Tuesday August 11, 2015 Most Recent Post:
Big Meadows Campground Great Finds on the Trail to Compton Gap and Beyond
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
On yesterday’s post Grammy asked what we take for lunch on our hikes. The answer is that depends on how long it is. If we are out early and the hike will get us back by 1:00 or so, we take snacks, usually pretzels and fruit. If it’s a longer hike we take those two plus a sandwich, usually hummus with spinach and tomato on whole grained bread. Lunch is the meal where we don’t try to be very creative. We like those 3 things and they are easy to pack and carry.
Today we begin our hike at Panorama Parking where we left off hiking on August 6th. That post on our hike from Jewell Gap to Panorama including up and over Mary’s Rock and rain showers is here if you’d like to read it to see what leads up to today’s hike.
We’re headed north this time into the northern third of the park. The trail crosses highway 211, the first major highway we’ve had to cross in hiking the AT through the park and probably the only one. It’s a 4 lane highway heading down to Luray so you have to be careful to look both ways. The highway department has a neat sign along the road just before the marked crosswalk between the two sections of the trail.
Across the road we walk on a fire road and then the trail takes a left turn and we are back in the intimate woods.
One of the things I love about the AT in Virginia is that it is both green and colorful in every section. Really wonderful to walk. Even during the height of the summer I can have a wonderful solo experience on this trail. It is not one of the big traffic trails in this National Park that had 1.14 million visitors in 2013. Of course a huge number of those never leave the overlooks and restaurants. But as I’ve shown in previous posts, the trail head parking is packed in August. So these AT section hikes are wonderfully peaceful and beautiful alternatives.
We come across two section hikers. The veteran hiker tells us that she’s done a thru hike but her friend has never been on the AT so they are out to walk the 105 miles in Shenandoah National park to give her a taste of it. Look at their feet and tell me which one is the thru hiker.
If you guessed the one wearing these shoes, you are right. I was slack jawed that she could or would hike the entire AT in these shoes. I asked her about it and she says she doesn’t like shoes so she just wants something on the bottom of her feet. You can imagine that I had visions of broken ankles. The amazing things you see and learn on the AT.
When we come to a nice rocky over look, we decide it’s the perfect place for lunch.
David checks for a good flat spot to sit and I set up the timer for the lunch shot.
These serve to remind us what we looked like on this day in this place.
Since I couldn’t take the lunch shot from behind with both of us in it to get the view, this one of David will show it.
The terrain on each hike is quite varied - the ups, the flats, the downs, the rocky, the pine needle covered, the soft humus paths.
I’m walking along the this section of the trail when I hear a snap. I look up and the highlight of the day is right there. I stop instantly, dead in my tracks. He looks up. I take pictures. He looks down, he looks up, he wanders off slowly. I just LOVE that they live here and I can walk in their neighborhood and perhaps be lucky enough to see them.
Isn’t he just GRAND!
The bad part of this is that David was enough behind me that he didn’t get here in time to see the bear. I thought if I stood still long enough, the bear might stay and David might walk up although that probably would have been enough to send the bear hurrying off.
Bears see as well as we do but they are nearsighted like me. That’s probably why the bear and I stood for a bit and looked at each other until he thought there wasn’t anything there or he got bored with me. So it’s important not to move when you do see them and not to make noise or hike too fast if you want to see them. David was hiking just a little too slowly.
It’s pretty hard for anything to fully engage my attention on the rest of the hike. The rocks are huge and incredible.
We meet another hiker who is out on a section hike from Pennsylvania. She and her husband were section hiking up from Springer to Harper’s Ferry this year when “his back went out” as she put it. So they went home so he could have medical attention and it’s turned out that he cannot carry a pack anymore. So he is her trail angel. He brings her to a drop off point and comes back some time later, neither David nor I can remember how many days she’s out before he picks her up. She wants to finish their hike but she seemed very happy, almost eager, to stop and chat with us.
The reindeer grayish Thorn Antler Lichen is lovely there above the bright green moss.
An abundance of mushrooms line the paths growing in interesting combinations and places. There is one with a slug walking around on top which isn’t surprising given all the rain we’ve had. There is even one that looks like the skull from the pirates’ skull and crossbones. At least it does to me.
But even with all these wonderful things to attract my attention on the rest of the hike, that bear is still taking up nearly all the space in my mind and is responsible for the giant grin on my face.
He has no idea how happy he made me just by being out there doing what he does on this Tuesday in August. You just never know what you’ll see following those white blazes on the Appalachian Trail.