Friday, October 12, 2012:
Today I hiked over Hogback Mountain, Little Hogback Mountain, South Marshall, North Marshall, Hogwallow Flats, and Compton Peak. Had crystal clear views of the Shenandoah Valley from any number of viewpoints.
When you're viewing basically the same thing over and over (really it's been the same kind of view throughout SNP), you begin to look for variety in the foreground - something to lend uniqueness to the view from the particular viewpoint.
So today's presentation of views highlights that variety. There were views with bright red berries:
There were views with witch hazel blooms:
There were views with rocks:
And there were views with grass (the hang-glider launch site atop Hogback):
It was a chilly fall day - almost a sense of winter in the strong dry west wind. The temperature never made it above the low 50's. And the warmly clad Wollybears were out hiking, helping me predict the coming winter. But what am I to make of their predictions? These two guys need to get together and decide who's right!
9.9 miles of new trail covered today plus a 0.2 mile piece of mandatory side trail to Gravel Springs Hut. I've reached to within a mile of Compton Gap, the last place the AT crosses Skyline Drive before plunging down to US 522 at Front Royal. I only have 120 miles of trail left to cover and I'm done! Somehow, it's all happening too fast! I'm not sure I want it to end. Where will I hike next?
The most important thing that I seem to be taking away from my 4000 mile hiking adventure is that walking provides a HUGE benefit to the human body. Despite the daily little aches and pains, I feel younger and healthier today than I have in years. My chronic back pain, that plagued me for a decade, is entirely gone.
Growing old is about dealing with aches and pains. But would you rather have them sitting in an armchair staring at the boob-tube and trying to suppress them with all sorts of medication, or have them while you're out walking in a trail or park or neighborhood full of interesting things to see and people to talk to? For me, the answer is a no-brainer.
For me, the aches and pains actually go away when I'm not walking (maybe it's all relative - think of the joke about the guy who bangs his head against a brick wall because it feels so good when he stops). But that didn't happen when I was a 'couch potato'. The lesson seems clear. There's only one real medication that works - exercise, and PLENTY of it, and especially walking.
So ... no ... I will not stop walking when I finish the trail. I'll walk the beach - that's a given. And I'll get back to hiking my "Personal Continuous Footpath" connecting every place I've ever lived. That gives me an excuse to hike the American Discovery Trail to Colorado, some spur trails to Wisconsin, the Mountains-to-Sea trail in NC, and the Tuscarora and Mid-State trails from the AT up to Penn State.
I've never been comfortable calling myself a "thru-hiker" because of the way I'm doing my 'double thru-hike' (walking every little piece of the AT in both directions on the same day, never spending a night on the trail). As I think of the kind of hiking I have planned after this adventure, I guess I'd rather call myself a "Cross-Country Hiker". Sound good?
Here's the plot of today's hiking route and a link to more photos:
AT Day 255 - Northern Shenandoah NP at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Virginia