Lots of rain the past two days – not much to say, but I did snap a few photos

Found this salamander in my tent

Foggy trail

Indian cucumber

White oak

Interesting fungi

Hoping for more sun,


The Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is nearly 500 miles long and connects Shenandoah NP to The Great Smoky Mountain NP.

I started on the AT along the parkway today.

Found some remains of former inhabitants

A house foundation with fireplace

A graveyard with 12 unmarked stones

One did have this scratched on the stone (M C Lowe)

Not sure if the date 1866 is birth date or date of death?? Maybe civil war casualties?

On a brighter note

Found a lucky chestnut

A nice shelter

See a face in this tree trunk?

Heading south,


Thomas Jefferson’s University

Took a zero today and visited my med school alma mater, the University of Virginia.

The Rotunda had been under renovation for 3 years and just opened to the public today…hmmm

Just below the dome

Up thru the dome

Other shots of UVA

And a few nature shots from yesterday

Twin towers (tulip poplars)

Wild iris seed pods

Porcupines chew wood – hence the barbed wire

Heal all

? 4 leaved poison ivy?


Not sure?

Is that a pine cone or a pineapple?

Milkweed seed pod

And finally some graffiti that seemed remarkably relevant to my adventure

“Go everywhere, study everything, fear nothing”,


Leaving Shenandoah National Park

Just finished the last leg of the 100+ mile SNP – kind of sad, since this place has so many memories for me from my many years living in Virginia, and the weather has been so nice – and I got to hike with Paula and Brian.

Today was a rainy, foggy, magical day

Grand daddy white oak

Some kind soul left water since many of the springs are dry

Said goodbye to the Skyline Drive

Loved this shot – someone made the AT symbol with sticks on the rock

Misty views

As I crested this hill, I saw a hiker in the distance (you can barely see her in the photo). What I did not see was her big white friendly dog who had just been sprayed by a skunk. Why do I ever pet dogs???

The best part of leaving Shenandoah National Park is that I’m about to visit the Blue Ridge

Enjoying Virginia,


Another hiking partner 

Today I was joined by my medical school classmate Brian Wilder. He drove up from Charlotte NC to hike with me and to visit his son, Hogan, a student at UVA. He covered over 10 miles with a pack weighted with over 20 pounds of water. We had a remarkably similar pace and had some great discussions about politics, family, and friends. Then he gave me all the water he had carried as I set off on my own again

What a great opportunity to see an old friend!!

Saw some nice things along the way

Came across these nuts which I had mistakenly identified as chestnuts in a previous post – they are actually beech nuts

Some beautiful acorns

My super sweet tent spot tonight

This stump made me think of the painting “the Scream”

Some nice views

Anybody know this plant?

I’ve seen 8 bears since entering Shenandoah NP, so I know this is true

Appreciating this good advice about bears,


Paula and The Forest

Just realized these two great photos didn’t upload yesterday

They were taken after our final hike. Paula had just completed her longest hike (10 miles)
The trees along this part of the AT are primarily deciduous, and primarily oak and hickory. As you hike, acorns and hickory nuts are coming down constantly

The trail passes over the Skyline Drive a couple time a day with some nice views

Some pretty flowers and plants

And a cheerful white blaze

Marching on,


A Sunny Day

Paula was busy with salamanders on her last day.

I got a pet, too

We also found some ginseng

And some Indian cucumber.

We had a gorgeous, clear day

We met HIO (Hog on ice), and he introduced to his customized chair/sleeping hammock

Yellow wood sorrel

More chicken of the woods 

A red maple leaf

It was GREAT to have Paula join me for the past five days. She didn’t even get annoyed when I kept stopping to look at birds and plants!! I invited her to come back soon.

Back to hiking solo,


Leave no stone unturned

Let’s start off with another video

This crayfish was found while turning over rocks in a small stream on the AT.

Also uncovered this red backed salamander

Paula found another friend

She loves walking sticks (the insect type)

Blue Cohosh

Jack in the pulpit fruit

The trail (and the trail queen)

Some have asked what the bear may have been eating in yesterday’s  video. I’m told they eat black cherries and acorns this time of year.

Guess what this guy preferred?

A two headed mushroom – I’ve never seen one of these:

Shagbark hickory 

Its nut in the husk

Squirrels love these (first they chew through the husks)

White oak leaf and acorns

Pretty aster

Round lobed hepatica – one of my favorite spring wild flowers – wish I were here 4 months ago

One parting image

Time for bed, 


Big Meadows

Rolled in to Big Meadows today and was treated to a nice view of a bear about 50 yards away. Tried to capture some of the event on video

​Paula was with me and got to see her first bear. She was calmer than I was when I saw my first.

We hiked nearly 9 miles from Skyland to Big Meadows – she hiked faster than me most of the way – very impressive!!

More “Chicken of the Woods” today – it’s become my favorite mushroom

A couple flowers waiting to be identified.

Solomon’s seal 

Views of the Shenandoah Valley 

Pretty web

Cool snail

You can ride a horse at Big Meadows

A late violet

Some scary bee nest:

Joe Pye weed

Paula’s new friend

See the owl?

It’s a barred owl.

All for now,


So many special people 

These last two days have been exciting, with visits from, and encounters with, some incredible folks. 

First and foremost, my wife, Paula, flew out from Arizona to join me for 6 days of backpacking. Her sister Marcia and husband Patrick joined us, as did my great friend, Trueman.

We stayed at a B&B in Washington VA

Then hiked the AT together

My apologies to Trueman for not getting him in a photo..

Then, Paula and I made the acquaintance of Stumbledwarf, a retired military specialist from the U.K. 

He charmed us and amused us with stories from the trail and from his career in the military

Check out his website and AT videos – Google “Stumbledwarf”

My friend Trueman headed back to Arlington VA on Sunday morning. While hiking south toward Skyland after Trueman’s departure, we ran into his wife, Kim, on the AT, finishing up a 3 day hike with a group of friends – another crazy coincidence.

Finally, this evening, Paula and I hiked to Skyland in Shenandoah NP, and checked into a cabin to dry out after getting soaked in a thunderstorm last night and this morning.

While checking in, I met a fellow who turns out to be Diné (Navajo) from Kaibeto. First Navajo person I’ve met on the AT!!

His name is Rodney Fowler and I got a chance to practice my limited Navajo language skills with him.

He was quite surprised to see someone from the Rez – particularly an Anglo who could speak a few words of Navajo. What an exciting encounter!

My wife, Paula, did superbly on her first two days of backpacking in SNP

We harvested some “chicken of the woods” mushrooms and feasted on them tonight

In addition to all that, we saw a lot of nature’s beauty.

Hickory nut


“Viewpoint” of the Shenadoah Valley – socked in with fog after the storm


Rose hips 

Jewel weed

Witch hazel fruit (for you, Pat)

Ending the day (and ending the storm) with a beautiful sunset

I’m a lucky guy,