AT Update: 900 miles, into Shenandoah!

Day 61+62:

I’m gonna combine 2 days into one here, cause it was all kinda a blur. So, to start with, we got a very late start in the morning. My dad wasn’t meeting us until 10:30, and we only had 2 very flat miles to go until our meeting point. So, we got to get up, cook breakfast, and hang out a while before we got going. Unfortunately, I spilled my oatmeal all over the place so I only had a poptart for breakfast. Devastating.

We got to the footbridge early, so we had a while to just sit and hang out by the river. First of all the bridge is actually named after William T. Foot. Which sounds insanely fake, but it’s the truth. Look it up. Second, we’ve been making the joke of “is this the James River?” any time we cross any body of water, so it was funny for it to be the actual James River! But anyways we hung out for about 45 minutes down by the river until my dad finally got there!

Once we got picked up it was a short 3 hour drive back to Maryland. I spent basically the entire time eating watermelon and catching up on things at home, which was lovely. When we got to the hotel, we showered, started our laundry, and went to 7/11 for snacks! Pretty much immediately when laundry was done we headed over to the concert venue.

Us at the concert

It was a good ass concert. This is my second time seeing Hozier live, and both times he’s out on a really good show. It was weird to be in a huge crowd of people that didn’t know we were thru hikers. It felt like we were in disguise. Very fun. We got back to the hotel around 11:30, and immediately fell asleep.

Why hello Andrew!

The next morning we got up early and headed over to a diner to meet my grandma for breakfast. It was nice to have a real hot breakfast, and to see my grandma. We kept it short, cause we had a decent amount of driving to still do that day. After breakfast we took off, and we polished off the rest of the watermelon on the way back down. We made a quick stop at the grocery store to resupply, and then headed over to the hostel we were staying at for the night.

Turns out our whole crew was coming into town for the night, so that was super fun! Bibo, Molly and Ziggy were all at the hostel with us. And when we went to dinner we ran into Goose and Tink, so we had a whole family reunion at dinner. After dinner we basically just headed back to the hostel and hung out. All in all, good couple days.

These couple day were a whirlwind, but very fun. It was some nice brain floss to go into normal society for a bit again, but I’m definitely ready to get back on trail. Today was also graduation at William & Mary, which I do really wish we could’ve been at. I wanted to try and be there for my friends who are graduating this year, but it just didn’t quite work out. Which sucks, but I guess that’s the way it had to be.

Quote of the days: “I only kiss dudes recreationally”

These two days I am thankful for a dad who loves to drive, Hozier, and a soft bed.

Day 63:

For some reason, the only options for shuttles out of the hostel were 7 or 9:30. Ain’t no way we were leaving at 7, so 9:30 it was. We therefore had a pretty chill morning, which was kinda nice. Having a chill few days has been really good. But, it’s time to hit the road again, so at 9:30 we crammed into a van and hit the road!

We didn’t get to the trailhead until like 10, and when we got there there was a guy giving fruit so we stopped for a bit and chatted with him. We finally hit the trail at like 10:30. This is only a bit of an issue, because we have 20 miles to do. And like we’ve had the past few days, our morning started with a steep up. And a long one. But honestly, at this point, we’re so used to it that it doesn’t even feel like anything crazy.

At the top, we were greeted by an actual good view, finally! The skies have cleared, so we can actually see things now! It’s great. We were also greeted by Goose and Tink, so we hiked with them for a little while. Well, we hiked with Goose. Tink is FAST, so he blazed ahead of us pretty quickly. But we had a lovely early morning walking along the mountain top.

Our finally clear view!

We had a little bit of a climb right before lunch, but again we were rewarded with good views. We ate in the top, as it was the last climb of the day. It was very pretty, but the flies and bees were really annoying. All the buzzing and landing on me was quite annoying. I got overstimulated real quick, so I had to roll out of there kinda fast. The afternoon was all downhill, so we were moving pretty quickly.

