AT 2017: Day 76, Whiskey Hollow Shelter to Sam Moore Shelter

Roller coaster, yeah ooh ooh ooh

Stick on the Roller Coaster

Thanks to the nearby squeaky tree, last night didn’t provide the best night’s sleep I ever had. The breeze that caused the squeakiness provided one benefit, though, and that was to make the night pleasantly cool.

To mitigate the reduced amount of sleep, Stick and I slept in later than normal. It wasn’t something we discussed or planned, but it worked out that way and neither one of us complained.

DateSunday, June 25, 2017
WeatherMostly sunny and warm, with a high temperature near 80
Trail ConditionsNot difficult, though this section included the first half of the Roller Coaster
Today's Miles15.3
Trip Miles1000.2

We didn't leave camp until after 8 a.m.

Early on, we met a southbound hiker who was going north. He said his name was Cookie Monster, and he was going south because of the hiking plan he worked out with a couple.

Cookie Monster dropped off his hiking partners this morning at one trailhead, then drove their van north to another and began hiking south. At the end of the day, when they reach their van they will drive back south to pick him up.

Stick scrambles over rocks

The trail was rocky in a few places as it made a modest climb.

Thick shrubs and vines

When the climb began to flatten out and crest the highest spot we’ll be today, the trail entered a section remarkably thick with shrubs, short trees, and vines. The trail cut through it, but just barely.

Enter Sky Meadows State Park

Then the trail began a long, gradual descent and we entered Sky Meadows State Park.

Many converging trails

The park must contain several hiking trails, because at more than one junction the Appalachian Trail converged with other trails. The number of trails going off in all directions seemed chaotic.

Meadow at Sky Meadows State Park

Later, the AT crossed a large meadow, which was the park’s namesake feature.

The park and most of the surrounding land was originally part of the Northern Neck Proprietary. This tract was also known as the Fairfax Grant, and was owned by Charles II, the king of England, Scotland and Ireland in the mid-1600s.

While Charles was deposed into exile in The Netherlands, he concocted a scheme, which in part involved this land, to gain the throne after his father's death. He had little idea what was here and had no use for it because he never visited Virginia, but he knew the land had value. He leveraged it to pay off supporters.

Charles’s scheme to restore himself to the monarchy was successful and he reigned as king until his death in 1685.

The land he granted to supporters totaled about 5 million acres, which included all of the territory between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers. Through a series of bequeathments and sales over many years, the land became divided and sub-divided many times over.

One of the eventual owners of this portion crossed by the trail was George M. Slater, who had been one of Mosby's Rangers during the Civil War.

This particular piece of property continued to change owners several times until 1975, when it was donated to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Appalachian Trail was relocated here in 1987 when another 248 acres were added to the park.

Leaving the meadow, the trail continued its descent before reaching Ashby Gap and U.S. Highway 50.

Stone wall

After crossing the road, the trail re-entered the forest and began another short climb.

Entering the Roller Coaster

Just after 2 p.m. we reached the start of the Roller Coaster, so named because this is a 13.5-mile stretch of non-stop ups and downs.

Someone had scribbled on the marker additional words that said, "Must be this high to ride."

Roller Coaster

Each hill of the Roller Coaster involved a 200 to 500 foot climb or descent. By AT standards none of them were especially steep or difficult, but they were relentless. Added up, this section contained 3,900 feet of climbing.

Roller Coaster rocks

A few spots involved walking over or around large boulders, but I didn’t think there was any part of the Roller Coaster that was challenging.

1000 miles

There was also a reason to celebrate during this section. We crossed the 1000-mile point of the trail. It wasn’t yet the halfway point, but it was a significant landmark just the same.

Just beyond that we stopped for the night at Sam Moore Shelter. It was named as a memorial to a longtime supporter of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, not one half of Sam and Dave, the soul and R&B duo who sang “Soul Man”.

The only other hiker here when we arrived was someone we also camped with last night. His name is Chris and he posts YouTube videos of his hike under the name Chris Goes Outdoors.

Our quiet evening was interrupted around 8:30 when several noisy hikers arrived, which was fearfully close to hiker midnight (otherwise known as 9 p.m.).

We are only about halfway through the Roller Coaster, so there is still more fun to come. This is no time for partying.

Roller coaster (say what) of love
Roller coaster, yeah ooh ooh ooh

Oh baby you know what I'm talking about
Roller coaster of love

Oh yeah, it's roller coaster time
Lovin' you is really wild

Oh it's just a love roller coaster
Step right up and get your tickets


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.