Most people discuss the food, Dogpile, or what is planned for the weekend during Coffeeteria at ET’s on Saturday morning. Not TYA, Ollivander and a host of others. Nope they discuss a CSAUP that really is Completely Stupid. Thus the birth of the Shenandoah Shenanigans. Without getting too deep in the weeds, the plan is to cover 107 miles of the Appalachian Trail that runs through Shenandoah National Park. To make this an easier feat, we will begin at the northernmost park on the park in Front Royal, VA and continue south on the AT to Afton, VA. This seemed to be the logical direction due to the fact that if we were moving from North to South, at least we would going downhill. Now that we all know the game plan, here is what happened:
Thursday, 05.02.2019 – 1630 – Gather at TYA’s house to load the EMC Mechanical Van for the trek to Front Royal, VA. TYA had us stocked with plenty of water, Gatorade, sandwich supplies and meds. Ollivander brought enough snacks, fruit, and chips to feed about 5 Little League teams. YHC was instructed he was in charge of dinner so YHC had enough Pork Tenderloin, Corn on the Cob, Chicken Breasts and Green Beans for three times as many people. (And COLD BEER. Van loaded and off we go. As we turn out of TYA’s neighborhood onto Cary, TYA feels the need to refill the van with gas, but Ollivander indicates we probably got enough to get out of the city limits. Slowly making our way north through rush hour traffic, we arrive just south of Warrenton, VA for van refueling and snacks. As the sun is setting, we arrive in Front Royal, VA and find the trailhead where the festivities will begin on Friday morning. Then it off to find a spot for dinner. We passed a nice, clean looking pub on the ay into town. We head back to the pub, to discover the damn restaurant closes at 2000. What type of food establishment closes at 2000. Ollie breaks out the phone and finds us a place called The Cue Sports Bar and Grill. Sounds like our kind of place so we head in that direction. By this time, Whittler has met us from Richmond and as we walk into bar, we discover we were in a pool hall complete with pinball machines and what looks like pool tournament. TYA inquires as to whether they are still serving food, (apparently everyone in Front Royal eats between 1700-1800), and the fine folks told us they would be more than happy to feed. After eating our burgers and watching a little hockey, it is time to find a place to sleep for the night. (This truly was an adventure because we obviously worked out all the details beforehand). Quality Inn here we come and they have rooms available. It is here we meet our first Thru Hikers that had decided to sleep in a real bed for a night. This young couple had recently graduated and decided they were going to cover the entire AT before graduate school. They had been on the trail for 55 days. We get a good nights sleep.
Friday, 05.03.2019 – 0500 – Up before the sun to get ready for the day. Dunkin Donuts is across the street for the coffee lovers and TYA had to get some more bagels. (You will see there is s theme around bagels, just wait until the end) The plan is for YHC and Ollie to begin at the trailhead and TYA and Whittler to drive to the end of the first segment and runs NORTH on the trail until they met us. (Some details were worked out apparently) At exactly 0629 GMT, Ollie and YHC begin running across a little bridge through a creekbed and then it starts. For the next 2.7 miles, we went up and up and up. During this time, we encountered squirrels, rabbits, multiple deer and two stream crossings. Add to that, rock formations we had to climb thru and around and finally we reach the summit and we were greeted with the most beautiful view of the sun shining down on a valley. Well worth the climb. (Ollie did his best impersonation of Shakedown throughout the entire trip and will posts pictures on Google photos for the PAX.) We ran when we could, hiked when we could, and made our way to meet TYA anad Whittler at about the 7 mile mark. As they began to run back to us, TYA thought to himself, How do I know if I am running North??? He and Whittler began this long dissertation beginning with the sun is on my white and moss grow on the North side of trees. Look at your phone where there actually is a compass. They only ran about 0.5 miles the wrong direction before they corrected course. (roughly halfway) Ollie, being the accomplished runner he is, informed YHC we needed to keep a 20:00/mile pace to accomplished our goal. Even with the initial climb, we were right on pace. But, the sun was beginning to rise higher and I forgot to tell you it was hot and humid. The sweat was dripping on everyone and YHC was feeling some rumbling. Dehydration or last nights grease burger??? Didn’t matter, we were in the middle of a National Park!!! We reach the end of the first leg in 4.5 hours. The equivalent of a half marathon in 4.5 miles. Did YHC mention there were some mountains during the journey??? With some distress, YHC pulls himself out of the game and assumes support crew role (YHCs specialty) TYA, Ollie, and Whittler continue on with the second leg. this leg was about the