Trip Report: Explorations in Shenandoah’s Central District

First, I should assure everyone that I do know my alphabet — having the Beta SNP trip fall before Alpha was mainly to accommodate my schedule. Plus, to be honest, I was eager to dive into this hiking project and investigate trails in the park that I had not yet explored.

My original plan had us criss-crossing the park and camping in the “Laurels” near Rapidan Camp. The weather forecast, however, was calling for freezing rain for most of Saturday. The thought of a cold (and long) night in our respective shelters seemed, well, not fun so I opted to revise the plan to have us end up at the Bearfence Hut. With all nine of us huddled in the shelter and a roaring fire in front of us, I was quite glad for the switch.

Our route took us along the AT for all of Saturday. Given that Sunday was looking better weather-wise, I opted to leave the more interesting piece for the following day. Most of this was new ground for me, and I found the section of the AT from Swift Run Gap to Bearfence to be quite nice. It was a cold day, though, and I kept looking up at the sky which veered between threatening and not-so-threatening. We stopped and regrouped at intersections, but eventually, we wound up just having the group move at its own pace so everyone could keep moving and get to the shelter. 

I thought we’d be hiking in the rain for most of the day. Freezing rain sprinkled on me, Marika, and Adam as we walked the final mile or so to the shelter. Tom and Fro took the lead on building up a fire, while the rest of us gathered in the shelter and watched the pile of wood grow. Carlos demonstrated a neat trick with a gas canister stove, using a copper strip to help keep the fuel warm. 

Night fell quickly, but the conversation was lively as we all aimed to stay awake until the reasonable hour of at least 8:30 p.m. The rain was sporadic at first, but picked up steam later in the evening. Eight of us slept in the shelter — and none of us snored. 

Exploring the Pocosin Mission Ruins.

Sunday started off rather chilly as we made our way back down the AT and to the Pocosin Fire Road. We made our way past the remains of the Pocosin Mission and one of the park’s many cemeteries before meeting up with the South River Fire Road and then heading to the overlook along the South River Falls Trail to check out the falls themselves. Then it was a stout climb back to the AT and back to our cars.

We headed to Ciro’s Italian Eatery in Elkton — less than 15 minutes away from the Swift Run Gap entrance — and enjoyed some hearty Italian food before making our way home.

Kudos to our new members: Carlos, Tom, Fro, Wesal, and Shiv! And a special shout-out to Shiv–this was not only his first DC UL trip, but his first backpacking trip! And thanks to all who made this weekend a enjoyable one. 


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