Shenandoah National Park

gorilla bear

Shenandoah National Park is a nice park with gradual climbs and shelters spaced around 10 miles apart.  In this setting hikers are strongly encouraged to stay at the shelters which limits your distance and location options.  Most people wind up doing about 20 miles each day.  One amazing thing about SNP is that each day you can count on the luxuries of town in the form of Waysides which are basically campstores that offer drinks and hot food.  These places are frequented by day hikers and people driving along the Skyline Drive but thru-hikers ravage the hell out of these places.  The last one we probably made 4 trips inside and stopped out on the picnic table outside for 4 hours in the heat of the day.  This did happen to be a 90 degree day so we were in no rush to head up the mountain during the prime heat hours.

You will definitely see or hear bears during your trip through as long as you aren’t traveling with headphones on.  You will almost certainly startle one and send it crashing through the woods.  My first sighting was at Turk’s Gap which was right along the Skyline Drive and a parking area.  I saw two big black bodies that moved sort of like skunks in a herky jerky rounded motion but I soon realized that they were bear cubs and they were running to a tree which they quickly ambled up.  I then saw the momma bear who waited in the bushes just below the tree.  It being my first sighting I lingered maybe a bit too long as I saw the momma bears head pop up above the bush line and she held her gaze on me long enough to let me know that anytime now I could get going.  I realized I overstayed my welcome and I slowly backed away down the trail.

Another funny bear moment happened as I was exiting the park on the way to the road just past the National Zoological Institute and just before the YMCA.  There was an open gap that I was about to head through when I saw the top of a tree just ahead waving around wildly and immediately after this I saw a medium sized bear start shimmying down from the very top of the tree about 50 feet in the air.  He was in a hurry due to my presence so he climbed down in a hurry.  He must have missed a hold as about 20 feet from the ground he lost his grip and dropped to the ground.  He bounced a bit from impact with the ground and then he scurried just out of sight into the brush.  It was a crazy moment as this whole process unfolded just 20 yards in the path just ahead.  I literally had to wait for this to happen because there was no way I could continue on as the tree was right along the trail and there is no way I would walk by a tree with a bear just overhead.

Shenandoah National Park

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