The A.T. Runs through the Shenandoah National Park. All hikers look forward to it, and I’m not quite sure why. I think they have heard rumors about the waysides where they have a grill to get burgers and the legendary Blackberry Milkshakes. There are also Campgrounds, a lodge and a few expensive restaurants. All of the above are usually about a half mile off trail, which means that you have a half mile to walk back. Other than these things, the trail in the Shenandoahs is just more green tunnel, IMHO. The rocks also began increasing through the latter half of the park. Don’t get me wrong…there were some very beautiful views, and the woods were peaceful. Also, everyone’s perspective is different, too, and that is okay.
The shelter spacing is strange through the Shenandoahs. You can either do 12 or 13 miles, or 20-23 miles. The terrain was very jungle-like. The word, “thicket” kept coming to mind. It really wasn’t conducive to stealth camping due to all of the underbrush.
I just bit the bullet, and did fewer miles, rather than kill myself. I tried to look at it as a time to rest. I still had one 19.5 mile day, and the slackpack I did from Waynesboro knocked out 20 miles, and one day’s worth of food I didn’t have to carry. 5 1/3 days worth of food was still excruciatingly heavy!
I stayed at one Campground, which was nice. Someone asked me why a thru hiker would pay to stay in a campground, when you can camp anywhere along the trail. (He was a hammocker.) For me, it is the flush toilets, the flat tent site, not having to filter water, the camp store with sodas and snacks, security, and a shower. I had to pay $1.50 for a five minute shower but it was very hot and very worth it!
I stopped by several waysides in the park. Since I had shorter days than I normally do, I took my time, charged my phone in the bathroom, washed my face and hands, and sat at a picnic table to eat my burger and fries. The weather was very nice during my time in the park, which made hanging out very nice!
At one wayside, I tried a Blackberry Milkshake. I felt like I had to at least try one since I have heard so much about them. It was pretty darn good–better than I was expecting, but I probably wouldn’t shell out $5.00 for another one.
I think another draw for the park is the wildlife. It was pretty tame! The deer weren’t much afraid of humans, and I even saw some rabbits. There are lots of bears in the park as well. Every day, someone would either ask if I had seen the bear I passed (I usually missed it) or they would warn me of one up ahead. I only saw two bears while I was in the park. It ran away from me. I didn’t have to scare it off.
Almost all of the shelters had signs warning of bear activity. There were Bear poles at each shelter to hang our bags; however, one morning I went to take my bag off the pole and I saw a bag on the ground. There was one on the pole that had a rip in it with some of the contents on the ground! Some were speculating that a raccoon got it, but that night I kept having realistic dreams that something was outside of my tent. I yelled out three times that night. Embarrassing.
I didn’t think the Shenandoahs were ‘easy’, nor did I think Virginia as a state was ‘easy’. I enjoyed my time in Virginia much more than on my last thru hike. I am feeling so much better at this point than I did on my last hike. I’m grateful for that, and it has really helped me to enjoy my hike more.
I passed out of the park with little fanfare. There was only a sign indicating the park boundary that I almost missed!
It took me 5 1/2 days to get out of the park and into Front Royale, VA. I was more than ready for a shower!