Shenandoah National Park

Day 64 Rockfish Gap To Blackrock Gap – AT Daily Miles 20.0; AT Total Miles 884.6

My rest day yesterday was awesome and I got a lot done, including my resupply and eating a ton of food. The day flew by and in no time I was being shuttled to the trailhead for a 20 mile trek. I chose to slackpack from the hostel today instead of just hiking normally to give me a transition day. They drove me up to Blackrock Gap so I could hike back.

The day wasn’t very scenic, but started out at the trailhead with a female turkey begging for food, which was very cute. Of course I had to give her some Cheez-Its which she ate quickly. There wasn’t a lot of other great scenery, except for a couple meadows and creeks. The hiking through Shenandoah National Park will be fairly crowded as there are a lot of tourists for a change.

Begging Turkey

Easy Trail

More Easy Trail

With a very light pack and a cool day I made it through in less than eight hours which was really moving for me. In no time I was in the shower and off to dinner. The last three dinners have been relatively the same, which has been a jumbo burger, fries, and milkshake. I’m really not sure what I’m doing tomorrow yet. My guess is the next four days will be normal hiking and tent camping but I need to talk to the nice lady that runs the hostel to be sure there aren’t any better options.

Day 65 Blackrock Gap To High-top Mountain -AT Daily Miles 22.3; AT Total Miles 907.3

I decided to hike on despite the slackpacking being so much easier. Plus, there’s rain in the forecast for the next two days so staying back at the hostel was very tempting. In the end though it would’ve been a lot of shuttling back-and-forth instead of hiking, so I decided to move on.

Today wasn’t too hard with only a few big ups and downs. I wasn’t used to so many tourists, but that could be expected since I’m in a national park. Plus all the wildlife, including deer were so plentiful and not afraid of anyone. I was able to take advantage of one of the stores that are scattered throughout the park to get a sub and ice cream bar at lunchtime.

It was close to 6 PM and I was getting close to the end of the day. I ended up bypassing the shelter that was off the trail in favor of a mountain top campsite. I really like to stealth camp but at the same time, it might’ve been easier to wake up in a dry shelter than pouring down rain. I will deal with it in the morning. I have about 66 miles over the next three days to get into the next town which seems about right as long as the rain doesn’t slow me down much.

Tame Deer

900 Miles

What a View


Day 66 High-top Mountain To Big Meadows – AT Daily Miles 10.9; AT Total Miles 918.2

I waited in my tent this morning until the rain lightened up around 9 AM so I got a pretty late start. By the time I got everything packed up and the tent wiped down it was 9:30 AM. The forecast was for light rain until about 3 PM and then very hard rain afterwards. Not a great day when you want to get in a lot of mileage.

The weather ended up being rain most of the day, and when it wasn’t raining, it felt like it because it was dripping from all the trees. Not a lot of good photos today since it really looked like I was hiking in a cloud or fog the entire time.

About 2 PM, I stopped into a camp store that was on my route. I had planned on getting in another hour of hiking before the really hard rain hit. There was a really nice fellow hiker named Nebraska that offered to share his campground site with me. I thought it made sense to go ahead and get camp set up early even though that meant a low mileage day, but at least I would be set up in an established campsite before the really hard rain came. I offered to compensate him, but all he would accept was an ice cream sandwich.

There’s a 50% chance of rain most of tomorrow. My plan is to pack up around 8:30 AM just before the store opens, grab a couple microwave breakfast sandwiches, and see if I can get more miles in than I did today.


Foggy Trail

More Gloom

Day 67 Big Meadows To Skyland Resort – AT Daily Miles 16.8; AT Total Miles 935.0

First a shout out to some trail angels from the campground last night. After I typed the previous blog out, there was a person outside my tent asking if I had a second. Seems he and his wife and two friends had cooked way too much dinner and were looking for someone to help them out with it. I gladly accepted and also asked our host if my campsite companion could join us and he did. It was an incredible dinner and great conversation and so unexpected on such a rainy night. Many thanks to Mr. John Star and his friends.

