Following the success of our 2010 descent from Clingman’s Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and given we’d made two consecutive summer trips now, I was able to sucker convince my family into going on another hike for July 2011. This time we did all the planning and gear ourselves.

My mom had really liked the idea that we hiked a part, however small, of the Appalachian Trail. It really has a history now and somewhat embodies the American spirit. By this time I was fully set on visiting all the National Parks. This clearly pointed us to a trek through Shenandoah.

One of many great vistas throughout the park
One of many great vistas throughout the park

We didn’t have all the gear we really needed. Much of it can be expensive, particularly if you’re getting it for a whole group. The great folks at LowerGear helped us out. I’ve used them several times now and have always been happy with their gear, service and rental prices. If you need a few pieces of gear for a trip and aren’t sure you’ll do it again, or if you want to check out several models over a few different trips before buying one, I highly recommend this route.

Once we had our gear and our collaborative plan we pieced together through Google Docs we set off on a long drive to Virginia. The plan was a shuttle hike from Ivy Creek to Milam Gap. On the first day, we were only hiking 3.6 miles to Pinefield Hut since we weren’t getting on the trail until about 4:00 PM.

Ready to start hiking
Ready to start hiking

My sister Sara and I were leading the pack and were ahead by 100 yards or so. We were deep in conversation when we first saw them. Bears running across the trail! This was my first bear encounter. They don’t look like Winnie the Pooh in real life. Very clearly, they’re predators. We proceeded cautiously, to quickly find out that it was right next to our campsite. Their intent was clear, they wanted to Yogi some of our picnic basket! Thankfully the park provides tall poles to hang your food out of reach.

It was a good sleep that night. It was a mix between the tents and shelter for us. That morning we woke to find more bears along the path leading out of camp.

Me, resting for a moment
Me, resting for a moment

Our second day kicked our butts. The terrain had pretty fair elevation changes and we were hitting record high temperatures that summer. Due to poor planning (I’ll take the blame since I did most of it), we didn’t have a enough water. I was only carrying a 70 oz bladder and only knew of one place to fill it during the day. In that heat, with that exertion it was not enough.

Tired and thirsty we stopped for a shaded break in an open grassy area near Skyline Drive. We were only about 1.5 miles shy of camp, but being so tired and not having adequate water, I tossed in the towel. My sister and I hitched back to our van. We drove back and got the others. Shenandoah: 1, Wagers: 0.

We did salvage the trip as a vacation though. There are plenty of amazing (and cheap) things to do around northern VA and MD. We went to Antietam, Gettysburg, Harper’s Ferry and DC. We went to Antietam before Gettysburg. This was a big mistake because Antietam was totally awesome and made the rather mediocre Gettysburg seem like a let-down.

One thought on “Bears!

  1. Hey Nick,

    It looks like you’re off to a great start! Shenandoah is such a beautiful place for a shakedown hike. For what it’s worth, I only barely squeaked by there in late November as far as water goes. I almost had to do the same thing as you guys and hitch back. It’s dried up quite a bit.

    I’m kind of jealous that you saw bears. At the same time, I’m happy to not see bears! Were you scared much?

    Best of luck on your journey!

    Bus Question

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