Did you opt outside for Black Friday? I headed down to Shenandoah National Park to complete a section of AT with my friend Lola and her daughter.
Slipping out of my house sans Sidekick Pauli always takes a bit of logistical brilliance…so boots and pack were stowed in the car the night before. I absolutely avoided looking directly at her as I grabbed a grocery bag of food and headed out the door! No worries for the dog…she will go out with me on Saturday somewhere. 🙂
The ranger at the north entrance reminded me the gate would close at 5 pm. No problem, I will be long gone by then! You know unless tragedy occurs, which it won’t, but if it does, hmmm…nope, no tragedy today, period. I made my sacrifice to the Trail Gods on Wednesday.
What timing! I pulled into Compton Gap glancing into my rearview…and there was Lola right behind. Excellent! And it was now 50 degrees out. Yay! Weather cooperating. We left my car at Compton Gap, then drove down to our starting point at Gravel Springs Gap in Lola’s minivan.
Now the passenger, I took the opportunity to scan the woods for wildlife (okay, bears) without having to watch the road. I was pretty happy searching the woods until Lola and daughter saw a bobcat right off the road and I missed it! Ergh! The bobcat disappeared before I could see it. Life lesson here…don’t go looking so far beyond that you miss what is right in front of you!
Took about 10-15 minutes to reach Gravel Springs Gap and I think the weather had chilled a bit. However, I warmed up quickly as I headed up South Marshall Mountain, but not enough to shed a layer just yet. I was just starting to look for a place to break when a great overlook presented itself. Just off the trail, no extra effort required, thankfully!
Next up…North Marshall Mountain. The climb up went quickly and again, we were rewarded with an amazing view back to South Marshall. I love it when I can look back at where I have hiked as it is such a feeling of accomplishment!
The first two climbs of the day had not been as difficult as I had anticipated. The mist hovered and dipped down as we crossed over both South and North Marshall. The scent of late fall hung in the air and recent wind storms had littered the path with deep piles of leaves. *crunch, crunch, crunch* I felt like a kid again kicking in the leaves that came up past the top of my boots. I was brought sharply back to the present when I slipped a little on a rock beneath the leaves! The humility…let me NOT be the sacrifice to the Trail Gods today, thanks. 🙂 —the gate closes at 5 pm— haha!
Reaching Jenkins Gap, it was time for the final climb up to Compton’s Peak , whew! I stopped a few times to catch my breath! Do mountains ever really get easier? I am familiar with this stretch of AT though. Once we passed the campsite on the left, I knew we were almost to the cut off to the view. This is a view you have to work for…and even though the trail post says 0.2 miles, it feels like more. Not a difficult walk down, just rocky, and when you are at the end of your hike, well…tempting to just pass it altogether. But don’t, worth the extra walk!
We had the whole park to ourselves for most of the hike, or so it seemed. Descending to my car at Compton Gap, we now shared the trail with many others who had decided to take a hike on Black Friday. Welcome, and good-bye! Hike On!