Day 55, 5/30: M-1011, Blackburn AT (18mi)

The morning started with this ominous sign:

The elevation profile…plus it was really rocky terrain:
Only occasionally did I get a decent view.

A big milestone today; 1000 miles completed.

This is the very cool Bears Den hostel owned by the ATC. It was a nice place to take a break out of the sun and meet some friends who drove from 2hrs away to hike with me!

My longtime friend Gus and his wife Christy hiked a great 7mike section of trail with me on a warm steamy day.

Yet another Milestone, Entering West Virginia.
The Blackburn AT center is owned by the ATC and very hospitable to Thru Hikers. There’s a fantastic screened in porch with lots of Adirondack chairs, a solar shower, cold sodas..what more could a hiker want?

How about a cute little cabin with free bunk space

Day 54, 5/29: M-993, Rod Hollow (24mi)

The day started by grabbing a hot breakfast in Front Royal and then hitching 4 miles back to the trail.

These gorgeous purple flowers lined much of the trail to start the day.

This tree growth reminded me of a rhinoceros head.

The Denton Shelter is one of the coolest on the trail so far, it even has a solar shower…

and a deck with Adirondack chairs.

and a stocked trail magic box (granola bars 🙂

Some more Trail Magi…giving out cold sodas on a warm steamy day hit the spot! The truck is called the Hiker Gypsy Bus.

I was a bit offended that the AT was given a Green Circle rating…but this section of trail was actually quite easy: smooth and flat.

The 24 miles wouldn’t have been too demanding if I had started hiking before 10am. Other than a short stop at the Denton shelter I went almost nonstop until a park bench in the middle of the trail called my name at 5pm after 5 hours straight without taking my pack off. I had an early dinner there before the last 6+ miles to camp. I got in about 7:45pm and was ready to be off my feet.

Day 53, 5/28: M-969, Front Royal, VA (14mi)

Temps were very mild this morning and heated up quickly. An hour after this stream crossing I probably would have just jumped in.

Kind of looks like they are caging us hikers from the rest of the world like zoo animals.
Watch the Hikers in their native habitat and see what happens when a Snickers bar is thrown over the fence…it can get ugly!”

This is 3-Way he’s from Aurora, Colorado and just finished a one week section hike through Shenandoah.

3-Way has been section hiking the AT one week at a time for ~10 years and picks up where he leaves the trail every year (970 miles completed). He figures another 10 years and he will reach Katahdin. In my view, this is a whole extra level of dedication and determination

Even more impressive is that he’s doing the same thing simultaneously with the PCT and the CDT. He’s finished 1700 miles of the PCT and almost half of the CDT. So this is how you become a Triple Crowner while raising kids and supporting a family. I’m hoping 3-Way will start blogging about his effort…I’d love to follow the rest of his adventure.

Day 52, 5/27: M-955, Gravel Springs, (28mi)

Temps were quite mild this morning and a great setting to start the day.

5 miles down the trail was the Skyland Lodge and Restaurant. They served up a great breakfast with a spectacular view.

More great views.

I realized I hadn’t done a selfie in a while.

My new favorite flower…but not sure what it is.

Love seeing signs like this…

Her son is hiking the AT and came through this area earlier. She drove all the way from Richmond, VA to serve up trail magic. The Krispy Kremes were a hit along with cold drinks on this steamy day.

I wallowed a little too long at the Elk Wallow Wayside…love those Blackberry Milkshakes.

Unfortunately, all that wallowing got me caught in a big rain shower 20 minutes before tonight’s shelter. Not the best way to end a 28 mile day with wet boots stomping through mud…but not the worst either. This was the first time I’ve experienced warm rain. Felt pretty good after a hot day. Luckily there was room in the shelter as most folks had already set up tents.

I saw several more bears today. One of them kind of held me up for a bit because he didn’t runoff like most do after seeing me. He just continued to graze on leaves…and a bit to close to the trail for me to pass, so I hung out and watched (hope to upload a short video).

Day 51, 5/26: M-927, Rock Spring Hut, (25mi)

Some great views to start the morning from High Rock Mtn.

I saw 3 separate black bears this AM. This pic is a screenshot from a video I shot. I will try to post it from town.
Far more terrifying than the back bears were these large rat snakes I walked under without realizing !

It’s nice to use the umbrella for the sun for a change.

The vista near the Meadows Camping area.

Gorging at one of the many Shenandoah roadside eateries.

Their famous Blackberry milkshake.

Lounging in the grass under a shade tree 20 miles into a 25 mile day.

Looks like it was shaping up to be a good sunset.

Home for the night…drying out my sweaty/smelly shirt from the gutter. It was a warm humid day…quite the change from a couple days ago.

Sunset from the shelter.

A cabin you can rent in the park (unoccupied tonight) made for good sunset watching and journaling location.

Day 50, 5/25: M-904, High Top Shelter (22mi)

A gorgeous blue sky morning in Shenandoah from the top of Black Rock Mtn.

One of the many conveniences of crossing Skyline Drive so many times…a fat stack of pancakes for 2nd breakfast.

More great views today.

There was a fairly large fire that came across the AT just the other month. Amazingly, the grass is already starting to come back.

We passed mile 900 today…only 1300 more to go :-/

Pretty little white flowers lining the trail.

The terrain and hiking tread has definitely been easier through Shenandoah. I never thought a 22 mile day would come easy but I even stopped for pancakes and got in by 4:30. I typically would have gone further but it’s hard to find a decent campsite away from the shelters and the next shelter was 10+ miles away. So a relaxing evening in camp it was. There are always lots of interesting folks around to talk to as well.

Day 49, 5/24: M-882, Black Rock Shelter (21mi)

The best way to start the day is a make your own waffle station!

We finally have some blue skies. I love these tractor seats staring at the view of the radio communication towers.

We entered Shenandoah national Park today. A couple grassy balds as we weave in and out of the woods

LK enjoying lunch under a shade tree along skyline Drive.

Shenandoah has some interesting bear hanging apparatus at the campground and shelters.

Day 48, 5/23: M-861, Waynesboro, Q-Inn (3mi)

This is what a Zero Day looks like…bliss!

It was too much work finding a barber

Not too bad for a Self Performed haircut

Although it’s called a Zero Day for doing zero trail miles I did a lot of stuff today (not just a haircut) and about 3 miles just around town. An abbreviated list of today’s chores: Post office, grocery store, pay bills, clean gear, plan next 100+ miles, book lodging for next Sat when we exit Shenandoah (Memorial Day weekend is busy!) , deal with Apple tech (gps not working), and sign closing docs for a refi on the house.

Day 47, 5/22: M-861, Waynesboro (19mi)

If you look closely at the tree line you can see a bunch of little tents lined up. This is about 100yds from the brewery.

The road back up to the trail was little lonely at 7am on a Sunday. After about 10 cars (45mins) we caught the 5 mile ride back.

We hiked right back into the clouds.

Ever so briefly we got an opening in the clouds, and then the rain came, and the mud.

Just to give you an idea of what the guide book looks like… in bold on the right is the mileage completed Northbound. On the far right is the elevation, and the squiggly line is the elevation profile.

Looking forward to a full days rest in Waynesboro!