Our view for lunch

Like I said earlier, it was a gorgeous day, and walking under the full spring canopy was really nice. For the early afternoon we had a flat walk along a ridge line, which was nice after all the climbing in the morning. After about 7 miles we hit the 800 mile mark! These milestones are flying by at this point. It’s crazy how far we’ve come. And that set us talking about all the people we’ve met and all the miles we’ve covered. It’s cool to look back like that and think about where we were just a couple months ago.

Hello 800!

Shortly after that, we started our long downhill for the day. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, downhill! Easy stuff!” Well, that’s true at first. But after a while, downhill starts to hurt. Quads, knees, hamstrings, feet, basically your entire lower body is put under extended tension. Plus with 30ish extra pounds in your back, it starts to wear on you after a while. By the time we got to the bottom of the hill, we were both kinda pooped. So we stopped, snacked, and rested for a while.

It was a short 5 miles from where we rested to the shelter for the day. It was pretty flat, but we were tired and sore enough at that point that it kinda dragged. But after a time we got to the shelter. We came in late ish (like 7), so we got right to cooking and setting up. A ton of our friends are here, so it’s a nice fun night at camp. Tomorrow is more of the same, big climb in the morning, ridge walk the rest of the day. Ohhhhh boy.

I felt pretty good today. I think the couple days off we’re pretty refreshing. It was also nice to hike with friends for a while. I do sometimes like hiking alone, but it’s also pretty fun when you’ve got a group of people to hike with. So maybe we’ll have that going on for the next few days. I guess we’ll find out! Physically I was definitely more sore today than I have been in a while, but I think part of that is the sitting we’ve done in the past few days. I got some nice stretching in, so hopefully that’ll be better tomorrow.

Quote of the day: “Beavers just see running water and are like ‘Absolutely the fuck not’”

Today I am thankful for socks, lacrosse balls, and ramen packets

Day 64:

I was a lazy bones today. I didn’t get going until like almost 8:30, which is CRAZY late. Extra crazy late considering we’re going 22 miles today. But anyway, I got going when I got going, after a nice chill breakfast. This morning sucked. And I new it was gonna suck. And honestly, I think that may have been part of why I got up so slow. I was not eager to get started.

It was straight uphill for like 4 miles at the start. And it was pretty darn steep, which yknow, sucks. I’m honestly fine with uphill most of the time, but I really would have loved a chance to wake up and fall into a rhythm before climbing that much. At the top of the climb there were at least some good views. I passed Tink and Goose, who had left much earlier than me, so I guess I was going pretty quick, even if I didn’t feel like it.

After the climb there was a short respite, then another mile of climbing. Yaaaaaaaaaay. After this climb though, the route got pretty flat for a while. The ridge that I was walking on was bald on top, so there were nice views basically the whole way, in every direction. It was pretty great. Funnily enough, the first hill we climbed was called Bald Knob, and was not bald. These next mountains were not called balds and were in fact bald. Very entertaining.

The view from not bald knobs

The middle part of the day kinda dragged for a while. I passed some trail maintenance crews, which was cool. I stopped for lunch on a mossy rock, which was lovely and soft. A surprising revelation I’ve had is that trash accumulation is a bigger problem than I had thought. Trash cans would be truly lovely out here. But alas, we move.

Right before the end of the day, there was a little side quest called Spy Rocks that I decided to go to. It was a 360 degree view of the mountains around, which was cool. I sat there for a long time, just hanging out. There was also a pool of tadpoles up there that was pretty cool, I watched them for a long time. They’re pretty fun to watch.

Spy rocks!

A couple miles later, I was only a mile from the shelter. As happens commonly on the trail, there was an info sign telling about the local trails. Here’s a pro tip: do NOT read those of you’re at the end of a long day and know what trail you’re taking. It will only bring you distress. In this case, it informed me that my last mile was straight uphill. And steeply so. Which was kinda devastating. But I made it in the end.

And honestly, it was so worth it. This shelter is great. The privy is brand new, so it’s clean and smells good and all that stuff. Best privy so far. Also, this shelter is called “The Priest” (because that’s the mountain it’s on), so the people have turned the log into a confessions book. Great dinner entertainment. Very funny. And definitely not appropriate to put on here, but if you can manage to get to this shelter, it’s almost worth it purely for that.

