AT Happiness: The Shenandoah
After my trail diversion to visit Washington, DC I returned to the trail at Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, VA. This is the southern entrance point to the Shenandoah National Park (SNP).
I had heard a few things from other hikers about the SNP, you can carry very little food, it’s flat and there are a lot of bears.
Coming in on the southern end of the park I had my doubts about the food issue. It wasn’t til a few days in before we started regularly passing through the camp stores, waysides and lodges in the park. In fact the first camp store we came to was closed, luckily the wayside was open.
It was great to be able to get a couple of hot dogs, fries, 2 cokes and a milkshake only a couple of miles off the trail. As well as to grab a Gatorade and sandwich fixings for dinner.
We were able to do this nearly every day through the north end of the park. It provided a nice change of pace from the normal snacks and camp food we carry.
Nothing on the Appalachian Trail is easy or flat, at least not so far. Without question though some parts are flatter and easier by comparison. The SNP falls into this description. There were climbs and descents but nowhere near the level that we’d previously experienced. Also the trails in the SNP were very well marked and maintained.
Lions and tigers and bears oh my!!!! Ok we didn’t encounter any lions or tigers. However in camp each night the conversation wasn’t did anyone see a bear, it was, how many, how big and how close.
I saw my first AT bear in the SNP and heard some cubs in the brush followed by a momma bear grunting and barking at me from an uncomfortably close distance. I would argue that any bear you can hear but not see is too damn close. I hustled along the trail til she stopped a minite later.
The SNP was pretty, we had some great views and met a lot of section hikers. New faces are always fun in camp.
I would recommend the SNP section to anyone wanting a taste of thru-hiking life on the AT. I’d also recommend doing it pre-Memorial Day or post Labor Day when the weather is cooler.
All in all the SNP provided me with many happy days my friends, and hey, it’s summer, so do some hiking! It will make you happier. – Rev Kane