Part way, best way

Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Harper's Creek Shelter (834.3)

Today will be a hard day. The mileage is 14, but more important is getting to the supposed end of the mountainous portion of Virginia. Mile 862 is the southern entrance of Shenandoah National Park, and the 20 miles before that introduce the more rolling terrain promised there.

But before that is some quick ups and downs leading to the lip of The Priest, a monolith just before a sharp 3,000 foot descent, followed immediately by a 3,000 foot ascent. My plan is to do the descent, and go one-third of the way of the ascent, stopping at a shelter there for the night.

I get up early given the soggy rains, too much sleep, and too little food (although I did demolish two Pop-Tarts, but more on those later). On the trail at 6:40.

Passed by thru hiker Gem early.

As expected, sharps ups and downs, but I'm doing well. Still few hikers out, but do talk to two hikers near my age who describe the hike coming south. They agree with my strategy of having fresh legs in the morning.

Stop at the Priest Shelter for an early lunch. This is the northernmost end point to-date, as hiking partner number 1 Achin reminded me the other day, of his attempts.

Continue on after hydrating a bit, leave but don't see The Priest, and start the descent.

Lots of small skittery rocks to pay attention to since they can slip underfoot on their own, but get down in due time, rest at bottom, and go. Nice suspension bridge over another too wide stream, then start up. It's a pretty tough 1,000 feet, in part because its late in my hiking day.

Set up tent in shelter, joined by a similarly minded, and aged, hiker. He says rain is coming but I don't think so. Two twenty somethings roar in and announce we need to pull tents out for hikers who are coming. We do, and the shelter and campsite have over 15 by day's end.


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