It was so interesting to hike Shenandoah in a new season today. When I was here in May, it was cold and rainy and completely empty of any other hikers or campers. It was peaceful in a way but I definitely prefer the full speed summer version of this beautiful section of the Trail. The park rangers have also done an amazing job of clearing all the downed trees and keeping the path in pristine shape. There are a lot more section hikers out and everyone is being great about social distancing and masks.
We hiked 21 miles over really easy terrain and took a short break for lunch at a nice view point. It felt great to get back into the familiar rhythm of long distance hiking. My legs and back are sore again as my body gets used to holding the pack weight. It’s worth the price though for the peaceful hours of quiet walking in the woods. I think that is really what does it for me. All the work that goes into hiking really comes down to those hours alone with my footsteps. There was a great breeze in the morning and I was surrounded by the sounds of the trees swaying and the birds singing.
We finished up the hike at a Rock Fish Gap and got a ride into Waynesboro to stay at Stanimals. Boogie and Scoobie were thrilled to get a shower and do their laundry. They are getting really excited about finishing their thru hike and we talked a lot about how important it is to stay active after the finish line. Honestly, I think it might take more planning to manage what happens after the Trail than when you are doing it.
We have a big day planned for tomorrow to set us up for the 3,000 foot climb southbound up Priest Mountain. I remember coming down it in April and being thankful that I wasn’t climbing it in the opposite direction. Well, here I am. We want to tackle that first thing in the morning be for it gets too hot. We also bought a new blank trail journal to hike up there. We heard that the old one was full of and this shelter’s journal is the best one on the Trail so we want to give the hikers some more space to share their funny confessions.