Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Thirteen Thousand Steps on the Appalachian Trail

Saturday June 20, 2015                                                                                                             Previous Post Link:
Big Meadows Campground                                                                                                           Tales of a Warm Refrigerator
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia



You never know what you’ll see in a National Park Campground.  This probably isn’t a full time rig and I wonder what happens in a wind storm but you don’t have to worry about getting flooded out of your tent by the powerful rains in the mountains.  This camping set up was two sites down from us when I headed out this morning to walk north on the Appalachian Trail from Big Meadows Campground.




The Appalachian Trail runs for 2180 miles from Springer Mountain Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. 

According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, whose mission is to preserve and maintain the trail, in 2014 approximately 2500 hikers started in Georgia with the goal of hiking the entire trail straight through.  Records show that about half of those (1267) made it half way, to Harper’s Ferry West Virginia and only half of those (653) made it all the way to Katahdin.

Virginia has the most AT mileage of any state through which the trail passes, more than a quarter 550.3 miles.  Of those miles 101 are in Shenandoah National Park. 

Since the trail goes right by the campground and we often see through hikers stopping off here especially this time of year when they are hoping to get to Harper’s Ferry by July 4 which is the standard last call date if you want to make it to Katahdin before the snow flies.


For years I had a map of the full trail in my bedroom on the wall right by the bed.  It was a dream of mine to hike the whole thing.  But I never could manage to put my regular life aside for the months it would take to do it.

Today I’m just going out to enjoy it and walk a bit and then turn around and walk back.  If we’re around here for the entire summer perhaps I’ll manage to hike all 101 miles in little bits and pieces, back and forth who knows.

I walk from the campground to the amphitheater and head north.

It’s a lovely easy trail here in Big Meadows and shortly I go right by the campground.  I couldn’t find a direct link to the trail from any public access there but now I see where to get off when I return so I don’t have to back track to the Amphitheater.

The last of the mountain laurel is in bloom along the trail.  I’m sorry to see it ending its spring blossoming.  I have really enjoyed seeing it on nearly all the trails in the park.


As I leave the campground area, the trail begins to climb and soon there are views to the west of the Alleghany Mountains.




No wonder they call these the Blue Ridge.



Bird song fills the air.  I recognize the wood thrush, the Eastern Wood pewee, the vireo and the towhee but the only one I see is this little sparrow.  He looks like another song sparrow but I thought their habitat was more thickets, fields and edges rather than woodlands.  Maybe Judy will set me right on this one too.





The color of these fungi really stands out on the little creek bank. Or ‘crick’ as it’s known here in the mountains.




Fungi really are amazing.  They can show up anywhere in all colors, shapes and sizes, on rocks and trees.



The local branch of the ATC maintains the trails in Virginia.  They are called The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC).  They have renovated some of the old time cabins in the park and rent them out for over night stays.  We hope to hike to or by some of them while we are here.



The Appalachian Mountains are the oldest mountains in the country.  I always think of them as soft and round as opposed to the jagged Rockies.  These mountains have their rocks as well.   Plenty of them and big.




But it’s the views that people comment on when hiking the AT along the mountain spines through Virginia.   What a gorgeous day it is today!!




I have beautiful distant views as well as close at hand beauties.  All the colors are striking.








I am passed by several pairs of determined AT through hikers as I slowly wander along. I don’t stop them since I know they have a deadline to make and it is well over 100 miles from here. I say “Hi, how far are you going?” “Katahdin” is the answer. ”How many miles today?” This pair replies “18”.


I’m a few weeks too late to be able to walk through these tunnels of blooming Mountain Laurel.  I can see the spent blossoms and it’s obvious that the bushes were covered.  Walking through here would have been even more glorious.



I pick this as my lunch spot and sit on the edge looking out over the Shenandoah Valley and the far mountains in the distance.  I take one of the ‘shoes in the picture  lunch with a view’ shots that I always love on John and Pam’s blog “Oh the Places They Go”.  Love that literary reference too. 




My eye catches the little purple color almost hidden between the rocks.  The trail has many precious delights if you make the time to look closely.  That would be one thing to cause me trouble on a through hike, the daily mileage necessary.  I hate being in a hurry.  I miss too much.







Wow how about this guy?  Fringe and all. 




I’d like to come back to this  very berry spot in about a week if the bears don’t beat me to it.  The Big Meadows Lodge keeps a “bear record” on a table just inside the great room where people can write down when and where they have seen the famous black bears.  Every day there are several sightings and they are always places we’ve just “been”.  So far, no bears for us.



I really could just keep walking and walking but then how would I get back to Winnona?  I have to force myself to turn around.  It’s hard when I’d really really like to see what’s just ahead up there on the trail.




I am glad to see the Queen Anne’s Lace is in bloom here.  It’s lovely and delicate.  The carrots that we eat today were once cultivated from this plant.   It’s a sure sign of summer in this area.









I can tell I’m close to the campground when I again hear the babbling of the little stream with the orange fungi beside it.



And here’s my cut off.  The AT turns to the right, back to the Big Meadows Amphitheater and Lodge.  But I’m taking that little path up the hill and into the campground where I only have to take a dozen or so more steps before I can see Winnona.




I make it back just in time.  It starts to pour down rain about 5:00.  The folks across from us are in tents and have a fire going.  They don’t let a little rain stop their dinner.  They had spread a huge sheet of tin foil over their fire to keep the rain from drowning it.  Apparently it worked.






