Shenandoah Waysides and Shenandoah Magic

May 7, 2018

Destination: Tom Floyd Wayside Today's Miles: 20.40

Start Location: Byrd’s Nest #4 Day Use Picnic Area Trip Miles: 967.90

Ken doing trail magic at Compton Gap, Shenandoahs
When I went to bed the air was heavy with moisture; when I woke up, things hadn’t changed. Everything felt like it had been dipped in mist.

I was still able to start out in shorts and a t-shirt though, but would definitely need to dry out my tent/fly/footprint in the sun later. Wallace was out of camp first, then Whitewater, then me. I didn’t eat breakfast because I had one thing on my mind: the Elkwallow Wayside. It’s the last Wayside that serves food on the north end of Shenandoah National Park. Our plan was to go there, eat breakfast, dry our gear in the sun, and hopefully charge our phones, etc.

I thought leaving camp I might see two bunnies I had seen yesterday evening in the meadow in front of the shelter, but they must have slept in. I caught up to Whitewater and then we caught up to Wallace. I hoped we would see a bear on the way to the Wayside, but alas.... We were the first people at the Wayside when we arrived at 8:30. It didn’t open until 9, so we spread our wet gear out in the parking lot to dry, used the lovely restroom, and then plugged phones in to charge in the various open outlets near the drink and ice machines outside. Thru hikers generally are very good at scoping out available outlets both inside and outside places such as this, or in grocery stores, etc. By the time we got all of that done and threw our trash away in the trash bins there, the clock struck nine and the Wayside opened. 

The Wayside has a counter to order food, but then we just ate it outside at picnic tables. For round one I had a breakfast plate with two eggs, sausage, toast, and hash browns. I had coffee and a cinnamon roll with that. The cinnamon roll was awesome, but not Mojos awesome. For round two I had a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich and another cinnamon roll, and then to cap that off I had a blackberry milkshake. After all of that, I purchased a few food items from the Wayside store so I can make it to Harpers Ferry without resupplying. 

While at the Wayside, we saw some other thru hikers come through. Nate showed up and he has embraced the trail name Day Hiker. YES!!! We all think it is a good name and quite funny. Bones came in, and I met Ghost and Poncho. I’d heard a lot of Poncho stories but hadn’t met him yet. He was pretty funny and was hiking in his underwear, which made me laugh. Ghost started on March 29, so he must be flying!

After chatting at the Wayside for a while, Wallace, Whitewater and I pushed on. It was a nice day for hiking. We took a break at the Gravel Springs Hut for lunch/snack and met a hiker who had thru hiked in 2014 named Nutella. He was pretty cool. All day today as we hiked I kept my eyes peeled for a bear. While I didn’t see one, I did get to see a Scarlet Tanager. There are lots of beautiful birds in the park. It’s full of Ovenbirds, and yesterday I saw quite a few Orioles. The Scarlet Tanager was my favorite though.

We hiked and hiked and saw many beautiful Shenandoah rolling hill views. Hogback overlook was pretty, and the views from Marshall mountain were stunning. I think part of what has made the Shenandoahs so fun is that the hiking has been a little bit of a break for us, the weather has been warm, and spring is really showing its colors and life now. Of course, it has also been nice having the camp stores and waysides around! I’ve also been lucky to have had really fun people to hike with along the way. 

We decided to hike not the Tom Floyd Wayside, which is the first shelter out of the park boundaries. I don’t know why it is called a Wayside - it’s just a shelter. When we got to the Compton Gap road crossing though, we had an awesome surprise! A guy named Ray was doing trail magic there, and it was some serious trail magic! He was cooking hot dogs and he had relish and onions for them. He had bananas and avocados, cookies and fig bars, potato chips and sodas - it was really incredible! He’s a section hiker and says he does trail magic a handful of times every year. It was great because there were about 7 of us there - Wallace, Whitewater, Bones, Ghost, and the Canadian couple I don’t think I had seen since the day I passed the Keffir Oak tree, The Kid and Soul Shine. We gorged ourselves and chatted, and then thanked Ray profusely as we left. I think that was the most comprehensive trail magic I have received yet! It was just awesome!

Bellies full, we hiked on for about 2.6 miles until we reached the shelter. The tent spots were few, so Wallace, Whitewater and myself ended up in the shelter. Day Hiker caught up to us, but opted to cowboy camp on the shelter porch since no rain was in the forecast. It was a long, good day! I’m surprised we walked 20 miles with all that time out for eating! I was so grateful for Ray and his trail magic, the good companionship and laughs I had today, as well as the wonderful weather. It’s a little sad to be out of the park, but new adventures await! Harper’s Ferry, here we come!

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