I had the great opportunity to hike with fellow White Blazer Mercy from the Florida Keys in what began an eight day adventure section hiking Shenandoah National Park. I must admit I was a bit apprehensive as this would be the first time I would carry all my own gear. What follows is a day by day journal of the events, divided into north, central, and south districts.
October 19, 2008
From Rt 522 to Tom Floyd Wayside; 3.1 miles
Mercy and her yellow lab (I call her Mercy Dog) arrived around 1 PM where we visited and had lunch before our journey to the start of our week-long hike into SNP. Began at Rt 522 near Front Royal where the trail crosses. Began the steady climb up the ridge and I got my first taste of hiking alongside a dog - new for me! Arrived at the shelter area by 4:30 PM where we each found a tentsite, though mine ended up in a pile of rocks. Mercy offered up some hot chocolate in her heavy duty Nalgene container which was good as the temp began to fall and all I had for supper was a PB and J sandwich. We had a small fire and talked until hiker bedtime at 8 PM. I had a cold night that night and was wishing for my 15 degree Marmot bag.
From Tom Floyd Wayside to Gravel Springs Hut; 10.5 miles
Day began early before the sun rose with the change of season. Hiked up to a view at Possum Rest then went to obtain our backcountry camping permits. Interesting walking with a dog seeing to her needs. Saw beautiful views from Compton Peak and the Marshalls. Mercy takes it real easy on the uphills so I went ahead and met up with her at look-outs or other points along the way. We arrived at Gravel Springs at 4 PM to set up our tents. Met one flip flopper who was about ready to finish his hike of the entire AT at Waynesboro. His name was Yogi.
From Gravel Springs to Pass Mtn Shelter; 13.5 miles
Mercy elected not to go over Hogback Mtn and walked the Skyline Drive for the first few miles while I headed over the modest mtn. Met up with two elderly ladies section hiking the AT and enjoyed chatting with them. Met up with Mercy at Rattlesnake Pt overlook where she exclaimed her delight at seeing not one but two bears on her journey. Continued on toward Elkwallow when Mercy spotted her third bear of the day and my first - and young adult foraging. Arrived at Elkwallow Wayside for hamburgers. Then a tough climb out of the gap with my hamstring bothering me after a slight pull the previous night while trying to get out of my tent (!). Had a tough time mentally for a while until I saw the central section of the park displayed before me and found courage in such splendid scenery. I continued on to Pass Mtn shelter while Mercy nursed growing blisters. There I set up my tent. Some section hikers were in residence at the shelter. Made up my turkey dinner courtesy of the ATC cookbook and really liked how it turned out. Quite tasty. Cold windy night and my tent blew down once.
Part II in next blog.