Day two starts off with a chill in the air and the need to get a small fire started. With all the new types of cook gear on the market I pull-out my old school dutch oven.
That's good camp eaten!! Eggs and sausage on English muffins..
I forgot juice or good coffee for breakfast and the Starbucks Via just did not hit the spot. So after breakfast we are off to Front Royal which is about 8 miles away from the park to stop at Happy Creek Coffee and Tea Company. I recommend stopping and supporting this local business before hitting the trail. The next couple of days is going to be instant coffee..
Shenandoah National Park is one of 150 National Parks that charge a entry fee. So be prepared for this. Go here to learn about park fees. We made entry into the park from Thornton Gap and had to stop at Dickey Ridge Visitor Center to pick-up a Backcountry Camping Permit. Our plan was to backpack one day in each of the parks districts. So our plan was more flexible on the trails that we wanted to hike. The idea in the North District was a series of trails that we could link together to make our route and that we could change up as we see fit. Day two was going to be White Oak Canyon and Old Rag in the Central District and Calf Mountain on day three in the South District.
I am going to say that getting the backcountry camping permit was an interesting process with the Park Ranger. I would rank it up there with dealing with the IRS with a tax issue. I don't know if every ranger is like this but I understand treating everyone like this is the first time they have ever been backpacking before and I am sure they do their fair share of having to look for people. Read this articleand this article
What seems like an hour later we have permit in hand and we are off to the trail head a few miles down the road. We park at Piney Ranger Station or what is left of it. The buildings are boarded up and are in disrepair. We start hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) south until we reach the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) Range View Cabin.
The cabin is just lest than a mile from where we started hiking and is in the perfect spot to allow you to base camp and day hike the trails in the area. While I was planning I thought about renting the cabin and doing just that, but wanted to keep the cost of the trip down so I did not good that route. Go here for more information on the PATC cabins.
From the Range View cabin we head down Piney Ridge Trail (PATC Map number 9 North District SNP). Just a few minutes down the trail we spot our first bear. The first of five that we will see during our trip.
Storm damage from years ago. That had to take sometime and hard work for a trail crew to clear out.
Long ago before there was a Shenandoah National Park, people use to live and farm these mountains. The park came in and took their land. All over the park you will find reminders of the life of these Appalachian Mountain folks.
Here is an old family cemetery that is still used today. The families still have access to their family cemeteries.
We pick-up Fork Mountain trail and Thornton Hollow trail and make are way over to the intersection of Hull School Trail and Thornton River Trail. There we conduct a map check to figure out where we might find a camping spot for the night.
We decide to take the Thornton River Trail up stream which follows the North Fork of the Thornton River. It was early afternoon but finding a spot to camp was important because of a thunder storm coming in that afternoon. The water was high in the river and we had to ford many times. I started to worry that the campsites were located down stream because it was so rocky. Once you think you will have to camp in a substandard area always walk the trail for another five minutes because you will find the right spot.
Here is the lat/long for the campsite 38° 42.991 078° 18.542
This was a great site and could hold a few more campers in the area.
After dinner pictures around the campsite.
About midnight that thunder storm came in with a lot of rain. My ground cloth rolled out from under my tent during the night and I ended up with a pool of water by morning in the tent. "G" stayed dry in his first night of sleeping in his hammock.
That's it for part two. Stay tune for part three which became know as the death march.