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Austin Hikes - Part 7 - Shenandoah National Park

Austin Hikes - Part 7 - Shenandoah National Park

Be sure to check out his GoFundMe for information on how you can help Austin continue to hike the Appalachian Trail in its entirety and follow Austin @austinshike on Instagram. Follow Buddy Brew on Instagram @buddybrewcoffee

We last left Austin past mile 800. He has traveled over 200 miles since then! Here he is:

Sup hey howdy ho

I'm currently writing to you from Harper's Ferry, VA. It's a quaint little trail town with a TON of history, going back to the civil war. Mostly since it was pretty close to the border between the north and south, as well as being right where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet. Since it's so close to the 4th of July there's a ton of tourists here checking out the place. But we're cozy in a hotel room, avoiding the crowds.

Since my last update (a little over 200 miles ago! Woah!) a lot has happened.

We passed through Waynesboro, VA and went in to the Shenandoah National Park, one of the iconic parts of the trail, and one of the...weirdest parts. The first day in, we hated it. The terrain was bad, there was nowhere to camp, it was hot, and we just weren't feeling hiking. Just a bad day all around. We ended up camping on a fire road, tired and dejected.

But it got better pretty much every day in the Shenandoahs.

The main difference between the Shenandoah National Park (SNP) and the rest of the trail is that the Skyline, a long, winding road with tons of scenic outlooks, runs through the entirety of the park. The AT runs right next to this road pretty much the whole way through. So you pass over, next to, and walk directly on it for almost 100 miles. This was WAY different from the last national park on the trail, Smoky Mountain National Park.

If you don't remember the Smokies, here is a link to my post about them.

The Smokies were completely desolate of people other than hikers, especially since it was snowed out the whole time I was in them. The Shenandoahs on the other hand were packed with day hikers, section hikers, families at rest stops, and people just going out for the weekend. Since we were constantly crossing the road (and stopping by waysides for burgers and ice cream) and running into people, it led to a lot of fun conversations as we explained what it was we were doing, with reactions ranging from perplexed to alarmed.

Along with the multitudes of people, there were a TON of animal sightings. Chipmunks, owls, squirrels, raccoons, vultures, falcons, the list goes on. Dozens of deer, they seemed to not care at all about people, they'd just look up from eating grass long enough to figure out we weren't coming too close before going back to it. And best of all, FOUR bears, all little cute cubs just looking for a bite to eat. I never saw their moms, but they all kept there distance, except for one little guy who passed ~6 feet in front of me on the trail, but I think he was more surprised to see me than I was him. We both stared at each other for a couple seconds, then he sprinted off into the woods, where I think he tripped over every limb. Poor little guy.

The other main difference is the terrain. After that first day, the hiking was all "cakework." We crushed some of our biggest mile days yet, including my new record: 25.4 miles in a day.

Of course this meant the trail punished us right after. Shortly after leaving the Shenandoahs, the Roller Coaster loomed before us.

The Roller Coaster is a 13.5 mile stretch of trail with ~8 straight up and straight down climbs. Meaning you're climbing with burning legs, out of breath, sweat streaming, and brain fogging over, wishing for death, the usual. Followed by knee crushing, rocky, treacherous descents. For 13.5 miles straight.

The first day wasn't so bad, since we hit a very special milestone, Mile 1,000! A friend of mine, Dozer, and his girlfriend were waiting for us with pasta, fresh meat sauce, and whiskey to celebrate. We stayed at the shelter just passed the 1,000 mile mark and feasted like kings, staying up to reminisce on the memories made so far. Easily one of the best days on trail.

Oh! And I finally escaped Virginia! We're official done with the longest state on the trail, and get to pass through way shorter ones for a while.

But that's all for now, folks. Tomorrow we hike out towards Maryland, and then on to glory.

High since the last update: Swimming in the Shenandoah River right after we crossed the bridge leading in to Harper's Ferry yesterday. It was a scorcher and floating around in the cool water was much needed.

Low since the last update: The night we slept on the fire road. The whole team just felt dejected, like our expectations for the Shenandoahs had been for nothing. But hey, it got better.


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