I chose this trail to Mount Marshall, accessing it from a trailhead just east of Shenandoah National Park. Heck, I hiked for three minutes and I was already in the park. I needed a long distance hike in hot weather to test my current hiking ability, distance, and patience. While neither North or South Marshall were much to speak of summit-wise, this hike did all the tricks for me. 17 plus miles if you count the side trip to Devils Stairs, which I took. Distance, check. Heat, check. Enough water, check. Patience test, passed. 4 am planned wakeup, 4:40 is good enough for me.
After taking the wrong Route 622 (yeah there were two 622's on my side of US 211, and another on the otherside), to the trailhead and driving longer as a result, I finally started hiking. Looked up, yeah I'm getting a couuple thousand feet of vertical gain today! It all felt like it started at the start of the hike, but when I got near the "summits", I wasn't hiking much more vertical. The trails were nicely maintained, and empty (I saw 11 people in my 17 mile trip, not counting those I saw when crossing Skyline Drive, the main road through the park).
While the summits had nice overlooks but not the treeless, bare, summits I am used to, it was almost all good. After a tough week of work I really needed to get out there and hike for a day. I'm dead tired but will be refreshed tomorrow. Boy, am I glad I brought a gallon of water in my backpack, I used it all in temps that even at 3,000 feet were in the 80s. When I got down to the bottom of the trail, I looked up and realized that, hey I did hike some good sized vertical after all. And 9 hours after I started, my car was still the only at the trailhead!
- Seeing someone in my fun run group on the Big Devils Staircase side trip and hiking with him for a bit until he had to take a separate trail to his car
- Finding a Qdoba in Gainesville, VA to eat at, thanks to a new Qdoba card I have a new post-hike dining spot
- Knowing I can hike that long of a distance in very warm weather is a confidence boost as Pikes Peak gets closer
- Getting back on the trail again, this time in my new boots, with only minimal post-hike aches and pains
- $2.76 gas in Gainesville. I guess last years' 1.999 promotion wasn't that much of a stretch after all, 3.019 is as cheap as I've seen it inside the Beltway area in weeks.
The not-so good:
- Merging on to I-66 from US 29 in Gainsville. Couldn't tell if the driver in the right lane was going to speed up to make sure they passed me, or slow down to let me merge easily. Then again I-66 sucks in general so what do I know.
Excellent day! I'll blog about my fun run group on Tuesdays and Thursdays next time. Awesome to be out on the trails! Time for some AC though.