The shuttle to the trailhead today left at 8:30. Normally, I would have had a problem with such a late start, but I was going to be slackpacking south today from the Trico Tower Trail, back to the Terrapin Station hostel, so getting an early start wasn't so critical.
On our way to the trailhead, we stopped in Front Royal so some people could get breakfast; having eaten already, I took the opportunity to run over to the food store and pick up a six pack of Dr Pepper, of which I took two with me on the trail today as "bonus snacks". (With a slackpack, an extra pound of two of soda is a great treat, almost unnoticeable extra weight since the pack is so light.)
The early part of the trail today was very easy, and I managed an 18 minute mile (3.3 mph) over the first five miles or so of the 17 I was doing. Conveniently, at about six miles, at the top of a hill, in a clearing, there was a bench, so I stopped there for a snack. (I momentarily regretted the soda, drinking a bit too much shaken-up soda and getting a brief stomach pain as a reward.)
Six miles further, in a shaded area in the woods, was another bench, again, conveniently located for a break.
The weather today was excellent. It was a little cool to start with, though warmed up a bit, and there was a very nice breeze blowing most of the day. Because of the breeze, I constantly heard branches creaking and cracking throughout the day, and the ground was littered with stray leaves blown from their branches.
Like the Smokies, the trail through Shenandoah requires a climb up into a mountain range, and a corresponding descent down. Today's hike, being southbound, made Shenandoah a bit weird for me in that I had to climb into the park from both ends. The trail also changes rather significantly after leaving the park, and though it's a gradual change if you're going north, skipping ahead 17 miles and coming south results in a big change in the character of the trail and the woods, before returning to the familiar (for the last 100 miles) features of Shenandoah.
With the slackpacking and relatively easy terrain today, I managed almost 2.5 mph, including breaks. Not too shabby.
After a shower and laundry, Bloodroot (NOBO 2014; currently doing sections with her fiancé Heeler, who is doing a thru-hike), Hammer, Gamel, and I went into Front Royal for resupply. On the way, we picked up Henry from the trailhead. Henry had stopped by the hostel earlier in the day when no one was around to charge his phone, and after making progress up the trail, couldn't find his phone. So, he hiked back to the trailhead, and somehow called the hostel just as we were leaving. Mike (the owner) told him we'd pick him up on our way into town.
I should add: Mike's van, like any old vehicle, has its quirks. In this case, the (power) sliding door on the passenger side is not able to automatically latch. Getting it to close properly involves getting it started, and then when the motor stalls, shoving it the rest of the way closed and hitting the back end of the door with some enthusiasm (several times, usually) to get it to latch and stay shut.
Bloodroot, Hammer, Gamel, and I, made our grocery runs while Henry dug through his pack just in case his phone was there. (It was.) Bloodroot, Hammer, Henry, and I went to a Mexican restaurant, El Maguey, for dinner. Elated to have his phone back (and after also confirming that his lost iPod was at a hotel he stayed at the night before), Henry paid for our drinks. In the course of conversation, he revealed that previously, he had forgotten his trekking poles, and then had hiked back quite a distance to recover them when a Boy Scout troop he met along the way called him to let him know they found them.
Conversation wandered a bit, and eventually, we returned to the hostel, and to our beds (after finishing the half gallon of ice cream I started yesterday, of course).