Throughout the Saturday night of our weekend family reunion near Culpeper, VA, Owen does not want any of us to forget that he is here. At 1A, 230A and 4A he emphatically reminds us. At 7A Molly brings a smiling, who me? Owen downstairs, and his grandparents give it a shot. It’s win/win. We get Owen and Molly gets some much-needed shut eye.
Late morning we pack up three cars heading west for Shenandoah National Park looking for a shorter Sunday hike after six hours on the White Oak Canyon Loop trail (see blog for September 28, 2013). We look for some togetherness, just not 6 hours of rocky trails togetherness.
Thornton Gap Entrance is 30 minutes from our overnight stay in Reva, VA. We’ll hike today, then Hannah and I will head 125 miles southeast and spend some time with Will and Laurel in Richmond, VA while Molly, Tip, and Owen will drive 80 miles to the northeast to Arlington, VA with Robyn.
At the ranger station, we learn that within a quarter of a mile there is 3.6 mile round trip hike to Mary’s Rock which offers us full 360 degree views of the Shenandoah Valley. An hour up and an hour back down. No problemo.
With parking for fifty, again we have found a hike that is popular with others which matches my desire to engage, shoot the breeze with our fellow hikers. In fact, today our hike is almost entirely on the Appalachian Trail (AT).
We have a chance to see thru-hikers heading south from Mt. Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. (It’s unlikely that we will see northbound thru-hikers. On this mid-September day they would still have more than 900 miles to hike over some of the toughest mountains in NH and ME. Rangers close access to Mt. Katahdin on October 15 because of dangerous wintery weather.)
Our band of eight is ready to cap the weekend with a hike to Mary’s Rock at 3500 feet. One story claims that Francis Thornton had a daughter named Mary, who climbed up the mountain when she was young and came back with a bear cub under her arm.
Will and Laurel’s golden shepherd literally dragged whoever was holding him up the mountain yesterday. He’s not quite so peppy today, but still all puppy and a handful.
The trail is 40% less rocky and less steep than Saturday’s White Oak Trail Loop and for that we are thankful.
Again our hike is under the forest canopy with only the top of Mary’s Rock being free of trees.
We hike single file forgetting our aches and pains in the company of our hiking brethren and sisteren.
The trail is not at all precarious but is as popular as we thought it would be with many fellow hikers to greet and shoot the breeze with me.
Today it is Tip who totes Owen up and down the mountain on his back.
Near the top, I hit pay dirt as I spot a thru-hiker. His tell-tale backpack and scruffy beard give him away.
I open with Are you thru-hiking? He nods and thankfully turns and pauses to talk rather than hurry on his way. Having hiked some 1300 miles from Mt. Katahdin in four months, he is hoping to be in Georgia by Thanksgiving 2+ months away.
His trail name is Stinky Jesus: Jesus because he helped a fellow hiker with hypothermia and Stinky from the fact that all thru-hikers stink, and I mean that in an affectionate way. They rarely get to bathe and a strong odor is part of being real on the AT.
I appreciate that he engages me in conversation for ten minutes. As readers of this blog may have noted, I like the hikes where I meet others, hear their story, and share some of mine. Since Hannah and I have been hiking the AT over the last four years, I have been looking for a trail name. She is Two ply (from her humorous use of toilet paper stuck to her shoe).
I have come up empty. But I am feeling Shooting for a trail name. Shooting from shooting the breeze with all the hikers I meet. I’ll wear it to see if it fits like size 34 jeans.
Ever wonder the kinds of hiking shoes thru-hikers wear? Stinking Jesus is on his second pair and the duct tape is flapping with each step. He’s hoping to get 100 miles more from this pair. Good luck.
In a simple hour up the mountain we come to the Mary’s Rock landing that provides the wide open views of the Shenandoah Valley.
A family photo of the Rothermels of York with our grandson Owen tops off the occasion.
On the way down we hit gold again. We meet Smiles, another southbounder, who beams with delight. As another thru-hiker, she’s on her third pair of shoes and she too has been on the trail for four months. Nothing amazing about her hiking shoes.
I play my role as George Washington again which gives me time for pictures and thoughts of our next reunion. The Mount St. Helens B and B in Cougar, WA (See blog for August 17, 2013) is my choice. With this seed, I thee plant.
It’s been a magic two days. They are all good kids. I’m proud and happy to hang with them. Hannah and I are the lucky ones.
Through it all, Owen has been a trooper, now nestled on his Unkie’s shoulder.