Best Views in Shenandoah National Park

Friday August 18, 2017

Blackrock Gap 13.9 miles

Total mileage 1307.9

It rained some last night but it wasn’t too heavy. The tent was still a little wet this morning. I dried it off as best as I could and packed it up.

My first few views this morning are fog free and it looks like it is going to be a beautiful day. Theses views are to the east and early morning then I get some views to the west with crazy fog in the valley.

These are the morning views to the west.

Then later in the day I get the best views in the whole park and it is very clear.

After thoughts and gear

Monday May 9, 2016

 

The trail was spectacular. I would definitely do it again. It was a total of 76.2 official trail miles. We started the trail at Oconee State Park and ended at Table Rock State Park. That enabled us to do the easier section of the trail first while our packs were full of all the food we would consume for the week. Plus it allowed us to work out some of the muscle soreness we would acquire during this trip without killing our selves in the very beginning.
Things I learned along the trail.
Peeing in the woods is very messy. I did find one system that worked for me without being too messy and I am sure the more I do it the better I will get, but it is a tough learning curve.

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I liked my running skirt with built-in underwear the best. I could move the underwear to the side and place my pibella (female urination device) and go. No TP needed and very mess free as long as you got the FUD positioned right. Which is key!  Plus the skirt kept everything hidden, no girlie parts exposed. And the pibella is light, only 1.5 oz. Now the stinker was if it was cold and I need to wear pants. I had a couple of accidents when trying to go with the pants on. With the running skirt on I could just pull pants on and off without having to show my girlie parts to anyone who happened along on the trail, but was tricky trying to pee. I would have to pull the pants part way down then move my underwear to the side and get the FUD in place and some times I couldn’t get it in the correct position and I would dribble pee down my leg, which is very uncomfortable and gross. So I was trying to think of a way to make this better and I think I am going to try wearing tights and cutting a small hole in the crotch where I can just pull everything to the side. I will let you know how this goes.

 

Tents get very dirty when it rains! It really stinks having to pack up a muddy and wet tent. I have heard how packing up a dirty wet tent sucks and I was a little prepared. I brought a pair of disposable latex gloves for this occasion. I just wished I had a ground cloth under the tent. They are much easier to fold up than a tent. So next time I think I will use a ground cloth.
You burn a lot of calories while hiking and if I had more food I would have eaten more. I didn’t go hungry but I would have liked to eat more for more energy. Most of my meals were easy to rehydrated and I was happy with them.
I had one pair of gloves and they didn’t keep my hands warm enough. I wished I had brought my mittens. If it is really going to be cold I think I will bring both gloves and mittens. Gloves to wear while I pack up my gear and mittens to wear while I hike.

 

Things in my pack that I did not use.

 

I brought 2 pair of underwear and didn’t wear either pair. I had the underwear in my running skirt and didn’t need the underwear to wear with my pants, because I could just wear the pants under the running skirt. I still think I will bring one pair in the future, but definitely not two.
I didn’t use my rain gear, but I would never leave that behind. Unless I was hiking in very warm weather I may leave the rain pants behind.
My total pack weight was around twenty pounds with my food and water. You can check out the link below to see what I took with me.

https://lighterpack.com/r/zscyu

I carried all my own gear except for the tent, which Jim carried. We could share much of the gear so we split it up. While Jim carried the tent, I carried the cook system, first aid kit, and water filter.

On our way home Jim stopped at an outfitter we saw along the way and Jim found a tent that he thought would be more comfortable than ours. It was an 8 man tent that you could just walk right into. You don’t have to contort the body this way and that way just to get in and out of the thing. I’m just glad he is the one who carries the tent. I wasn’t going to carry this monstrosity!

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Day 5

Friday May 6, 2016

This is the first  time that I didn’t have to get up during the night to pee. YEAH! I’ve learned to limit my drinking late in the day. Peeing in the woods is very messy when you have to do it a lot.

When we woke this morning it was 53 degrees in the tent. I thought it was going to be colder since the wind was so strong while we were sitting around the fire. We could also hear strong gusts whenever we woke during the night. When I climbed out of the tent it wasn’t too bad.
I’ve been sleeping really well at night. I have been putting my sit pad under my sleeping pad directly below my hips and I no longer wake up during the night with aching hips and don’t have to keep rotating from side to side.

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When I got to this grassy area, I just wanted to sit down and enjoy the sun and view for a while, it was so beautiful, out of the wind and warm, but Jim was ahead of me…again. And I was playing catch up. So on I went.

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Jim reached the summit of Sassafras Mountain before I did and he was the one who thought I would be beating him. He does better out there than he thinks.

