Appalachian Trail: Day # 99-104
Waynseboro, Va –> Elkton, Va
The story of the section: Sloowwww and chasing sunsets.
Returning to life on the go after two nearly stationary weeks was difficult. So difficult, I needed two zeroes before I was ready to resume the walk! Firecracker sure loved taking four zeroes in town….
We hitchhiked out of town, after resupplying and a long stay at the library, to Rockfish Gap and the beginning of Shenandoah National Park. We registered for our stay and we began hiking. As difficult as it was to leave town, once my feet started walkin’, my face started smilin’. Nothing compares to the freedom of the open trail.
Tired and out of shape from so much time off, the first day we hiked from Rockfish Gap to Calf Mountain Shelter. We arrived just in time for a storm! We set up the tent only to take it down deciding to sleep in the shelter instead. Good decision… we slept, or tried to, on the top bunk of the shelter beneath two leaks. Drip… drip… drip… Luckily, the rain stopped sometime around midnight and we passed out.
We take our time in the shelter waiting for the morning rain to pass. I pack and organize my new backpack. It always takes time to figure out the best system for a new bag. Eventually, we mosey out of the shelter and on down the trail. We stealth camp before the Blackrock Hut. Shelters are called “huts” in Shenandoah NP.
It’s all about the sunsets! Firecracker had a craving to satiate. She’d been hearing about blackberry milkshakes at the waysides here for a month and she had to have one. The only problem was we weren’t gonna make it before the place closed. Solution? Stick out a thumb! Yep, we skipped a few miles of trail for a milkshake officially marking us as yellow blazers.
We leave the wayside and hike to the top of Loft Mountain for sunset. We set up camp then sip wine on some rocks as the sun sinks into the Shenandoah Valley. There’s nothing quite like it. This park will be a highlight of the trail.
Keeping with the lazy theme, we sleep until 10 am. How? I’m not entirely sure. I blame the time off. We pack up and walk off the mountain stopping at the Pinefield Hut for water and a really late breakfast. Playing with the Sawyer Squeeze, I realize I can set it up as a gravity system. SOO much better than squeezing the bag for five minutes.
We hike through the damage caused by the forest fire from last month. We’ve seen so many fire-damaged areas it barely registers. We even hiked through an active fire. A few miles later, we find something that really registers: the 900 mile marker! Whooo!!!
We keep on hiking past the Hightop Hut but not without stopping to say hello. There we meet two girls section hiking and carrying way too much stuff. Story of our lives right?!? Her boyfriend is an Army Ranger and, worried about her safety, sent her off with everything she’d need to survive: two knives, a multi-tool, a fishing kit, a reflective belt to wrap around trees, two flashlights, and a pelican water-proof case with complete medkit. Who knows what else was in there! But I’m not judging. It’s a steep learning curve and I remember how heavy my first backpack was. It weighed more than hers.
Anyway, we hiked past the hut to the top of Hightop Mountain to catch another sunset. It was as spectacular as last nights. Perhaps better with the extra company we had. We watched the sun disappear waiting for the full moon to peak its head above tree-line all the while talking to our new friend who’s name we never got. She thru-hiked in 2011 and was out for a long section hike through one of her favorite places, the Shenandoahs.
We wake in our mountain stealth camp late as usual. We brew coffee and eat snacks. Then, we pack up and walk off the mountain to U.S. 33 where we hitch into Elkton, Virginia. We had planned to hike all the way to Luray, Va on that resupply from Waynesboro, Va but we didn’t make it. I didn’t make it. My legs had too much time off; although, it was more my head. It takes time to adjust to this lifestyle no matter how used to it I may be. It ain’t easy, thats for sure.
Elkton turned into a mini adventure. We spent most of the day here between the grocery store and Burger King where I’ve been working hard on the blog. We sat here until they closed at 10pm then stealth camped behind the grocery store. I’ll write about that in the next post. See ya’ll in Luray!!!