That was the plan. Like many plans, it unraveled when Hawkeye's knee blew out late Sunday about a half mile from the car. We got him to the tiny car with less than two hours of daylight. My car was 85 miles down the road at where the hike was to end this coming Sunday. There was no room for three men and three large packs in the Mini-Cooper. We effectively had two choices - Imad could drive Hawkeye home, or he could drive me to my car, and I could return to Hawkeye and give him a ride home. This second option didn't really occur to me until later, when my wife pointed out that we could have done that, and really, should have done that. It would have meant that Hawkeye would have to wait alone by the road for about 5 hours, and I would have gotten back to him about 9:30, three hours after dark.
What we did was option 1 - Best View took Hawkeye home, and I continued the hike alone. When I got to camp, I sent my wife an update with the InReach telling her what had happened, and that if she was concerned about me hiking the next week alone, I would come home Monday. She was concerned, and so that is what I did, hiking out Monday morning and hitching - with great difficulties - rides to my car. Yeah, doing the car shuttle thing would have been smarter, but at the time it didn't occur to me and I was comfortable continuing to hike.
Here is a map of how far we got. We started at the top where the AT (red dashed line) crossed Route 522 where the red arrow is. The Skyline Drive is the heavy mustard line. Saturday night, we camped at the Gravel Springs Hut after hiking nearly 14 miles (purple star). The loop trails (pink, blue, and orange) in the middle left was my route of my Thornton Springs three day hike from two months ago, a few miles of which was on the Appalachian Trail. The orange arrow was where Best View's car was and where Hawkeye and Best View went home. At the red star is the Pass Mountain Hut, my home for Sunday night. And my hike ended at the bottom at the purple arrow when I left the AT to hitchhike to Rockfish Gap. Best View did reach me by InReach Monday to tell me he would come back after work to get me if I needed a ride, but I managed to eventually hitch a ride to my car with two very kind ladies.
Yeah, disappointing for sure, especially for Hawkeye, who can't walk right now. Hopefully, he will heal quickly,
Here are some photos from my two (and a fraction) day, 28 mile hike, covering the Appalachian Trail in the northern part of Shenandoah National Park.
Hopes are high at the start of the hike, as Hawkeye, me (Warrior being my newly bestowed trail moniker), and Best View prepare to start hiking the storied Appalachian Trail.
This is the only bear we saw, and he is a patriotic bear! However, the second night when I reached Pass Mountain Hut, a man who was hiking out with his son told me they had seen a large bear just before reaching the hut. We all hung our food for the night. We did see a number of deer.
Autumn is well underway, as seen by this lovely maple leaf.
Best View and Hawkeye early on one of our many climbs. Most of the first day was uphill. We started at 900 feet and camped the first night at about 2,500 feet. We crested North Marshal Mountain along the way at more than 3,300 feet, and probably gained over 4,000 feet during the day with all of the ups and downs.
The view from Possum Rest, at the Shenandoah National Park boundary on the AT. This was 3.7 miles and 1,400 feet higher from where we started.
This is the panoramic view from Compton Peak at 2,900 feet, where we had lunch on day 1.
Best View enjoys one of the "best views" from North Marshall Mountain, at 3,300 feet. I think he really enjoyed his first backpacking trip.
Because we could leave all but one day of food in Best View's car, we each decided to cook a deluxe meal the first night. Here was mine, before cooking it in the fire. To top it all off, Best View packed in several bottles of IPA and Stout. That IPA with dinner hit the spot! Steak and beer - a backpacking luxury!
We camped that first night at the Gravel Springs Hut, setting up tents nearby. My site was terrible, sloping away downhill. I slept horribly on the slanted ground, but got to listen to owls calling off and on. Before bed time, we enjoyed chatting with the other hikers, many of whom were through-hikers coming down from Maine. One was doing a "yo-yo!" He had hiked from Springer Mountain to Mount Katahdin, and now was reversing the trip back to Springer.
On Sunday, we broke camp as early as we could and hiked uphill for nearly nearly four miles to start the day to crest Hogback Mountain at nearly 3,500 feet. It was a cold and windy morning, probably about 34 degrees when we woke up. The winds were awful. Here I am just before the final 500 foot climb to Hogback.
View of the Shenandoah Valley near the trail up Hogback Mountain.
Panoramic view of Hogback Mountain.
Sometimes we hiked together, other times separately. I was ahead of Hawkeye when I reached this spot on the Skyline Drive, our agreed rendezvous point about 1/3 mile from Best View's car. I had no idea that Hawkeye had injured his knee out a quarter mile or so behind me, ending his hike at this point. With sundown approaching, I decided to continue the hike alone.
I reached the Pass Mountain Hut - a truly beautiful camping spot - with an hour of light to spare. The hut was built by the CCC in 1939. There is a great spring, a privy, and excellent tent sites. The shelter can comfortably sleep at least 10. Seven of us slept there, the other six being through-hikers Dirty Bird, Max, Hydro, Ducky, String Bean, and Toast.
Here is where I laid down my bedroll for the night. It was not as cold, and unlike the prior windy night, it was calm. I slept better, despite a little bit of snoring from the five other men and one woman sharing the hut. I did hear an owl call, and I heard coyotes during the night - hard to hear over the snoring, though.
In the morning, I caught the sunrise at the exact moment through this large tree in front of the shelter.
Since I had decided to end the hike and hitch back to the car and head home (instead of a third day of hiking with 15 miles originally planned), I had a leisurely breakfast and a couple of mugs of hot tea as the six through-hikers chatted, ate, packed up, headed off. They were more than halfway through their 2,180 mile stroll, all having left northern Maine in July. More about them in a later post,
From the hut, I packed up, hiked the 1.2 miles out to Thornton Gap, and started hitching rides. It was much more difficult than I could have believed to hitch though a national park with a big backpack. I guess people assumed I was dangerous. Too bad we have come to that as a society. But eventually, two kind ladies took a chance and gave me ride the last 55 miles to my car, going out of their way.