Mentally, pretty darn good day. It was very pretty, and I enjoyed a lot of the walk. But to be honest, I’m starting to ge tired of Virginia. It’s very pretty, no doubt, especially in spring, but everything looks so similar to everything else. It’s just a repeat landscape over and over. I’m ready for something a little different. Physically, I was POOPED. I know it was 22 miles, but it looked pretty flat on the topography maps, so I thought it would be ok. But nope, I was exhausted by the end.

Today featured a nice lesson from those tadpoles. They lived in a small collection of temporary pools on top of the mountain. Some were starting to dry, and some were already dry. I decided to try and grab ones from a pool that had gone dry and move them to a deeper pool.

At first it felt overwhelming, because there were so many pools drying up. How could I get all of them? I couldn’t possibly, unless I spent about 8 hours there. But I grabbed the ones I could. And that’s the lesson for the day. You don’t have to fix everything that’s wrong. You don’t have to save everyone and everything. All you have to do it what you can. And that’s enough.

Quote of the day: “I could, but I’m just lazy, yknow?”

Today I am grateful for two working hands, beef stroganoff, and knowing how to fall

Day 65:

Holy shit. That’s all I have to say for today. Let’s start at the beginning. This morning 2 old guys made a ton of noise and work the whole campsite up. At 6am. Now listen, I get it. Some people get up early. And it’s hard to not make noise when you’re packing. But it’s pretty easy to tell whose trying their best to be quiet and who doesn’t care. These dudes were the second.

Anyways, after about 45 minutes of unsuccessful attempts to go back to sleep, I resigned myself to get up and eat breakfast. All in all it was still a slowish morning, but faster than normal for me. I was out of camp by 7:45. I thought today was gonna be a pretty long day. 23 miles, a big down and up, the works. Boy oh boy did I not know what I was getting myself into.

The downhill started immediately. 4 miles, 3000 feet down. This is the first time so far that we’ve gone up a mountain the long way and down the fast way. About 30 minutes into the hike, there was a viewpoint overlooking the way I was going. The valley floor looked forever away. An hour later, there was another one, and the bottom looked 0% closer. Talk about disheartening. All in all it took me about 2.5 hours to get down. My quads were screaming, my knees were in pain. And my reward for finishing that grueling section? Climb 3000 feet back up.

This was halfway down lol

No, literally. The next 6 miles had a 3000 foot climb. I was going to end the day about 150 feet lower than I started. Only took 6000 feet of elevation change to get there. Anyway, there was nothing else for it, so I started the climb. Pretty quickly I knew I was in trouble. My legs were TIRED. And hurting. It took me another 2 hours to get 3 miles to the next shelter. I couldn’t even bring myself to stop. I didn’t think I could get going again.

For the like half mile after the shelter, the trail was flat enough. Only to immediately go up again over incredibly rocky terrain. Boy oh boy oh boy. This climb was not only steep, but technical. By this time, it was hot and I was sweating buckets. I passed a bunch of day hikers on the way up. One said “oh you’ve got a long way to go man.” That was really encouraging. At one point I hit a literal wall of rock I had to scramble up. I stood there, stared at it, and said aloud “What in the frickedy frackedy fuck is that?” Good summary of the day.

By lunch, I had barely gone 10 miles on the day. And I wasn’t done climbing yet. But I had to stop, I needed food BAD. I refueled, and trudged up the last section of mountain. Surely that’s the hard part out of the way, right? Welllllllll not really. The trail certainly evened out from there, but it got rocky, and wet, and hard to pass. It was really slow going. And I just felt POOPED.

The view of what I climbed down, from what I climbed up

At about 4:30, I ran into Lindsey getting water at a stream. She was also exhausted, so we sat and chilled for a little while by the side of the road. But eventually, we had to keep going. But we were really struggling by this point. I was tired, hot and dehydrated. I’m sure Lindsey was too. By 6, we reached a side trail to a picnic area we were told about. We went down, hoping for water and camping. There was water, and a bathroom, but not campsites. So, we ate dinner, cleaned up, and got on our way.

