Trail Notes – October 2 (Mountain Home Hostel, Manassas Gap, Shenandoah National Park)


Yes. Today was that long awaited day where the mileage counter clicked over to register a 2 in the tens column! Granted, I was slackpacking, but still!

The day began, as most days do, when the sun rose. Not that you could really tell (yes, I was already awake); it was typically grey and foggy, and the sun was under a blanket of cloud and didn’t want to get up either. I can’t say I blame it – my breakfast was tasty eggs and toast, while poor Sol had to make do with hydrogen. Blech.

My shuttle came at 7:30, and by 8 am, I was on the trail. I first had to cover the 8 miles I did not do last night, but the trail was a dream of level dirt track with only a few rocky patches, and by 11:30, I was at the road – better than 2 mph. 

I could have stopped there, walked down to the hostel a few tenths of a miles away, and called it a day, but I was on a roll, and stopping was out of the question. The next 1.4 miles were a bit tougher, simply because the path was slippery, wet clay, and inclined upwards enough for the slipperiness to be annoying. Fortunately, that part did not last too long, and then it was level ridgeline again. There was a lot of level ridgeline, but just before the entrance to Shenandoah National Park (SNP), there was a rocky section that was actually kinda fun.

To camp or occupy a shelter in SNP, a backcountry permit is required. It is free, and you self-register for it, listing where you will be camping each night. The format is pretty confusing, and mine is already in error, since I was too optimistic about the rib’s healage.  Ah well.

Onwards, wide, level track again, very much enjoyed and appreciated. I’d originally planned to end at Jenkins Gap, 15 miles in, but I. Just. Kept. Walking. I was fueled by many snacks and Clif energy boost gels. 

I had a hard time contacting my shuttle, cell reception was fading in and out, but maybe I should have taken that as a sign! She terrified the heck out of me when she decided to try to call her daughter while driving on narrow, steep drop-off on the left, Skyline Drive. Let’s just say, in her best moments, she regarded that solid yellow line in the middle as a guideline, not an actual rule, and for the phone call attempt, she went full Brit as the car drifted into the left-hand lane and stayed there for almost a full minute. I just watched that sheer dropoff get closer and closer, and then, thank God, a scenic overlook pullover opened on the right, and I rather urgently suggested she make the call from there, and she proceeded to do so. White-knuckled Ziptie will not use this shuttler again.

Hit a Subway (not literally), on 16th drive back for a sub and a cookie, then back to the hostel to eat, shower, and begin figuring things out. I packed two large priority boxes after resupplying with food – one box is holding more food to bounce ahead.

The other box is holding my tent and assorted odds and ends. In an attempt to reduce pack weight, so I can actually carry it again, I am shipping the tent ahead to Waynesboro, and will either stay in shelters or at hostels in SNP. Truthfully, I want to stay at the shelters I have listed on my permit, on the days I have listed on my permit, but after trying on the pack with reduced weight, my ribs firmly told me, “Too soon. Try again in 2 days.”

 So I have a ride out to a Luray hostel tomorrow to drop off the pack, and then 15 miles to slackpack between where I left off today, and the Luray trailhead. So far, though, mileage wise, I’m doing pretty well – I need to average 16 or 17 a day in October to make the Halloween deadline, and I’ve hiked 32 miles in the last two days, so. 

I hike on!

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