Lollygagging through Shenandoah

I hope you all had lovely Memorial Day weekends. I know I did, what with hanging out in Shenandoah National Park and all. I’m going to tell you all about it, but first let me back up to Waynesboro.

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About a mile outside of town, Lentil and I were hiking along and were greeted by a clean shaven man sitting by a stream. After exchanging the standard greetings, Lentil did a double take because he realized this guy was his friend Sharky. Sharky thru hiked the trail last year, and last Lentil saw him, he was sporting a thick mountain-man beard. We thought we’d be meeting Sharky at a road intersection by town, so his arrival was a cool surprise.

You’re probably wondering why I included a photo of a buffet above. Well, this isn’t just any buffet, no. This is Ming Garden in Waynesboro, which is fully stocked with enough sushi for two monster plates…and more.

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After carting us around town on errands (including some quality time at Ming Garden), Sharky was super gracious and invited Lentil and me to zero at his house. (He’s raising chickens. Aren’t they cute?)

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On the afternoon of the day we zeroed, a heavy thunderstorm came through, which was pretty awesome. It’s funny how much I’ve come to appreciate the simple pleasures of a roof when the alternative is soggy boots. Oh, and also hot tubs. Did I mention I really appreciated Sharky’s hot tub?

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The following morning we headed into Shenandoah National Park. Fair warning that from this point forward the photos are pretty random. I hate to say it, but I’m at a point on the trail that’s not as picturesque. I’m still enjoying the beauty that surrounds me; it just doesn’t seem to warrant as much photo-taking.

Before heading into the park, I had planned for four days worth of food. 100 rolling miles? Yeah, four 25s sounds about right. But when we started hiking I realized, “Wait, it’s Memorial Day weekend. It could be fun to putz around a national park. Why should I rush?” Luckily, Shenandoah is full of waysides (food stops) and camp stores to accommodate the throngs of weekenders that pass through.

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That first day out Lentil and I slack packed 20 miles to a road crossing where Sharky was generous enough to drop our packs. We then hiked the last mile to the following shelter where who did we see but Techie! As many of you know, Techie had been trailing us for over a month. Well, he had to get off trail for a graduation and decided to jump ahead to hike with us again. He plans to go back and hike the miles he missed, but in the meantime we get to enjoy his company again. 🙂

The following day Techie and I made a little side trip to one of the waysides and managed to spend over an hour sitting around people watching. I know we had some hiking to do, but they had sweet potato fries. Sweet potato fries! Need I say more? And, hey, we still managed a respectable 21 miles to the next shelter that night.

And then you know what happened? The temperature dipped to 35 degrees. At the end of May. A week after I’d sent my winter gear home. Blissful, the ridge runner we came across at the shelter that night (and who I’d met at a thru-hiker workshop last November), said it was the coldest Mem Day weekend she’d experienced in 25 years. And my sleeping pad had sprung a leak, so I was sleeping flat. Awesome.

The following morning when I called the Lewis Mountain cabins and by some miracle they still had one cabin left (on a holiday weekend?!), I didn’t hesitate to snag it. Lentil, Techie, and I hiked a lazy 12 miles that day, stopping en route to take a nap, people watch, and socialize with other thru hikers in our bubble. We were joined that night by B Rocket and Chin Music in our toasty warm cabin, which made it more economical and…cozy.

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Also that evening we were fortunate enough to come across trail angel Roger, who shared fresh deli sandwiches, fruit, chips, desserts, and beverages. And here I thought I’d be eating marshmallows from the camp store for dinner.

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The rest of our five-day hike through Shenandoah proceeded in a similar vein: hike a little, lay around napping, chat up the weekenders. Since the park is built for car traffic and not foot traffic, many of the water sources were at picnic areas and other highly trafficked spots…so we had to hang out there really. And remember what I said about four days of food? Yeah, it wasn’t a problem (“Hey Boo Boo, is that a picnic basket?”).

Many of the people we came across were excited to talk to thru-hikers (I’m not sure why. From the outside looking in, hiking for 8+ hours a day seems pretty boring, right?) and happy to share food for the chance to chat (although I can’t say we charged for the conversation…). One guy thought to give me a banana, another bought me a blackberry shake, and a third offered up a six-pack of Pepsi and half a honeydew. And then there was the family passing out bottles of Gatorade. Yeah, I didn’t starve.

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Speaking of which, let me jump ahead on you a bit. I made it out of the park, stayed the night in Front Royal long enough to go to the movies for the first time in three months (the movie itself didn’t matter. I just wanted to space out in a dark theater), and hiked onto Manassas Gap Shelter the next day. That evening Progress, who thru-hiked last year, hiked up with a regular old backpack. Out of it she miraculously pulled a rotisserie chicken, half gallon of chocolate milk, a Tupperware of diced cantaloupe, cookies, and Almond Joys. I was in awe both of her generosity (thank you, Progress!) and her bottomless backpack. And don’t you worry: not a morsel made it out alive. Fatty (who is skinny), Gumby, and I (mostly Fatty and I) laid waste to the feast. It was a sight.

