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

Henry David Thoreau

Another Kind of Trail Angel and Following the Evidence

Friday and Saturday
August 14 and 15, 2015                                                                              Previous Post:
Big Meadows Campground                                                                         Hidden Away - Hazel Falls and Cave 
Shenandoah National Park Virginia


IMPORTANT NOTE:  My SIL Carol has not been able to comment from IE on her computer for some time now and can’t figure out what is happening.  If you have had this problem please let me know at RVDreamlife@gmail.com.  If you’ve had this problem and fixed it I’d love to know how.  I hate to think that there are people who would comment but can’t.  I LOVE my commenters.  Those comments keep me posting.  





Friday was one of those lost days.  When I turned my computer on it gave me dire messages of doom.  It’s a 7 year old Dell Latitude E6500 and and because I bought it while I was working, it was top of the line and still serves me very well.  I rebooted it and it came up fine but I thought I’d better heed the warning.  The message seemed serious and I hadn’t backed it up in a while so I thought I’d just get out one of my three back up drives and back it up on the one marked laptop back ups.  No dice.  Already full.  I won’t bore you with the details of going through old back ups and trying to determine if this one or that one could/should be removed and then finding out that the older Western Digital Passport just wasn’t big enough for this job.  My largest back up is full of pictures.  I know I could store them somewhere else but frankly I don’t trust clouds or anything.  I’ve had too many bad experiences with google and others when things just disappeared.   SO I spent most of a lost Friday swapping things around and swearing that if I were closer than 45 miles to a town I’d just buy another back up drive.  I was close to tearing my hair out.

The only fun thing was watching these girls walk down the road with their blown up mattresses back to their campsite from the bathhouse, which has the only electrical outlet.  Seems the girl in the front tried walking both ways to see which one she preferred.   Yes that was the highlight of my day.  Pretty sad huh?   Yes it is a very tough life I lead.







Saturday was much improved by getting outside. 

When we get to the spot on the AT we are going to hike from today, there are already many cars in the parking lot at 9am, but of course it is Saturday.  We never hike park trails, only the much less used AT on week-ends and this is why.  The reason for the cars becomes clear when we read the trail sign. We are in the parking lot of the Overall Run Falls.  It is definitely a trail I want to hike but like Hazel Falls, which is also not on the AT, we will do it during the week.



Today we’re hiking South from the blue arrow at the top of the map to the one at the bottom.  The AT ,in yellow, and the Skyline Drive, in red, cross each other twice in that time.  This hike will take us very near to the Mathews Arm Campground, one of the PATC Cabins  and the Elkwallow Wayside.

We start out right away with a blackberry snack. 





It’s clear from the first mile or so that either we are the first ones on this trail today or the spiders immediately build back all the webs that other people also unknowingly walk through and have webs sticking to their faces and hands.  After a couple of these I begin to swing my stick to clear out the webs before I walk through them.   Even then I don’t get them all as is evidenced by the hitchhiker on my hat whose web I guess I walked through.  Do you see him?





When the sun is shining on the webs, we can see them and avoid them but otherwise we don’t know until we feel those web strands somewhere.





We find another one of those Nature is Amazing things along the trail.  Look at this tree.  You’d think with a hole clear through it, it would be a snag.



But it’s not, it has a strong trunk and a wide canopy.


We find a nice outcropping with a bit of a view to the west.  They are definitely the blue ridges today and hazy smoky too.






First time I’ve seen these on the trail.  Love the colors but can’t find an identification.



Shortly we see our first sign that today may be another lucky bear day.  What does it say about us that big poop is exciting?



We come to our first crossing of Skyline Drive. I get a picture of David coming out of the woods amid giant plants over his head.  He gets one of me crossing the drive and re-entering the woods.






When we come to this huge amazing tree all I can think about is being in some spooky forest at night and having those arms reach out and grab you.  Look at the size of this thing.  Looks  like a Disney creation.




I’m thinking about giant tree arms when David finds a pretty funny note.   Nice to warn people but 20 feet which way?  North or South?




