The Shenandoah National Park (SNP) begins about 858 miles into the NOBO adventure, with 104 miles of well-graded and well-maintained trail and climbs rarely exceeding 500 or 1,000 feet. Backcountry permits are required when camping in the park, so I will need to check in and self-register at the park entrance just north of Waynesboro, VA. Nearby Skyline Drive has many touches on the A.T. providing opportunities for resupply stops. Hopefully my hike will not be affected by the crowds that show up in late October, during peak foliage-changing season, but the park borders on spectacular in the autumn. Park facilities close from late November through March when snow shuts down Skyline Drive – the only way to access the Shenandoah is through cross-country skis or snowshoes – neither of which do I plan to have in my backpack. Check out some more great info at http://www.nps.gov/shen/index.htm
The Shenandoah is home to ten species of toads and frogs and fourteen species of salamanders or newts. I am not prejudiced against reptiles but I doubt that I will keep an observation checklist of these 24 species. The Shenandoah Salamander is the only federally endangered animal species found in the park – I have to admit, he is pretty cool. Photo:http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shenandoah_Salamander_08.jpg
Over 50 species of mammals live in SNP. Virtually all thru-hikers see some great wildlife, such as white-tailed deer and gray squirrels. Other mammals, like the big brown bat and the striped skunks are more elusive, remaining largely out of sight until darkness arrives. I will not be disappointed if my friendships on the trail do not include these anti-social types. The smallest Shenandoah mammals (moles, voles, and shrews) are rarely seen by hikers because the animals spend much of their days and nights underground or chilling under leaves and undergrowth. Not even Shakespeare was very successful at “taming the shrew” (although he was not famous for his hiking prowess). There are some bobcats in the park but very few thru-hikers see one, and SNP has one of the densest populations of black bears documented within the U.S.
One more shout out before we leave the Shenandoah – from 1933 to 1942 an estimated 10,000 boys and young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) planted hundreds of thousands of trees, shrubs, and native plants in SNP. The first CCC camp in a national park was established in Shenandoah National Park established near Skyland in May 1933. The second park service camp was also in SNP at Big Meadows. My dad, Robert Lewis Rough, served in the CCC in 1935-1936 at Camp Hull in the Susquehannock State Forest in Pennsylvania. I think of my dad (who died in 1983) quite often and I hope that the miles through the Shenandoah can be my tribute to this great man and special influence in my life.