It was only 0.7 miles left to our next camp, but it was very uphill. There were pretty views, don’t get me wrong, but at that point I just wanted to be done. We also started hearing a sound like rain all around us, but the sky was blue. We couldn’t figure it out. Then Lindsey remembered that sometime, when there are caterpillar infestations, they all poop at the same time and it sounds like rain. Yep. We were getting pooped on. We made it to camp, watched the sunset, and promptly fell asleep.

I have no thoughts on the day. Only tired. Remember kids, don’t do 6000 feet of elevation change in one day. If you’re going to, don’t make it a day you olán to hike 23 miles.

Quote of the day: “They decided, we weren’t having bad enough days, we needed to get SHIT ON”

Today I am thankful that I do not have to climb down The Priest again, or up 3 Ridges.

Day 66:

Today was a weird day. It started off pretty normal. We got up and out by 7:30, leaving together for the first time in a while. But we’re meeting some friends today, so we gotta be together for that. Lindsey, as usual, was up and ready to go. I, on the other hand, had to eat breakfast on the road.

After the elevation of the pst 2 days, today was a beautifully pleasant flat romp. We moved quickly, clearing about 7.5 miles in like 2.5 hours. That’s a pretty crazy pace for us. 7.5 miles was the next shelter, where we rested, ate, grabbed water, etc. We had to go into town later, but because of when we had to meet our friends, we aren’t in that much of a rush.

It took us another 2 hours to get to the gap into town. Why are we going into town? Well, Lindsey and I both sent boxes to Ezzie to deliver to us later today. Orrrrrr so we thought. Lindsey’s box has vanished into the abyss, so we need to get to town and get her food. It didn’t take too long, Kroger hooked us up very nicely, and I grabbed some stuff while we were there just because. We then went to a nice little deli to get lunch. I’ve missed good deli food, and the reuben I had SLAPPED. Definitely was worth the side trip.

We got a shuttle back to the gap at around 3. About 39 feet up the road, we OFFICIALLY crossed into Shenandoah National Park! Very very exciting. This is a national park we’re both pretty familiar with, so pretty exciting to be running through a place that feels like home. and our second national park of the trip, so that’s pretty cool. We got our permits sorted, and got started.

Here’s the dilemma. We started hiking at 3, with about 5.5 miles until our arranged meeting spot with Ezzie and Ava. The problem? They’re not getting here til 6:30. So we meandered along, stopping often and sitting for a while. But even with all of our meandering, we still managed to get to the gap by 5:45. Simple 45 minutes to wait, right? Wellllllll turns out they hit some bad traffic, so they’re not gonna be here until 7:30. So now we’re sitting here, waiting for like 2.5 hours. But it’s no worries, we’re just super excited to see them. Plus, it gives me time to get started on my journal!

And wait we did. And wait. And wait. At around 7:45, we had heard that their ETA was a little after 8. It looked like rain, and Lindsey was itching to get set up before it did. So, she went ahead and I waited for Ava and Ezzie. I didn’t wait too too long. It was like 8:10 when they finally came. It’s really really good to see them. We got to hiking, and chatted and chatted and caught up. It was truly amazing. We got to camp at around 9, and we found lindsey. There we sat and had food that Ava and Ezzie had packed out for us, and caught up some more. But it was getting late, so to bed with all of us, and more fun in the morning.

The sunset(ish) while waiting for ezzie and ava

Today was a little strange, mostly because it was so slow. But it was a good one. A little hot, and very sunny, but good. The hiking was light and easy, and it was nice to be in it really zero rush. Plus I’m really excited to hang out with Ezzie and Ava. It’s always really good to see our friends, and it’s been a little time since we had someone come home with us. This is the start of a stretch of people coming to visit, and I’m really really excited about it.

Quote of the day: “He tried to give me his pickle!”

