Appalachian Trail: Jenkins Gap to Elkwallow Picnic Area, Shenandoah NP

With only one day for hiking this weekend, Karen and I opted for our less rocky southward trip, which brought us back to Jenkins Gap in Shenandoah National Park. As we drove in, we could see right away that the autumn colors were going to be amazing.

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We got started on our 11.8 mile hike at 10:00, and—as would prove to be the case—it was a good thing that we didn’t start any later. We were able to get parking at both points of our trip without any trouble, for the traffic was still relatively light. The weather was cloudy and in the low 50s, but the persistent wind must have dropped the temperature by 10 degrees, at least. Karen and I were both wearing only a long-sleeved shirt, and despite the heat we generated, we remained cold.

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But what beautiful scenery! The peak of autumn had, apparently, already passed, but the tree tops were still in different shades, from yellow to red. The trail itself was covered in a thick blanket of freshly fallen leaves, which crunched and shuffled beneath our feet. They didn’t make hiking any easier, and sometimes they covered rocks and the gaps between rocks, thereby demanding that we remain attentive to our steps.

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We saw a number of other hikers, mostly close to lookout points. We also came across a mother black bear and her yearling cubs. The cubs weren’t at all interested in us, but the mother put herself between them and us and wouldn’t take her eyes off of us. I decided not to pause and take a photo, as I didn’t want to cause her any unnecessary stress.

When we were climbing Hogback Mountain, Karen assured me that we had hiked the trail before. I sincerely thought she was delusional, but when we got home, she found her blog of August 10, 2014, and proved that I was forgetful. Good thing we have this record!

We reached our destination at about 3:30, and found that, while we were hiking, the park had become crowded with visitors, so that not only were all the parking places taken, but people were parking on the grass. We joined the long line of cars that were exiting the park and were amazed to see the even longer line of cars still entering. We’ve never seen the park anywhere close to being this busy.

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