See Ya Never Again, Shenandoahs!
- How do you know someone’s a thru-hiker?
The outfit usually gives it away!
I covered 108 miles over 8 days, which is actually kind of slow considering the relatively easy terrain.
But they have Waysides there!
Also known as Hiker Black Holes.
Because they have grilled sandwiches. And blackberry milk shakes. And craft beers that cost less than Pepsi.
Plus you can always find a gaggle of thru-hikers to swap bear stories with loitering like delinquents in front of the Waysides, enjoying running water and flush toilets.
Because when hiker gets sucked into a Wayside Black Hole, it takes a long while to get back out on the trail.
They say you can do big miles in the Shenandoahs, but no one does because of those dang Waysides.
I had an ulterior motive for traveling slowly…I didn’t want to reinjure my hip, which still isn’t 100%.
And I did make 400 miles at some point along the way, so Yay!
Getting over the shock. And loneliness.
To be honest, it was a shock to jump back on the trail two weeks behind so many people I’d gotten to know over the first month. Everyone I met those first few days was doing way more miles than me and I felt too clean to be immediately recognized by my thru-hiker tribe.
I felt lonely and a little out of place those first few days back.
I missed my hiking buddies and I felt like I was crawling.
I was starting to wonder if I’d ever connect with anyone or if I’d repeat the experience I had when I cycled across Europe. I was too shy to start a conversation with anyone and I was desperately lonely and miserable while having an adventure that could change my life.
I never was able to overcome that shyness,never able to grow enough and bloom through the awkwardness that held me back and fed the loneliness.
The beauty of hiking the Appalachian Trail is that it’s hard not to connect with people.
Eventually you cross paths with someone enough (usually2-3 times will do it) that it’s just a fact that you’re now friends.
Starting conversations is easy. Every hiker likes to talk about food, gear and foot rot.
Trail Families and Hiking Partners…It Just Happens
Before I started, I was told that trail families (tramilies) and hiking partners and camp friends happen organically, without you having to do much to make it happen.
You’ll find that you keep seeing the same person each night at a shelter, like I did with Early Bird. Before you know it, you’re planning which shelter to meet up at at the end of the day and meeting for meals in town.
Or you’ll leap frog a person a few times during a day and find yourself just walking and talking by the end of the day, like I did with 77 just over the last two days.
77 took issue with this photo and insisted I use something else instead.
He thought you might prefer looking at his backside, instead, so here you go…
Or you’ll meet someone once a time an all you can eat restaurant or hostel and the next time you see them (and there most certainly will be a next time) it’s like you’ve know nothing them forever.
Like Haiku, who is miles ahead of me, but who I saw, and hugged, when I saw her within the first ten minutes of being back on the trail.
These trail connections are truly the most magical part of thru-hiking. (It’s def NOT the Shenandoahs, FYI.)
The good news is I’ve hit my stride, made some new connections (without even trying), and I’m exiting the loneliness and excited about the next chapter of this adventure…crossing my first state line!
Plus, I’m quite sure this new confidence and willingness to find connections with “strangers” will carry over to “real life” when this other real life–trail life–is done.
Because I’m learning that no one is truly a stranger. There’s something of me in everyone I meet and something of them in me.
The Shenandoahs…the breakdown.
As for the Shenandoahs, I’m giving it a 5/10.
Yeah, It didn’t suck. But it wasn’t awesome, either, considering it’s a national park.
It breaks down like this (for me):
*Waysides! You can carry less food.
*Good wildlife! I saw bears, peregrines, pushy deer, cool birds.
*Trash cans (the holy grail of thru-hikers)
*Showers and flush toilet available with some regularity.
*Good terrain for recovering from an injury.
*Crowded shelters and campsites and not enough tent sites at the shelters.
*Boring hiking. So boring. Few views.
*Not enough stealth campsites–hard to plan your day.
*Too many people, too many loud motorcycles, it so really a driving experience.
Apparently, the old route of the AT used to be along Skyline Drive. But when they developed the park, they just hacked a trail through the weeds and called it a day.
So, I’m happy to see this park in my rear view mirror now!
Can’t wait to see what opportunities and adventures the trail offers next.
Until next time!
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I lost the little card you sent with your info so I don’t know how to contact you. Thought I’d see if this works. Does it? 😉 Love reading your stuff. Thanks for the post card. This is all very beautiful and interesting to look at and read. Love the drawing of day 400. And the photos are so good. Okay. keep on keeping on, you. love, shannon
Shannon! It worked. I’ll send you an email soon to catch up. Meanwhile feel free to come out and hike! Love you, Deane
Hi Deane! So glad to see your new posts. Mark and I cheer you on every day!! I love your posts, pictures and insights. You rock! In gratitude and love with a great big ole hug, Lynette
Hi Lynette…thanks so much for reading and especially for your encouragement! I feel the love. The trail is everything I hoped for and nothing I expected and I can’t wait to swap stories at the end. Big hugs! Roo
So glad you’re back on the trail. Everything you’ve written rings true. It’s a grand adventure. I recall feeling at the end that I still felt like I was just scratching the surface of what there is to learn about long-distance hiking. From the Hiker Hut in Rangely: “Injoy the Journey”
One Step! Such a grand adventure! Like the Rumi poem…”this being [on the AT] is like a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. …Be grateful for whatever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” I took some liberties, but, yeah…I’m learning so much and only scratching the surface. Thanks for reading! Can’t wait to swap stories. Hugs to you & Pine Cone!