Trail Sweet Trail
I have made the trip from Philadelphia to North Carolina and other points south at least 100 times. 95-85-Rt 1 ad nauseam. So, when I had the chance to make the trip by myself a few days ago, I took the route I’ve always wanted to take. 95-895-81-Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.
It’s been about 12 years since my last trip to Shenandoah, but anytime I’ve been on 81, I have secretly and sometimes no so secretly begged and pleaded with the driver to take the detour through the park.
I left my house at 4:30am, and exactly 4 hours later I passed into the park. Between the rain, the fog, and the majority of motorists trying to get to their destinations through more conventional means, I had the drive with all of its scenic overlooks mostly to myself.
Well, at least the scenic overlooks that weren’t smothered in fog. Between 2100 and 3600 ft it was hard to see at some points, making the trees look creepier and lending to an overall feeling of driving directly into the twilight zone.
But then, it was time for the hike. I have hiked the AT in Shenandoah previously, but it was so long ago that I couldn’t tell you where. For this one, I chose Hawksbill Mountain, the highest point in the park at an elevation of 4050 ft. Starting off at the Hawksbill parking area, I headed south on the AT for about a mile before picking up a connector trail to take me to the top of mountain, overall elevation gain for about 600 ft. over 2 miles.
An easy 3 miler, no challenging terrain, I took about 2 hours to do the loop from the AT to the Summit and back down the steep Lower Hawksbill Trail. Once I got within 100 yards of the summit, walking along the ridge of the mountain, I stopped and watched the clouds and steam come off the Blue Ridge Mountains. I could’ve stayed up there all day.