Last Saturday I had an epic 40 mile run out the Shenandoahs. It had a good 10,000 feet or more of vertical climbing, so it was definitely one tough run!
I started out at Buck Hollow and did the same 4.5 mile, 3K foot climb up to Mary's Rock that Jen and I did a little while back. Just one mile in the run, I had FAR too exciting of an encounter with 2 bear cubs and a mama bear. Mama bear was not pleased, and I just about peed myself.
The picture below is from after I some distance between me and the bears, but you can see mama bear defending the tree her cubs climbed up. She wouldn't let me by, so I had to bushwhack way around the trail and got pretty cut up by thorns. Thanks a lot, bears. Another mile along I saw ANOTHER bear, but this one mercifully just ran away.
The climb up to Mary's Rock is long and steep, but I felt great and made it in just over an hour. The views from up top were outstanding as usual.
From there I cut south on the Appalachian Trail and followed it quite a ways. This was some beautiful single track trail. Most of it is up on the ridge with great views, and the trail is very runnable.
(It pretty much doesn't get better than this. Some beautiful AT single track).
(The AT wove around Skyline Drive, and I would occasionally pop out on it).
(Awesome view looking back from where I came after a pretty sizable climb on the AT. You can see Skyline Drive winding over the mountains. The AT basically wove to the left of Skyline Drive and the ascended up to where I'm standing.)
After 10 or so miles on the Appalachian trail, I hit the top of White Oak canyon. I had heard amazing things about White Oak Canyon and was excited to explore it.
Basically it is a canyon that cuts down the mountain about 3,000 feet with some beautiful waterfalls along the way. This was some of the most beautiful stuff I've seen in the Shenandoahs (or most anywhere for that matter).
(Some glorious trail at the top of White Oak Canyon).
(White Oak Canyon is divided into Upper Falls and Lower Falls. This is the first of the Upper Falls. Pictures don't quite do it justice.)
I ran all the way through Upper and Lower falls, went about a mile beyond Lower Falls, and then hiked back up. I was cranking hard on the long climb up and made incredible time. The run down was 1h (though I stopped to take a lot of pictures), and I made it back up in 1h2min.
This marks the highest part of the Appalachian Trail in the Shenandoahs. It was another mile or so of climbing after the top of White Oak Canyon.
I ran back along the AT to Buck Hollow and was treated to more amazing views.
The run took about 8 hours and was insanely fun. I felt really strong the whole way. My stomach held up well, and I was able to get a ton of calories and liquids down (over 2,000 calories and over 200 ounces of water). The weather was absolutely perfect, too. I'm glad that I was able to take advantage of this glorious day.
This run was definitely a confidence booster, and I can't wait to get back out to the mountains for the next run!