Since Wanynesboro we have walked the length of the Shanendoah National Park. I was pretty psyched to get back closer and closer to my roots and to walk the mountains I used to go to when I was a kid. The park's trail is the best kept portion of trail I've seen yet. Perfectly smooth and almost too signed. Its kind of like a vacation from hiking but youre still putting in 20 mile days. One of the best parts of the park is the waysides. Being able to walk off the trail and get hot food and snacks almost everyday is a welcomed break from having to carry every scrap of food you want to feed your body.
One morning I woke up at about 6 am to a few drops of rain hitting my tarp. It just felt like I should get up and out before a real storm rolled in. I was less than 5 miles away from a hot breakfast at the Skyland Restaurant. I was up and out before 7. Thankfully I did get out when I did because the sky seemed to be getting more and more ominous with every step I took. After an hour it was raining so hard I couldn't see but about 50 feet ahead of me. The fog came in and I got to the restaurant in the worst part of the storm. The fog was so thick you couldn't see out the window. I was more than happy to be in a warm, dry place and stayed for unlimited cups of coffee and french toast.
The rest of the park was excellent and kind of like walking a highway. I saw my first black bear of the trail! Took long enough. He was meandering around the rocks near the top of BlackRock Mtn and didn't seemed to be phased by us. I also met a man who was 91 years old named "Slow Poke". He thru-hiked in 1981 and we asked him the key to his longevity and he said this...
"if you can't do something, forget about it".
Not the most inspirational thing I was expecting but hey, whatever works. He was awesome. We all made a marathon+ push into Front Royal and stuffed 6 stinkin' hikers into a small hotel room. We all tried our best to eat a large pizza and then we all crashed out hours before most people our age would.
Then there is the Apple House. A little country store in Linden that I grew up going to. They have the best apple butter donuts in the world. We got to Manassas Gap after a few hours of depressing heat and we called the Apple House to see if they would come pick us up from the trail. They obliged and the owner showtrucking his truck and a basket full of cold waters for us. This was definitely the start of something good. When we got there he hands me a plate stacked high with donuts to share and we obliterated them. After a BBQ sandwich and a few dozen more donuts we were satisfied.
This is the end of the walking for me for 6 days. Visiting friends and family in NOVA will be good. Hope to see some old faces.