Day 65. Today ended up being a surprise slackpack and family day. I connected with my sister late last night and learned the family wanted to come out and meet me again to hang out and possibly hike. We had discussed it a bit last weekend, but I wasn’t sure what would end up happening.
I left Big Meadows Campground at 8am and hiked 8 miles to Skyland Resort (another of those fancy campground facilities in SNP). When I got there, my sister was just pulling in as well, with food and drinks in tow, so we enjoyed an amazing lunch on the patio looking out over the mountains. Then I dropped most my gear in her trunk and we hit the trail.
I thought perhaps we’d have a slower hike together as we chat and take in the sights, but nope. My sister is like me and very comfortable hiking fast along these trails. We covered our planned 4 miles in record time, then stopped for a snack and water at the Pinnacles Picnic Area. It was a great hike together and the weather was perfect, but we separated there and she hiked back while I went North to finish my day.
The rest of the afternoon, I enjoyed hot sunny weather and more gorgeous Shenandoah valley views along the way. The miles ticked by quickly and I rolled passed the Byrds Nest and Pass Mountain huts without stopping. I wasn’t on a mission necessarily, but I wanted to get today’s hike done so I could enjoy more family fun time.
Side note, at one point I passed a Cub Scout troop going on their first backpacking trip together. It was really funny listening to the scoutmaster’s safety lesson while I took my water break. The kids were uber-eager to hike and all had MONSTER backpacks for their 2 mile hike to the hut. I laughed to myself as I remembered my first backpacking adventure. I was 19 years old and packed everything in my dad’s “recommended” packing list. It was a list that told you to consider A or B. In my young haste, I didn’t pay attention and packed both A and B … and C, just to be safe. My backpack weighed at least 60 pounds and my trip up the Montana mountains required rest breaks at least every 50 feet. I was about as good a listener back then as these kids looked to be today. Hopefully their scoutmasters enjoyed the laugh as much as my dad did. 🙂
I strolled into Beahm’s Gap at 4:30, again just minutes after my sister did. Our timed sibling synchronicity is incredible today. We had a snack together on the side of the road then drove to this evening’s accommodations in Loray, VA … Jellystone Park.
I’ve never been to one of these Jellystone Resorts, though there was one near me growing up in the Wisconsin Dells. For those who are unfamiliar Yogi Bear’s themed camping resort … it is basically a childhood dream come true. Water slides, swimming pools, games, arcade, fishing, boats, campfires, etc. you can stay in a dozen different types of accommodation, ranging from campsites to full service cabins. It’s also a very popular RV Campground.
After a shower and a few cold drinks, my sister and I had a casual dinner and enjoyed the solitude of our cabin in this oasis. Even as an adult I would love spending a weekend “camping” here. We watched kids run around outside playing games, and laughed about how it reminded us of ourselves on family vacations growing up.
My brother-in-law and nephews arrived a couple hours later, where we enjoyed a campfire and cooked s’mores. It was too late for the other resort activities, but hopefully they will get to enjoy them fully in the morning when I’m back on the trail. Since it looks like rain tomorrow, the kids will forego hiking and instead enjoy some campground playing
It’s good to spend time with family. After so much time out in solitude on the trail, it’s great to be brought back for a spell within this familiar environment. I miss a lot of people back home, and do my best to stay in touch, but’s it’s hard to get to everyone as much as I’d like. These weekends have been great and are a taste what’s to come for me, where family and friends plan to join me on multi-day sections of the trail later this summer.
Tomorrow will be another slackpack day, this time into Front Royal, VA. I’m so close to Harpers Ferry now I can almost see it. Like Damascus a few weeks ago, hitting that trail town milestone will be another significant one, as it signifies the (unofficial) halfway point to the trail. I can’t believe I’ve been out on the AT for more than 2 months and am nearly 1000 miles done! What an amazing adventure this is, and what an incredible journey it has already been.
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait!)
- Start Mile: 925.9
- Start Time: 08:00
- End Mile: 946.2
- End Time: 16:30
- Miles Hiked: 20.3
- Miles to Go: 1244.7
- Lodging: Jellystone Park (Loray, VA)