Rockfish Gap to Calf Mountain Shelter. 7.6 miles.
Great news, I got my replacement mattress pad in the post today, mine has had a puncture in it for several weeks meaning that overnight it deflates and I end up with my old lady bones on the ground, I’m excited about the prospect of a full nights sleep.
Coming out of town I always do a short mileage day as my pack is always at its heaviest. The terrain and trail was well behaved, I was just thankful to not be climbing directly up 4000 feet. I arrived at the shelter in great time and at the shelter was a ridgerunner, a trail warden if you will, I love listening to their stories of pure human stupidity, like people hiking the trail in flip flops or complaining because the trees are in the way!
It promises to rain tonight and for much of the day tomorrow, I’m trying to he positive about it, but it’s so hard, I understand rain is the weather of my people but I can’t like it! I will enter Shenandoah National Park tomorrow which I’m excited about, loads of nature, views and tourist stops selling burgers and milkshakes.
Calf Mountain Shelter to Blackrock Hut. 13 miles.
Around 4am there was an almighty storm, the thunder was so strong I could feel it in the ground underneath me, the rain was so heavy and loud it was oppressive and the lightning was blinding. It did not start to even let up until after 10am. I finally crawled out of my tent and was surprised to see every other hiker still in camp, when usually people are on the trail before 8am. Everybody’s gear was a wreck including mine, my ickle tent is wonderful and feels like home to me, but no backpacking tent can withstand the level of wind and rain from last night. I had no choice but to pack everything away saturated wet inside and out, my ground sheet was buried under a sheet of thick sludge and all I could do was stuff it in. The weather was dreary and rainy all day and I felt like my pack was so heavy it was holding the sky up. About 6 miles into my day at a road crossing a car pulled up, long story short, I must have looked so pathetic they ended up driving me a couple of miles up the road to get me closer to my destination, they fed me delish chocolate and I was somewhat embarrassed by my lack of cleanliness.
I had just a couple miles to the shelter and I got there seconds before another major downpour. I have to sleep in the shelter tonight as my tent is such a wreck, but the group of hikers here are funny and interesting. I feel like I am saying that more often now. Approximately 60% of hikers that started in Georgia have now dropped out, the 40% of us who are left are serious about the trail, making shelter life more bearable.
Blackrock Hut to Loft Mountain Campgrounds. 6.1 miles.
Up and out by 7:30am this morning, that’s a record for me, but also I never sleep well in shelters so I’ve was awake from the early hours. I climbed Blackrock mountain early on, which had an incredible view down the Shenandoah valley.
In the Shenandoah National Park there are proper Campgrounds you can pay to stay at. They are mostly aimed at the road travelers with big campers but they also have little tent spots as well. For 15 bucks it’s so worth it, you get a flat camp spot, a bear vault for storage so no need to throw and store your food in a tree and a picnic table to sit at, sheer luxury for a hiker. To top it all they have flushing toilets, running water and a little shop, I’m pretty sure it’s a Hilton! I was able to admire an incredible sunset right from my campsite and had a real feeling of being humbled and privileged to see it. I am going to spend a day here before meeting my good friend Fin who is coming to hike with me for a week. I’m so much looking forward to having some company.
Loft Mountain Campgrounds to Pinefield Hut. 7.1 miles.
Such a great day, I love having a hiking buddy and I’m lucky Fin is an experienced backpacker. The weather was great, the hiking was easy and we just chatted up a storm. We stumbled upon our first piece of Shenandoah wildlife in the form of a rather large rattlesnake which took us a while to work out how to get around it. We are taking it easy for the first 2 days then I’m hoping Fin will motivate me to be doing more miles in a day than I have been recently. Fin is an athletic trainer so I’m hoping she will help me with my getting stronger goal, watch this space!!
Pinefield Hut to Hightop Hut. 8.6 miles.
Another great hiking day, Fin and I are great hiking buddies, similar pace, similar routine and loads to chat about. There was a threat of rain and storms early evening so after a quick lunch at a beautiful overlook, which just so happened to be the 900 mile marker we booked it to the shelter and quickly decided to sleep in it to stay dry. The rain never really transpired to anything and there was a weird vibe with some other hikers, I definitely love my tent.
Hightop Hut to Bearfence Mountain Hut. 12.9 miles.
Woah, my first bigger mileage day in rather a long time and I have to say a brilliant trail day. The Shenandoahs have a bad rep from thru hikers because it’s busy with tourists and roads, but also because the trail is deep in a green tunnel with less viewpoints. I however have been loving it. The trail is well maintained, the terrain although very hilly is manageable, sometimes even leisurely. We got 6.4 miles in before 11:30 where we stopped at a great picnic ground for a long lunch. The sun came out and dried up all the rain so that achey, smelly hikers could hike the trail again. It’s been pretty humid recently which means when I hike my glasses steam up #glassesgirlprobs. The 6 miles after lunch were good too, but by the last mile I was feeling it. On the side trail to the shelter we saw out first bear, a cute little baby about 15ft away from us, rustling in the trees the otherside of us made us shit our pants and run, getting inbewteen a mama and baby is a sure fire way to get a bear chasing you and as Fin is a triathlete, I’m pretty sure she’s got the upper hand.
Bearfence Mountain Hut to Rock Spring Hut. 11.5 miles.
Boom, another double digit mileage day! Hiked our arses off all morning with the promise of a burger for lunch that did not disappoint. What absolute pleasure it is to hike in glorious sunshine, green all around with views to die for then get a great to try the famous Shenandoah blackberry milkshakes. I’m.worried I might get too accustomed to food that is so readily available.
From the shelter tonight there is a beautiful view down the valley where I got to watch yet another breathtaking sunset. I truly feel like I’m a better person for experiencing such beauty.
Rock Spring Hut to Byrds Nest Hut. 10.9 miles.
Another pretty big mileage day considering and I’m not going to lie, I’m feeling it, like someone poured concrete into my shoes overnight kind of feel. We had just a few miles to our lunch destination today, Skyland Resort, a fancy hotel in the middle of the Shenandoahs. I wasn’t going to let the fact that I look and smell pretty ripe stop me from getting my second hot meal on the trail. I devoured a roast chicken dinner and then needed a small nap to recover. They had great sofas in the reception area, I had completely forgotten what heaven it is to sit on soft furnishings with a supportive back to them!
The afternoon was tough but magnificent views put a pep in our step and we soon arrived at our last shelter before Fin has to go back home. Having such great company makes the miles float past.
The weather has been getting chilly at night and I usually sleep with my whole self, head included in my sleeping bag, but I smell so bad I literally can’t stand my own stink. Tomorrow we have a 4 mile quick hike into town where I will have my first shower in 10 days. I had no idea I could be so OK with being so gross.