Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Shenandoah is so Beautiful!

A lot has happened since my last update! I've seen my first bear, hiked through Shenandoah National Park, ate way too much food at their restaurants, and decided to take a zero day!

After leaving the rental cottage, we started our way back up a super steep climb. There was a side trail that went by some waterfalls and cut out 4miles of the AT that went right up and over this giant mountain. I felt a little guilty skipping a portion of the trail, especially knowing I could do the hill no problem. Shortly after asking for a sign on what to do (I was being very indecisive), a deer slowly walked up the AT... I knew I needed to go that way and not on the shortcut. I met my crew later in the afternoon at the shelter. The actual trail was straight up a mountain and was actually pretty brutal, but I'm glad I went that way. I met a school group doing some of the same cheers that we do at HOBY, so I did a few cheers with them at the top of the mountain. That certainly put a smile on my face.

The next morning I saw my first bear! A little cub about 20ft off the trail. Couldn't see a mom around, so once I decided that bear wasn't going to come after me I hightailed it down the trail. They're kind of cute from far away. The Solstice is traditionally known as Hike Naked Day, and while I didn't hike naked, I did wear my shortest shorts... so that's as close as I came. I may (or may not) have managed to take a naked summit selfie, however. The day after, we got up super early and hiked 5 or so miles so we could hitchhike into Waynesboro for a filling breakfast and some gear purchases at the outfitter before entering Shenandoah. I had to buy a new air mattress, as the baffling in my old one broke causing two of the air chambers to merge into one giant one - which made for some uncomfortable nights.

Shenandoah National Park is so beautiful! The hiking wasn't terribly hard either. Once we got ourselves up on the ridge, we basically followed it, frequently crossing Skyline Drive, and walking from wayside to wayside to eat delicious food. Nichole's mom, Heather, met us again on her trip back up to NJ and she allowed six of us to cram into her tiny hotel room with her one night. It couldn't have come at a better time as Alice and I had stealth camped the night before in torrential rains and thunder, and everything we had was soaked. Including our spirits. We were able to do laundry, take a shower, eat warm food, and also drink some beer. That night, after dinner, we watched one of the most amazing sunsets. It seemed to last forever and was filled with the deepest, darkest oranges and reds. It truly was the perfect end to what started off as being a pretty hard day.

I think the best part about the Shenandoahs was that we were able to eat real food, in large quantities, so frequently. There are so many hotels, campground stores, and waysides along the way. I don't think a day went by where I didn't eat at some kind of eatery. The highlights were an entire bag of chips and a jar of queso for lunch with Alice, multiple blackberry milkshakes (the park's specialty), cheese fries, and the grand pooba: an all you can eat breakfast buffet. I must have eaten close to 5,000 calories at the buffet. They didn't know what hit them after 8 thru hikers came in. This will probably be the only week on the trail where I gain weight, and I'm not complaining! We also met some amazing people in the park. Because the shelters are more spread apart here, we spent a lot of concentrated time with other thru hikers. We also met a ton of section hikers and weekend campers who were so eager and happy help us. People offered us rides, gave us beer, gave us food, wanted to hear our stories, and even gave us a CAMPSITE(!) in the largest campground that was full at noon that day. Otherwise we would have had to hike 4 more miles to get to the next shelter. We were so grateful and fortunate for that bit of trail magic.

Caroline and I decided to hitch into town yesterday to take a zero mile day today. My knees were starting to act up just a little bit, and I figure a few days of rest is needed. I'm trying to listen more closely to my body this time. I figure I need to take breaks as soon as I start to feel anything. Back on the trail tomorrow!

The trail really does provide when it needs to. I've been blessed with meeting the nicest people, amazing trail Angels, cool thru hikers, and people willing to give us a hitch into towns. Overall, it's been a great week. We only have about 50-60 miles of Virginia left, and then it's on to West Virginia! After that, the states are really going to start flying by... Which will be a nice way to keep motivated. Also, I passed 400 miles this week and should be crossing 500 by the weekend. Trying to work out some plans to celebrate the Fourth of July... Sounds like fireworks in Hershey, PA close to where Eric is from. Life is good!


  1. Excellent post! I hope you're going to post some pictures of the beauty you're seeing. Listen to your body and be safe! I'm in awe of you!

  2. This will be the third time I have entered this post on your blog - hope this one takes. Karen DrBrighteyes Smith (Friend me on FB if you wnat) here. Met you and Caroline on the trail at Loft Mountain, and a few other times thru the Shenandoahs, queso day included. Will follow your blog as you journey morth. Safe trails Lazarus.

  3. Enjoyed meeting you in the Shenandoahs. Will follow your blog and wish you safe and healthy hiking all the way to Maine. Barbara aka Lipstick.