Mile: 861.4 - 888 (26.6 miles)
I sleep terribly and realize my dreams of a lazy start today are not to be. I dawdle, enjoying the continental breakfast and making friends with tourists in the cramped space. At the grocery store I find more hikers and do a very haphazard resupply. This next section is 108 miles but Shenandoah National Park is apparently full of waysides which sound like grocery stores with short order grills. Even the guidebook I use suggests a minimal resupply to take advantage of the on trail options.
I decide it's probably time to hitch since it's just getting hotter, and the next 5 days are all supposed to be in the 90's. I'm dreading the heat but there's no real avoiding it, I'm just praying for shade and a breeze for now.
Trying to get back from urgent care was a failure but getting back to the trail took only a few minutes. I had just gotten to the road when a local trail angel who already had three hikers squeezed me in. And just like that it was back to the trail and less than half a mile later I filled out a quick permit and was officially in Shenandoah National Park.
Nothing magical happens when the trail enters National Parks, mostly I just get new cement sign posts. It's rolling climbs with lots of radio towers and what feels like a bajillion road crossings. What was the Blue Ridge Parkway has become Skyline Drive and the trail seems to mirror the road for much of the park. I've heard this park was really built for the motorists and it definitely feels that way. But a lot of the road crossings are near big view points which is cool. At the end of the day I count road crossings/parking lots and come up with 15. Okay so not a bajillion but still quite a few.
It's breezy and there are a few unexpected streams the first few miles but there are plenty of more exposed sections and I'm pouring sweat. It's a dry 13 miles the second part of the day and I'm more than happy to head 0.2 miles off trail to Blackrock Hut and it's lovely spring. It's 6:30 and I'm tempted to stay but it's very crowded and I decide I'd really rather not.
It's getting cooler and windier and as I climb I'm happy with my decision to push on despite the liters of sweat still pouring off me. Cooler is relative out here. Unlike the Smokies it is legal to camp not at shelters as long as you meet some conditions (away from established facilities, water etc). Initially I think I might head to the nearby campground but it's late and I don't feel like camping near RVs. The ridge runner at the last hut warned about a nuisance bear that's troubling the few miles around Ivy Creek which is just past the campground. I have no desire to tangle with a bear and end up finding a spot under some power lines instead. It's not one of my more picturesque campsites but I think it meets official criteria and as the wind whips through the trees I'm actually pretty excited about my little clearing.
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