|Trail Ridge Road. Photo by Carol Tate|
Monday, October 10, 2016
At the end of September Andrew, along with his parents, took a two week road trip through several of the great National Parks of the west. Andrew will be writing something about each one, in the order of their visit. Up first is Rocky Mountain National Park and it's famous alpine highway, Trail Ridge Road.
Many (but not all) of America's national parks have a showcase roadway that goes through much of the park and by many of the most popular vistas, visitors centers, lodges, and campgrounds. Some, like Arches and Bryce Canyon, take you into the interior of the park and dead end, leaving you to drive back through. Others, such as Going to the Sun Road at Glacier, or Skyline Drive in Shenandoah, take you from one end of the park to the other. In Yellowstone, it's not just one road, but a figure eight of roads that connects all of the major sites in the park. Some, such as Tioga Road in Yosemite are seasonal, closing during the snowy winters of the Sierra Nevada. Each of these roads are interesting in their own right, but in many respects they pale in comparison to Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
|View from atop Hightop Mountain on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park.|
One hundred years ago today, the National Park Service was founded. Although the first national park, Yellowstone, had been created by Congress in 1872, no formal administration of the park was ever set up. Even as other parks, like Rainier, Yosemite, and Sequoia, were created, there still was no one agency in charge of them. In addition, funds were rarely allocated to the maintenance and staffing of these parks, often relying upon the U.S. Army to fill in the void and protect the natural beauty and critically endangered wildlife found in the parks.
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
|Looking down into the valley where Boonsboro, Maryland is, from the George Washington Monument State Park.|
Monday, July 13, 2015
|A view from a Skyline Drive overlook that intersects the AT|
Shenandoah, however, is not quite as wild.
Yeah, you're still very likely to run into bears, snakes, and other denizens of the Blue Ridge. And sure, there are still rocks, mud, and steep uphill climbs. But on the whole, the part I hiked (roughly Rockfish Gap to Big Meadows Amphitheater) was a veritable hiker highway. Throw in the frequent crossings of Skyline Drive and the campstores and waysides overflowing with cheap beer and ice cream, and the park resembles less a wilderness and more a 100 mile long city park.
Provided a hiker is in good shape and isn't suffering from ailments of the feet or knees, casual 15 mile days are reasonable, and 30 mine days are within reach of the speedsters. Were you to average about fifteen miles a day, you'd hit a campstore or wayside about once every other day, save for your first and last. Even slowpokes like me could run into them every third or fourth day.
Whether you are a hiker, rider, or driver, the waysides are worth a stop just for the blackberry milkshakes. Also good is the blackberry cobbler, particularly with the hand dipped blackberry ice cream.
The one downside to Shenandoah is that you are pretty much committed to staying at either the front country campgrounds, or the huts and their associated campsites. While well maintained, these can be inconveniently placed, requiring alternating longer and shorter days. You can camp virtually anywhere in the back country, but I saw only a few places worth camping. Most of the area along the trail is steep and rocky, or covered in second growth thorny hells. For the through hiker, this shouldn't be a problem, as the longest distance between huts is about 13 miles. But for the novice and the easily winded, it can create a logistical quandary.
If you are looking for a great place to introduce yourself to the Appalachian Trail, then Shenandoah is for you. There's enough challenge to let you know what you're in for, while being more forgiving than other places. Also, it's one of the few places along the trail where you can get $1-2 beers and drink them in the open. For the through hikers, usually with an accompanying ice cream bar.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
|Clouds and the setting sun from Blackrock near Big Meadows Lodge.|
For a couple days, the second edition of my hike didn't go too bad. Although my first day was short, it felt good to get back on the trail. Shenandoah is a much easier hiking experience than Georgia, but it still had its ups and downs. I took a zero day on the second day after I said goodbye to my parents at the Dundo Picnic Area because of a heavy rain storm that would be happening overnight. I'm glad I did, because it rained a lot, and I doubt I would have enjoyed the rainy morning.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
|The view from Little Calf Mountain, near the southern end of Shenandoah National Park.|
I started off with two days of slackpacking back into the swing of things. The hiking was slow and the temperatures warm, but I knocked out another 12 miles along the trail. I'm staying in a hotel tonight, but tomorrow night I'll be sleeping out on the trail somewhere. Most likely I'll be starting somewhere to the north of Turk Gap, the place I finished my second day of slackpacking. The bear that I had to scare away in the parking lot can rest easy.
When I begin the trek north I'll do so with a trail name. Thanks to my several nights of night hiking I had to do in Georgia, I earned the name "Nighthawk" by Clever Girl (aka my sister Erin) and others. Somehow I missed this the first time around, but fortunately Erin reminded me of it. It's a really cool name, and I can't wait to sign in to the trail shelter logs as Nighthawk.
Please stay tuned to this blog, as there will be plenty of updates as I move towards Harper's Ferry. Also, please forgive the ducking typos, as the posts beyond this one will be made on my phone.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
|Here's a picture of a NOBO through-hiker as she heads out north from Newfound Gap.|
In our posts on this blog, our various social media pages, and on Erin's blog at Appalachian Trials, we often use some terms and slang that are common to the AT hiking community, but can be pretty confusing to everyone else. For example:
"Going NOBO across Newfound Gap, I yogied a couple of weekenders for a Snickers and a Coke. Glad I did, I was feeling the hiker hunger real bad, thanks to that green blazing I did."