Day 61 17.2 Miles
After close to a month Tom, Speakup my best friend really out here finally caught back up with me from a hurt back going back to Trail Days during late May. We caught back up at the Big Meadows wayside early in the morning and then proceeded to hike out of the campground north of course toward Luray, VA. As soon as we headed out like 2 minutes or so on trail we caught a momma bear and two tiny black bear cubs heading down the slope. It was an awesome way to start the day. In fact the whole day I saw 6 black bears and Speakup saw one extra. That makes 7 total for me so far in the Shenendoahs.
On the trail today we passed by Skyland Resort and Restaurant where we stopped for lunch, Stony Man (highest point in the Shenandoah), and Mary’s Rock. Good weather with beautiful views. As we were driving back to Big Meadows Campground we passed another black bear in the car where we photo bombed a car that was trying to get a photo of the bear. Haha it was a really funny moment and the lady was definitely not happy in the car. Back at camp we scoured down many hotdogs, ice cream, and cheese and called it a night after discussing our next few days logistics. Oh it was hike naked day today, but I didn’t hike naked for those that were wondering out there. Met a few that were. Happy Summer Solstice. Nice to be back with a good friend on the trail.
Day 60 5 Miles Nero
2 months on the trail today! Decided to take a nero day to just relax. Stayed back at the campground to dry some clothes off from the prior days rainstorm and also caught back up on some sleep. It was much needed after not really taking a zero since after Trail Days in Damascus back in late May. Waited for my mom to arrive again from her day hike and then had her shuttle me back to Bootnes Gap to hike to Big Meadows. It was a really easy 5 miles. Crossed a few road crossings and then a weird out of place cemetery. Mom caught back up with me with a mile left and we hiked back to our campsite into the Campground together. Didn’t get much sleep tonight because some partiers beside our campsite were being loud until 130 in the morning after repeated Shut Ups and Be Quiets. Some people just don’t have any respect for others anymore.
Day 59 18 Miles
Awoke again to slugs attacking my sleeping bag. Drove back to Powell Gap to be dropped off. The terrain was really easy the whole day with a few hills in between that raised just a few hundred feet in elevation. I listened to the Fellowship of the Ring on my phone for the whole day until around lunchtime. It really takes the mind off of the recurring thoughts you have about other things during the day. Got in to Lewis Mtn Campground area and it started to rain pretty hard. The trail turned into a river, that’s a pretty good sign that it’s a hard rain. Waited for my Mom at Bootnes Gap in the rain and then got some early dinner of a foot long hot dog and fries at the Big Meadows Campground. Blue Whale joined us for a bit and then headed down the trail to the next shelter. Got into the Campground and setup my hammock before some rain pelted my tarp. Nothing is going to dry around here right now. Tomorrow is going to be sunny and I’m looking forward to seeing it again.
Day 58 18 Miles
Woke up fairly early to many slugs attacking my pack and sleeping pad. We had a few thru hikers stay on our campsite last night and we left before they broke down camp fully. Within the first mile of the trail this morning I saw a small black bear scurrying off down the ridge in a hurry. Overall the elevation was fairly easy and there were a few small hills to climb. I stopped at a nice overlook to eat lunch and then carried on. Met back up with Simba and Alter Ego from Oregon and Iowa respectively at a road trail crossing. Was supposed to meet my mom at Simmons Gap but I pushed on to Powell Gap so that I could cross the 900 mile mark! Got a little wet in the process when I crossed the sticks that were made out to 900. Got back to Loft Mtn Campground and took a quick shower at the campstore and saw Red Cap who I met a day ago. While at the camp store I scored big in the Hiker box picking up some Mountain House dinners and bars as well as receiving an ice cream bar from a couple we were talking to from Maryland who were section hikers. I was a happy camper. Got ice cream and a full resupply what a great way to end the day!
Day 57 20 Miles
Woke up around sunrise and collected all of my belongings in the hotel room and left around 8. Grabbed a few things from the continental breakfast and then got an even better breakfast at the Cracker Barrel. Thanks mom for paying for the breakfast it might me go a bit faster today. After breakfast went to Walmart to buy a few last minute items that I needed then made my way back up the mountain to Rockfish Gap where I left off yesterday. Okay, I have to admit that I slackpacked today. For those of you who don’t know what slackpacking it is a way to hike the trail with minimum weight, you take out the heavy stuff and just carry food and water and some first aid items. It took me a few hours but I gave into it after my Mom stated that you have to slackpack Katahdin at the end anyways. Oh well.