Today I am grateful for pastrami, milkshakes, and melon

Day 67:

Good morning Myrtle Beach. It was a fitful night, my sleeping pad decided to play the game where it deflated every hour or so and I have to keep getting up to fix it. Lovely. Looks like were back to that for now. But I finally got up around 6:15, which meant I had time for a very chill breakfast. Ezzie and Ava were already up when I got up, and Lindsey joined us soon after, so we all sat around at the shelter for a good chunk of the morning, until we finally got going around 8.

It was, again, a very flat day. Which actually in this case I think it’s good, cause I d didn’t want our friends to hate their lives while they were out with us. Instead we meandered along having some very nice conversations, admiring the gorgeous views. We crossed skyline drive a whole bunch. I think we cross it like 28 times total in Shenandoah and we did like 8 of those today. Crazy. But it’s got some really really pretty overlooks.

Ezzie and Ava hikes with us until about 12:30, when we made our way to yet another Skyline Drive crossing and sat for lunch. Again it was a very chill lunch, we were taking our sweet time today. We didn’t have too too many miles to do, so all good there. We finally unfortunately had to say goodbye around 1, as they had to get back to Richmond. But it was really really nice to have some friends out here for a little while.

Just like that, it’s just me and Lindsey again. We kept trucking for about another 3.5 miles, where we took a short stop at a shelter to fill some water. It was there where we got caught up by IMOM! It was lovely to see him, I was sure he was gonna stay ahead of us for the rest of the time but apparently not. We managed to bribe him to come to the same campsite as us with the promise of a beer. And so, the three of us tromped along.

About 3 miles before the campsite, we paused for a bathroom break by the road. It was there where we ran into some section hikers, who had planned to stay at the campsite we were heading to, but decided to push the extra 4 miles to get to their car instead. They were kind enough to offer us their campsite, since it was unused. And we happily accepted! That saved us a nice 30 dollars, and was incredibly kind of them. Once again, the trail provides.

Not too much to tell about the rest of the day. We got to camp, gave IMOM his beer, ate dinner, and just hung around for a while. All in all a pretty sweet day. Tomorrow is very chill so I think i’m gonna be lazy in the morning. Hang around the campsite, go to the camp store for snacks, etc. OH, also I discovered that there was a colony of inchworms that had set up on my rain fly. Cute right? Well one of the fuckers ate a hole in the fly, which I had to patch. Annoying, but fixable.

Again, it was really really nice to have friends from back home come out and meet us. It felt like a slice of normal life again, but only the stuff that I’ve been missing, without any of the stuff that I’m glad to not have. Also, me and Imom talked about how he’s been getting very bored on trail, and is having to listen to stuff to keep him occupied. So that was a very affirming thing to hear. All in all? A very very good day.

Quote of the day: “You don’t ever just like stare at your toes?”

Today I am grateful for friends, Mark, and Tenacious Tape (not sponsored but low key would love to be)

Day 68:

It was a dilly dally kind of day. We’re only doing 14 miles, so we got to hang around pretty much everywhere we went. First, we hung around for a while at the campsite. Slow breakfast, slow packing, slow leaving. We did a short hike over to the camp store, to pick up snacks and the oh so important beers for later. We dilly dally’d at the camp store for a while, chatting, eating, and just relaxing. After that, we finally got under way.

Well, that may be a strong word. We hiked over to the Loft Mountain Wayside, which is kind of like a combo store/visitors center/restaurant. Again, we dilly dally’d around there for like an hour and a half. Finally finally, we got under way, with only 12 miles left to go.

The hiking was pretty easy. Shenandoah is a relatively flat park for the most part, with the occasional steep up or down at certain points. We were cruising along. Around 2:30, we hit the 900 mile mark! These milestones are absolutely flying by now. It pretty cool to think about how far we’ve made it. But at the same time it’s kind of crazy how far we have left to go.

We got to camp around 5:30. We set up camp, and then pulled out the beers and toasted a fun dilly dally day. Other than that, the evening was all standard stuff. We ate, chatted, and then went to sleep. Tomorrow is very much not a dilly dally day, so we gotta get some rest.

