Sorry, Yogi, not today!

  • It’s just Day Two of my projected 90 on the trail. I’m walking alone in a forested area with many bushes.  Hubby is a minute or so ahead of me. Suddenly I hear lots of crashing about in the bushes just 15 yards to my left.  I turn and see a very large dark blob through the leaves.


I think to myself, “Could it be?”  Yes, it could. The good-sized bear turns and heads towards me. Walking or running?  I don’t have time to discern that minor detail. All I know to do is stretch out my arms, shout, “NO!” and clang my hiking poles together.

Most fortunately, Yogi  picks multiple choice answer D (“None of the above”…although A. B and C happen to be his personal favorites). He makes a sharp right turn  and disappears into the woods.

Now fueled with adrenaline, I speed up to catch Hubby. After breathlessly telling him about my first bear encounter,  I take my own private moment in nearby bushes. I now appreciate the term “scared shitless.”

And, thank you, ATC, for the valuable information you shared at the Flip Flop Festival last April.

And, in reflection, Yogi probably looked more like this, but it all happened so suddenly, who’s to know?

So, aside from this, our first days of this adventure went very smoothly.  It was such a pleasure to share this beginning with Bill and let him see some of what I’d be experiencing, bears and all.

On Monday, July 24, we drove from home Ohio to Front Royal, VA.  We would be walking to this town over the next five days from Harpers Ferry, WV.  Leaving our car at a hotel (the Prius wanted the Executive Suite, but we insisted on the parking lot), a shuttle driver got us to our hostel in HF, the Teahorse Hostel.

Day One

With our packs and food for the first few days loaded, we headed out the next day.  The AT immediately showed its true colors for the rest of the journey:  steep ups and then steep downs.

Over the Shenandoah River on a busy bridge, and then down under that same bridge to get our feet on the dirt trail.

The brown landscape I had experienced in April was now replaced by brilliant green.  And, more often than not, rocks…small, medium and large.  Gee, just like the 3 bears.

We straddled the state line between WV and VA for quite some time.

We stopped occasionally to collect and filter more drinking water.

Lunch was on a rock by the trail.

We purposely kept our mileage low these first few days.  Our legs weren’t used to the demands presented to us.  And this period together would be just about the first 5% of my journey to Springer Mountain. I had time to build up my trail legs.

After about 10 miles from the waterfront of HF, we came to our first night’s destination, the David Lesser Memorial Shelter.

With the beautiful weather, we chose to set up our tarp and tent in the adjoining campsite.  Only two other campers, both in the highly popular hammocks, joined us.  It was so peaceful, so far from any sounds of traffic.

Day Two

This day, as you may remember, presented us with the bear.  Which I will admit was very exciting and worthy of repeating itself in the future, as long as the results are the same.

We also saw tamer forest residents a few times.

Sometimes the AT earns its nickname, “the Green Tunnel.”  You spend a great deal of time in the same kind of environment.  But if you look closely, there are many other lovely things to behold.






We entered what is known as the “Roller Coaster” section of the trail.

This part of the AT was rerouted several years ago off a stretch of country road.  The “Trailmaster” seemed to take great delight in routing the new route up and down as many hills he could find.  Folks call them “PUDS” (Pointless Ups and Downs).  Up to a summit (occasionally with a view, but usually not)…..

…..down to a stream.

Or crossing a road.    Repeat from above.

Night Two was spent in bunk beds at the Bear’s Den Hostel. This was formerly a wealthy businessman’s home in the 1930’s. It’s now operated by one of the dozens of trail clubs that help maintain the AT.


Day Three

We continued our ride on the Roller Coaster. The night was spent camping on the grounds of a shelter again. Even though the forecast said no rain till the next morning, a downpour poured down.  Luckily, this happened just as each of us had gotten our shelters up.

We ate dinner under the pavilion of the shelter, where we enjoyed talking with a German couple who are doing the full trail with their dog Lissie.  Dogs are allowed all along the trail,  I believe, except in the Smoky Mt. National Park.  There, you have to reroute around it or hire a company to kennel and transport your pet.


Day Four

The next day, thanks to all the rain, it truly felt like the Appalachian Rainforest, lush, green and wet.

We had the fun of finding our way through a downed tree that completely blocked the trail.

