Day 1: Short Ass Section Hike (SASH) #9 Virginia – Shinrin-Yoku

“Good day sunshine. We take a walk, the sun is shining down.” Good Day Sunshine. The Beatles

The first short ass section hike (SASH) of 2024 is underway! It was a three hour drive from our home on the Chesapeake Bay to the trailhead in the southern end of Shenandoah National Park. I planned an easy first day, not only because it is good to ease back into the trail, but also because it allowed for my wife and I to have lunch together at an overlook along Skyline Drive. She made Caprese Pasta Salad with tortellini, Italian sausage, fresh tomatoes and basil, mozzarella, and Balsamic vinegar. Before leaving home, she also made homemade sausage and egg English muffins. It may not have been true trail magic, but I definitely felt loved and supported to start this hike!

Doyles River Trailhead, Shenandoah NP, VA

First White Blaze 2024

So, just after noon, I stepped back on the AT at Doyles River Trailhead for the first white blaze of the year. I could tell my 33.5 pound pack was not my usual 20 pound day hiking load. Yes, I know, many are thinking 33 pounds is too much! I may do a gear post after this SASH. For now, suffice to say, I like some camp comfort luxuries. Nevertheless, it took only about a mile before my pack settled into a comfortable carry. And it didn’t take long after that to get into a good hiking rhythm. The key is staying in relatively good shape and day hiking with a load all year. I have arthritis and bursitis in both hips, as well as some stenosis in my lower spine; so, any given morning it may take some time to get moving comfortably. I cannot explain it, but these ailments do not seem to flare up while on the trail. I am just going to take it as luck of the Irish.


Mountain Laurel and Shinrin-Yoku

This stretch of the trail south from Doyles River to Blackrock Hut is quite easy; even the short ascent to Blackrock Summit is gradual. As mentioned already, I try to ease back into these hikes and this bit of trail is just what I needed. There are still a few wildflowers along the trail, adding some charm. Just north of Brown Gap, the trail tracks through a large stand of Mountain Laurel, which is now in bloom. Mountain Laurel appears similar to cherry blossoms, at least to me, so the beauty of the flowers pulled me into a bit of mindfulness and reminded me of Japanese shinrin-yoku. This is certainly one of the reasons why I hike and it was great to feel so calm so soon into this hike.

Mountain Laurel, Shenandoah NP, VA

Mountain Laurel, Shenandoah NP, VA

Blackrock Summit

Blackrock Summit has one of the best views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley. Even though it is popular with day hikers, there are several alcoves tucked between the pine trees for solitude while admiring the view. I lingered here for almost an hour, appreciating the opportunity for some quiet reflection. The black quartzite rocks and boulders tossed about by ancient volcanic action did not spark any earth shaking revelations. But like the Mountain Laurel blooms earlier, the view from Blackrock Summit lifted me one more level into the silence of the wilderness.

Blackrock Summit, Shenandoah NP, VA

Blackrock Summit, Shenandoah NP, VA

Camping Comfortable

Today’s distance was a bit less than five miles and I reached Blackrock Hut, my destination, late afternoon. Though this is one of the nicer huts in Shenandoah, I instead chose a tent site to continue my escape into solitude. I chose one of the better tent sites a bit down the hill from the shelter itself. I chatted a bit with several NOBO thru hikers at the shelter and a German couple who set up camp next to mine. I gave them a pleasant surprise when I said hello and started speaking German. But for the most part, I relaxed quietly next to my tent for the evening. This is one reason I accept the weight penalty to carry my Helinox Zero chair. I even had the fortune of a large flat rock the same level as the chair to complete the setting. Although comfortably furnished, I decided to not break out the stove to make a meal. The earlier wonderful food provided by my wife has kept me quite satisfied. I sat in my campsite enjoying a Sonic cherry lemonade drink mix made with cold spring water and listened to the birds. My view was the green forest, a few cherry white Mountain Laurel, and patches of blue sky above. It promised to be a clear night, but I expected by morning it would be a bit chilly.

Campsite, Blackrock Hut, Shenandoah NP, VA

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Comments 3

  • Holly : Jun 9th

    That lunch with your person in that beautiful location was a perfect moment in time! I enjoy your posts, I’m also from North Central PA though in Maryland now. Perhaps your arthritis and bursitis are in remission because of your movement. Keep an eye on the weather… At our age when we were growing up in Pennsylvania tornadoes were almost unheard of however they are now a regular thing in VA, MD, PA, as we had 11 here in Montgomery County Maryland just last week and PA had several. It’s a new world order when it comes to weather. Happy Trails!

    • Rick "Quiet Man" : Jun 9th

      Holly, thank you for your comment; I appreciate your following along! I wonder how many other things we might have in common? Stay tuned, some weather related anecdotes (i.e. thunderstorms) are swirling into my future posts!

      • Holly : Jun 11th

        Oh goody … I love weather stories!


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