I suppose that all good things must come to and end, and today the easiness of the trail through the Shenandoah Nation Park took a turn for the worst. Although the trail is still relatively smooth through this section, it follows a series of climbs ranging from 800 to 1,300 feet that seemed to never end. It was quite unlike what I had experienced over the past two days.

The woods, however, were still gorgeous and I was beginning to understand why they looked like a rainforest. The day was overcast with an off and on drizzle, but the cloud ceiling was still high enough to see some pretty views along the way.

Appalachian Trail

Rainforest

Appalachian Trail

View Towards Powell Gap Hollow

Appalachian Trail

Up

Appalachian Trail

View from Hightop Mountain

Appalachian Trail

More Up!

Appalachian Trail

Walking in the Clouds

By the end of the day, I was walking in the clouds under a steady drizzle. Approaching the Lewis Mountain Campground, I had a decision to make. I could either walk one more mile to join Boo Boo and Batman at the Bearfence Mountain Hut or stop at the campground for the night where there was food and beer at the campground store. OK, maybe there wasn’t much of a decision to make after all.

As I entered the campground, I asked another camper for directions to the campground store. He told me to follow the road and take the left fork, but said that I had better hurry because they were closing at 6:00 pm (it was now 5:45 pm). So doing my best impersonation of a speed walker, I sashayed down the road to beat the clock and arrived in the nick of time.

The guy running the store was very friendly and seemed in no rush to send me on my way. After chatting with him for a while, I made my purchases and walked out in the front porch where I ran into Just Craig, who was contemplating how much further he was going to walk. I told him that I was staying put so that I could enjoy hot coffee in the morning when the store reopened, and he told me that if things got really bad that it was about 80 degrees in the attached shower/restroom. I got a good laugh out of that, but filed the info away in my mind for future reference. You just never know.

The campgrounds is a self-registration area so I selected a site, stashed my (paper) bag of goodies under a picnic table, and set up my tent in the now pouring rain. After stowing my gear, I returned to the registration kiosk to register. Then the most unusual thing occurred. With my watch and cell phone safely in my tent, I’m standing in the rain trying to fill out the registration card and I have no earthly idea what day of the week or month it is. I suppose I have been on the trail long enough so that it no longer matters. So I make a best guess estimate (which in the end turned out to be correct), put the payment envelope in the slot, and returned to my tent.

Now I am warm and dry, while enjoying a ham sandwich, a bag of Fritos, and a sleeve of Reese Peanut Butter Cups, and washing it all down with a couple of Budweiser tallboys. After a hard day of ups and downs, It just doesn’t get any better than this.