Days 68-73 on The Appalachian Trail–Shenandoah National Park

This expansive and beautiful section of the trail vexed me a bit. Perhaps it was returning to the Smokies to complete unfinished miles and the accompanying break in rhythm. What I do know is I did not replenish my calorie stores after the 30+ mile day, did not rest enough, and possibly failed to rehydrate enough. All these in combination caused an imbalance and that several symptoms of my PTS carpooled together to cause a minor breakdown. I won’t go into the particulars of this flare, but I needed to feel in control and schedule time on and off the trail to have an optimum outcome. This depth of feeling had not occurred in years. To combat it I had a shuttle take me to a nearby town and with the help of two shuttle services I scheduled my days of drop offs and pickups to complete the Shenandoahs. It is a reality for me that these things will happen from time to time and I have to use all available avenues to cope and keep on mission.

With Wayne (Preacher) in Elkton

Wayne (Preacher) in Elksboro, and  Bill and Goldilocks in Front Royal, your help with shuttles and fellowship helped me stay focused and on trail. A simple thank you isn’t enough to express my gratitude.

Finally Seeing Other NOBOS

Some of the faster hikers are going past. Ginger Ninja, Cujo, Sixes, and No-mad have passed by in recent days. I need to remember to get everyone’s picture. It is nice to know there are others.

With No-Mad



Looking at my last post I had missed inputting one hiking day before going back to Tennessee. For the sake of continuity, I will keep the days in order as if the one day was completed after the Smokies.

Gear Changes

After 300 miles I changed out the Gregory Zulu 65 pack for a Big Agnes Prospector 50. The Gregory carries great, but I am needing to shed weight and volume. The Prospector 50 has been good for the past 250 miles. Small, light, and comfortable. I exchanged my Enlightened Equipment Zero degree Conundrum for the 30-degree bag of the same make and model to reduce weight and volume. So far so good as the temperatures are warmer. My Kuhl hiking pants and a long-sleeve shirt also went home. Eventually I’ll get everything dialed in and weight minimized.

Random Thoughts

When I finally return home I will change all of the switch plates out so there are no white, off-white, or blue rectangles on the walls. Anyone else seeing them in their sleep?

I am looking forward to being out of Virginia though the memory and considerable mileage will be imprinted in my memory, Forever.

Days 68-73 Shenandoah National Park

Days 68-71 Wildcat Ridge to Lewis Mountain Campground

These descriptions are a conglomeration of the days as my notes are kind of inadequate. One night tenting, one night in the Pinefield Hut Shelter, and a night in Elkton, VA.  My mileage was reduced as I worked on pushing enough calories to sustain me as I moved forward. The terrain seems easier than much of the hiking prior to Rockfish Gap and I’m thankful. There are four entrances to the park and if you want to go for resupply you need to shuttle in. Some of the waysides in the park are open and the camp store at Lewis Campground can provide the minimums. There is also opportunity for bunk space or cabins here.
After hiking a day in a pouring rain I could almost hear the plants growing and the views from the trail decreasing. If you want the best views step off trail onto Skyline Drive. You will also have an opportunity to play Frogger at Swift Run Gap/US 33.

On day 68 I stealth camped near Loft Mountain Campground. It is a large area set up for RVs and has tent sites, flush toilets, and potable water. Relative luxury. An easy hiking day and I had slowed to try to enjoy each hour. I saw absolutely no one this day. To be honest my hike was a little monotonous.

On day 69 I ran into some section hikers at the end of the day at Pinefield Hut shelter.On the timeline this is after the return from the Smokies. The hike was a struggle. There was no muscle soreness, just a general fatigue. The highlight of my day was the raised tent sites above the shelter. It was nice sleeping on a level surface.

Day 70 was rough and I walked about 10 miles to  Hightop parking area before tapping out and calling a shuttle. Things were getting weird in my head and I needed to get off trail and regroup. I don’t recall the hiking miles. The coming night was the worst I’ve had in years and there was no sleep as I hung in until daylight.