We meet Ginger Willow who is just the happiest most bouncy person I’ve met in a long time.  She says she is walking all the trails in the park.  All 500 miles.  She lives in Northern Virginia (NoVa) and works in D.C. as a Government Contractor.  She comes hiking in the park every week-end and gets on the road at 4am to be on the trail by 6am on Saturday.  Often she can work a 4 day work week so she can come on Friday.  She says on the week-ends she can’t sleep the night before she comes up she’s so excited to get back in the woods.  She was just a darling and so full of joy and love for the outdoors.   I’d like to adopt her!

IMG_3658 Ginger Willow


Soon after meeting Georgia and her infectious enthusiasm, we come to the turn off for the Range View cabin.  I’m waiting for David to join me when another young hiker comes up.  He’s walking from Harper’s Ferry to Georgia.  He says he’s done Georgia already and wanted to do Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountain National parks .   He’s from Florida and took a plane into D.C. and a train to Harper’s Ferry where it was very easy to get on the A.T.   So he’s hiking Georgia again since it will be closer for someone to come pick him up than if he stopped after North Carolina and Tennessee.  He too obviously likes to hike.





We leave our young hiker and turn down the path to the cabin which is also full of tall flowers over my head.






David of course finds the food on the path.  In this case it’s an abandoned apple orchard.  He tries one of the little apples and says “not bad”. But his face says it’s pretty tart.





He finds elderberries too but they aren’t ripe yet either.   Too bad, I like elderberries better than he does. 





Range View is a really cute little cabin.  I can tell right away it is not an original mountain cabin by the outdoor chimney and fireplace.  It was built in 1933 by the PATC with the help of local residents.  It was given to Shenandoah National Park when it was established.  The PATC is still the concessionaire for the cabin and rents it out.



I don’t realize it is occupied until I walk out in front of it and see the dutch door open.  I quickly snap my pictures and hurry away so as not to disturb the renters.


This is a really sweet path to and from the cabin.


There are always such interesting things along the AT.  Today we find what I consider the permanent trail angels.  Trail angels are legendary on long distance hiking trails.  They are people who show up with food or rides or other help for thru-hikers.  They began on the AT of course but also are now on the PCT and other trails. 

The trail angels we meet are not folks who help occasionally or only during “the season”.  These folks are from the PATC (Potomac Appalachian Trail Club) trail maintenance group.  They are the ones who throughout the year inspect and repair the trails.  Nothing is more important to a thru hiker than a well maintained trail. 

We come upon them doing their work.  They tell us there are 3 crews out today from D.C., NoVa and the local area.


We thank them all for the work they do year in and year out.  All volunteers.  It’s wonderful!



Not long after, right on the trail again.  Signs that the bear passed this way.  Oh boy!





We reach the second crossing of Skyline Drive.  When I get to the drive I can see that it is within walking distance of the Elkwallow Wayside.  Other hikers coming from South to North are headed that way.   Me too!





It doesn’t take long before I am back at the trail sign ready to continue with my Blackberry shake in hand.  Now THIS is the way to hike the AT.





We continue on seeing rocks that look like they have toes, butterflies that are yellow and green and more evidence that someone big and furry has walked this trail before us.   I try not to get too excited.












I have no idea what this is but there were several of them and they were really lovely.  It sort of looked like a nut casing rather than a gall.   Anyone recognize it?




We take a break for lunch on a convenient log but of course I’m not very hungry, milkshakes will do that to you, so I read about the section of the AT we are hiking today.





Trail markings are not the only thing that confirms a bear has been ahead of us.  There are also many examples like these of downed rotting trees torn up in the search, we assume, for grubs.






I’m sorry to report that all we ever see is more and more evidence.  We never see the bear.  I try not to be disappointed.  BTW, bear poop does not smell.







When we arrive at the parking lot and see the cars everywhere, in the lot and along the road in both directions, we are sure glad we had such a nice quiet hike on the Appalachian Trail.






We stop on the way back for another lovely Blue Ridge view on this beautiful day. 7.42 miles and 19,078 steps.  It’s a wonderful life we live!  




