We woke around 7:30 at the Byrds Nest #3 hut with the other dozen or so hikers packing up. They were all surprised to see us there and congratulated us on making it.
Tandem, Mio, Johnny Utah, and I all had breakfast in front if the hut. We left at different times, with Tandem and I starting first at 8:30. The trail was full of hikers due to the bubble we were in as we left the hut. We were hiking the long hill down to US 211 when we discovered that we had signal, so we sent the rest of our weekly blog status updates. Several hikers passed us there.
We reached the bottom and went over to the parking lot to use the facilities and fill up with tap water. We kept hiking, crossed Skyline, and joined up with Mio and Johnny Utah; we were hiking a couple of hundred feet apart — Mio, me, Tandem, and Johnny Utah — with none of us talking. It started to rain at about 11:30.
We arrived at the Elkwallow Wayside and ordered lunch. There were about 16 thru hikers there from the Byrds Nest #3 hut bubble. There was an old, but active, phone booth that Tandem wanted her picture taken in.
Mio and I discussed a plan for beating this bubble to the better hostel in Front Royal the next day. We decided that we’d go to the next hut and make dinner there with everyone else, but hike on for an hour or so after that. Tandem agreed with the plan. We got ice cream cones then left the Wayside before most hikers.
I fell back due to the big climbs. Johnny Utah caught up with me with a couple of miles out from the Gravel Springs hut, and we discussed the rock music songs playing out loud on my iPhone. There were several unfamiliar thru and section hikers when we arrived at the hut around 17:00. We made dinner then surprised everyone by packing up and leaving at 18:00 to get back on the AT.
The sun was shining, and the climb was 550 feet. At the top, we called the hostel in Front Royal to make reservations for tomorrow, but they were understandably based on first-come, first-served.
We had hiked 3.5 miles away from the hut and stealth camped at Hogwallow Flat. What was going to be a 17.5 mile day ended up being 21 miles. We set up tents, hammocks, and bear bag ropes as the sun was setting. Since we knew our food bags would soon be restocked, we enjoyed some snacks while gathered near Tandem’s hammock and a large rock. A deer roamed around the edge of the campsite.
I retired early to write blog updates for the last two days. I am in charge of waking the four of us at 5:30 for an early start on our 10 miles into Front Royal and out of the north end of the Shenandoah National Forest.
As promised, I woke at 5:30 and woke Johnny Utah, Mio, and Tandem around 5:45. I packed up first and the others finished shortly after. We ate and left the campsite by 6:45, trying to stay ahead of the large bubble of hikers we’d left back at the Gravel Springs hut. Our target was the Mountain Home hostel that holds only five hikers.
We hiked over easier terrain, with only two tough inclines. We saw a couple of bears but they didn’t hang around. Three miles later, at Compton Springs, they all stopped for water while I moved on, as I had plenty. I hiked to the Tom Floyd shelter where I met a small high school class from Ohio that was out hiking the AT for six days. They left the shelter, and I laid out on the picnic table to rest and watch the hawks fly overhead.
The trio showed up 15 minutes later, and we rested before completing the final three miles to the road to Front Royal. As we approached, we found the remnants of a cold 12-pack of beer, so we sat and drank before going to the road.
The Mountain Home hostel was a quarter mile down the road, and we arrived at 11:00, as promised. Scott Jenkins, the owner, came out to greet us. He thru hiked the AT southbound in 2012, doing half of it with his son. He was also Scout leader for 12 years.
Scott showed us to our room upstairs, where the four of us each had a bed. The hostel bathroom was also on that level. Scott gave us his work calling schedule and told us we could go to Front Royal at 13:00.
We unpacked and inventoried our food for restocking. Tandem and I planned for two days due to budgeting for the week — too many restaurant meals at Waysides this week. We collected our dirty clothes for the laundromat and wore old clothes the Jenkins’ provide to hikers. We all showered, snacked, and left for town at 13:00. We had chosen a Japanese restaurant for lunch, so we went to the laundromat closest to it.
We put our clothes into two machines, which cost $2.25 each to wash. The detergent had come from the hiker box at the hostel. Once the loads were started, we went around the corner to the Yamafuji Japanese restaurant. I had tempura shrimp with soup and the others had box lunches with sushi and other add-ins.
We finished and went back to dry the clothes. That only took $.50 and 20 minutes. We walked a mile to the Food Lion and bought food for restocking. Tandem and I stayed under $30. We knew that Scott was free after 15:00, so we called him for a ride back. He was there in five minutes.
We spent the rest of the afternoon using our devices, joking about hikers, and reading. We had purchased frozen foods for dinner, which we ate upstairs on our beds.
After dinner, Scott gave us a tour of the old house on the property, which they are spending several years renovating. They had to remove a jungle of plants and weeds from the property first. The original part of the house is from the 1840’s. The tour was spooky in the dimming sunlight, especially with the wavy glass and a trip to the basement.
I totally recommend this hostel to any hiker. Breakfast is included in order to maintain a B&B status with the government.