Last year, we had such a great time handing out trail magic in Shenendoah that we decided to do it again...just a little north. Despite Safetrack work and odd Saturday morning beltway traffic, we (me, B.A., Crusher, Mountain F***er, Max!, Lidia and Jennifer) managed to leave Vienna almost on time. We had a short drive to set up our shuttle between Ashby Gap and the Blackburn AT Center, our starting point. The last mile and a half or so up to Blackburn was a bit less maintained than we thought it would be, but all of the cars made it up.
Some thru-hikers hanging outside of the center helpfully pointed us in the right direction. It was a short side trail up to the AT and at 80 something degrees and climbing, we were already sweating. The trail was nice, flat walking on a ridge for a few miles. We stopped for a minute to watch a turtle's attempt to rock climb. We saw our first thru-hiker on trail and offered up what we had- it was a swing and a miss. We started to get some takers but it was still about 50-50 and by 1pm we had only given away 3 out of our collective 36 beers.
About three miles or so in, we started the infamous roller coaster. At the top of the of the first climb, we were treated to a view at Raven Rocks. That would turn out to be our only real view. The thru hikers we saw who were at the end of their stretch of roller coaster, looked exhausted. A few cursed it. We met a talkative thru-hiker named Thundersnarf, who told us all about his trip- and his mentor, who apparanently had little sympathy for discomfort and small milestones. He was planning to do the four state challenge in a few days.
The rest of the afternoon passed rather pleasantly other than one big climb at the end. We reached our campsite at Sam Moore shelter just before 5pm. Our priority was getting our beers in the stream to cool off while we set up. At dinner, we chatted with a former thru-hiker/current section hiker named Freckles who told us she had spent some time hiking with the oldest woman to finish the trail at 74. Max was disappointed to learn he'd have to be 82 to beat the men's record. We spent the evening cooking and drinking liquor and beer. Crusher made friends with everyone at camp and performed his trail name duty of can crushing.
We retired around hiker midnight, were up at 6 and on the trail just after 7am. It did not drop below 70 over night so we quickly warmed up as we climbed a few more humps of the roller coaster. The first climb had somewhat of a view but a nice breeze was the main draw. We regrouped at a stream a few miles in and handed out some of our last trail magic to two girls from Maine.
We finished up the roller coaster with a stop at Rod Hollow shelter where we swapped trail recipes with a thru-hiker named the Shephard. He was writing a book about his trip-wonder if we'll make it in. The next few miles were comparatively gentle (other than trying to avoid stepping on a dead opossum) and we had all finished up around 1pm with nearly all of our trail magic gone. Thanks to Max's giant vehicle, we were spared having to do a drivers-only shuttle and happily eating our post-hike meal at Fire Works Pizza not too long later.
Thanks to everyone for coming along on this trip and helping to spread the trail magic joy.