Week 10 on the AT! Getting Around: Shuttles & Hitches

Hello Friends! I thought it would be good to say a few things about shuttles and hitches along with our daily log.

Long-distance hikers don’t typically have cars handy and towns/resources are usually a few miles off the trail.

Hikers have to resupply their food every few days. We also like to shower and clean our clothes now and then. There are two options for getting into town: call a shuttle or hitch-hike.

Some hostels include the cost of a shuttle to and from the trailhead with a stay. They might even include a ride to the local grocery store. Or they might charge extra for both.

Trailheads often have info boards with shuttle driver numbers. The FarOut app that we use to navigate is abundant with contact info and opinions on drivers.

We were surprised at the cost of shuttles. It wasn’t something we had factored appropriately into our budget. A stay at a hostel that includes a bed, laundry, shower and common areas to utilize including a kitchen and often free food can cost $35 pp, and a ten mile shuttle into town can also cost $35. Not really the same value.

Hitches are free and legal in most states. Towns close to the trail are used to hikers and locals (especially those with trucks) don’t mind stopping to put some smelly hikers in the back for a few miles. Of course, hitches aren’t guaranteed and one has to be persistent.

Day 63

Mile 825.8

Spy Rock – campsite

We awoke after a good night’s rest at the White Tree Inn. We heated up the big cinnamon roll we procured at the farm market in the microwave for breakfast. It was very good along with our fruit and guacamole.

We had a little time before our shuttle back to the trailhead so we relaxed at bit.

The shuttle arrived and got us back to the trail head to start hiking a little before 9 AM. The day was breezy and sunny and quite pleasant. Even a little cool. The trail was pretty easy to hike, and we even ended up on a big bald.

It felt great to be back at 100% and also we felt good about our food and a new commitment to trying not to overeat. We have a goal to make it through Shenandoah before we re-supply again at a grocery store. This plan might work because of the waysides through the park.

Water sources are little few and far between, but our new sawyer squeeze makes water chore a breeze!

We made it to Spy Rock for dinner and had to decide whether we wanted to go for more miles or stay. We decided to say. It is a beautiful campsite with lots of blooming rhododendron in a pleasant area in general. I’m glad we stayed.

We are not the only ones on the trail concerned about miles. At the same time we want to enjoy the days but have also experienced setbacks, like our illness over the past week. But the best thing to do is to take each day as it comes. To put on our packs and head north and to enjoy ourselves. After all, this is a wonderful experience once in a lifetime experience.

Day 64

Mile 845.2

Devil’s Backbone Brewery – free thru-hiker camp area

We woke to a beautiful sunrise, very visible from our tent. We both felt very strong today and it was reflected in our hiking.

The weather was very clear with a gentle breeze pretty cool this morning, but it warmed up quickly.

Water sources were a little far between, but we’re getting used to that and our new water filter makes it very doable.

We decided that we were going to hitch to Devils backbone brewing company where they have free camping for thru-hikers. So we hiked 19 miles. We were able to catch a hitch with two other hikers and their dog with a guy driving a completely open jeep except for some netting that covered the sides and back.

We all squeezed in with our packs. We were delivered safely to the brewery where we set up our tent and had some very tasty food and very delicious beer. Tomorrow we will be packing out our crawler.

Day 65

Mile 867.3 – Campsite

We packed up early this morning to get our ride back to the trail head from a woman supporting her husband and daughter as they hike.

The trail was very friendly. At a water source a hiker gave us each a beer that he had packed out. We relaxed with our feet in the water and enjoyed our beer.

When we made it to Rockfish Gap we were quite tired but we were also ready to continue on and our legs were working pretty well. We found some black raspberries on the side of the road and they were delicious.

We walked into Shenandoah National Park and found a campsite a little ways up the way. We enjoyed our crawler on the rock close to our campsite before we hung our bag.

Day 66

Mile 884.2 – campsite off fire road

Last night some little animal made noises that sounded like sucking through a straw. It made these noises from the time we went to bed throughout the night for quite sometime. It was a similar experience as when a deer sneezes at you. We also heard a screech owl right next to our tent.

