AT Project in Virginia: Shenandoah Wrap-Up – 10/18/14 – Smith Roach Gap to Bootens Gap – 16.2 Miles
The wind increased during the night and we woke with some decisions to make. Could Jim ride his bike safely/ comfortably? If not, what would he do while I was hiking? For that matter, was hiking a good idea with high winds, the potential to be knocked out by falling tree branches? Ultimately I decided to reverse my hike direction to northbound starting at Smith Roach Gap so that I would be walking towards our campground, and Jim confined his biking range to the middle portion of Skyline Drive, giving both of us more bailout options.
From Smith Roach Gap (how’s that for a name?) I climbed straight up Hightop Mountain. At the viewpoint near the top, I stepped up onto a rock for a photo and a wind gust blew me off balance. I got down off the rock and kept on moving.
A concrete post sign for a spring
This spring was near the trail and flowing well, something I wouldn’t count on much along the ridge line in Shenandoah.
A cacophany of audio stimulation, no quiet reflective moments on the trail today. The brisk wind whipped and bent the trees, and during the rare moments that the trail wound around to the calmer side of a mountain, the rustling leaves and the endless motorcycle drone on Skyline Drive took over the soundtrack. Leaves were piled high, yet to be packed down by rain and foot traffic. Every dozen yards or so the carpet colors changed.
Boots and leaves
Boots and leaves – Part 2
Tulip poplar leaf
At Swift Run Gap, U.S. Highway 33 bisects the park and hikers must cross it on the bridge of Skyline Drive. The trail immediately turns back into the woods and climbs up Saddleback Mountain. About a quarter mile in from the road I stopped for a snack break and a little shadow selfie.
A fellow hiker woolly worm
You know I love chicken-of-the-woods bright orange
I was moving along at a fast pace today, keeping an eye on the time and the fact that the wind was increasing in force rather than calming down. When the trail passed within sight of our campsite at Lewis Mountain Campground, I noticed that our car was parked there. I assumed that Jim was still out riding on Skyline Drive. I left a note that I would be at our meeting spot at Bootens Gap about an hour earlier than planned.
From the campground it was an easy 1.5 miles to the trails circumventing and climbing up Bearfence Mountain. The AT skirts around Bearfence Rocks, so I didn’t try the short but challenging scrambles. As I rounded the mountain to the side nearest the road, I was very glad that I didn’t try for the summit when I saw the multitudes of people and cars parked every which way. This is on my must-do list for a future visit, though.
At Bootens Gap I had just enough time to take off my pack and sit down when Jim arrived. Traffic was even heavier today and the wind was definitely a factor in his bike riding, but the views from overlooks were so spectacular that he deemed the effort worth it. We went back to Lewis Mountain Campground. I had to wait my turn for a quick shower in the less-than-ideal facility (but, hey, it was hot water) and then luxuriated in using my hair dryer in the women’s restroom. I can be very minimalist when necessary but if the opportunity for pampering presents itself…
As the sun went down the temperature dropped and the wind did not, causing Jim and me to seek warmth and food and comfort at Big Meadows Lodge. The restaurant wasn’t open yet, so we cozied up in big chairs by the fireplace in the downstairs bar. Another couple wandered in, football was mentioned, we discovered a six degrees of separation type connection and enjoyed some lively conversation. They went on their way and we had dinner (good food but late). There was nothing left to do but crawl back to our campsite with the fierce wind howling, shivering and worrying about trees crushing our tent. But our sleeping bags were very cozy and earplugs worked well. Jim didn’t sleep much but I was in dreamland. Tomorrow is our last day in the Shenandoahs!
Listen to the wind blow
Where does the wind go?
What does the wind know?
Listen to the wind blow