Backpacking Shenandoah National Park

A Yellow Truck, Some Purple Gloves, and a Marriage Proposal

Bear Fence Scramble

A Yellow Truck, Some Purple Gloves, and a Marriage Proposal 

Hey, hey friends!

Hiking through Shenandoah National Park from Front Royal to Lewis State Campground was quite the feat. This was a 4 night, 5 day adventure. The trails call me, and this particular hike filled me with love and laughter. I also left with a marriage proposal … and yes, I said “yes!”

Day 1: The Yellow Truck

After some heavy research, we decided to hire DuBose Egleston who is a Trail Angel. He picked us up in his famous yellow truck and dropped us at Front Royal. Starting a trip you’ve never done before is always nerve racking at first. Heading down the AT trail, I looked back one last time at the safety of that yellow truck knowing we had a long way ahead of us. The access point to Front Royal is easily missed. If you’re headed east from Front Royal look for a gated driveway on the left. The trail is right before it on the right. GPS coordinates: 38.87807375676807, -78.15075827363549

Throughout my research for this hike, I saw many people state that there weren’t very many great views along this trail. Boy are they wrong! The best advice I can give you in this area is to look for small foot traffic veering off to the right or left. We found many gorgeous overlooks that couldn’t be seen from the trail but were not very far off these footpaths. They could be easily missed but were breathtaking. It was tough hiking up into the mountains, but worth every step. There were beautiful views atop Compton Peak and Mt. Marshall.

Thankfully, we made it to our shelter, Gravel Springs Hut, before dark. This is always an accomplishment in my eyes. That first 13 mile day breezed by, but we were happy for rest. The shelter was packed the first night. We were lucky to meet several kind fellow hikers. One had a small friendly dog whom I mistook  for a wild beast-like animal. It was early morning, just before sunrise, and I was beginning to stir in my tent. I heard scuffing, growling, howling, and sniffing outside and around  my tent. How silly I felt when I realized it was an adorable little jack russel making those noises. He scared the bejeebers out of me!

Day 2: Angels Sing

“For hiking is one of those things that you can only do when you have the determination in you.” Unknown.

Day 2 was a brutal one. 13 miles. Over Hogsback MT which offered fantastic  views. Heading into the hike up Passover Mountain, I was feeling exhausted. It was a painful climb, but I had trained like crazy leading up to this trip. Finally I saw it –  the next passover hut came into view and it was like the heavens opened and the angels began to sing. All the pain just melted away. In the evening, we met thru hikers who were travelling SOBO. Interesting fact: typically for weather-related issues, most would hike NOBO. I climbed into my sleeping bag, after a long and exhausting day, snuggled down, and don’t remember much else – which means I had a good night’s sleep.

Day 3: A Marriage Proposal

Day 3 happened to fall on my birthday. And I was faced with a 15.5 mile hike. What better way to turn 34??

It started off a bit rough. We had to switch back up to Mary’s Rock. Pinnacle Mt. was beautiful. By mid-day, we had made it up to what we thought was the top of Stony Man. And that’s when it happened. There I am taking a million photos – we were the only ones up there at the moment. Totally by ourselves. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. That’s when I looked over and saw him – my man –  down on one knee. He was proposing to me – on my birthday. I was speechless. Except for one word … I said “YES!” We spent some time together in that spot, immersed in nature, surrounded by our love for one another and nothing else. It was a beautiful moment. We continued on and found the path leading up to the actual top of Stony Man. (This hike veers a little ways off the AT, so it is an up and back to Stony Man’s.) This area was crowded, and I was thankful he had chosen what we thought was Stony Man’s as the location for his marriage proposal.

We continued on to the Skyland wayside, hiking along in bliss thinking about our future together as a married couple. Don’t miss this wayside! The food here was excellent and there’s a small shop inside that saved us. The entire trip had been a chilly one – we were thankful to have our puffys and buffs. We had forgotten to pack gloves – and man our hands were freezing at times. Especially that evening. Boy were we ecstatic to see that the store sold hand knit gloves. The only color left available for Stephen was purple, so purple it was! His gloves were very popular with fellow backpackers, and earned him the trail name “Purple Gloves.”

While grateful for the yummy food and purple gloves, we knew our timing wasn’t great. We had another 5 miles to go, and  I am not a fan of backpacking in the dark. Hiking along in the dark, each sound is heightened. Being able to see only as far as my headlamp allowed, shadows played tricks on my mind that night and the rocky terrain kept tripping me up. That’s when I started freaking out. We were crossing huge rocks, some of them loose, and the incline here was steep. When I looked to my right, all I saw were rocks for as far as my eyes could see headed down the mountainside. No end in sight. I thought for sure we were off the trail. I figured we missed a white blaze mark. We backtracked, looking for a mark or a different way. There it was, a white blaze easily missed on one of the rocks. This WAS actually part of the trail! The following photo is a view of this section.


Passing over it at night was exhilarating, especially looking back at this view. I wish we could have seen it during the day, but this certainly makes for a more fun story.

Continuing on, soon we heard the wonderful faint sound of laughter nearby and saw the distant glow of a campfire. Finally. Rock Spring Hut! Once again, the angels were singing. It took us 2 hours of speedy hiking from Skyland to make it to this shelter.

We saw the same thru hikers, plus a few more gathered around a fire. Stephen even had 2 candles for me so we could celebrate my birthday. Everyone there sang happy birthday to me and one of them even had a mini guitar! I’ll never forget that day and hike – and I look forward to hearing about your memories from this or other hikes! Please comment below.

Day 4: Shaky Legs and Purple Gloves

Day 4 we decided to veer off of the AT and find Bear Fence Scramble – don’t miss this one. But it certainly isn’t a “scramble.” No, this is bouldering up a mountain side!!! I suggest leaving your packs at the bottom. We chose to leave them as the climb got harder for sheer equilibrium purposes. The blazes at the top take you around the side of the front of the mountain. That is a risk; if you slip you’re going down. I suggest climbing up towards the middle for an easier and safer climb. With shaky legs I reached the top and slowly stood up to see the full 360° view. Breathtaking and exhilarating!

We stayed the night at Bear Fence Hut. The hike there felt like I was strolling through a fairyland. We walked past dreamy walls of flowers on both sides, small rocks guiding our way around each and every curve. It was fairly flat with long rolling hills, a welcomed respite from the tougher hikes of the previous days. As we walked along I kept expecting to see fairies or gnomes.

That evening we earned our trail names: “Shaky Legs” and “Purple Gloves.” Bestowed upon us by the delightful Eager Beaver, a thru hiker. He was such a cool guy and has accomplished the longest days hiking 3 states at one time on the trail!

Day 5: Caboose to the Rescue

Although we planned to go further, we decided to get off the trail at Lewis Campground due to painful knees and dead toenails. Our bodies had suffered enough. We met Caboose, who ran the camp store there. He completely understood and called a good friend of his, Kris Cross, to pick us up. She was one of the Trail Angels whose trail name was Kriss Cross Applesauce. She shuttled us back to our car following Skyline Drive the whole way back. The views along that road are beyond gorgeous. Our trip ended with a fantastic meal at Blue Mountain Brewery. 10/10 recommend! Check out their site here.

Hiking is my way of enjoying all that nature has to offer. You are able to see amazing views, the prize for working so hard to get there. And it is where I draw my inspiration from for my artwork. See how that translates into my art here.

Hike on my friends,