a fun little tune with some good harmonies.