AT Journals – Day 1, 2 & 3

My daily journal entries while en route and on trail! No photos for these posts. If you’d like to see pictures you can find them on our Instagram page! All mileage includes AT & side trails and is read according to our Garmin GPS tracker. This part of the trip was comprised of Shenandoah’s ‘Inn to Inn’ Southbound hike as well as some backcountry camping. Thornton Gap to Swift Run Gap.


Wednesday Sept. 27th & Thursday Sept. 28th

Yesterday (the 27th) was B’s 33rd birthday. We both worked all day knowing we had a long drive ahead of us.

Last night we left home around 7:45. Drove 5 hours east to Frankfort, KY – (ironically the home of the distilleries of 2 of B’s favorite bourbons, Buffalo Trace & Woodford Reserve.) We were so tired. I booked a cheap hotel (Bluegrass Inn) from the road and we showed up 30 minutes later to check in at 2am. I slept so heavy in that hotel room and 7:30am came quickly.

We hit the road this morning at 8:15 and made it to Swift Run Gap to meet trail angel and Open Arms hostel owner Alison by 4:30pm. She drove us about 36 miles north to Luray where we checked in to our hotel and ordered some pizza. We also realized when we dropped the car off at the trailhead we are exiting from later this week, that we forgot the USB wall plug for our phone charger. We did have our solar panel but the wall plug is much easier when lodging. We asked the front desk at the hotel in hopes of left behind extras or one we could even just use for the night and the attendant gave us his to keep! Thanks so much front desk guy.

I am beat! We will probably go to bed in the next couple hours (after I take a hot bath and then organize our packs accordingly) I think I’ll get our breakfast and water ready to go and then just relax.

I want this trip to go slowly. I want to take our time and relish in the experience. So far it’s been beyond great and pretty seamless. I’m so excited!

Tomorrow we get picked up at 8am, hike from Thornton Gap to Mary’s Rock and are camping at Byrd’s Nest #3 shelter. It’s a very short first day with a pretty big climb. We plan to get to the site fairly early. I have big hopes of napping and reading some of the book I have downloaded on my Kindle app. (Stephen King’s ‘It’.)

Friday Sept. 29th – End of day

Temp Hi – 73* / Lo – 46*

Miles hiked so far – 6.2

This morning we woke up at 7:30 and waited in our hotel lobby for Alison to pick us up and drop us off at the Thornton Gap Trailhead entrance. Before she arrived we perused the free continental breakfast and found an old timer reading a newspaper and a woman with a fairly talkative kid. (Among the people, a selection of some cereal, muffins and fruit.) I grabbed an apple and realized before we went outside to the parking lot that I wasn’t even hungry. I was nervous! My stomach was in knots. I took a couple bites of the apple which was piffy. I still wasn’t sure what to expect out of all of this.

Alison texted me and let me know she’d be a few minutes late. We were in no rush. We hung out in the parking lot, watching some dew glisten on a spider web.

In the van with us was a guy and his pup, and a woman called Ladybug and her friend (I forget her name!) Ladybug attempted a thru hike last year but had to stop after 600 miles. Now she’s picking up sections. She was so pleasant to talk to! I love meeting hiking women, and these two were heading NOBO – the opposite direction of us.

When we arrived at the trailhead we all said our goodbyes and good lucks, I sat on the shoulder of Skyline Drive to put my boots on and adjust my trekking poles and then off we went, beginning our 40 mile hike back to the car at the Swift Run Gap entrance.

We started with the climb to Mary’s Rock – lots of elevation gain within the first mile, mile and a half. Not the most encouraging way to start a trip, but we had to venture forth to get to our camping spot for the night. The views at Mary’s Rock were incredible. We ran into “guy and his pup” once again and we parted ways for the second time. I made a Cup-a-Soup, and we also tried to eat a Mountain House Eggs with Bacon and no.

Just no.

Then we chatted with two section hiking ladies from Pennsylvania, one of them telling us the story of how a bobcat crossed her path that morning. The other woman began laughing as she opened her Pop Tarts and told us she woke up the entire camp last night yelling “There’s a bear!! There’s a bear!” In her sleep. She said she felt so bad waking everyone up, as we all laughed together. Bear anxiety is real, people!

We continued on to the shelter, Byrd’s Nest #3. We arrived early in the day. Around 12:30pm. We explored the area, hiked half a mile down to the piped water source, had a snack and then returned to the shelter/campsite and set up our tent. I was feeling a little sleepy so I took a nap in the shelter while B gathered some wood for the fireplace. Byrd’s Nest #3 used to be a day use area, and then was transitioned into an overnight shelter for hikers.

We ate tuna wraps for lunch.

When it started to get chilly and a little windy, B started a fire and then I boiled some water for dinner. We made and shared a ramen pack and a rehydrated sweet & sour chicken. It was warm and filling. We hung our packs and bear canister behind the shelter. We decided to call it an early night after watching the sun go down and are now lying in the tent. It’s 7:40pm.

Tomorrow we have about a 7.5 mile day.

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