Saturday, June 16, 2012

Appalachian Trail

(By Steve)  The Appalachian Trail has always intrigued long two thousand mile trail that is just begging to be hiked.   I don't think that I would like to ever be a through hiker, but I do think I would like to attempt it spread out over a lifetime.  Linda doesn't share the same enthusiasm for completing it as I do, but maybe when Jake is older, the two of us will tackle sections in 3 and 4 day chunks.  I took my first extended hike on the AT on our fourth day at Shenandoah.   We loaded all the kids in the truck and Linda drove me up to the Pinnacles picnic area from our campsite at Big Meadows.   It was about 13 miles by car.

Beautiful day for a hike!
From the Pinnacles Picnic area, I was able to get right on the trail.  The trail is a bit more direct than the road.  I think it was about 11.5 miles via the trail back to the campground.   The weather was perfect and I quickly settled in and enjoyed the hike.   The trail passes through the Stony Man Overlook where I sat for a long while and admired the view.   It then took me to the section that we walked earlier when we went on the nature trail and saw the young bear.   This section was pretty packed since it was a Saturday with perfect weather. It was nice when I got away from the Skyland area.   Shortly after, I ran into several hikers who pointed out a bear that had climbed a tree.  You could barely see it through the trees.

Stony Man overlook
Rock climbers were scaling this cliff 
I went on for several miles when I came to two through hikers who recommended I take the side trail to Hawksbill peak.   They gave me a map that they didn't need anymore of the side trail to Hawksbill.   They also warned me that a bear was very near the trail and that I should watch for it.   After leaving them, I put my earphones on and went back and forth mentally whether I should take the side trail or not.    It wasn't long after that I nearly ran into a 250 pound male (I think) black bear.   I quickly froze while he looked up at me, sized me up and went back to foraging.   I took quick steps back and picked up some large rocks.   When I was a fairly safe distance I took lots of pictures and waited, and waited until he was good and ready to get off the trail so I could get by.    It took about 10 minutes I think.  

I walked up to the bend when I saw the bear.   He was in the same spot.   I froze and slowly walked back to a safer distance.
Ok, I have enough photos of you, you can move on now.   
When I got by him, I went back to my fretting whether to take the side trail and add miles to my day.   I ultimately decided to keep to my original plan figuring that I saw plenty of amazing views all day, and I felt my feet start to get tender.  At this point I had gone about 8 miles.

I hung out here awhile and snacked and enjoyed the view.
I was glad that the section I hiked passed an AT shelter for through hikers. I got to check it all out and get a good idea what accommodations would be on the trail.    Up until .2 miles from the end, I was able to honestly say that I saw more bear than deer, but right before our campground I happened on a stag party of about six bucks sitting together in a meadow.

I would only stay here if it was really cold or wet. I would rather camp in a tent.   I hear they have very bad mouse problems, plus there is no screen to keep out bugs.
The facilities.
All in all it was a great experience.  It took me about 7 hours, but I did stop frequently, mostly by choice except when the bear held me up..

Mountain Laurels in bloom
'The trail crosses a giant rock slide.
Fishers Gap overlook

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