Got into the Shenendoahs around 10 and filled out self registration permit which didn’t cost a penny as compared to the Smokies. The terrain was fairly easy throughout the duration of the day with many road crossings and parking lot accessibilities. Got into Black Rock parking lot around 630 where I found my mom passing out cokes, cookies, and anything else to other thru hikers. She also said she did some trail magic to other hikers during the day and hiked up to Black Rock for the vista. We ended up heading to Loft Mountain campground for the night l, where she made our stove top dressing dinner that we have made many times in the past. I was tired from the day so I hit the sack pretty early.
Day 56 12 Miles
Only a short day of 12 miles from the campsite up on the ridge with a view. Took it slow because I was meeting my mom at Rockfish Gap around 3. Walked into Paul Wolfe shelter around 11 and talked to a few new people and also the brothers from New York I met a few days ago. Started sprinkling as I made it into Rockfish Gap. Walked only a few hundred feet then a black escalade pulls up right behind and asked me if I needed a ride. I said I would love to get into town and go to the AYCE Chinese Buffet. I don’t remember the guys name, if it was Tom or Tim but he said he was a retired economist from the D.C. area. I thanked him many times before he dropped me off at the buffet. I chowed down on some Asian food for quite some time and made a few phone calls. Met Tunnelvision from Germany who said he’s been averaging about 25 miles or so. Pretty nice guy. Then got to see Illegal again from Switzerland who I hiked with a few days ago.
Left the buffet about five pounds heavier and then got to meet my mom. It was good to see her again. We ended up grabbing a hotel at Super 8, did some laundry at Laundry Land and met Steam there, dropped Steam off at Lutheran church Hostel, and then grabbed some pizza at a local Scottos Restaurant. Mmm good food. Went back to the hotel and caught back up on my blog and dried some clothes off. Was tired so I called it a day pretty early.
Day 55 14.7 Miles
Early morning climb up to Three Ridges, with an elevation gain of 3000 feet in over 3 miles. Left Harpers Creek Shelter around 8. My left calve has been giving me a little bit of trouble recently while climbing but toward the end of the day it kind of stretches itself out and doesn’t hurt so bad. Three Ridges Mountain is the last major 4000er climb until New Hampshire I believe (I perused the guidebook last night quickly so I could be wrong), so that feels awesome. Got down the mountain and had lunch at Maupin Field Shelter where everyone from the previous night shelter joined me. Out of there people were talking about going to the Devils Backbone Brewery just done the road off of Reeds Gap but I wasn’t feeling up for it at the time. Instead, right at Three Ridges Overlook off the Blue Ridge Parkway someone left some beer for free for thru hikers. Blue Whale, Stay Puff, and Splat joined in and we all said cheers and downed the beer at a picnic table at the pulloff. Some Park Service maintenance employees came by to collect some trash and asked about our hike and whatnot and if the beer was cold.
After enjoying the drink, Stay Puff, Blue Whale, Splat and I took off for our campsite, another 8 or so miles down the trail. Eventually we got broken up and I was left with Stay Puff behind me and we so I asked him what he did before the trail and the usual get to know you questions. Shockingly, he said he works for an IT department for a school district back in MA. Would not have guessed that in a million years. Pretty cool that the school district is letting him hike and he has the potential to get his job back when he returns. One thing the trail is teaching me is that you have to leave all of your assumptions about anyone at the door and let them speak before you make any judgments about the person. It’s so easy as defensive human beings to make wrong, flat out stupid assumptions about anyone and then it robs you off any type of friendship whatsoever.
Arrived in camp and waited out a thunderstorm before calling it a night with a little bit of rain. Will be in Waynesboro tomorrow and my mom will be waiting for me to hike the Shenandoah.
