Solo Overnight Backpacking || Shenandoah National Park

There is a quote used in the military that goes something like this; No plan survives first contact with the enemy. Our plans for adventure sometimes don't survive the first contact with our day-to-day lives. More times than not when our plans fail we end up not doing what we wanted to do at all. I know I do a bad job adjusting those plans. I had been planning to ride the C & O canal but bad weather derailed those plans. I had to adjust plans for another week and work around life which was only to give me 24 hours of adventure.

The plan was to go on a solo overnight trip to the Shenandoah National Park. During the week I did not know if I was going to do this by bike or on foot. About mid-week, this looked more like a backpacking trip than a bike trip due to the weather. Either way, the weather was not going to support a fall trip to the mountains to see the leaves at their peak.

I only had a 24-hour window of opportunity and needed to be on the trail by 3:30 p.m. on Friday and return home on Saturday between 5 and 6 p.m... My daughter was to have a dance class on Friday morning and my wife should be home around 1:00 so I could hit the road. That was the plan!!

Before dance class, I am putting the finishing touches on packing my gear and packing up the car. I do one last weather check and this is what I am looking at for the next 24 hours,

At about 1:00 I get a call from my wife asking me what time did I need to leave? Well, I said, I would like to be on the trail by 3:30 p.m. and it takes about 2 hours to get there. She was out having lunch with the girls. No problem, my wife does not get to have a girl's lunch out and I can adjust fire on my start time. Anyhow, my wife, had me drop the little one off with her and I headed out to Shenandoah National Park. This only put me behind by about 15 mins.

I plan to enter the park at the Swift Run Gap Entrance Station and park my car just inside the gate. Now the price for the entrance fee has gone up a bit for one car over the last few years. Now it's $15 for 7 days. You would think that my tax dollars would pay for this, but how many things can you spend $15 for and use for 7 days? You can't go to the movies for $15 anymore.

I go to pay the Park Ranger at the entrance station and the first thing she asks me is "do you know what the weather is going to be like during your stay"? Well yes! It is calling for some rain today and rain and snow for Saturday. Then she goes into this speech about whether am I prepared for the weather or do I have a Walmart sleeping bag. She also tells me if the weather gets bad they will close the park down. I glad I am just want to get in the park and not across the US Border.

From Swift Run Gap, I am going to catch the Appalachian Trail (AT) north and head for either Lewis Mountain Campground or Bearfence Mountain Hut to spend the night. That's about 7-8 miles up the trail. After about 15 mins of hiking, this is what I run into. Call it fog and mist, I call it a cloud. It is like this for miles.

This is where it gets good! I am about 4.5 miles from Lewis Mountain when off to my right I hear something that sounds like the top of a tree is falling. I look up to the top of this tree about 30 ft away and a 150lb black bear is coming down the tree. The bear is coming down the tree and I start to run up the trail knowing I can't outrun him. Well, the good news is that we scared each other and he ran down the mountain and I covered the next mile in about 10 mins.

Around 6:30 p.m. the fog/mist/cloud is getting really bad, so I take the fire road from Pocosin Cabin to the hardball and hike the last 1 1/2 on the road to Lewis Mountain Campground. It is about 7:30 p.m. when I arrive at Lewis Mountain and could not see a thing.

Not my best set-up but it was home for the night! The tarp was more for keeping the rain and ice off of me since the bivy would keep me dry.

Early morning ice...

Interesting water source. I would have never found this Friday night!

The plan for Saturday was to finish hiking to Bear Fence Mountain Rock Scramble and then make the return trip to the car. This is what I saw at Bear Fence overlook about 115 ft from the scramble.

On my way back to the car on the AT I came upon this nice little climb at Baldface Mountain and the fog/mist/cloud got worst about a 1/2 mile down the trail. The AT was about 200 yards from the Parkway so I made my way back to the hardball.

About 2 miles down the road it cleared up and I made a stop at the South River Picnic Area to take a break and chow down on some food and do a map check. This is a nice area to bring the family.

From the South River Picnic Area, I made my way back to the AT with only 3 short miles back to the car. I arrived back at the car around 3:15 p.m. on Saturday. There I made it in just under 24 hours. Oh, one of the cool things I did run into on the trail was a retired couple who were section hiking the AT. They had completed all but 500 miles and they were doing the 105 miles in the park over the next 8 or 9 days. I was the second person on the trail that day that they had seen. They took down my info about my trip and asked me for my trail name. Very nice people, I wish them luck.

A lot of effort to make this micro adventure take place! But it was what I needed and provided the adventure I needed in as little as 24 hours.


Dan O said…
Nice write up and pictures. Getting away like that by yourself would be cool. Thanks for posting.
GNAT said…
Sweet. Reminds me I need to do another S240.
Metro said…
Looks like a fun trip. I love running into bears on the trail.


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