Slithering Through Shanendoah


Getting into Waynesboro proved to be quite easy.  Rambo and I got to the road crossing where the parkway meets the highway and found a posted list of trail angels who we could call to scoop us. It took a few calls but naturally the driver with the North Carolina area code had time to lend a hand.  Should have known.

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It took a few calls but naturally the driver with the North Carolina area code had time to lend a hand.  Should have known.

First stop Ming’s, an infamous all you can eat Chinese experience. The rest of Thru Tang, who had staked out Ming’s before we arrived, was already hitting their third plates but we caught them again.
     The group ate an expedition’s worth of food and then scattered around town.  Rambo and Sambo were meeting up with some of Rambo’s family, his parents and grandmother to be specific, or Muma, Diddy, and Grambo.  Patch and Yellowbeard went with YB’s mom, who like any good mother used Google to find what hikers like as trail magic, while Caboose went with her mom.

Patch and Yellowbeard went with YB’s mom, who like any good mother used Google to find what hikers like as trail magic

     We spent two nights in town, which gave us time to see a movie and some Hokies. My college friends Erin and Jeff live locally so we went to the nearest microbrewery and caught up. Long distance trekking exposes a lonesome, wandering part of you, which makes any support really mean a lot to a weary hiker. It meant a lot to me to see them.
     Laundry, Little Caesar’s, and haircuts were also on the docket. It’s over 10 dollars to get a cut anywhere so naturally a hiker bought $7 buzzers.  Eventually we got back to the trail and to the park.

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     I’d never been to Shenandoah or many national parks at all. Backpacking has been an important part of my life for years but the crowds usually keep me out of big parks and in amazing national forests.

The park dangled a tempting fruit too close to the white blazes.

I’d only heard two things about Shenandoah: you cross skyline drive way too many times and there are a ton of bears. The park is also close to the ever populating DC and NoVa area, making for a regular population that loves the park to death. Frighteningly literally. The park dangled a tempting fruit too close to the white blazes.

     Every so often we’d come across things called waysides. Some combination of overpriced mini mart and restaurant, they were impossible to ignore. Craft brews at grocery store prices were especially affordable (and thus tasted even better) since these low-key trading posts appeared to simply resell 6-packs they bought at the local grocery store.

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    We hiked in on the first day of summer. It was a cold dreary day so many of us bypassed naked hiking day. When your heart isn’t in it, you’re just reluctantly taking your clothes off which I have a rule against. We stopped at the first shelter and enjoyed a monstrous storm with some section hikers.
     The next few days were unlike any of the previous three months.  We could constantly hear cars and saw tons of people, but on the plus side the trail turned crazy easy. Finally Virginia got to a consistent relaxing rolling trail. 

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     When the time came for our first wayside it didn’t matter that it was 10am, it was there. A group of us descended on the store and returned with breakfast beers. After a round or so we moved onto the restaurant. All of a sudden the day was running away, yet again. By mid-afternoon we had fewer than three miles under our belts.  We pushed through the afternoon for an impressive 7.7 miles.  These first stores and restaurants would show how it wasn’t just difficulty that slowed hikers but distractions and temptation.

*At an undisclosed time and place the following events occurred:

Caboose and I were cooking in front of a shelter when a fellow hiker, let’s call him the Governor, arrived with a bounty. He came across two rattlesnakes around lunch and decided his dog’s life was in danger so he killed them. He pinned each head down with his poles and drew his knife just under the head, I’d say neck but snakes are all neck, and decapitated them.

He pinned each head down with his poles and drew his knife just under the head, I’d say neck but snakes are all neck, and decapitated them.

The Governor grew up in a part of Florida where killing a snake in that manner was standard operating procedure.  Quickly some of us gathered wood and devised a plan. I’ve never been much for hunting, or poaching a protected species in a potentially protected area for that matter, but I am always hungry and I hate waste.

 

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     I built a fire up and offered my Bojangles spice. The Governor skinned and prepped the juicy serpent and put them on the grill. After 15 minutes or so we had a feast that no one knew how to eat. Do you take a corn dog, corn-on-the-cob or popsicle approach? Luckily the governor knew and showed us the beauty of snake meat. Savory, succulent, bold and satisfying to the last bite. Even the spine had a fatty muscle that was delicious. Jack, Caboose, and I ate a few inches that left us each wanting more. Recommended.

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     Around the second wayside it was time for me to step off once again.  It was time for my boy Brendan Murry to become Mr. Allison Clarke.  Five days off trail once again.
     Tesla, Chewy, Snugz, Caboose, Hustle and Flow, and I had a birthday lunch for Jack. Around two my father showed up and for the second time I stepped off.  It’s bad enough to leave but I was headed to the place everyone agrees should be avoided during a thru hike, home.

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