Friday, July 05, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Waynesboro, VA To Front Royal, VA

🐻 x 6
UPDATED 11-14-2020

Shenandoah National Park.  They said it would be easier and a time to make up some miles.  They were partially right.  The trail is graded better and the hills seemed easier to climb but the heat and the humidity countered the ease of the terrain.

Yes, I got a picture of this one and yes, this is zoomed in a bit.
Day 86 - Stanimal, the owner of the Waynesboro hostel, dropped me and another thru-hiker (Yellow Bear) off at the Appalachian Trail (AT) trailhead at 6:30am.  We self registered so that Shenandoah National Park could get their money and climbed up the ridgeline.

Skyline drive snakes along the ridge through the entirety of the park.  As a matter of fact, the road follows the original path of the AT.  When the road was built the AT had to be rerouted to one side or the other of the road.  This has resulted in a road with beautiful views and a trail mostly stuck in the long green tunnel.  It also resulted in an AT that crosses the road over twenty times over seven days of hiking.

At the first crossing there was a turn-out and George was here having a snack.  George was a girl I met at Stanimals.  We said our hellos and goodbyes before Yellow Bear and I moved on.

Black raspberries - a favorite of black bears and Little Hills alike.
Saw my first Shenandoah black bear.

The first day in the park was a dry one.  When I reached my destination after a 20.7 mile (33.3 km) day I only had an inch of water left in my bottle and I was parched.

As I went through the shelter journal I came across an entry by George.  This was impossible.  She never passed me during the entire day's hike.  In my journal entry I called Shenanigans.

Day 87 - I woke up and heard that a couple's tent had been torn by a bear as it tried to get their pack.  The wife, sleeping with earplugs, slept through it all.  I was in the shelter so I didn't hear anything either.

I left the shelter and headed north until I ran into a bear of my own.  He was standing in the middle of the trail.  He was not budging.  He walked towards me a few steps and I took a few steps back. He took a few more steps and I backed off some more. I yelled, banged my poles together, and blew a whistle.  The bear was not impressed by my display.  It started off the trail but laid down only ten feet off the trail.   I started to inch past it but it huffed at me. I tried again.  It huffed at me again.  I gave up, backed off, returned to a picnic area, and hiked Skyline Drive around to the next place the AT crossed the road.  I have to say that if the bear had been laying down when I first got there I wouldn't have seen it.  Makes me wonder how many bears I just walked past in the last three months.

One nice thing about Shenandoah NP are the waysides and camp stores along Skyline Drive.  After my bear encounter I stopped at Loft Mountain Camp Store and resupplied.  While there I told a Ridgerunner about the two bear encounters.  She thought my bear was probably protecting a patch of berries.  The bear at the shelter got her excited.  In just a few minutes multiple pick up trucks with rangers were there ready to go hunting bear.  I didn't know many details but I did give them a description of the family.  The rangers found the family and got the details about the encounter.  Last I heard camping was no longer permitted at the shelter and the rangers were installing a bear box.

A Vista from Skyline Drive.
Farther ahead I reached the first of three waysides which are a cross between a convenience store, souvenir shop, and a restaurant.  I had a warm meal and ice cream before moving on.

To give me time at the wayside I'd kept this day relatively short but the heat and humidity still made it hard.

Day 88 - My third day in the park was another long one with limited access to water.  In addition to the distance there's was lots of elevation change.

I saw my third Shenandoah bear today.

It was a long slog motivated by low rumbles of thunder.  I stopped at the Lewis Mountain Camp Store and restocked a bit before moving on to the next shelter at the 20.6 mile (33.2 km) mark.

I spent the night with a Ridgerunner and another fast northbounder who I doubt I'll ever see again.

Three different 900 mile markers.
Day 89 - What a day.  I left heading for the next wayside.  Five minutes after I left the skies opened up on me and I was soaked soon after.

When I got to the wayside I discovered the restaurant part was being renovated.  I resupplied and headed to the lodge which was about a mile away.  In the sun it was the longest mile ever.

I arrived at the lodge restaurant at 10:05am.  They stopped serving at 10:00am.  *Sigh*

I made my way back to the trail and stepped on a wet boulder, my left foot slipped, I planted by right foot to have it slip too.  I flailed until I was on my back/side on the trail.  I took stock of everything and I seemed ok.  I stood up and felt a pain in my lower back.