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We have over 19 miles to complete to finish the trail and we didn’t think we could do that in one day since it included climbing Sassafras Mountain (highest peak in SC). We planned to do a 14 mile day then finish the last 5 miles on Saturday. Well, the plans changed… When we got to the campsite we planned to stay at it wasn’t that great and didn’t have a good flat spot for the tent so Jim wanted to finish the trail tonight. I on the other hand was ready to be done for the day. It was after 4pm and I was hungry. I told him that if he wanted to continue I was going to have to eat dinner. So we cooked dinner, ate then set out at 4:40 to finish the last 5.2 miles.

Jim nearly killed me on those last few miles. We still had one more peak to climb and a very long steep decent to finish the trail. I started out in front down the trail, but later gave up the lead to Jim. I thought he would be able to choose our path down the mountain quicker than I was and the sun was starting to set. Once he took over the lead we were flying down the mountain. I’ve never seen him move so fast. He set a crazy fast pace and I had to be very careful and watch every step I took to prevent having an accident. It was not a safe pace we were traveling! He was a crazy man who hadn’t showered in 5 days and was heading for a shower. He was determined to get a shower tonight.

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As we were nearing Table Rock State Park. Jim saw a sign for Table Rock and started in that direction which was…to climb Table Rock Mountain! Luckily there were some other day hikers there and they let us know that we were heading up the mountain rather than into the state park. That would have been awful  if they hadn’t caught us and we ended up going up the mountain!

So here we are in a hotel all fresh, and happy to be clean again, 5 days of body odor washed away.

Day 4

Thursday May 5, 2016

I don’t think it got as cold as we thought it would last night. When we woke this morning it was 56 degrees in the tent according to Jim’s altimeter watch. The day remained cold. It didn’t get much above the the 60’s and was windy which makes it difficult to stay warm. When we are ascending we get so warm and sweaty and you really don’t want your clothes to get wet from sweat so we would take our jackets off. Then when descending you start to get chilled so you put your jacket back on. We were dressing and undressing all along the trail today.

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Lake Jocassee

We had some really challenging terrain today with lots of steep climbs. Some of them putting me into a minor panic mode. I wished I had gotten some pictures of the steep stair climbs we did today, but my focus was 100% on ascending or descending safely.

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Virginia Hawkins Falls

We hike about 12 miles before stopping to break for lunch at 1:30pm. We just couldn’t find many good places to eat out of the wind. We finely stopped at an amazing waterfall overlook (Virginia Hawkins Falls) to eat but didn’t stay longer 40 minutes before we got to cold and needed to move on.

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There were so many amazing bridges along the trail. In the picture above is a 225 foot long suspension bridge. We have already crossed two other shorter suspension bridges. Some of the bridges were completely made out of  trees that had been cut in half or limbs from the trees.

I’ve discovered that I function much better with a long lunch break. I  just need to give myself a good rest and refuel well. Since I didn’t get that today at our  lunch break I made Jim stop again a couple of miles down the trail. I finished my lunch that I didn’t get to eat all of at our lunch stop and brush my teeth. I also got to clean out the trail debris from my shoes. Again! This has become a multi day occurrence. At a stop this morning I took off my shoes, removed the debris,  brushed off my socks and put my shoes back on.  WHAT THE…I say to myself??? I could still feel debris, but everything looked clean so I took off my socks and they were loaded with debris. My shoes and socks had the look of a kid who had been playing in a sandbox!!!

This is our three man tent. We originally started out with a two man tent, but quickly got rid of that for something bigger.
This is our three man tent. We originally started out with a two man tent, but quickly got rid of that for something bigger.

We hiked another mile and found an awesome camp site so we decided to stop a little early  so we could enjoy a campfire tonight. This is our first camp fire on the trail.  It was a great nigh for a fire. It really cooled off tonight. I think it is going to be a COLD night.

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We ended the day early at 15 miles. We saw another couple backpacking,  two solo woman backpacking and two day hikers throughout the day today.
Not only did Jim make me an awesome campfire,  but also treated me to a…drum role please…WARM BATH!!! Of course it was done hiker style…hot water and a bandana, but it was PURE BLISS!!! This guy loves me and treats me like a queen sometimes. I  love this guy and…he looks so sexy because he hasn’t shaven in a week and is all scruffy looking.

Day 3

Wednesday May 4, 2016

Well I was singing a different tune this morning when I stood up and tried to walk. The muscles were quite sore, but after moving around for a bit things loosened up and I had a really good day. It was the strongest I have felt so far on the trail. The soreness isn’t as bad as it was on our first hike and definitely nothing like the soreness after my ironman.