Day 54 14.2 Miles
Hiked with Blue Whale for the majority of the day. In the morning scrambled up to Spy Rock for the vista looking south and west. Got to learn more about Blue Whales Amish culture was really interesting. Funny just as we descending down from Spy Rock an Amish group of boys were climbing up the mountain heading south. Blue Whale spoke a bit of Pennsylvanian Dutch with them. Had lunch at the Priest Shelter where I wrote down one of my confessions in the logbook (all I’m going to say is my friend Luke Dowbiggin only knows about this one). It was really comical reading other thru hikers confessions on the trail. We all passed the logbook around and read them out loud. I filled my water bottle and then made a very long descent down onto VA 56 where Pat from the other day offered us fresh honeydew. We left the parking lot after a short rest then ascended into Harpers Creek Shelter for the night. Got a bit wet as we got there and did not even put a rain jacket on the whole time. It felt refreshing after the last couple days of really hot and humid weather. Ate a ramen, pasta side, payday mix and socialized with a few familiar faces from previous nights. I keep running into the same people at nights now which has been a good change in pace.
Day 53 16.4 Miles
Blue Whale and Mechanic left earlier than me this morning. Blue Whale had to pick up a package in Buena Vista. As I was leaving I met Pat who has been yo yoing from Florida. I’ve seen him multiple times on the trail and I always refer to him as the older guy wearing a kilt. This time I got a chance to ask him why he was out here and it turned into a longer, but good session. To sum it up he was married for 33 years, worked with foster kids, and his wife left him a couple years ago. I asked him why and he said he didn’t really spend much time with her and was always “busy”. He gave me some relationship advice and said make sure both individuals in a relationship are equal and don’t put each other on a pedestal. Pretty good advice. I’ll probably run into him again.
Climbed Bald Knob and rested for a bit at a beautiful westerly view to make a few phone calls to my girlfriend and mom. My Mom will be joining me this Friday to hike parts of the Shenendoahs, so we were trying to figure logistics. As soon as I left the vista I came across a Momma deer and her fawn. The momma was licking the fawn on the ears and back. It was probably one of the cutest things I’ve seen. Yeah I’m a man and said cute. Collected spring water 0.3 down the trail and made lunch right at the spring consisting of a tuna wrap and snickers and honey buns (sorry Jimmy I don’t have a pic of my food yet lol). From lunch I crossed a few gaps and made it into Seeley-Woodworth Shelter just as thunder echoed in the hollows. Met Flowers and Rogen who just came from Lexington watching some NBA finals game or something. Nice pipe at the shelter for water. Made some Mac and cheese and for dinner over campfire, hung the bear bag, and hung out around the campfire for a bit. Good day overall. Instead pushing to Waynesboro in two days and doing 20 Miles I’m going to do two days of 15 then 10 miles into Waynesboro.
Day 52 20 Miles
Started the day with two slices of cold pizza and then left the free Hostel in town around 8. Walked the road behind another thru hiker, put my thumb out only once and got a ride the mountain. First thumb worked, what luck. The gentleman that picked us up was from Charlottesville and works as Dean of Admissions at an all girls college down the road. He says he tries to pick up hikers once a week on the way to work. Thanks so much Nelson for picking us both up and dropping us off right at the start of the trail.
Walked only a 0.1 and ran into Pappaw again. His wife is coming out to the trail and he is looking forward to the meeting. The ascent up to Bluff Mountain was kind of strenuous and I had to stop a couple times to get my breath from the hot temperatures. Plus I had a full pack since resupply day was yesterday. For lunch I went into Punchbowl Shelter where I caught back up with Mechanic and met two other new hikers. They said they got some trail magic yesterday and were hoping to get some today. Leapfrogged into Mechanic a couple times after lunch and then on the last couple miles we hiked together into Brown Mountain Creek Shelter. Longest two miles I think I’ve hiked, sign couldn’t be right. On the way saw a huge Black Rat Snake before approaching Shelter.
Before pulling in the last few feet ran into a Blue Whale again. Tried to make strawberry muffins tonight using two methods. The first time my plastic bag melted and the second one blackened Mechanic pot. I gave up on the muffins but next time the two pot method should work, if I can only find another pot to fit into mine. It was fun to fail actually and I learned what not to do. Overall I was only going to pull a half day but instead ended up completing 20 Miles and feel over accomplished and body feels it too. Tomorrow I’m going to back the mileage down to 15 and see how it goes.
Crossed the 800 mile mark today as well!!