  1. What a great place to hike. I really thought we had a good chance to see a bear with all that evidence of bear traffic, but maybe next time. Isn't it wonderful to find so many new amazing surprises no matter how many trails you hike. It seems there is always something else you have never seen. I love it!

  2. I think those trail angels are wonderful people, they truly are angels!


  3. I think the flowers are purple asters. If you open the little brown ball, there are hair-like spines in it, if it's what I think it is. I'm enjoying your posts, even though I have never commented before. I also live near C'ville, but not able to get out and about. Glad you do! http://virginiawildflowers.org/?s=purple+aster

  4. I hope you do get to see a bear......at a safe distance. I'd feel better if you got a close up of it through your zoom lens. Your pictures make me feel like I am hiking with you.

  5. Since I was usually on the trail by 7:00 am, I very often was the first person on the day to deal with the webs. It was always easy to find a leafy branch on the ground and I would just wave it ahead of me. That took care of the webs.

  6. Oh well, bear scat is almost as exciting as the bear itself! It's that anticipation thing!

    Like you, Iam amazed that tree with the hole in the trunk was still alive! Neat!

  7. Another spectacular day on the trail:) Finding bear scat is so exciting!

  8. I hate spiders! Can't stand having webs on my face either :) I did not know about Trail Angels, but it makes sense. Very cool!

  9. I wonder how trees like that survive, with holes in the trunk.

  10. Thank you for educating me all about bear poop. My life is now complete! :cD

  11. You'd think the weavers would tire of remaking their webs on a well-used trail......they sure are pretty. Can't imagine that tree continuing to thrive, what a cool find! Enthusiastic young hikers and devoted trail angels seem like the best sort of folks to meet out in nature. I think the bear was leading you on, snickering in the bushes as you went by :-))))

  12. Looks like fun. We see a fair amount of bear poop on our drive. Even though it doesn't small, I'm glad he didn't leave any in my garage. That tree with the hole in it and the "Disney" tree were pretty interesting.

  13. I'm always happy to see a bear and rarely hike in my Smokies without seeing some signs they are around, but PLEASE make certain all the timber rattlers and any other sort of slithering beats have exited the park before I get there. Not a fan at all! These trails looks so lovely.

  14. I had an interesting encounter with a young (I assume) coyote while doing the bird count this morning. Maybe not as exciting as a bear, but wonderful all the same.

  15. The fact that each trail always brings something new is what makes hiking so addicting. I really thought you were going to see another bear!! Most hikers are such happy people...love that you met some great hikers today. Yes, it is a WONDERFUL life!!!

  16. I so want to get my feet on the AT... I've been looking on the map and I think it crosses route 50 near Winchester maybe when I stop at my daughters I can talk them into walking on for a little bit with me.... they are not the outdoor type but maybe they'll do it we'll see.... it's so nice meeting all those young people doing this.... hiking

  17. You continue to find such gorgeous hikes on the AT -- I'm excited about hiking the trail because of your posts! That little rock cabin is so cute. If we didn't have our home on wheels that would be the kind of place we would enjoy staying. Glad you got outdoors and far away from frustrating computer problems.

  18. Computer glitches are the worse and always happen at a bad time. Like there's a good time for that. Love to "see" spider webs but usually let someone else walk ahead to clear the trail of them. That holey tree is amazing and so is the scary Disney tree. Nice scat, which of course I take pics of also. To bad you didn't see the bear. Don't know if I'd want to hike it all but then it might take a lifetime grazing along the way. And with milkshakes even longer. Yet another beautiful hike.

  19. You are the only person I know other than" Georgia," who had hiked almost all the trail in Shenandoah. And also the person I know who always finds joy in anything along the trail.
    I too would be excited when I see the bear scat on the trail. At least its telling me they are around. In our hikes there only Steve saw a bear, i was too far behind him that I missed it.

  20. Great hike! Neat to meet some young people who are so excited about the outdoors - I think hiking the AT on the weekend is a good idea given the popularity of other hikes in the Park. Impressive spider webs - too bad they cannot learn not to build their homes ON the trails. Too bad there was no bear to be seen after all that tell-tale evidence - still lovely hike on a lovely day.


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