Last I left off, we had just reached Rockfish Gap in Waynesboro! After a little disorientation over which way to hitch into town, we walked down and under the overpass, and got picked up by a friendly local. Waynesboro was one of my favorite hiker towns! There was an awesome Chinese buffet at a place called Ming Garden, which is where we started our town exploration.
The Kroger grocery store had a good variety of food and beer, and is where we met up later with Charge and Falsetop who had left their ID’s at the Devil’s Backbone Brewpub. Fortunately, we had gotten in touch with Refill, who was hanging on to them until he caught up. Unfortunately for Charge and Falsetop, they were unable to get a shower at the YMCA without their ID’s. Unfortunately for Refill (and all three of them for that matter), Refill didn’t get a good hitch from the brewpub back to the trail.
His story goes as follows:
He got a ride from a lady at the pub who claimed she knew where she was going, but didn’t. She drove him all the way to Lynchburg (over an hour away from Waynesboro). The lady claimed she was out galavanting around in order to avoid being around her other half, whom she was fighting with. Refill thought she was a bit strange, but trusted she would drop him off where he needed to be.
Once she got around Lynchburg, she told Refill that she realized she actually had no clue where she was going, that she was out of gas, and just left him there. He had to pay around $50 for a shuttle to get him to Kroger, but then ended up at the wrong one.
He found a hitch to the Kroger we were waiting at, but he had to hang out with the driver for a few minutes since he needed to do some shopping at Lowe’s first before dropping him off. Refill is from Germany, so we felt extra bad that he had to go through such a hassle all in the name of getting Falsetop’s wallet back to him as soon as he could. Refill arrived in good spirits though, and we had a cold beer waiting for him!
Before walking towards the park that offered free camping for hikers, we ran into a couple other old friends who we hadn’t seen since The Captain’s hiker feed, Detained and Denied. We also had quite the hiker reunion once we got to the park when we saw Tink, Wolfpine, Redwing, Cheeks, and Casper just to name a few!
We drank a few beers, then got a hitch across town to the Quality Inn where we saw another familiar face, Brother Blood, one of the hikers we met at the start of the journey on top of Springer Mountain. A nasty storm came through overnight, and we felt sorry for anyone up on the mountain and out in the park, since the sky was pouring and the wind was blowing hard.
I woke up hungover and too unmotivated to get to the laundromat and back to the Kroger to re-supply early in the morning. Our buddies Chris and Dina lived in Richmond, and said they wanted to visit us the next day, so we ended up taking a zero day. Chris brought me another pair of Injinji sock liners which I was super grateful for. We went out to eat breakfast, and visited the local outfitter before they dropped us off at the trailhead. It was nice to see some old friends from home!
We were excited to enter the Shenandoah National Park. We registered for a permit, then started our journey. It was probably some of the easiest hiking we had done the whole trail thus far! Even with my injury and a late start, we managed to do nearly 21 miles that day and stopped at Blackrock Hut.
The next morning, I saw my first bear in its entirety and it was both our first close encounter! As soon as we got back on the trail, we heard a grumble, the rustling of leaves and brush, and we turned around the bend to see it standing and foraging right in front of us! I always imagined I would be scared once I had a run-in on the trail with a bear, but I was elated and grinning ear to ear! It was awesome to see a Black Bear up close when all I had seen in the past were bears in the distance, from a vehicle, or just their hindquarters! We shooed it away, checking behind us to make sure it didn’t creep up on us or bluff charge, then we carried on giddy as can be!
It was Father’s Day and we were able to get phone reception from Blackrock, which came with a great view. We were excited to tell the folks at home about our encounter!
Much of the day, we intersected parts of Skyline Drive. We would laugh at the signs posted everywhere stating that we were “Entering Backcountry,” since we crossed a road every mile or two, and were constantly surrounded by cars, motorcycles, and tourists. We took a break at the Loft Mountain Store near the trail to sip on a few local beers, and to stock up on some snacks. Then we took the steep side trail down to the Loft Mountain Wayside where we grabbed some overpriced sandwiches.
We got to see our second bear even closer than the one before while we were walking along a ridgeline. We had to chase it up the hill where it stared down at us as we passed by. It seemed close enough to touch, and I had to resist temptation since they were so darn cute!
After passing the 900-mile mark along the trail (although not quite since we missed 14 miles due to wildfires earlier on), and hiking a 21-mile day, we stopped at Hightop Hut.
Total AT Mileage: 889.0 miles
Number of Hiking Days: 66
Number of Zero Days: 18
Average Mileage per Day Total: 13.5 miles
Average Mileage this Chapter: 21.1 miles (2 days)
Longest Hiking Day: 26.2 miles (Groundhog Creek Shelter, NC/TN to Hot Springs, NC)
Shortest Hiking Day: 3.5 miles (mile mark 802.6 to Buena Vista, VA)