Jim had a wrestling match with his sleeping pad during the night. When he woke up this morning part of the sleeping pad was pushed up against the bottom of the tent. It was quite comical. if you have ever slept on one you know how hard it is just to stay on the thing. When you add a silky sleeping bag on top of it, it turns into a slip and slide.:)
Jim had a wrestling match with his sleeping pad during the night. When he woke up this morning part of the sleeping pad was pushed up against the bottom of the tent. It was quite comical. If you have ever slept on one you know how hard it is just to stay on the thing. Then when you add a silky sleeping bag on top of it, it turns into a slip and slide.

We had a chilly start to the day. When we woke it was 52 degrees in the tent so maybe it got down into the upper 40’s last night and I think it is supposed to be colder tonight. The day was beautiful and by lunch time I was back in my hiking skirt and short sleeve shirt.

We found some benches along the trail and stopped to eat and enjoy the view.
We found some benches along the trail and stopped to eat and enjoy the view.

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There was Mountain Laurel all along the trail. It is beautiful and smells so fragrant. The rhododendron hasn’t started to bloom yet but it looked like it would be shortly.

We hiked almost 17 miles today and had some amazing scenery, as well a some difficult areas for me because of stairs or heights. The stairs that lead to the observation deck to view Whitewater Falls got to me, but I wanted to see the falls. The stairs were so small and steep. My whole foot wouldn’t even fit on the stair, there is no railing to hang onto, and they went on and on…yada, yada, yada. I’m such a baby. The falls were worth the climb. They were beautiful!

Whitewater Falls
Whitewater Falls

We found a great area to stop for lunch and soak our feet in the very cold river water. You couldn’t leave your feet in for long because the water temp was so cold. It did feel good to dip the feet in for short periods of time. It helps to reduce inflammation. We also did some laundry here. We got pretty sweaty on our first day on the trail and I wanted to wash my socks and underwear. I had wool socks and they took a long time to dry so I may look for something synthetic to wear in the future.

Our lunch spot for today and also where we did some lundry.☺
Our lunch spot for today and also where we did some laundry.☺

We did see a copperhead snake sunning himself on the trail. Jim found a long tree limb, picked him up and removed him from the trail so we could pass by. I also saw a tiny black racer.

Some of the rocks we climbed along the river crossings. This is actually part of the trail.
Some of the rocks we climbed along the river crossings. This is actually part of the trail.
You have to climb the boulders to get to this bridge.
You have to climb the boulders to get to this bridge.
WHAT THE HELL??? YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!
WHAT THE HELL??? YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!

After climbing over and through a bunch of rocks and boulders we came to a bridge crossing that we had to use a cable to pull our selves up onto a boulder to get to the bridge. Now we are wearing 20 lbs packs and I’m looking at this cable thinking what the hell…I may tear the skin on my hands. I wanted to put my gloves on first so I didn’t hurt my hands but,  Jim pulled himself up like a champ and proceded to help me up before I could think about it too much. He is my hero.

We are camped for the night next to Bear Creek with another couple who are also heading to Table Rock State Park. We saw 4 day hikers and 3 other backpackers while hiking today plus the couple we are camped with.

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This this hike has been so beautiful. There’ve been so many bridges and water crossing along this trail and we havn’t had to carry more than a liter of water with us at a time. Which has been so nice.

Day 2

Tuesday May 3, 2016

The rain started last night. It was not good timing since I needed to pee. It continued on and off during the night and it sprinkled some as we were packing up camp but we stayed pretty dry.

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I saw a beaver for the first time this morning that Jim pointed out as well as a chimpmunk. We have seen some great wild life on this trip. More than we have seen on any other trip we have done.

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I have to confess I got a little whiny this morning as we were hiking up a mountain. Do you ever wonder what a hiker thinks about as they hike mile after mile? Sometimes they are not happy thoughts!
I was swearing the mountain this morning because my butt cheeks were burning from exhaustion. Then my arms started to fatigue because I was trying to push myself up the mountain with my treking poles. I wanted to take a break and rest but Jim was long gone. He powered up that mountain. I think the few times I did lunges in the last week and half was not enough to prepare me for this trip. I should not procrastinate so much about doing some weight training because I was paying the price today.
Then I had to pee. I always have to. pee. I think the hip belt from my pack presses on my bladder.
Then I had debris in my shoes. Again! Ugh!
Then I was hungry. I ate a Larabar, but couldn’t hike and eat at the same time because I was going up a mountain and was breathing hard which was making my nose run. So I  had to stop to get my heart rate down so I  could eat and breath at the same time without making my nose run.
I continue on but my pack feels so heavy and is hurting my hips and shoulders. I want to stop and repack it, but just hike through the pain.

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This is the last I saw Jim for a while as he powered up this mountian. I was just slowly plotting along while having a solo pity party in my head.

