Yesterday at Devils Backbone Brewpub, Switchback, his brother, and Ounce came down from Skyland Resort and together we devised a plan for getting back on the trail today. Since Enterprise Car Rental is closed today, and I’m the slowest hiker in the bunch, Boo Boo is dropping me off at the trailhead and returning the car (keys in the lockbox). After dropping Switchback and Ounce of at the trailhead later in the morning, Switchback’s brother is driving to town to give Boo Boo a ride back to the trailhead. Simple, right?

To make the timing for all this work, I needed to be on the trail around 7:00, so we got up and got started early. Unfortunately, we had to leave DB before they started serving the hiker breakfast. After getting back to Waynesboro, Boo Boo and I went to a gas station with a Dunkin Doughnut sign to refuel the car. With eager anticipation, we went inside for our fill of sugary pastry delights, only to discover an empty display rack. I don’t know if it was because they don’t deliver on Sundays, or the churches had already cleaned them out, but you cannot imagine our disappointment.

Settling for a couple of frosted Honey Buns, Boo Boo drove me to the trailhead and departed to return the car. After walking across the I-64 overpass, I shortly arrived at the entrance to Shenandoah National Park (SNP). SNP is rumored to be the easiest section of the A.T., and if the trail today was representative of the rest of the park, that rumor my be true.

Unlike leaving most gaps, the trail started uphill on a smooth, gentle grade. I was carrying enough food to get me all the way to Harpers Ferry, so my pack weighed a ton, but it didn’t seem so bad because of the easy trail. The woods on the way up the mountain look like a rain forest. Everything was so green and there were ferns growing everywhere. As I got closer to the summit of Bears Den Mountain, the trail became more rocky, but it wasn’t rocky enough to really slow me down.

Appalachian Trail

Easy Climb

Appalachian Trail

Rain Forest

Just like the trail crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway prior to SNP, the trail crosses Skyline drive multiple times in SNP. The first crossing happened at Beagle Gap, where the trail led through a beautiful pasture on the way to Little Calf Mountain. A weather front was approaching, which is not good news, and I got to take a picture of the first shelf cloud I had ever seen. It looked pretty ominous. Near the summit of Little Calf Mountain, the trail reentered the woods which was decorated with blooming wild flowers and mountain laurel.

Appalachian Trail

Pretty But Not Good

Appalachian Trail

Flowers Everywhere

On the descent from Calf Mountain, the trail is intersected with another ugly power line running across SNP, but it was soon forgotten as I entered another section surrounded by mountain laurel. The trail crosses Skyline Drive again at Sawmill Run Overlook, where there was a nice view despite the overcast skies. The rest of my afternoon was spent walking through the flowers and enjoying my first day in SNP.

Appalachian Trail

Blight in the SNP

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Beauty in the SNP

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View from Sawmill Run Overlook

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

Before it knew it, I had hiked over 20 miles and arrived at Hightop Hut. In SNP, they call the shelters huts, and this hut is where I had prearranged with Boo Boo to stop for the night. Already in attendance were Bear Slayer, Yogi, Just Craig, and several other hikers I didn’t know. I started chatting with one of the hikers while he was hanging his food bag on the bear pole, and discovered that he is from Crestview, FL! His name is Little Bear and this is his second attempt at trying to thru-hike after becoming injured due to a fall on his first attempt.

Appalachian Trail

Food Bags on a Bear Pole

Not ten minutes after I had made my rounds and started to set up my tent, Boo Boo arrived in camp. He explained that he had been delayed getting out of Waynesboro until nearly 10:00 am. After doing the math, I told him that means he needs to give me a 30 minute head start for every five miles of trail in order for us to arrive at the end together. 🙂 He told me that he would try to sleep in a little tomorrow.

Appalachian Trail

Home for the Night