It was kind of nice to just like hang around for a good chunk of the day. I definitely don’t want to do it like, all the time, but it was nice for the day. And the hiking was also pretty chill. Lindsey and Imom said they felt pretty tired at the end of the day, but to be honest I felt ok. It’s weird, and I don’t really understand it. I definitely get tired, but I never feel like I can’t keep walking. Like I do genuinely feel like I could just… walk. Like as far as I needed or wanted to? I don’t know. Maybe I’m just delusional. But yeahhhhh, it’s definitely a weird feeling when everyone else is talking about how exhausted the are.

Honestly I can’t remember a quote of the day. Sorry bout it.

Today I am grateful for Smash Burgers, privys, and my tent

Day 69:

Today is NOT a dilly dally day. We got 23 miles to do, and damn sure we’re gonna do em. Lindsey left pretty early, so me and Imom hung out around breakfast. I still left a little before him, around 8:15. The morning started pleasantly enough. I was moving quick, I had covered about 6 miles in like 2 hours. But I felt so so hungry today for some reason. No matter how much I ate, it was never enough. Imom caught up to me mid snack around 10:30. We spent most of the rest of the morning hiking together.

Around 12:30 we stopped by a stream to fill up water and have a snack. Like I said, I was insanely hungry today, so I ate a pretty big snack. After about 10 minutes at the stream we met a guy who told us there was some trail magic at the next camp site. So what did we do? Of course we got up and kept going to the next camp site. We did indulge in some trail magic there, it was very nice. We haven’t had legit trail magic in like a month, so this was a pleasant surprise.

After the trail magic, Imom decided he was gonna go fast fast. His normal walking pace is about 3 miles an hour, so he kicked it into gear and kinda left me in the dust. It was fine, I enjoy hiking alone. It was a beautiful day, and an easy hike, so I could just look around while also moving relatively quickly. The forest was full of low germs and bushes. There were flowering blackberries, which unfortunately haven’t fruited yet but they should soon. I saw a whole bunch of fruiting chestnuts, which was really cool. We’ve seen a ton in Shenandoah, which I was not expecting at all.

Around 3:45 I started to feel kinda bad. It took me a while to realize why, then I realized that between the mid morning snack and trail magic, I had forgotten to eat lunch! Silly me. So i sat down by a graveyard that I passed and ate another snack. I was close to the lodge that we were stopping at for dinner, so I moved pretty quickly after I got some food in me.

The lodge was really really nice. I met Imom there, and w east down to have a beer. Unfortunately, because of a miscommunication, Lindsey went to a different place for dinner, so she wasn’t with us. But we didn’t know that at the time, so we hung around for like an hour waiting for her. Eventually we just decided to go and eat. And the food was really really good, but I was stuffed. I was ready to go to sleep right then and there. Unfortunately, we still had another 3 miles to do.

Some nice refreshments while we waited for Lindsey

As soon as we got back on the road, it started raining. Lovely. So to recap, we’re both very full, tired, and now we’re getting rained on. Less than ideal. But we did at the very least get a nice sunset view out of it. We picked our way along pretty slowly, as the trail was rather rocky. We got to camp right before dark, only to find out that the campsite was basically full cause of everyone who came out for the weekend. Great. So Imom and I had to cram out 2 tents into one tentsite. Far from ideal, but we made it work. My feet were off the edge of a step, his head was up a hill, but we got in the end.

The sunset we lucked into on the way to camp

Other than the fact that I forgot to eat, it was a pretty good day. I felt good, especially since we had a short day yesterday. My feet are still not healing super quickly, and there’s one pinch point on my sandals that I can’t seem to adjust around. I think I may have to swap back to normal shoes unfortunately. But we’ll see. I’m gonna give it til we leave the park, then decide.

Quote of the day: “Now this, THIS is some bullshit!”

Today I am grateful for sunset, socks, and a one person tent.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

What Do You Think?