At the AT

Our campground is only 10 minutes from the southern tip of Shenendoah National Park.  From the highway you can turn left and go south along the famous Blue Ridge Parkway or turn right and drive the famous Skyline Drive through Shenendoah.  The mountains here are nothing like our Colorado mountains but they are no less beautiful.  There has been a lot of rain so everything is very green and today the sun was out, which felt really good.

The road twists and turns as it climbs and the valley of trees you drive through gives way every so often for spectacular views out to the east and the west.  We wanted to get out and do a little hiking and we wanted to put our feet on the famous AT…the Appalachian Trail!  I’ve read and very much enjoyed Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, Stutzman’s Hiking Through, Gilbert’s The Last American Man, and Jenkins’ A Walk Across America.  And I will admit, that before reading those accounts of through hiking or section hiking the AT I sort of poo pooed this trail in these so-called “mountains” out east.  But after reading books, trip logs and watching numerous videos on the AT and the people who hike its entire length my impression has changed dramatically.  This trail is HARD.  Especially if you through hike it (that is, you hike the entire length in a single go).  I have a new respect for this dirt path across the country maybe even a fear that I could never make it…and its that fear I guess that draws me to it.  So mark my words, someday I will either hike the AT, the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) or bike the TransAmerican Trail.  Honestly, I think my best chance is on the bike ride…that way I can maybe have Steph come along.  She’ll drive our camper and I’ll catch up and meet her each afternoon.

Anyway, today we are going to get to hike a piece of the AT.  I asked the family what they thought our chances of meeting a through hiker was.  Honestly I thought our chance was close to zero.  But when we pulled into the parking lot at one of the many places where the AT crosses the road there was a lone hiker sitting there resting.  We hopped out and asked his trail name.  Clean Skittle had started in Georgia late in February and he grinned a big ol’ grin when I asked if he was having fun, clearly he was having the time of his life.  I asked if I could get a picture of the kids with a real through hiker and he obliged only warning that he might stink.
Clean Skittle with the kids

We got out and hiked a short piece of the AT.  It was beautiful, peaceful and the weather could not have been more perfect for hiking.  At one point I was walking close to Caden and he said, “you know Papa, I like the beach but I just really love the mountains”.  Later he asked if we would be able to get some backpacking trips in once we get back to CO.  We’ll be back at prime time for backpacking!  I’m so glad that all 3 of my kids seem to really enjoy backpacking.

We met several other hikers along the way: GOBNU (growing old but not up), No Hurry, Dutch, Mountain Cat and one whos name we didn’t get.  As we walked we all tried to think of trail names for ourselves.  You see, there is an unwritten rule, or at least a tradition, on both the PCT and the AT that you take on a trail name while on the trail.  If you don’t have a trail name my understanding is that others will make one up for you.  Part of what makes these hikes so special is the community on the trail.  The people we met and chatted with seemed to be on cloud nine and I was inspired seeing them mid trip knowing how far they have walked.

We drove a little further and hiked another piece of the AT.  We enjoyed the different flowers, trees, moss, lichens and the sounds of birds happily chirping away.  It felt good to be in the sunshine, it felt good to be on a dirt trail (a famous one at that) and it felt good to be outside with my family.  What an amazing life!!  Thank you God!

We drove a little further on skyline drive to an overlook where we sat for a bit to take in the view before turning around to head home.  We were trying to set up the camera for a timed family shot when Anthony from New Jersey came over to offer to take a picture.  After the picture we chatted with Anthony awhile.  He was in town for his daughter’s graduation.  He asked about our trip and then had several suggestions of where to visit and where to stay in Philidelphia and New York city.  Anthony served our country in the armed forces and has sectioned hiked parts of the AT.  I’m so glad he came over to say hi and chat with us.  If you are reading this Anthony, THANK YOU!

We headed back home at the Misty Mountain Camp Resort which was hosting an antique mall event.  There were LOTS of people, live music and this giant jump pad for kids to jump on.  You had to pay $5 per kid to jump on the pad but that included, are you ready for this, unlimited popcorn and cotton candy!  I told the kids we should wait until about an hour before the event is over and see if they’ll let them jump for free and sure enough they did.  When we first arrived on Thursday they actually had the pad to themselves but I think it was fun with the mayhem of other kids on it.  We played outside and took a short walk around the campground.  It was nice to relax in the afternoon and listen to the live music.  The only downside is with the numerous campers it rendered the WiFi totally unusable (it had been great on Thursday and Friday before the masses arrived).


Clean Skittle with the kids

AT trail marker

White blaze

Hiking the AT



Cool looking lichen

Colors and textures

Hiking the AT

Moss ball in tree



Awesome view



The fam in Shenendoah

Steph and Huck

B liked the "teepee" behind her

Pretty flower

Ava and the Beast

Bear lover

Jump pad

Archery practice


Campground creek

Campground "mine"

Steep hill at campground


6 thoughts on “At the AT

  • May 17, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    What a blessing. I am Clean Skittle’s mom. It’s a beautiful thing when your child finds happiness when they are in their element. So great to find this blog and as a bonus a picture of Clean Skittle aka Jacob Downing. I see his adventure on youtube and I thought I’d try to find anything else on his adventure. Thank you for your well written story.

    • May 18, 2016 at 12:42 am

      Wow!! How cool that you found this story. Thanks for reaching out to say hi!

  • May 18, 2016 at 12:16 am

    It was so cool meeting you guys y’all made me feel like the coolest thru hiker of all time. Hope y’all enjoyed your time in the Shenandoahs I unfortunately didn’t get to see many good views because of the clouds/rain. I’m in West Virginia now crossing into Maryland tomorrow and then Pennsylvania a day or 2 after that. If y’all want to follow me along the AT I upload videos on YouTube just look up Jacob Downing. -Clean Skittle

    • May 18, 2016 at 12:45 am

      So cool that you and your mom found our blog and left a comment. We have seen some really neat things on our travels so far, but encounters with cool people like yourself are the best part. Next campground that has free wifi we’ll be sure to check out some of your videos. Stay safe…God bless…and HIKE ON!!

  • May 25, 2016 at 12:45 am

    Hi Wach Family…thanks for mentioning my brother Anthony in your blog. I was with his family for his daughter’s graduation, but we’re a wee bit shyer than Brother Ant. He always goes the extra mile in whatever he does and I was glad he could impart some helpful information to you on your journey. It was my first time on the Skyline Drive and I was in awe of everything I saw, including the through hikers on the AT and a family of bears shortly after seeing your family. Continued good fortune and Godspeed on your family’s journey across our amazing country!

    • May 25, 2016 at 2:48 am

      Karen thanks for dropping us a note and for your well wishes. An amazing country indeed…made even more amazing by the people we meet like Brother Ant!


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