We were now off the Roller Coaster ride.  Now just back to more ups and downs and some ridges thrown in. And the difference was….?

Even though I love trees, it was a pleasure to have lunch in a lovely open meadow we came to.

A big rainstorm was again forecast.  We cut the day short of 10 miles and took refuge in a beautiful new shelter.  We were fortunate to have it all to ourselves, although a couple of thru hikers stopped to write notes to friends in the shelter journal.

We soon made ourselves at home.

It POURED that night.  We were so grateful to be tucked against the back wall of the shelter.  I learned my lesson to stay in shelters or hostels when such weather is forecast.


Days Five and Six

We got an uncharacteristic early start the next day, due to the 15.5 mile day ahead of us, our longest.  No rain but a misty beauty was in the woods in the morning.

The storm had taken down many trees overnight.  Can you find Bill as he tries to get around or through?

The trail gave us the gift of a very gradual downhill as we approached the road to Front Royal.  In the thru hikers’ long-standing tradition, we caught a ride into town from a friendly local driver. We weren’t up to another 3.5 miles of walking on a road.

And so Bill’s section hike ended. He headed home the next day (Sunday), and I spent the day resting and resetting. I’ll miss him so much, but am so happy he got such a good sense of what this section of the AT is like.

So, tomorrow:  Shenandoah National Park bound!  They say it’s beautiful, with lots of bear sightings.  Bring ’em on, but with a happy ending as before.  I know you guys just want the food in my pack, but SO DO I!!!



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Comments 16

  • Jon : Aug 2nd

    Great story and pictures! Looks challenging but I’m sure you’re enjoying that.

    • Ruth Morley : Aug 2nd

      I’ve been surprised how challenging it can be, even after my week’s practice in April. But you just have to accept the constant steep ups and downs because it’s the name of the game. It’s the Appalachian (MOUNTAINS!) Trail, not the Florida Trail.

  • Rhonda : Aug 2nd

    I enjoyed reading about your adventures.

    • Ruth Morley : Aug 2nd

      Thank you, Rhonda. I’m very pleased when my blog interests people. I plan on posting about once a week during my rest days in towns. I seldom have cell coverage in the trail.

  • Myra : Aug 3rd

    Bears and rainstorms all in the first week! I’m glad Bill was with you and I can imagine how much you’ll miss him. You have everything it’s takes to do it on your own though! Looking forward to more great photos and fantastic writing. Lots of love to you Ruth!

    • Ruth Morley : Aug 3rd

      Myra, it was all a great intro to the AT for Bill. And I’ve already seen MORE bears, but you’ll just have to check out my post next week. :-). Thanks so much for your support. I thank Pilates and you every time I slide into that little opening in my net tent!

  • Val : Aug 3rd

    A bear already! And you handled it so well! Can’t wait to read more.

    • Ruth Morley : Aug 3rd

      Thanks for following my blog, Val. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you and Sharon to join me. The views from the trail in the Shenandoah are really something. Enjoy your cycling with the Babes.

  • Cheryl : Aug 3rd

    Loved your pictures of the mushrooms, very cool ! I too find beauty in those little things. Good luck with your adventures!

  • Barb : Aug 5th

    I am so glad you are enjoying the challenge. You are such a determined person!

    • Ruth morley : Aug 7th

      So true. I hate to give up. Very goal oriented. In all my endeavors, I’ve never claimed great athletic prowess. Just stubbornness.

  • Jennifer : Aug 5th

    Happy Trails Ruth! Be safe and good luck! What an adventure! Looking forward to more of your posts!

    • Ruth morley : Aug 7th

      Hi Jennifer! Thank you for your good wishes. I look forward to hearing about your summer adventures too. I sure admire the backpacking you’ve done as a family past years.

  • Connie Kroos : Aug 8th

    Hi Ruth! I’ve been thinking about you and your adventures. Love Connie

  • Renate HUBER Cornell : Aug 15th

    As I sip my morning coffee in my garden it is a delight hearing about the trail, looking at immages of nature, remenissing about my own AT Adventures.
    Happy trail

  • Christine Graeter : Sep 12th

    How cool that Bill could join you to jump start the adventure!

    So much nature therapy. Thanks for sharing. <3


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