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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hiking in Shenandoah National Park, West Virginia

This trip was originally planned two weeks previously, but due to various reasons it had to be cancelled. Now it finally worked out and four of us (David, Fedya, Omar and me) made our way to West Virginia.

Day 1 - Night Hike
Arriving at the parking lot at 1am we quickly grabbed our packs and started hiking. After all, we had a mile to cover before making camp, and the tent promised a reprieve from the rain. Hiking in the dark is pretty interesting and with a headlamp not too difficult. We soon found a suitable spot and stopped for the night.

Day 2 - Rainforest?
When we got up it was raining still so we decided to postpone breakfast and start directly. What followed was an extremely intense experience. Our hike was almost constantly accompanied by rain and even when we finally stopped for snacks and brunch we didn't get a reprieve from the wet. And so we hiked up and down hills covered in forest, missing the beautiful views on the way, due to thick clouds and fog, but getting a good chance to look inwards and contemplate why we are here.

Wildlife... a bear cub!
Seeing two snakes on the trail was already quite cool, coming from a hiking experience with almost no wildlife in close view, but what made the day was a bear cub which was on our trail and fled as soon as it saw us. Me being in the middle of the group I only saw its hind quarters as it turned tail and fled into the forest, but still, that was one frigging cool experience! To round it off we later saw a good half dozen white tail deer.

Meet and Greet with Jeremy's Run
Because half the troupe, me included, was pretty exhausted by 4pm we decided to skip the next mountain and hike along a valley instead. There we encountered Jeremy's Run a "small" creek which carried enough water to make crossing it difficult. But crossing it we did and that a good dozen times... So when we finally stopped for the night everyone's shoes were finally wet, either from the rain and/or stepping into the Jeremy's Run.

Camping
Fortunately the rain had stopped when we started down Jeremy's Run so we could set up our campsite in a relatively dry setting and hang our wet things out to dry. A small fire gave us some additional comfort and a chance to further dry our belongings. The only drawback of the fire was that it hindered stargazing for which the night turned out to be perfect, even the Milky Way was visible!

Day 3 - Neighbour Mountain Trail
Because we had a long way before us to get back to the car, we got up at 6.15am and started without breakfast up the Neighbour Mountain Trail. This climb was pretty hard so early in the morning, but with the weather presenting itself from the best possible side, we were rewarded with beautiful views! On the summit it was finally time for our well deserved breakfast and all I can say is that I love Oatmeal! :)
From Shenandoah Backpacking

Down and Up and Down and Up...
After hiking down Neighbour Mountain we hit the Appalachian Trail, which we followed for a while. And that's where we finally started to meet other people. Having only seen a lone hiker the day before, we were a bit shocked to now encounter whole groups of hikers with up to ten people. After lunch break things started to get difficult, because my left knee started to hurt again and the 8 to 10 miles up and down hills we still had to cover didn't make it any better. Even though we were slowed down by this we could still enjoy the wonderful scenery and finally also found our car again ;).

Statistics
In two and a half days we covered 477 miles by car and 36 miles on foot, 22 miles of which we hiked on the second day.

Pictures
A couple of pictures of this trip can be found in my picasa gallery.

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