same distance as the first and YHC moves south on Skyline Drive to the next point, expecting to greet the crew in another 4.5 hours. You know those times in your life when the good Lord provides everything you need, well the next stop was at a rest area on Skyline Drive and YHC needed that rest stop multiple times. Damn heat or burger. Did I mention it was hot??? The expected arrival time came and went and no sign of the boys. Finally, albeit behind schedule, I hear TYA (imagine that) and I set up provisions under a shade tree for refueling. Everyone knows TYA sweats like crazy and he comes it the rest area looking like he swam the entire route. Whittler has tweaked his ankle and is sweating like crazy. My stomach is still flipping like a gymnast (you knew I would have to get at least gymnastics reference in here) and Ollie. Ollie looks as fresh as a springtime daisy and still has pep in his step. Due to the heat, (and the fact that TYA promised his wife he would not do anything stupid), TYA pulls himself out of the game and the Whittler does the same. YHC is not ready to get back in the game and that leaves Ollie running a solo the last leg of the day. Aftern refueling, Ollie runs (yes he just ran 26 mountain miles) across the parking lot. TYA, Whittler and YHC climb into the van and move southward to the end of the next leg. Awful place to spend the night, so we move the van north about .25 miles to a nice large parking lot with an area for camping if needed. As we wait for Ollie, YHC fires up the grill so we can eat when Ollie is finished. Yes, YHC is cooking on a grill in a parking lot right off Skyline Drive. As for forgiveness rather than permission. TYA begins walking back on the trail to meet Ollie and as they finish, pork tenderloin and corn are just coming off the grill. And a whale of a lightning storm. Let’s eat quickly boys. Eventually, the lightning subsided and it was just raining sideways. As the rain picks up in intensity, Ollie declares that it is time for a shower. Yes, he is beside the van, in the middle on the parking lot, on the side of Skyline Drive, singing while showering with his natually organic, safe for the forest soap. Whittler has plans to get picked up for return trip to the B+B near where started, in order to return to Richmond and eventually to Boston the next day. His ride is named Kathy and we are not sure if her lst name is Bates. 2100, Whittler gets in the car with Kathy Bates??? Day 1 done.
Saturday, 05.04.2019 – Alarm goes off at 0500 and 0515. Not much movement in the van. Little slower moving today. Fuel up for the first leg and at 0700, Ollie and YHC begin yet another ascent (about a mile), as TYA drives to end of this days first leg to repeat the same protocol. This leg greeted us with some spectacular views and more stretches where we could run. Ollie was strong as ever, just a little sore from the previous day, and we met up with TYA about the halfway point again. During the first stretch, Ollie and YHC did have to cross a boulder field on the side of a mountain that was a little sketchy, but we managed successfully. After we met TYA, we climbed another summit with a beautiful view and TYA informed that the rest was downhill. It was not!!! However, during this leg, we met many thru hikers, day hikers and one gentleman from northern VA that saw the F3 on TYA’s shirt. this led to a discussion about the gentleman’s cousin, in Greenville, NC, who was diagnosed with ALS and all the great tributes the PAX down there did for Papa Smurf and his family. Small world. Day 2, leg 1 finished up with a hitch. About 13 miles. Ahead of schedule for day. YHCs stomach had corrected itself and we were off the the next 12-13 miles after some much needed refueling. This is where it get interesting!!! TYA drives to the end of the is again and Ollie and YHC begin our journey. Nice pace with plenty of stretches for running and then we round a corner of the trail and are greeted by a Black Bear. Both Ollie and YHC had done a little research before the adventure to see what to do in case we encountered a bear. Back Up Slowly, Grab some rocks (hoping not to use them), and make talk loudly to the bear. As we began implementing this protocol, Ollie askes me how old the bear was? YHC informed Ollie that this is the forst bear YHC has seen and YHC did not interview the bear for his birthdate. Anyway, the bear goes on about his business (whatever that was, along as it does not involve eating Ollie or YHC), but the trail takes us rights towards the bear and now we cannot see the damn thing. Ollie begins talking to the bear loudly and I am scanning the forest for any bear friends we may not have seen. We may it through the area, but about 0.1 mile down the path, we run across the very large pile of bear poo, just to remind us that this forest does not belong to us, we are just passing through. We should be meeting up with TYA, but this time we had covered more than half of the leg, so we are wondering if TYA is OK. We finally see TYA and he informs us that the upcoming section of the AT is not very forgiving. We have a slow long and sometimes steep ascent, through yet another rock