Day 99: Entering the Shenandoahs

Miles Hiked: 12.7
Miles Left: 1319.8
Ending Location: Calf Mountain Shelter, Mile 865.5

I was feeling much better in the morning but it was still a struggle dealing with my heat rashes. Part of it was simply getting used to the new clothing choices forced on me by the weather. Normally I hike covered up as much as possible. Long pants, long sleeved shirts, and a hat. The less skin showing the better as it protects me from bugs, the sun, and my own general clumsiness. Usually the extra heat caused by this isn’t an issue or is something I just deal with but now I’m finding myself hiking in shorts and with my sleeves rolled up. It’ll take some getting used to. The worst part of it though are the ticks. My permethrin treated pants had been doing a great job of keeping them off but now with just bug spray I’m finding them all over my legs. Let me tell you, ticks scare me way more than bears as they easily could end my hike thanks to Lyme disease.

Upon reaching Rockfish gap, I headed to Waynsboro’s visitors center which I thought was right across the road. Nope, it was on top of a ginourmous hill instead. Luckily there was a kettle corn van at the bottom so I was able fortify myself with hotdogs and soda before I started the climb. The reason I was going there was I wanted to refill my water bottles, recharge my phone, and get some information about the Shenandoahs before I entered them. I failed on all three counts. It was the most unhelpful visitor’s center I’ve ever seen. When I asked them about the backpacker registration for the park I was treated with a rant, detailing how the gov’ment was always trying to steal our money, before the two people there said they had no idea about any park registration. The same thing happened when I asked about camping in the park vs staying in the shelters. They did give me a hiker gift bag though that had a copy of the bible in it… They insisted I take it and it ended up being a couple of days before I could find a trash can to throw most of the contents of that gift bag away. I left that place pissed.

Upon entering the park though I ran into a ranger collecting backpacker registrations from the self check-in booth. She was more than helpful and answered all my questions. Registration and entrance to the park was free for AT through hikers. They just required it since they like to have an idea of how many people there were and where the clumps of hikers would be. You could camp in the park. You just had to be 20 feet from the trail and 50 feet from the streams. Oh, and she also highly recommended to not camp on animal trails unless you like being woken up by a bear. And yes, with close to 300 bears in the park I’d probably see one but the main thing was just not to panic. It was refreshing talking to her after dealing with the people in the visitors center.

The actual AT trail itself through the Shenandoahs was … weird. It was by far the best maintained trail on the AT and with the exception of some of the climbs there were almost no obstacles to walk around. For the part I hiked today there were also no views but a whole lot of ups and downs. I actually am having a hard time describing it, but the trail design was very distinctive. It took a while to grow on me but looking back on it I’m going to miss it. The way it was set up, even though it was anything but flat it let you maintain a steady pace that really let you bang out the miles. Because of that I found myself at the shelter before five. Remembering the bears, and not wanting to hike another 13 miles to the next shelter I ended up setting up my tent and staying for the night. It was a good thing I arrived early because it was the start of Memorial Day weekend and the shelter along with all the tentsites around it quickly became filled up with weekend campers. Well, actually I think the shelter was empty that night but that was were everyone was hanging out. This was a complication I hadn’t expected but it actually turned out for the best. No way a bear was going to be able to get me then!

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Ticks are way scarier than bears!20140530-001625-985101.jpg

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