All of the trail magic has been wonderful. It’s amazing to me how much the AT community supports thru-hikers with gestures big and small. On the day that I hiked past the 1,000 mile mark, I was thoroughly wilting in the 90 degree heat until I came across two separate coolers on ice, the first with soda and the second with fruit and snacks. Each one provided just the energy boost (and mental boost) to keep me going to the next shelter.

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You like how I subtly threw that in there about reaching the 1,000 mile mark? Isn’t that exciting? I’ve hiked over 1,000 miles. 1,000 miles! I’m pretty excited about it. AND I made it to Harpers Ferry and got my number at the AT Conservancy HQ. I was the 274th thru-hiker to get there this year. I’m pretty stoked. And tired. And feeling a little beat up by the last few days of terrain. I think it’s time to celebrate with a weekend visit with friends and family in the DC area. Yeah.

Meandering on,

Jordana

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23 thoughts on “Lollygagging through Shenandoah

  1. Congratulations on making it to Harper’s Ferry. If you can make it to Harper’s Ferry you can make it to Katahdin. Cool, you met Sharky, Last saw him in the 100 mile wilderness on his first day of his yo-yo. Well, after a well deserved few days off, you will be itching to get back on the trail. You already know what hiking in MD is like, PA will be fast, NJ beautiful, NY a grind, CT and MA a pleasant surprise, Vermont truly is the Green Mountain state, Don’t fear NH not as bad as the stories, Maine well let’s just say you will be in good shape to take on Maine (only first section is tough),

  2. Hooray! it was so fun meeting you guys!

    I’m hitting up the same shelter tonight to bring up some trail magic again. This time, I’m attempting to pack up ice cream. Not sure if it’ll work… my bottomless bag will be mostly filled with ice, I think.

      • super! In the small world department, I recently ran into some friends of Hufflepuff on Monhegan Island (feel free to read my wordy post on our weekend over there) who were quite excited to be texting her at that moment, and found that she did meet you and Lentil. I couldn’t remember trail names for others you have traveled with. It was fun to connect with others who are enjoying teh trip vicariously.

  3. Jordana, It was GR8 to meet you on the trail. Our little group of volunteers built 65 stone steps on the blue blaze trail down to an interesting columnar basalt formation that’s about 1/4 mile from where we ran into you and Fatty. We followed that project by building a winding stair on the AT in the central part of the park. Ran into Don’s Brother on the last project. I should have a blog post on our work up later today at http://jfetig.com Have a great hike. Will follow you to the end. Sisu’14

  4. congrats! i think one question a lot of us are wondering about, though…you’ve hiked 1000 miles and still haven’t told us your trail name!

  5. Thanks so much for the update. Love your posts. Congratulations on making 1000 miles! Enjoyed all your pics. How about adding a pic of yourself on the trail?

  6. Congrats on the 1,000 mile mark. I’ve been lurking on your blog since shortly before you set out. I used to do quite a bit of hiking when I lived in California but haven’t done any since I moved to Virginia Beach six years ago. You inspired me to get up off my ass for the Memorial Day weekend and do something. We stayed in a cabin close to Sherando Lake which is not far at all from Waynesboro. I hiked up the Crab Tree Falls trail which had a great waterfall view. I ended up going on further until I intersected with the AT and hiked up it a little ways to the Priest. I met a few thru-hikers and had a good conversation. Thanks again for the inspiration.

  7. So, do you remember this…..”When we got home, after hiking for four hours in on/off thunderstorms, my friend (and roommate) April declared, “I’ve never been so excited to take a shower in my life as I am right now. That’s how I know that hiking the A.T. is not for me.” To which I replied, “Now take that feeling of excitement and multiply it by five days in the woods. Wouldn’t that be amazing?” I think so.”

    Isn’t It AMAZING! and it just keeps getting better.

  8. Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive, almost heaven. I have a picture of my kids there when they were five-ish, now they’re married, kids, etc., etc., but we still carry on like they’re kids. Never lose the child inside. When do you expect to hit Hawk Mountain? If interested contact me at jim.brennansr@gmail.com or on http://www.rite2run.wordpress.com I’ll bring Cliff Bars, GatorAde, (or Guinness,) or whatever. I hike Hawk Mountain and Delaware Water Gap this year. You are in for a treat. Stay well, safe and dry.

  9. I continue to love your stories! It is so nice to hear that people are SO generous. I would be chatting up thru-hikers if I was on a weekend getaway. AND 1000 miles! You inspire me Jordana! Keep going strong!

  10. I wondered if you knew the beautiful circlet of leaves? It looks like a growing bouquet! The other things you write about are so interesting, too. Thanks for sharing your road, I don’t always comment but I view often!

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