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Week Twelve: Shenandoah National Park, Trail Love, and finally the end of Virginia

Sunday June 26th, 1983
Got up and out by 7:10am, hiked 23 miles to Pinefield Hut, and saw some beautiful sights on the ridges that I traversed. There are shelters about every twenty miles along the trail which makes it just right for thru-hikers. The grades are easy and these last two days have been beautiful.

Met a few locals tonight at the shelter; two are high school computer science teachers. These men respected us greatly for our undertaking, and treated us like kings. One had a student that wants to thru-hike next year so I gave him my name and address if he needs info. Later in casual conversation I was talking about the amount of bible literature I had referred to a few days ago when one of the others (not the teachers), not knowing about my Einstein book laughed at finding it in a shelter. He said, and I paraphrase: "Just who would read a book about Einstein while on the A.T. ?", was his remark as he chuckled. I told him that I did - he quickly changed the subject……faux pas.

(View North from Blackrock) (Sign at Loft Mtn overlook) (View from Loft Moountain)

Monday June 27th, 1983
Today we hiked 20 miles and the end of the hike brought us to the Lewis Mountain Campground, complete with a store and showers. I ate two pints of ice cream, guzzled a soda, and woofed down a large bag of potato chips. Although we only hiked 20 miles, the heat and terrain tired us greatly. We are staying at Bearfence Mountain Hut - and it looks like rain tonight.

Tuesday June 28th, 1983
Paul and I woke up to grey skies. The gloomy sky threatened rain, but we remained undaunted. By the time we got to Big Meadow campground the clouds disappeared and the sun came blaring out. At Big Meadow I bought two candy bars, a package of cookies and one coke.

By noon we were at Skyland, where I bought another soda, one Milky Way bar, and one package of cookies. All other items were beyond my entire life's net worth.

(View from Stoney Man Mountain) (Three views from Stoney Man to the southeast)

Today I've seen the most spectacular views of the trip, and climbed some granite cliffs. There was nothing in the guide book that singled them out. I just happened to see the cliffs and decided that they would be fun to climb.

From the Pinnacle ridge crest we had spotted a curtain of water approaching us so it was time to burn rubber and melt mud. Just as we came into Byrd #3 Shelter it began to storm. This was a "protected" Shenandoah National Park shelter, and according to their rules, is only to be used in inclement weather - so the storm was a stroke of luck. (Byrd #3 was an old CCC built shelter, and usually they were incredible in construction. First they were huge and built to withstand the ages of time. This one was no exception. The floor was a cement slab, and the massive roof was held up by huge wooden posts. The back was not really built, but utilized a rock cliff. Another great thing was that they had cisterns. When the CCC built these shelters they were to be a base for campers and hikers. In those days there were fewer campers so the question of overuse was not an issue. Now; however, any area with a permanent shelter becomes a base for many, and as a result, the areas around the shelters become overused and consequently degrade. The park service sometimes closes off these shelters giving the area around them time to revert back to a more wild state. Such was the case for Byrd#3. The access trail to the shelter had been covered with brush and the sign was removed. No matter, I knew where to find it, and even at our breakneck pace I spotted the obscured side trail leading to it.) At first there was some dissention within the ranks thinking that I had missed the AT but as soon as we reached this grand shelter they knew what I was up to. Just then the sky opened up and a torrential downpour inundated our small band. Our days meandering brought us 21.5 miles north of the hut we slept at last night.

(Marcel climbing Stoney Man cliffs)

Tomorrow will be a short day to the next Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) shelter.

Wednesday June 29th, 1983

The rain stopped and it cleared for a short time last night allowing a terrific sight from the shelter. We could see all the twinkling streetlights of the towns below and it was beautiful.

Today it rained like crazy at times. We hiked 17 cold, wet miles. Wet trail conditions can remain even after a storm. We made a short stop at the Panorama Restaurant where I bought a candy bar and some peanuts; although I went into the Panorama Restaurant mostly just to get a respite from the rain that was beating on my head at the time. Around 1:00pm we hit Elk Wallow Wayside where I had a steak sub, potato chips and a coke before we hiked down to Gravel Springs Hut.

The cold rain made for a tiring day and I decided to skip supper again. I just wanted to sleep in my warm sleeping bag. Hope that tomorrow is nice!!

Thursday June 30th, 1983
Today was overcast most of the day, but it did not rain. We thought it would, so we (Paul and I) made a mad dash for the Linden Virginia post office. We made excellent time covering 19 miles by 3:00pm. We found Frank and Claudia there pigging out. Love blossoms on the trail - Frank and Claudia are getting very cozy. Claudia talked Frank (The Merry Slav) back on the trail in ways which I will not discuss.

Called Dia and I am psyched to get into Harpers Ferry as she is going to be there. Tomorrow will be a mega-miler. Paul and I will part because he has to wait in Linden for a mail drop and I have to head on.

Friday July 1st, 1983
Hiked twenty-two miles today, ten of which were road miles. The twelve trail miles were quite easy, but the road miles hurt my feet - they are quite sore. I passed by the secret government facility that "no one knows about". All I remember about the facility is that it had two rows of fence with Constantine wire and a no man’s land between. There was a double gate, both of which were connected together so that when you opened one - both opened. Could there have been land mines between the two fences? Was that area patrolled by guard dogs? I will never know.

Fortunately, parts of the road walk were shaded as it was a treed, two lane road. At one point near the beginning of the roadwalk, I was offered a ride by a guy in a convertible sport car (English car, either an MG or Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite) and was very tempted to climb aboard. I thanked the man, but declined. Later down the road when I did see the government facility, I wondered if the guy was a government employee there.

Scott had told me about a good Samaritan by the name of Tony Carbone who lives at the end of the road walk. Of course, I stopped in, got a dry place to sleep, and a cold shower, so now I feel like a new man.

According to the Data Book it is twelve miles to Keys Gap Shelter which will be my destination tomorrow. Then I will have only six miles to Harpers Ferry and Dia the next day!

Saturday July 2nd, 1983
I am sitting within Keys Gap Shelter about six miles south of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia at the moment. Today was a 12 mile slack pack. Apparently it was 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the city, so I was fortunate to have an easy schedule. It is only slightly cooler in these mountains which are not high enough in elevation to make much of a difference.

A few nights ago, I had met a couple from Pennsylvania named Abbey and Bob. They were at Keys Gap shelter as well as a few others. Now, about 2 miles from this shelter there is a small grocery store. It did not take long before everyone was taking a quick trip down to get ice cream - except me. I did not have enough money. Abbey felt bad and gave me $1.00 to buy some ice cream for myself. I took it with many thanks and pigged out. If you remember, I said that I would never let myself run out of money again on the trail, but here we see it happening again. Circumstances surrounding my rendezvous with Dia necessitated that I pad in extra time in case I had trouble getting to Harpers Ferry. Since I would be incommunicado, she would be worried if I were late. As it turned out, I was moving more rapidly than I thought, so I had to hold back at this point in order to get there at the specified day. I hadn’t had enough money to go to the KOA campground one day early so I stayed back at Keys Gap shelter instead. If I had not scheduled a meeting on a specific day, I could have rolled into town, picked up my next mail drop with funds, and not had a problem.

Tomorrow I will see Dia.


Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983