The curse of Grayson Highlands State Park is still following me. Do you you remember? I was the first thru-hiker in history to walk through that park and not see a wild pony. Today I exited Shenandoah National Park without seeing a bear the entire time I was in the park. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a picture of a bear that they took in the park, but not me. Some people saw multiple bears. Some people saw bears walking down Skyline Drive. How could I possibly be the first thru-hiker in history to walk the entire length of SNP and not see a bear? I saw a lot of deer, but not a bear. I can only take comfort in the fact that I will see a bear as I walk by it when I get to New York. It is in a cage.
Batman took off early this morning like he was on fire. Boo Boo and I followed him about an hour later but with a big climb starting the morning, I was soon walking by myself. The weather continued to be beautiful and I was rewarded for the climb with a nice view on the way up South Marshall Mountain. The trail became more rugged as I climbed North Marshall Mountain but the view from the summit was superb.
As I started descending, the trail crossed Skyline Drive three more times and passed through some lovely mountain laurel stands until I exited the park around noon (without seeing a bear). The nature of the trail immediately changed in the lowlands and eventually started running parallel to a tall fence for some distance. I believe the area on the other side of the fence is some sort of zoological park operated by the Smithsonian Institute. It eerily reminded me somewhat of Jurassic Park and I expected a Velociraptor to come running up at any moment.
After a walking down a long boardwalk, I arrived at US 522 and found Boo Boo enjoying some trail magic. I don’t know who is responsible for leaving this trail magic but I was awesome! It included energy bars, pretzels, candy, peanut butter and crackers, strawberries, and bananas. Thank you mystery trail angel!
Shortly after Boo Boo left, a trolley arrived at the adjacent parking area and I realized that we could have had an easy ride to Front Royal, VA for some real food. Oh well. Instead, I put a handful of Smarties in my pocket and continued on my way.
There is a 1,000 foot climb from US 522 and I attribute my successful completion of that climb to those Smarties. It started with a nice, smooth wooden walkway but soon deteriorated into a mass of rocks and roots. After finally reaching the summit, it was an easy descent to the Jim & Molly Denton Shelter where I reconnected with Boo Boo and Batman.
As soon as I arrived, Batman walked up to me, phone in hand, and told me he had something to show me. I told him that if it was a bear picture, I didn’t want to see it, so he put his phone back into his pocket. Later, however, I did take a look and he told me that he saw the bear shortly after leaving Gravel Springs Hut. Everyone has a bear picture except me.
The Jim & Molly Denton Shelter is one of those “destination” shelters because of its unique features. Not only is the shelter itself very nice, with its large porch area and benches, but it also has a solar shower, horseshoe pits, and a separate picnic pavilion. Tonight it also has dozens of day hikers here for the start of Memorial Day weekend. They have monopolized the shower, have their gear spread out all over the porch area, and are raising a ruckus around the campfire way past hiker midnight. I should have expected this, but we have not experienced this before and it came somewhat as a surprise.