June 27th 2018
Tentsite – Byrds Nest #3 Hut (mile 939.9)
31.1 miles
Total miles: 957.2


It rained a lot in the night, but it stopped in the early hours and became very windy which worked out well because everything was dry in the morning so we didn’t have to pack up wet tents. 

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I packed up pretty quickly and I was back on the trail by 7am. The trail through the Shenandoah is pretty chilled and the ups are gradual and short so I was able to keep to my 2.5 mph pace. It was still cloudy and overcast and it was a great temperature for hiking. 

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I walked along this morning listening the Grandma Gatewoods Walk audiobook. It was so good to listen to as I was hiking down the trail. I recognised some of the places she had walked through all those years earlier, and the book provides loads of history of the area which is really nice to learn about. They spent a while talking about the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive and how in 1900 there were only 100 miles of paved road in the whole of the United States. It’s crazy how many roads and how many cars there are now. 

I hiked about 10 miles on the trail and I feel like in this section the Skyline Drive parallels the AT most closely. A lot of the time you are only about 20ft from the road and you can see the cars going by. I got off the trail and onto the road a little earlier than I had planned to, the weather was moving in and it was starting to drizzle. There was a wooded peak coming up and I didn’t really see the point of going up to a wooded peak in the cloud and rain so I chose to walk the road for the last 5 miles to the wayside. 

I stopped at an overlook, I had my umbrella up and I was looking out over the Shenandoah valley (the first view I had all morning as there are no views on the AT!) and I heard someone shout Puff Puff. It was Short Shorts in a car with his brother. He had taken the day off yesterday for his birthday and his brother had treated him to a motel and a day out, so he was getting dropped back where he left off which was about 3 miles back from where I was. I told him I would wait at the wayside. 

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The last part of the road walk was a real struggle. I was getting more pain in my knee. It had been sore this morning but it was much more bearable. It definitely feels like it is stemming from my hip which is clicking a lot, a lot more that the right one, and I feel it affecting my knee. And now I was getting pain on the top of my ankle. I just wanted to stop walking. Plus some of the cars weren’t interested at all in moving over. 

I was feeling weak and tired and the sun had also come out, so it was now baking hot on the road. Eventually I saw the Big Meadow wayside and the appropriate big meadow opposite it. I went straight to the bathroom as I was desperate for a wee and that is one thing that’s really difficult on the road. Then I went and got a burger as it was 1pm and lunch time. 

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I sat outside at the picnic table and there weren’t any other hikers around, but there were a lot of people and I felt really out place! The burger was disgusting. Definitely the worst burger on the trail so far, but it filled a hole. I made the mistake of getting fries too and they weren’t great either. 

I sat staring into space for a while and then Big Lots and Short Shorts appeared and joined me. They got food and I went back inside to get some food for resupply. The selection is limited and it’s all really overpriced, but resupply is totally possible here. I got a bag of crisps, a big Twix, a granola bar and some starburst, plus a Gatorade to pack out. 

As we were sitting there I found a tick on me! Oh no all my worst fears are coming true. I yelled at Short Shorts to get it off me, because he likes pulling ticks off people, and he got his tweezers and grabbed it and Biglots cut it in half with his knife. It had only just started to bury into my skin and they said it wasn’t a deer tick, which are the Lyme disease ones, so I would be fine. It itched like a bitch for a few minutes afterwards. 

 

Around 2pm I hiked out with Short Shorts. Our goal was to get to the next wayside for dinner. He said he was going to quit the trail at Harper’s Ferry. He has been going backwards and forwards the whole time I’ve know him about whether to quit or to carry on. He can’t decide what to do. Plus he spoke to Knees who just quit at Harper’s Ferry so I’m sure that has something to do with his decision making. 

He went on for a while about how much he enjoyed hiking with Knees and I asked if his unhappiness was to do with the fact he doesn’t have a group and he hadn’t found his people. He said yeah partly and I did think for a bit that he has been hiking with me for a while now, but maybe I’m not a good enough companion for him! Then he did say he has enjoyed hiking with me. But I know I don’t go fast enough for him. 

We discussed his privileged first world problems for a while. How nice it is to have to decide between going home and spending the summer with your friends or spending the summer in the woods! He was getting desperate for water he was finding puddles to drink out of! 

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When we set off I said I didn’t think I would get to the wayside until about 6:30pm and that he would hike faster than me, but with Short Shorts up front we maintained a decent pace, and the trail was a nice grade, and we got there at 5pm which I was super happy about. It’s always nice to arrive earlier than you expect. 

This wayside, Skyland Resort, is a bit different than the rest, it’s much fancier. It’s a really nice restaurant with a beautiful view over the valley. The dining area wasn’t open until 5:30pm but there was a daytime restaurant bit which we went to instead. I had the most delicious meal. A portobello, roasted red pepper, mozzarella, spinach and aioli wrap with a side of coleslaw. It was so good. So delicious. So worth the $12. I had a bottomless cup of Mountain Dew and I got some chocolate ice cream for dessert. Short Shorts went for the 1300 calorie Philly cheesesteak sandwich! 

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There were some other hikers in there who were ‘beer blazing’. Hitting up every place that sells beer and drinking a lot of it by the sounds of it. 

We got back on the trail at 6:30pm hoping to make it another 4.1 miles to a picnic area that we knew you couldn’t really camp at but we were hoping to stealth it. There were some amazing cliffs and some beautiful views over the valley and we could see Skyline Drive down below following the ridge line. 

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The trail was nice and I don’t know why we made this decision but we decided to hike the last mile on the road. And what a good decision it was because we saw a bear crossing the road up ahead of us. It was a medium sized bear and by the time we got closer we could see it up on the rocks, and we could see another larger bear sat up top in the trees. So cool. They are just so beautiful. 

We also saw the beer blazers yellow blazing. 

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We got to the picnic area and it would have made such a nice campsite, there was a pavilion, toilets, water, picnic tables and fire pits. There weren’t any signs anywhere saying no camping but we had heard of some hikers being given a warning by a park ranger. We did think about stealthing it. It was 8pm and we had to make a quick decision. We decided it was a bit too creepy. It was totally deserted and there was a huge bear trap in the camp ground which was weird. 

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So we got some water and hiked on at 8:10pm, aiming to make it to the shelter 2.3 miles away before it got dark. If we found somewhere decent to camp before that we would. So we climbed up to the Pinnacle, there was one flat spot near the summit but it smelt like piss and there really wasn’t room for both of us there so we carried on down the other side. 

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It was getting really dark in the areas where the trees were dense and it was prime ankle rolling territory. It was a fine line between trying to go fast to get there quickly and slowing down so you didn’t break a leg! 

We got to the shelter just before it was too dark to see anything, and there were so many people already there. The shelter was full and there were a whole bunch of tents around. The only spots we could find were pretty much right next to the bear poles. 

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A bear pole is a big pole in the ground with 4 hooks on and you get another pole with a hook on a raise your bag up and hook it on the pole. I am so close to all the food! But there are a good 6 other tents very close also. There is also a bear canister just sat at the base of the pole. Not tied to anything so if a bear does come into camp it will probably run off with that. But with so many people here I think it’s unlikely a bear will come anywhere near. I wouldn’t, in fact I would rather be somewhere else now! 

I had my tent pitched and the inflatables blown up and I had changed my clothes by 9:20pm. That’s been my longest day, 14 hours and 31 miles! I feel very tired but too wired to sleep. And it’s raining. Again. 


Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 50

 

 


 

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