Shenandoah National Park and the Rollercoaster
My battle with the rocks seemed to be over on my first day hiking in Shenandoah National Park. The trail smoothed out and the walking was easier. The fact that I was carrying only my lunch, rain jacket, water filter with reservoir and my phone also made the going smooth and fast. My husband Mike was visiting from Colorado, enabling me to slack pack more miles per day (17-22), eat in restaurants and sleep in motels. Additionally, the Waysides, also provided a stop where I could buy a snack, use the restroom and water up without filtering. Life was easy in SNP!
Even if the rocks did come back intermittently, I completed the park in six days despite taking a Nero to watch the Eurocup Final. I also met up with some trail family in the form of Papa Canuck, who slack packed with me until Mike had to leave us at Harper’s Ferry.
While the park was relatively tame, I cannot say the same for the last bit of Virginia north of the park. There you hit the Rollercoaster and the trail is overgrown and rocky. You are also passing through a populated area and signs of overuse abound with social trails and trail widening in many areas. It can be challenging to stay on trail so keep a sharp eye out for the white blazes. Even though we did not get lost, Papa C and I were two and a half hours late meeting Mike at our agreed upon pick up place. When you plan a twenty mile day, I do not recommend that the last ten be the first ten of the northern Virginia Rollercoaster, especially on a ninety degree day.
Advice I have heard many times while on trail is “Don’t quit on a bad day”. I would add “Don’t quit in Virginia”. While it seems to go on forever, Virginia does eventually lead to West Virginia. The last of the three Va/West Va border crossings occurs just 4 tenths of a mile from the bridge over the Shenandoah River which delivers you to Harper’s Ferry and the spiritual halfway point of your journey. Stop in at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy building to have your picture taken and to check up on the progress of your tramily (trail family). Then take a seat at a cafe on High Street where you will be able to see the train bridge which will take you to Maryland and know that Pennsylvania is only 40.6 miles away. You’ve got this.
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