Day 71 was marked with exhaustion, frustration, and rain. Knowing I had to burn off the adrenaline I called Wayne for a shuttle and he took me to breakfast and back to Hightop for a 10 mile forced march. The rain was welcome and I walked until I started falling asleep on my feet. Lewis Campground was my finish line and Wayne shuttled me to Front Royal from where I would enter and exit the park as I cleared my head and finished the park.



Days 71-73 Lewis Mountain Campground to Route 522

Day 71 found me back at Lewis Campground for a 20 mile hike to Pinnacle. Things were a little busier on the trail with section and day hikers. The popular points on the trail draw a crowd. There was a lot of activity near Skyland Resort, I didn’t know it existed until I walked past it. Good water in this section. Feeling better I made my 20 and this is where I ran into Sixes and Cujo on their NOBO trek. If I come back to the park I’ll stay at Skyland. The trail brought some peace this day.

Day 72 my aim was to get to Gravel Springs Gap.

Of note in this section is Elk Wallow Wayside, which is where I ran across No-Mad. So good to see another hiker, especially one as good of a person as him. Finding the scenery through the trees is difficult. There is a section that was burned by fire. To me the stark and haunting features of the burn area were as beautiful as the rest of the day. Strangely, I took no pictures here. It almost felt like doing so would be an offense to the part of the forest that had suffered enough indignity. Beautiful views of the valley to be found. After a brief stop at Gravel Springs Shelter for a stretch and snack I made my way to Gravel Springs which is a small parking lot.

Day 73 was the trip from Gravel Springs Gap to US 522 and the Northern boundary of Shenandoah NP.

The journey in the park culminates in a roughly 6 mile downhill stretch that goes past houses, a long chain link fence, and deposits the hiker onto a paved road. While I looked forward to the end of the park hiking I found it to be anticlimactic in terrain, but brightened by accomplishment. A relief to be done with the Shenandoahs and looking forward to exiting Virginia. I think I will find my way to Mt. Katahdin.

Final Thoughts

The time you won your town the race

We chaired you through the market-place

Man and boy stood cheering by,

And home we brought you shoulder-high.


An Athlete Dying Young




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Comments 14

  • Dottie Rust : Apr 20th

    Boomerang, good to catch you on The Trek, I was the volunteer at ATC who took your photo. . .
    About those white rectangles? I painted one on a tree outside my front window. . .my very own white blaze!

    Take care!

    • Charles Gutierrez : Apr 24th

      .com, I’ll probably paint a couple on the gate posts at my small ranch in Montana. It was a delight meeting you! Thank you for all of your good work!

  • JadedFan : Apr 20th

    Another great post.

    Keep them coming.

    • Charles Gutierrez : Apr 24th

      Thanks so much! I do enjoy sharing this so many!

  • Phyllis G : Apr 20th

    I’m praying for you, Charles. Blessings and love to you. You got this!

    • Charles Gutierrez : Apr 24th

      The prayers are welcome! I can use all the help I can get. I am blessed with each day out here.

  • Randolph Saunders : Apr 20th

    Tarry on my brother. I’m saddened to hear of your PTS episode. Still, glad to hear that you found a way to get it behind you. You always do! Stay strong and healthy and I’ll see you in Maine.

    • Charles Gutierrez : Apr 24th

      The monster likes to come play occasionally. I am looking forward to seeing all of you! Much love!

  • Marlene Hillermann : Apr 20th

    Thank you for your service . Prayers and best wishes as you continue your hike. I admire your openness about your feelings. God speed.

    • Charles Gutierrez : Apr 24th

      It was an honor to serve. By sharing all parts of my journey maybe it will help someone find their voice and move forward.

  • Doug : Apr 20th

    Interesting read. As someone else with a chronic condition, I admire your determination. Go get ‘em.

    • Charles Gutierrez : Apr 24th

      As in so many things the first task is showing up. I try to find the brightness in each day because I know the pain of the dark. Onward my friend.

  • Sherry Rouse : Apr 20th

    I’ve been following you since February and I know it’s an accomplishment getting out of the Shenandoahs. You have been through so much.
    Enjoy the rest of your journey and keep heading north! Congratulations!

  • Charles Gutierrez : Apr 24th

    Thank you so much! Hiking Virginia is a valuable life lesson in patience and perseverance.


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