leaving Shenandoah: days 55-57

Day 55: Pinefield Hut to Big Meadows Lodge, 28.6 miles
Day 56: Big Meadows Lodge to Pass Mountain Shelter, 18.8 miles 
Day 57: Pass Mountain Shelter to Tom Floyd Shelter, 23.6 miles
Total AT miles hiked: 966.8

The rain finally stopped, and we were out before seven the following morning. As the season goes, the sun has been rising earlier, and the birds have started their morning songs long before six. Due to our shorter day the day before, we decided to take advantage of the nice weather and make up some miles by hiking over 28 miles to Big Meadows Lodge, where we could have dinner. We figured a restaurant meal would be enough to motivate us, and we were right. We hiked 14 miles before lunch, leaving just 14 more before dinner. As we were nearing the lodge around six, we passed a man on the trail who informed us that there was “beers off the trail, in the woods.” I was excited for a cold beer, but then I realized he probably said “bears.” Unfortunately we saw neither, but made it to the lodge soon after for burgers and a slice of blackberry ice cream pie. 

We stayed around for breakfast the next day, then hiked ten miles to Skyland Lodge where we had lunch. We’re going to be spoiled after Shenandoah! We had good views all day, and also spotted many birds. One of the biggest differences for us from the AT to the PCT are the deciduous forests vs the desert and the Sierras. We didn’t see many songbirds out west, by the time we got up north they had migrated south. The AT is a birders paradise, though! We’ve seen so many birds, and hear even more calls. Garrett got a great picture of a Scarlet Tanager, whom he says was the best bird he’s ever worked with as far as posing for the camera.

We arrived at Pass Mountain Hut that evening, and as we walked down the trail I found an unopened can of craft beer. I figured someone had dropped it on the way down the the hut, but there was no one there, so I chilled it in the spring and enjoyed it with dinner. I’d been thinking about beer on the trail since the day before, so the fact I actually found one felt like real trail magic.

Our friends Bubbles and Pudge came into camp a little before dark, and were all a twitter About their day. They had seen bears twice in the last couple of hours. We hadn’t seen them in a couple of days, so we caught up, and then fell asleep. I awoke a bit later and got out of the hut to use the woods, when I heard a noise in the dark. It didn’t sound like a deer, so I nervously went back into the hut to get my headlamp and then came back out to see what was around back. When I turned it on, two eyes flowed back at me ten feet away, and I yelped and ran back into the hut. I sat there for a minute, realizing that now I was going to have to pee eventually, so I went to the other side of the hut and shined my light. To my relief, there were no glowing eyes on that side, so I went quickly and then scrambled back into my sleeping bag. I don’t mind bears, just as long as I can see them!

The next day was our last on this trip in Shenandoah, and we took advantage of second breakfast at the last wayside on the way out of the park. The day seemed to go slowly, I felt tired in the heat (I’ve grown used to the cooler hiking temperatures as of late), but things pulled together nicely and we made it Tom Floyd Shelter by seven for dinner. The hut had a porch, and a great view of sunset. The shelters in this area have bear poles to hang our bags from, saving us the trouble of hanging them from a tree. Garrett took the below video of me successfully demonstrating how to use one. ​

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