Virginia A.T., Shenandoah’s- ’15

Last month my wife, Caryn, and I were given the opportunity to camp in the Shenadoah’s during Labor Day weekend with a few trail running friends and their family. We rarely camp, but since we like our friends John and Anne’s company, we enjoy the outdoors, and I love the Appalachian Trail, we decided to do it.

We camped at Lewis Campground, and the A.T. literally went right by it. The weekend was beautiful. It did rain one evening/morning, but overall the weather turned out great. Our A.T. run started at the campground and went north about 27 miles to Route 211(Thornton Gap). I have heard so much about Skyline Drive. We were about to witness it first hand.

Friday morning, myself, Anne, John, and one of their daughters, Rhea, started the trek north. Here we are at the start…

VA A.T. 1

We got started after 8:00 am. The first mile, I tripped over a root that was one inch off the ground and barely noticeable with the naked eye. I went flying. I don’t recall too many times falling like that. I got a good little chuckle out of it. The first 5 miles or so was great trail running. Not technical with minimal climbing.

I don’t recall around what mile it was, but the gentlemen of the group saw a bear. I first saw it off to the left side of the trail. It scurried down off the edge of a hill. Ironically enough, the trail made an abrupt turn off to the left and wrapped around in the same direction as the bear! We could hear it as we were getting closer, then both John and I noticed it again. Throughout the entire 27 miles, we would see scat along the trail. The Shenandoah’s are known for bears, and judging by the their droppings, they are very plentiful.

At some point we started climbing. These climbs weren’t steep, but gradual and long. I know Anne thrives on climbs, and judging by our adventure this Friday, her daughter Rhea, also does. John and I were proper gentlemen and allowed them to go in front (Haha). They would end up ahead of us the rest of the run. Here’s one of the views of John and Anne early on…

VA A.T. 2

I’ll be posting more pictures and less words from here on out on this post. After all, the sights were the headlines of the day…and the weekend.

The deer were very tame in the park. Rhea came within feet of a deer and it didn’t move. We saw them on a couple of occasions. Here is a picture of one with a tracking device on. Though I hate to see these devices around their necks, it’s a good way to learn more about their habitat and the way they travel….

VA A.T. 6

The day ended up being humid. And if you’ve read any of my previous running posts, humid is part of my 2H horror’s…Hills, Humidity. We stopped at Big Meadow Campground, to fill our bladders. Later on, we came to a small park that had a water pump and filled up and cooled off there as well. Anne and Rhea didn’t seem effected at all.

Here’s an awesome picture. I can only image what it looks like on a sunny, blue sky’d day….

VA A.T. 4

The 27 miles that we ran in the park were centrally located. We only crossed over Skyline Drive I believe once, maybe twice. The northern part of the park, the A.T. crosses over S.D. I believe more that two dozen times. My wife and I would take that route to it’s northern beginning at Front Royal on our way home. There were multiple vistas throughout. Here is a picture of Skyline Drive, heading north from the trail….

VA A.T. 5

The trail in the park is marked differently than most of the A.T. It still has the white blazes on the trees, but the mile/location signs are much different then I’m used to. See here…

VA A.T. 3

Our crew of four met up and then separated again for roughly the last 6 or so miles to Thornton Gap. Though I was somewhat dehydrated(may have had something to do with beverages the day/night before 😉 ), I trekked on, enjoying as much as I could.

Here’s another picture just off the A.T. roughly 22 miles into our run…

VA A.T. 7

With about 2 miles to go, the decent into Thornton Gap/Rt. 211 started. Throughout our entire run, we would hear thunder. It would not rain!! Hard to believe. It was following us, but would never let loose. At one point it did rain on us for about 10 minutes or so, then stopped. Well, after 7 hours and running through the following “tree shoot”, it let loose for me….

VA A.T. 8

A nice, but Humid, day ended with a downpour to the parking lot. Caryn and Rhea’s boyfriend, who by the way are loved by our crew of 4 (they waited for us for hours in that parking lot!!), were patiently waiting. Another 27 miles completed.

We ended up having a great time camping with John, Anne and their daughters/boyfriends. We saw some great sights and had some good times and memories. We look forward to more such experiences in the future.

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