formation and then a long downhill that just beat the snot out of TYA on the way up. Did I mention the AT is nothing but rocks. The trail is covered with rocks, boulders, sticks that make for a very uneven footing. Eventually this takes a toll on your feet that makes your muscle soreness a minor discomfort. We make it, somehow, to the end of this leg and we are drastically behind schedule. YHC was not planning on running the last leg, in order to prepare our meal, but YHC could not have moved another step. YHCs tank was empty. the original plan was not to be on the trail at night, (BEARS), but we still had one more leg to go. Ollie and TYA take off on the day’s last leg with a projected finishing time at 2030. (DARK) The AT crossed Skyline Drive and the end of the next leg in an absolute awful spot. No Parking, at the bottom of a gap, right off the side of the road, no cell reception. YHC begins scouting for another location for the night. YHC found a nice overlook about 2 miles down the road with cell reception. YHC lets all know that everyone is OK and enjoys one of the best coldbeers YHC has ever had at on of the most pleasant spots. After some rehydration, YHC goes back to the original meeting place, and cooks chicken breasts and green beans. At about 2015, the food is just coming of the grill and YHC hears the all too familiar Ollivander Bear Talking again. TYA and Ollie are just coming off the trail, having just seen another bear. It is also beginning to rain again. YHC casually asks which direction the bear was meandering and TYA and Ollie inform YHC the bear was heading towards the van. I am sure my cooking smells good, but YHC is not sharing with a damn bear. YHC makes an executive decision, (TYA and Ollie just covered 35 miles and were not thinking 100%), to move the food into the van and move back to the overlook YHC located earlier. This got everyone out of the rain and out of the van. Grill be damned (still hot, even though YHC put the fire out with about 10 bottles of water), it stays on the side on Skyline Drive. The EMC Mechanical van tuns into the overlook area and everyone eats. It is raining sideways again and yep you guessed it, Ollie jumps out with his fancy soap and begins his singing in the rain again. Everyone is so sore, nobody can get to sleep. Finally fall asleep.
Sunday, 05.05.2019 – 0500 alarm goes off – 0600 alarm goes off – 0700 Circle K M calls – 0715 finally get out of van. Everybody is moving real slow. Ollie says it is not raining that hard. (This coming from the same guy that has bathed in a thunderstorm the last two nights.) But it is REAL FOGGY. I mean REAL FOGGY. TYA says he is going to check the trails out and proceeds down the AT for a while. Reporting upon return, TYA signs the rocks or slippery but the trails are OK. YHC inquires as to whether he saw anymore bears and TYA responds with a NO. YHC immediately reminds TYA that you can only see about 15 feet in front of you-You don’t know whether you saw a bear or not!!! Ollie tries a little running – Not good. Prior to leaving, we learned the last 20 miles of Skyline Drive were closed due to downed trees from an ice storm this past winter. This meant this last leg of about 25-27 miles would be one long leg. No stops, you had to bring enough food and water to get you through the entire leg. TYA gets on his Google machine and learns they must have cleared the trees from the road as that announcement had been removed. That is great, but it is still as thick as pea soup at the top of this mountain. The decision is made to travel south on Skyline Drive a little to make sure there really are no trees blocking the road and to see if the fog improves. It does a little and then it gets bad again. TYA, Ollie and YHC all give reasons to continue and/or to pack it in due to weather. YHC knows F3RVA works out rain or shine, but Mother Nature is not to be played around with in the middle of a National Park. TYA proclaims, Let’s go to BODO’s. The adventure began with TYA buying bagels and ends with TYA buying bagels!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We arrive back in Richmond, unpack the van and head to our houses. Oh what an adventure.
NMS : The original goal was to cover 107 miles of Shenandoah National Park in 3 days. Did we meet our goal? Not exactly,m but this is what we did accomplish:
Ollivander – 50K on Friday and 50K on Saturday (New accomplishment for him)
TYA – Marathon on Friday and 50K on Saturday (New accomplishment for him)
Circle K – Half Marathon on Friday and Marathon on Saturday (New accomplishment for him.3
Whittle – Marathon on Friday.
And did I mention these were MOUNTAIN MILES. If you read the above out loud, all involved accomplished something extraordinary during this adventure.
Additionally, the entire PAX had plenty of time to center themselves and reinvigorate themselves to be better husbands, fathers, co-workers, etc. YHC would encourage all of F3RVA to visit the mountains just west of Richmond. There is much to do with the family or just to sit at an overlook and read a book. (YHC did.)
TYA, Ollie, and Whittler-Thanks for the adventure. Please add anything I missed or forgot.