Spirit had been telling me for weeks about how much she enjoyed hiking though the Shenandoah National Park on previous hikes. She told me about easy hiking, waysides, and animal sightings. So, a week ago we left Waynesboro, VA and two days later we entered the park. Because we were on the Appalachian Trail, we had to fill out a backcountry permit. This permit tells the Park Service who you are, where you will be and when you leave the Park.
It is free for hikers to camp and pass through the park. This year our National Parks are celebrating it’s 100th birthday. To celebrate, the Park Service has picked 16 days for everyone to get a chance to enjoy the great outdoors. There are still a few days left this year for you to plan a visit to one of our parks: http://www.nationalparks.org/connect/blog/2016-free-admission-days-national-parks
Our first night in the park we camped in a location other than the shelter or hut. It was a sunny evening and so we hiked further into the park than the first shelter. We had just finished supper when we heard a noise in the woods. It turned out to be two deer and the slowly worked their way into our camp. It was interesting to me to see how close they came. I guess animals in a park have nothing to fear. It made me wonder about the bears…
The next morning we headed out and hiked to Loft Mountain Campground. We were able to take showers, do laundry and eat snacks before we headed to the Loft Mountain Wayside for lunch.
Now because of bears in the park, Spirit wanted to hang our backpacks and not take them the .5 mile down to the wayside. I just didn’t want to do that, so I kept my pack on and watched the antics of the ever hysterical throwing of the bear rope over a tree branch. Before it was all said and done, Spirit had 1. Stepped on the rope then threw. 2. Just missed hitting herself as the rock came back to earth. and 3. Fallen to the ground. At this point I was trying hard not to laugh as I could see the frustration of the situation was getting under her craw. Finally, the pack was in the air and we were on our way for cheeseburgers, fries and blackberry milkshakes.
On the way back Spirit and I took two different routes. She went back the way we came to retrieve her pack, an uphill trek. I went back towards Ivy Creek. When I got to Ivy Creek, I remembered a ridge runner stating a day earlier about a possible bear problem in this area. I wasn’t too concerned until a hiker passed me heading north. He went around the curve in the trail and for the next 5 minutes I hear, “Go away bear, get out of here.” Then I think, “Well, the bear must have left? ” My pack is on the ground and I look south to see if Spirit is coming yet and then I look north and I see a black bear come around the corner and continue walking towards me. I grab my pack and put it on and I tell the bear, “Go on.” The bear stops, looks at me and then walks off the trail two whole feet. The bear just stands there. I figure I better keep the bear south of me because Spirit won’t know it’s here if I go by it. I work my way south on the trail towards Spirit around a curve in the trail. Five minutes goes by and the bear is on the trail, coming around the curve. I repeat what I said before and the bear goes off the trail and I go south some more around another curve in the trail. Now there is a hiker coming towards me but it isn’t Spirit. I tell the young guy what has been going on and where the bear is. He goes a few feet and says, “Wow, it’s right here.” I take a step towards him and lean to look so I don’t get any nearer and I see the young guy is eye to eye with the bear only
three feet apart.
The guy yells and waves his arms at the bear and the bear just looks at him. The hiker edges by and leaves. Finally, Spirit shows up and I tell her what has been going on. We head down the trail and there is the bear in the trail. We both say, “Get out of here.” The bear walks into the brush next to the trail and we walk by and finally leave the area. We did see a lot of deer and seven bears
plus a lot of signs.
The next day we were visited by my husband Tom and his siblings
They were in the area for a family get-together.
They had brought us lunch and later Spirit said I devoured the sandwich in 5 minutes. Then I went to our vehicle and did a small resupply and then down the trail I went with family in tow. At one point Spirit looked back in time to see one in the group running to keep up with us. At the half mile point 2 in the group were heading back and in another quarter mile, Spirit, Tom and I were on our own. Tom turned back at the one and a half mile point. He was on his way home to Minnesota and had a long way to drive. Once again Spirit and I were on our own.
Of course the trail was super nice through the park at the time my family was with me. The park service makes sure that the park trails are people friendly.
The Trail Maintenance Crew works hard to see that it is so. My son Kevin was employed at Mesa Verde National Park on such a crew. I saw the hard work he did and so now I can appreciate the trails even more, knowing the hard work it took to make them that way. I make sure that every time I see someone working to maintain the trail
I tell them how much I appreciate their hard work.
Even though the park had been a great place to be, I was ready to be out of the park. Spirit always tells me, “Be careful what you wish for…” I had forgotten in a short time what the trail could really
be like. I’m beginning to dread the rocks of Pennsylvania.