Late, when I go up to the Lodge to post the blog, I don’t have any bear sightings to write in the Bear Log but on the door to the outside deck I do see this gorgeous Luna Moth which wraps up my 13,000 steps AT Hike Day in a very fine way.   What a beauty.  Nature is amazing!! 


Luna Moth


I wonder how many steps those through hikers made today?


  1. Wow! All that beauty and then to come home (timing it just right not to get wet) to the icing with the luna moth waiting on you. The colors of all those flowers and the fungi - lovely!!

  2. Beautiful photos today. Hiking the AT has always been on my bucket list. I'm happy to do bits and pieces at this stage of my life! Learned some new flora from you today. :-)

  3. I've long been fascinated by the AT and PCT through hikes and have hiked many bits of the PCT. Would love to attempt one or the other, but like you, regular life got in the way and now I know my knees couldn't take it.

    That pink and white frilly fungus is wild!

  4. That bird sure looks like a female house finch to me. Definitely not a song sparrow. I always get melancholy about the AT. I sure wish I had done it when I was young and able.

  5. Nice pictures of the views! It all depends on the daily air quality, with the best views the day after a heavy overnight rain it seems. Glad to hike anywhere on the AT & sorry I was not more serious about it sooner! Wonderful to see so many who share that view on the trail. Hopefully they will grow positively from the experience.

  6. Oh wow! Luna moths are my favorite. I got a picture of one recently at Chris Greene Dog Park. Absolutely love them!Looked like a nice relaxing hike!


  7. Beautiful pic's I am reading on my lap top tonight not on phone as I have unlimited data on phone ...and I can see the pic so much better and love them...I like all the different fungi...and we call it a "crick" in NW Pa...we always went out to play in the "crick" again bringing back memories...

  8. Didn't know modern carrots were cultivated from Queen Anne's Lace. See, I always am learning new things from you! Thanks, Teach! An apple is due you from me. ;c)

  9. I am just finishing up a book on my Kindle by author Bill Bryson called 'A Walk in the Woods'. It is about his time spent hiking on the AT. Found the book to be informative, humorous, a bit edgy at times & down to earth. Bryson is one of my favorite authors. He hiked with another fellow but they didn't do the whole trail.


  10. Birds, flowers and fungi on a beautiful trail with views of the aptly named Blue Ridge. Lovely trail. And, a beautiful moth. Wow. So many miles - I would want to get north fast in this summer heat. Nice that you can take it slow...that 18 mile a day pair don't see the details you do, I'm sure.

  11. Haha, reading Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" cured me of my desire to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. The part you just hiked looks exquisitely beautiful and interesting, but Bryson describes mile after mile of nothing but dark, dense forest with no views whatsoever. I'm glad to cross that off my list, because I have way too many things on my list as it is. :-) Love your photo of the luna moth! Absolutely gorgeous.

    1. Well I can see that I am going to have to comment on the Bryson book. I have read it along with nearly every memoir written by thru hikers. Pretty sure Bryson was hiking in Virginia "supposedly" hiking that is. There is almost nothing about his account that rings true to those who have hiked it. It is funny but it isn't accurate.

    2. I've been reading Bryson since he lived in Iowa where he grew up! I love his humor, but he was just gathering info for a story when he walked on the A.T.

  12. So glad you got to hike a little of the AT!! You certainly found lots of very cool things along the way. I love the fungi, especially the red. Now you said it but I also thought it...you might want to plan two years to hike the whole AT:) Or leave you camera at home:) Haha! You had some beautiful views on your hike. Love your lunch with a view shot:) Thanks for the shout out:)

  13. Luna moth! how gorgeous it is and it even stopped by to say hello to you. Wildflowers and birds are my favorite nature to see while hiking.

  14. I was laughing to myself thinking of you trying to hike from Georgia to Maine in about 6 months, but I wasn't going to say anything. Then you said it yourself - you'd find it very difficult to keep your eye on the trail. Sometimes the journey is better than the prize though. I'd love to hike the Shenandoah, plus about 24 miles from Rte 7 to Harpers Ferry, and then I would have all of Virginia done!

  15. Those roof-top tents are very popular in South Africa, especially when camping in big cat country. Some blogger friends hiked the entire AT and just finished the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin. But I'm like you and too much a lollygag to through hike. There and backs work fine for me. Berry picking would certainly slow me down too. The luna moth is gorgeous.

  16. Love hiking the AT, but can't even begin to imagine hiking the entire thing!!! But love to get out and do sections whenever we are close. Your hike today was really wonderful...so much beauty in 13000 steps:o)) I am always amazed when we meet Thru-Hikers...they are so positive!!! The AT is not a simple walk in the woods...it is a rugged, narrow, root and rock line trail with so many steep climbs. We did 9 miles DOWN Clingman's Dome in GSMNP without the 35lb pack on our backs and were whipped for several days:o(( I appreciate seeing another section of the AT:o))

  17. Great pictures we are looking forward to hiking bit of it in Georgia. Interesting about the carrots.

  18. Those two big rocks on either side of the trail look like giant oysters. I love all the delicate flowers you find along the trail, the land of fairies and sprites that so few ever notice. Can't imagine having to power walk through all that beauty so I could say I made it to a certain spot. I'm so glad you take the time not only to see it but to capture it and share it with us. Luna is breathtaking.

  19. What a beautiful portion of the trail. You must be ecstatic to count those steps.


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