Welcome to the Shenandoah National Park. Today marked the beginning of an approximately 100 mile stroll through one of the least challenging sections of the entire Appalachian Trail. From Rockfish Gap the trail crosses a bridge over I-64 before re-entering the woods. After being dropped off by free shuttlers Jim and Cindy, Caboose and I briefly started the day together. After the self sign-in station near the trailhead, I wouldn’t see him again. This time, however, it was because I hiked at a faster clip throughout the day.
With a gentle trail and a Cracker Barrel breakfast under my belt, there was no holding me back. Throughout the park the trail crosses Skyline Drive several times every day. On today’s hike there were eight such crossings. Some had overlooks; some didn’t. Some had parking lots; others didn’t. Oftentimes cars of day hikers filled the parking spots. Before some of the crossings the trail ran parallel to the road so closely that cars were clearly visible.
At one crossing I took a break to have some lunch with fellow thru hiker Steady. We had met about a week ago at the James River but had not hiked together before today. Steady is Spirit’s husband and has quite the hiking resume. Unlike most AT thru hikers, Steady began his quest in Key West. After kayaking 700 miles, he road walked most of the rest of the way to Springer. When he gets to Katahdin he plans to continue on to Halifax, which will make his entire adventure over 4000 miles. Already having completed the PCT and the CDT, the AT will complete his triple crown.
Late in the afternoon I passed two section hikers from Newnan, GA. Silver Streak and Peach plan to conclude this section at Harper’s Ferry. After a brief chat, I moved on up the trail to Riprap parking area off Skyline Drive, where I had originally planned to end today’s hike. When I got there, however, I decided to hike an additional 2.8 to Black Rock Gap. It was there that Jim picked me up for a shuttle back to Waynesboro and a final night at the Super 8.
Tomorrow I’ll head back there to continue the Shenandoah’s. Although the park is beautiful, views have thus far been limited. Other than from a power line area, there really wasn’t anything of significance. All in all, the time passed quickly. I managed to hike a comfortable 19.1 miles with good company and fresh legs. The Achilles feels fine, so tomorrow I have more miles planned as I make my way toward Harper’s Ferry, the next major town on the Appalachian Trail.