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AT 2017: Day 73, Pass Mountain Hut to Gravel Springs Hut

Keep on coming or stand and wait

Hike with Gravity

This hasn’t been an easy hike for Stick’s friend, Mike, who has been walking with us through Shenandoah National Park. He has been hobbled by bad blisters on his feet.

Mike is a strong hiker, and given the circumstances has been doing fine, but he’s had to keep up with a couple guys who have been hiking every day for several weeks. That can't always be fun for him to maintain our pace.

Weather Cloudy, cool and breezy in the morning; becoming warm and humid with partly sunny skies
Trail Conditions Mostly easy sections with a well-maintained footpath
Today's Miles 13.0 miles
Trip Miles 956.3 miles

He has talked now and then of getting off the trail, but each time he has decided to grit his teeth, hitch up his pack, and keep walking.

Today will be our last full day in Shenandoah, and it looks like he will stick it out.

Leaving Pass Mountain Hut, the trail went directly to the top of Pass Mountain. Because the shelter was located more than half-way up the mountain, reaching the top was easy.

When I reached the top I saw that Stick was stopped there. He had discovered there was a good wireless signal here. I decided to take advantage of it too by texting my wife Kim and sending an email to my friend, Ralph.

I’ve been trying to predict the day we will arrive in Harpers Ferry. My best guess for now is we’ll arrive there next Tuesday, and ideally, early in the day.

Kim is planning to drive from Tennessee to meet me there, where I’ll take a zero day. Ralph is also headed to Harpers Ferry, and then will hike with Stick and me for a few days.

After leaving Pass Mountain the trail crossed Skyline Drive again, then went up a ridge and followed that line for about three miles.

On the other side of the ridge line the trail flattened out. From there it was a short distance to Elkwallow Wayside. We reached it at noon, almost as if we timed our arrival for a lunch stop.

In truth, it wouldn’t matter when we arrived. So long as the lunch counter was open, we were going to stop.

Sadly, when I arrived I received the heartbreaking news that the milkshake machine was not working. That meant there would be no blackberry milkshakes today.

All was not lost, though. I ordered a root beer float to go along with my cheeseburger and chili fries.

I discovered that the wayside had a fuel canister recycling bin. I had been carrying any empty canister for a couple days, so I gladly left it in the bin.

Leaving the wayside, the trail crossed Skyline Drive again.

After a cool start to the day, the temperature was becoming much warmer. I was feeling hot, tired and sluggish after lunch, so though the trail wasn’t difficult, I wasn’t walking at full speed.

Speaking of which, I saw Speedy and Young Buck a couple times during this stretch of the trail. To my recollection, it was the first time Speedy had passed me on the trail.

Speedy and Young Buck said they were planning to make a big push to get to Front Royal before nightfall.

I also saw Splat and Dory, who were headed southbound. Splat’s mom was still in Virginia, so she was slackpacking them today.

At Hogback Mountain Overlook, an opening over the road provided a wide view of the valley below. The view wasn’t ideal, though, because of a hazy-gray sky.

The trail next dropped gradually about 900 feet on the way to Gravel Springs Hut. The descent also included today's sixth crossing of Skyline Drive.

When we arrived at the hut at 4 p.m. it seemed much too early in the day to stop.

Then we started to think about the situation we were in.

The next shelter was 10.5 miles away, which was too far to reach before dark.

We were tired and cranky.

It was hot and humid.

We can still reach Front Royal in plenty of time tomorrow.

We’ve been going hard all week.

In the end, we didn’t need all of those reasons to stop for the night. Any one of them would do, so we did.

Keep on coming or stand and wait,
With the sun so dark and the hour so late.
You can overlook the lack, Jack,
Of any other highway to ride.

It's got no signs or dividing lines
And very few rules to guide.
I spent a little time on the mountain,
I spent a little time on the hill,
I heard some say "Better run away",
Others say "Better stand still".


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine." ref.