Finally I see Jim.  Woo-hoo! He is waiting on me. I was so happy to see him. I drop my pack eat another Larabar. Yes, two of them with in an hour. Yes, all 37 gram of sugar. I drink some water, pee, repack my pack and now I feel great and powered through the afternoon on a sugar high.

 

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After all that complaining we had a great weather day. It was partly cloudy and cool. I didn’t sweat much at all today. it was perfect weather for a hiker.

 

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We only saw one hiker on the trail today. A solo female backpacker who looked to be in her late 20’s.
We are camped for the night on a side trail off the Foothills trail. It really stinks when you have to hike off trail to camp. Extra miles that don’t count towards the total goal. Plus it is a dry camp,  Meaning there is no water here so we had to pack it in with us. And water is heavy. I was carrying a extra 5 lbs of water.
We end the day with just under 13 miles. I  do have some sore muscles., but it is minor. I did some stretching throughout the day and this evening and that helps. I’m really happy with how well my feet are doing. Usually they will ache from carrying a 20 pound for 8 hours a day over roots and rocks that cause your feet to slide all over the place. I’ve been walking a lot at home and that has made a difference. Jim’s feet are aching,  but it’s no different than before he started the trail.  I think he has some plantar faschitis issues. On a good note he has not had any blisters which have been his biggest issue in the past. I think we have finely got his socks and shoes tuned into what works best for him.

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Jim said that these mushroom looking things is a fungus that grows on dead trees.

 

Day 1

Monday May 2, 2016

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Here we are at the start of the trail.

Today turned out to be a beautiful day. All that worry about rain for nothing. The day was sunny and warm. A little too warm for hiking. I would guess that it was in the low 80’s.
We were up early. Well I was up early. Jim took advantage of not having a charter today and stayed in bed a little longer. We arranged to have a shuttle driver meet us at Table Rock State Park. This is where we will leave our car and finish the trail. Taz (our shuttle driver and trail angel) was there waiting for us and he had trail magic for us in the form of homemade alcohol stoves-one for each of us. I’ve been thinking that I wanted to switch over to an alcohol stove because  it is lighter then the propane canister stove that we have.  Now I can try it and see if I like it. Thanks, Taz.
For those of you who don’t know, trail magic is items given, left or favors done for hikers along the trail. It could be a water cache, cooler of water, soda, or beer. Sometime it could be a container of food items or even fresh fruit. Some trail angels (the ones leaving the trail magic) will have tarps and chairs set up and actually be cooking breakfast, lunch or dinner for you. It can get really elaborate and turn around a hikers mood when they are having a bad day.

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Fun selfie before starting the trail.

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We saw a deer shortly after we started out hike this morning. Jim said it was a doe. This was the first time we have seen a deer while hiking.

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We covered about 15 miles today. I was quite tired when we finelly stopped for camp. Jim is an animal when he hikes. It means less time on the trail  sleeping in a tent for him. He can see a shower and comfy bed at the end and just focuses on that. I didn’t think he was ever going to stop today.  I bet I’ll sleep well tonight.
We saw 5 other people on the trail today.  One was a woman hiking solo and she looked to be in her 60’s. I was amazed how good she looked late in the day. Jim and I were sweaty messes and breathng hard and she looked like she just started.

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The Chattooga River. We camped along this river.

We are camping along the Chattooga River tonight and spent a lot of the day hiking along the river. It is really beautiful. Camping along the river also gave us the opportunity to take a bath,  but I chose the sponge bath option the water was really COLD.

Foothills Trail 2016

Sunday May 1, 2016
Jim and I are currently in Greenville, South Carolina. Yes, Jim decided to do this hike with me. It is an 80 mile hike of the Foothills Trail. But first I think I should take Jim out to Chili’s so he can indulge in a beer or two or three…maybe four before he sees the weather forcast!

My first thought when I saw the weather report last week was…OH Shit Jim is going to kill me! There is rain in the forcast! That really ramps up the “he must really love me level”.

Below is a picture of the forcast that I saw last week. He may never hike with me again.

 

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Things have changed since then and it is a little better, but I still think we will be hiking through a lot of rain tomorrow. I will hope for the best.

 

Update…

After making a couple of wrong turns trying to find the Chili’s we saw Papas and Beer Authentic Mexican Restruant and the parking lot was pack! So we ditch the idea of finding Chili’s and stop here instead. It was a very good stop. It is a good sign when you walk in and the place is packed with Mexicans.

This is a picture of Jim with probable his last smile for the next few days. Beer makes him smile hiking does not!

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There was a burrito challange on the menu. If you could eat the whole thing you got a free T-shirt.  And let me tell you the thing was massive times two. The picture below is the burrito Jim ordered and he couldn’t even eat half of it. The burrito challange burrito look to be about 4 times the size of this one.

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