Finished the Shenandoah National Park a couple days ago. Some of the easiest hiking on the whole AT, it was a nice introduction to the trail in April and a nice reintroduction to the trail this week. After taking ten days off after finishing the northern part of the trail I needed a few easier miles. It is amazing how fast you lose your trail conditioning.
Maine and New Hampshire were hard on my knees and feet. I was hoping the time off would let them heal but probably a case of too little, too late. I’ve started doing stretching several times a day and that seems to help my knees considerably.
Yesterday I said goodbye to the Little Rabbit support crew. She is off doing her own thing for a bit while I hike south. Sad to say goodbye. It is a tremendous help having her around to shuttle me around and to take care of all the little details of everyday life. And she sends me off with a kiss every morning.
When we parted I had planned an easy nine mile day. A couple miles into the day, as I was sitting by a creek filtering water for the next few miles, two northbound hikers came up. ‘Ambassador’ and ‘Slow and Easy’ are about my age, semi retired, and snow birding in their RV between Minnesota and Texas. They told me that the section between the next two shelters has a very high bear activity and camping is discouraged in the area except at the shelters. Shoot, my nine miles would out me at a random campsite in the middle of them. So, change of plans, I stopped for the day at the first shelter after just five miles. That makes my knees and feet happier too!
The couple also told me about The Devil’s Backbone. A restaurant/brew pub a few miles off the trail at Reid’s Gap. Great food and very hiker friendly – free camping, restrooms, $5 breakfast, etc. After the short day, I could do a longer day and make it there in time for dinner!
So after 14+ trail miles i hung a left at Reid’s Gap and started walking with my thumb out. In a shirt amount of time a car stopped and picked me up but they were only going another mile. Great! I said, I’ll be another mile closer! When they dropped me off I stuck my thumb out again and the second car to come along picked me up and took me the rest of the way.
Dinner was a rack of ribs, Cole Slaw, and baked beans. Much better than trail food!
Onward and southward,
Day number: 104
Miles hiked today: 15
AT miles completed: 1347
AT miles to go: 843
Average miles per day: 13