Within minutes of entering Shenandoah National Park we see the deer. Lots and lots of deer. After a while they seemed commonplace like sparrows in a MacDonalds parking lot. We also caught a glimpse of a couple of skittish black bears. The shelters provided places to hang food high above those bears’ reach and I had no doubt of their ability sniff out a Snickers bar inside a snoozing hiker’s sleeping bag.
As we hiked through the Park, HAE could be heard musically chanting “She-nan-doe”, after the mis-pronunciation of the Park’s name by Mark’s girlfriend. It added to the party-like atmosphere we were enjoying throughout the Park. We were working on our “beer a day ’til Maine” campaign and Shenandoah made it easy with the many restaurants and stores close to the Trail. The set up of Shenandoah reminded me of the 50’s and the family vacations of America’s automobile society. The Park made every effort to keep the tourists in their car except at the snack bars and gift shops. Skyline Drive, the road through the Park, was an engineering marvel with its pull-outs at sweeping vistas and elaborate stone retaining walls. Even the Appalachian Trail in the Park was well maintained and carefully routed to every scenic overlook. The shelters were well built and the signage on the paths was unobtrusive yet accurate and informative. As impacted as Shenandoah National Park seemed to be, it still held the appearance of a wilderness area.
The party continued as we met up with hiker after hiker equally seeking to swill beer. We ran into some new friends including Martin, a guy from Germany hiking in leather pants. We ran into St Thomas, Ms Adventure, Red Devil, the Poughkepsie Pair, Peter n’ Judy, Russ, Mule and the Traveler.
The walk through Shenandoah was some of the easiest miles on the Appalachian Trail. We would hike 15 to 20 miles and still have enough time to goof off and hang with the other AT hikers. There were many great overlooks and scenic vistas worth a hoist of the haebar. Mark and I took plenty of time to absorb the great views. I really enjoyed the region and when we exited the Park five days later, I knew I would miss it. We still had over 1100 miles to go, however, with many new adventures just waiting to happen.
…continue the adventure, read: Walking Among the Insects [link]