Backpacking on the Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah

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From Rural King (Front Royal) to Thorton Gap. 4 days, 3 nights, 31 miles (~50km) and 0 showers later, we finally made it through (a portion of) Shenandoah!

Fall break was the perfect time to take a break from the hustle and bustle of D.C. and immerse in the great outdoors. With 6 GW Trails Guides and 11 students, we were ready to commence a 4-day hike that would push us mentally and physically to the extreme.

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We arrived at Front Royal. About an hour drive from D.C. sits a town that was just outside of the start of the Shenandoah Trail. The guides shuttled hikers in Enterprise vans. The wind was cold, but the sun compensated by its warmth. There was a couple with their Blue Heeler that had just finished the hike and told us it was going to be a cold day. We stopped for lunch on the side of the trail. We had food spread amongst the packs we had on our back. Tortilla, summer sausage and cheese with a hint of Sriracha sauce never tasted so good. It was the first time I’d ever backpacked. I’ve done hiking and camping, but never the both combined. It’s a different experience. First off, you have to carry a heavy pack that will have the minimum amount of equipment to keep you warm. A sleeping back, sleeping pad, change of clothes and toiletries were pushed and shoved inside the 55L pack borrowed from Trails Gear (a place that rents out gear for free if you’re going on a Trails trip). With only 6 miles to be completed today, we arrived promptly at the first shelter. The shelter was a three sided wooden structure with a deck out front. There was a privy nearby, which made me appreciate the modern toilet a whole lot more. Dinner was quesadilla which served as a hand warmer and food. The wind was howling by this point and everyone was miserable. Starting a fire in this kind of wind was difficult but once it was started, the warmth lured us like moth to the light. Camp fire stories were told and eventually it was time for bed. Sleeping in a tent with 5 people that was meant for 3 was cozy but the roaring wind was the thing that kept everyone awake.

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The next two days were faced with difficult hikes but albeit better weather conditions (sunny with very little wind). 10 miles on Sunday and another 13 miles on Monday. By that time we were somewhat comfortable with the routine. We woke up at 7:30am and aimed for a 9am start. Lunch was served at around 12:30pm somewhere along the trail. Apples, clementines kept us hydrated and the trail mix from Trader Joe’s kept us motivated. By the end it was a matter of putting one foot in front of the other that pushed us through to the end. Great friendships were made as we bonded over the fires and the making of s’mores which made it all the more sad when Tuesday came. It was back to reality, to the homework and classes. But I’m sure that there will be more hikes to come – maybe GW Trails to Mary’s Rock?

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