It rained pretty steady till about 8 AM and then I got ready for the trail. It was about 9 AM before I was completely ready and going. The day was a real struggle because the rain started again and never stopped. I kept alternating between my rain gear which was way too hot and my lighter gear, which I was wet and cold in. The weather really didn’t get any better as the day went on. The gloom was really zapping my energy and enthusiasm.

Around 4 PM I stopped at the Skyland resort here in Shenandoah National Park to get water for a stealth site in a few miles. As I sat there and looked at the weather outside I made the decision to go ahead and pay the money to stay in the resort and dry out tonight. It’s hard to put a price on a hot shower, dry clothes, a good dinner, a tall beer, and a soft bed. I think I made the right decision.

I will need to hike 19 miles a day over the next two days to get to my next resupply point but I think I can do it with a better weather forecast coming.


Slippery Rockslide

View from Hotel

Low Clouds

Day 68 Skyland Resort To Cliffs Stealth Site – AT Daily Miles 25.0; AT Total Miles 960.0

What a difference a day makes. I’m not sure if it was getting dried out, the burger and beer for dinner, the incredible breakfast, or sunny skies for the first time in several days. Either way I was able to hike 25 miles today which sets up a nice and easy 12 1/2 miles to the hostel tomorrow. Since it’s supposed to rain by early afternoon, I should be able to just beat it.

I wouldn’t say today was easy, but the fact that I was only able to do about 10 miles a day the previous two days when the weather was so awful probably gave me some energy today. I got kind of damp from the tall grass and such but that’s a small price to pay for sunny skies. Tomorrow is my last day in Shenandoah National Park and I’m going to miss it. I am going to miss the blackberry shakes and double cheeseburgers at the various camp stores in the park.

One reason I did 25 miles and not anything less was that I especially like to stealth camp and avoid the shelters when I can. I like to call and talk to my wife in the evenings and tonight I chose the campsite well with a cliffside view with excellent cell signal. The closest shelter was in a gap and that typically means a low elevation location with no signal. Plus with a cliff campsite you typically get at least a good sunrise or sunset. In this case, it was the sunset.

No Rain!

Burned Area

Awesome Sunset

Day 69 Cliffs Stealth Site To Front Royal – AT Daily Miles 12.5;  AT Total Miles 972.5

The campsite was really cool, but I woke up to the handle on my trekking pole chewed and a sock missing. I’m not sure what kind of critter did the damage, but it was done. I understand they like the taste of salt from our stuff. I’ve also read that the area has a skunk problem, but not sure if that’s the culprit or some other type of rodent.

After searching the area for my sock I was on the trail by 8 AM and made good time as the trail wasn’t too tough. Much of the hike again was in a mist, but nothing like the two bad days recently. In no time, which means before 1 PM, I was at the hostel. Since it was supposed to rain all afternoon and even more on Saturday, I planned to take a rest day and two nights here. That’s kind of tough on me mentally though since I’m going home this upcoming Thursday for a five day visit and feel like I should be getting hiking miles in.

Special thanks today to the couple from Virginia Beach, Virginia. They are staying in the bed-and-breakfast portion of the hostel and invited me to dinner with them. It was great talking to them and getting to know them. Plus, they wouldn’t let me pay for my dinner, which was super nice of them. You never know when trail angels will appear.


Morning View

Fun Trail

Day 70 Zero Day – AT Daily Miles 0; AT Total Miles 972.5

As I said above, today  will be a rest day so my next blog will be the five days leading up to my trip back to Columbus Ohio to visit family. Stay safe out there.






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Comments 2

  • Tiffany S. : May 28th

    Soo…. Did you ever find the sock?!? That would have been too much for me, but I’m sure you’re used to sharing the night with critters on this journey! Keep sending the great views!!

    • Dan Helfrich : May 29th

      Wow, yes, that sunset must have been exceptionally enjoyable!


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