I stopped for water and, being preoccupied with the pain in my back, forgot my water bottle at the water source.

A few more miles and I decided to medicate.  Ibubrophen and Tylenol and the pain became bearable.  I discovered the missing water bottle but had some backup so I was ok.

I ended my day at the Skyland Resort where I had a reservation.  My room/building was as far as you could get from the dinning hall.  This place was made for people with cars not hikers.  This time I managed to have dinner and I replaced my water bottle.

My back was still sore so I called a hostel not far from there and asked about a pick up.  In the background I heard George and another hiker yelling my name and telling me to come to the hostel.  She was dropping off people the next morning a little ways up ahead.  I told her if I wasn't better I would meet her there.  If she didn't hear from me I was ok.

The sunset from my Skyland Resort window.
Strangely enough I rarely see sunsets on the AT.  The shelters tend to be off the top of ridges in low spots and the trees obscure most of the view of the sky and horizon.  In my room I finally got a spectacular sunset.

Day 90 - I was going to do a short day.  I'd planned this before I hurt my back so it was a weird coincidence.  My back felt better this morning but it still hurt when I put a load on it like wearing my pack.  I medicated myself, ate breakfast, and got back on trail.  I decided I felt good enough to skip the hostel.

Despite my back feeling better my butt drug all day.  I had no energy.  I stopped to rest often.  The ten miles I did felt like twenty.  I think I was depending on lunch at the wayside or lodge and when I didn't have either, I had a major calorie deficit. I made sure I ate all my food this night.

Day 91 - I felt better.  I drugged my back and headed out.  The pain killers worked for awhile.  I stopped at the top of a hike, sat on a log for perhaps two minutes, and when I stood back up my back pain was back.  I hurt my way to the next wayside.

After moving the AT they did leave the trail some views.
I took off my pack, ate a hearty breakfast, had some ice cream, and rested at the wayside for a couple hours.  At the wayside I found Jesus (a thru-hiker from Texas who looks just like Jesus), Cakes, George (she's a potty mouth that one), Choo Choo, and Disney.  George had heard about my calling Shenanigans on her and threatened to change my trail name to Shenanigans.  (For the record, George had hiked the road instead of the trail which was a little bit shorter.  She confessed this when I met up with her several months later.)

I decided that the trail wasn't going to hike itself so I put on my pack and headed the last six miles to my destination.  To my surprise the back pain was gone.  Whatever this injury is, predictable it is not.

Day 92 - On my last day in Shenandoah I hauled butt the last thirteen miles.  I ran into my last Shenandoah bear standing in the trail.  It looked a bit shocked before running away up the hill.

I stopped at a nice shelter to rest before making the final push to town.  Jesus caught up with me and we talked about Avengers.  As I was leaving Jesus yelled to me and said the new Spiderman movie was playing in Front Royal.

Downtown Front Royal, VA.
I arrived to a place where I could pick up a city trolley to get into Front Royal, VA.  Turns out I didn't need to wait for the trolley.  Spaceman was getting off trail for a few days and Enterprise Rental Car was picking him up.  I road with him to the rental place and he dropped me off at my hotel.  I was hoping Spaceman would catch up with me but I never saw him again.  Either he was always behind me, he passed me, or he never returned to the trail.

I walked downtown to get a stamp in my AT passport at the visitors center but I was distracted by the movie theater.  I checked out the show times for Spiderman and realized it started in ten minutes so I went in and watched the movie.  Not exactly what I was planning but it worked.  I liked the movie.

I did laundry after the movie.

On the fourth I did my resupply for the next three days and went back and finally got my passport stamp.  I've managed to get stamps for everywhere I have stayed except Gatlinburg, TN and Buena Vista, VA.

I'd hoped for some fourth of July festivities but there were none near where I was and I had a low-key Independence Day.

Today I'm heading back out to face the infamous Roller Coaster.  My reward for completing it will be three days with the Wife in Harper's Ferry.

Note: I've added a bear sighting counter.  My count at this point is a bit lower than most thru-hikers I know. Most are over a dozen.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 863.7 Miles (1,390.0 km)
Section Distance: 55.9 Miles (90.0 km)
Section Elevation Up: 12,743 ft (3,884 m)
Section Elevation Down: 13,035 ft (3,973 m)


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