We woke this morning and took our time leaving. I felt slow moving and figured that it was just because of the previous few days activity and higher mileage

The terrain was quite flat and easy to hike with gentle ups and downs and we didn’t really see any other hikers until later in the day.

There was a lot of rain in our feet got soaking wet.

We saw a deer and her very little fawn along with lots of red efts and saw a little frog.

Since campsites in SNP are limited to shelter areas we’ve had to look in the comments on FarOut to find other stealth sites. We found one at a road crossing down a fire road. It was great because it was close to water.

We were able to wash our feet, which always feels good after a day of soggy, dirty feet.

We were so happy when our friends, Lost and Found caught up with us and will hike with us through the SNP. We plan to stop at waysides and enjoy blackberry milkshakes and lots of other food.

We realize it will be more expensive, but we decided that we just needed to have fun doing it. We devised a plan that allows us to enjoy food over the course of this section. We’re just wild and crazy kids!

Day 67

Mile 907 – campsite at Hightop Mountain

The night was filled with creature sounds and strange dreams. It was windy for part of the night. Then stillness.

We awoke to a beautiful day and hiked full force with Lost and Found.

It felt like we were at an amusement park filled with fun. There was a picnic area complete with tables, water and a garbage can. Loft Mountain camp store, our first special stop, had all the snacks a hiker could ask for. We even each packed out a beer.

Many hikers congregated there.

We left our packs on the AT and blue blazed the steep .6 mile to the Wayside for a tasty lunch.

There were many ups and downs.

We spotted two deer with fawns and many bunnies. At a water source and shelter a deer came within 10 feet of us. She wasn’t worried about us much.

The day grew long and us tired but we persevered up the mountain and found a site with a section hiker in a little grove of trees.

After set up we took our dinner and beers to the lookout where sunset was being enjoyed by many hikers.

We should all sleep well tonight.

Day 68

Mile 926.8 – Big Meadows Campground

It was quite windy all night long and the weather got progressively cool as the day continued. As a woman at Lewis Mountain commented, “the weather has been mysterious”.

We were on our way to executing day two of our fun food and big miles project! We felt like we were on a vacation with friends as Lost and Found kept us at a good pace. It is nice to know that we can do bigger miles if we just take less breaks, or shorter ones.

We stopped at Lewis Mountain camp store and picked up some snacks. Our break was extra cold as the wind wouldn’t stop.

The remaining 8 miles happened quite quickly and we made it to Big Meadows campground ten minutes before the park office closed. We set up our tents and took hot showers before heading over to the lodge for dinner.

Such luxury!

Day 69

Mile 944 – campsite

Late in the evening another hiker joined us who was looking for her group. We invited her to camp with us as it was getting dark.

The wind gave way to birdsong in the morning. It was the start to a beautiful, sunny day that wasn’t too hot at all. In fact, it was a bit cool whenever we ceased hiking. That happens a lot though. I imagine our physiology shifts as we continuously hike all day.

Even though the plan was to sleep in, we ended up wide awake around 6am as usual. Breakfast at the lodge began at 7:30 and we were right at the door.

After breakfast we hiked until lunch time to Skyland Lodge. Of the three meals we enjoyed at the lodges, lunch had the best vegetarian options for us.

Other hikers were also enjoying the culinary tour of Shenandoah. Along with easier terrain, this has been a very fun section.

At one point we spotted a barred owl flying. It landed on a branch and then went down to the ground where it was poking around.

We took a break at a picnic area with a pavilion, water and flush toilets.

The terrain became quite rocky and after seven days straight of bigger hiking days, my feet, ankles and knees had a hard time toward the end of the day.

Lost and Found secured us a stealth site. These have been few and far between. Dispersed camping is allowed in the park, but FarOut and AWOL’s guide do not suggest sites.

Longest foot bridge on the AT
Berries are arriving!
Packing out a crowler from Devil’s Backbone Brewery.
Rock formations continue to abound!
Amazingly gnarled trees!

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