Brew and I just finished three amazing days in the Shenandoah National Park. I love the Shenandoahs. To a through hiker the Park offers rest, respite, and a plethora of amenities such as food and showers. There are just over 100 AT miles that travel through the park and due to it’s high travel and popularity with folks besides thru-hikers the Appalachian Trail throughout Shenandoah is well maintained with a very mild grade. Those mountains are going to be a rude wake-up call when I head back to the trail tomorrow morning! My favorite part of the park, however, was the ample wildlife. There were lots of wild turkeys, woodpeckers, deer (including bucks to make my Dad or any hunter drool), and best of all… bears. I saw 12 bears in the park: 4 the first day, 3 the second day, and 5 for a finale upon my final departure. I never would have expected to see so many bears in such a short amount of time and thankfully they were all very aware of a human threat and ran away as soon as they noticed my presence. Yet, on a few rare occasions I would spot a bear before it would see me and then I could just watch and observe the creature. They really are magnificent, and have I mentioned cute? After oozing about a cub to Brew, he finally relented and told me that if I could fit one in my pack he would allow me to take it home. Now I am not naïve, I know bears are dangerous and I am not going to go anywhere near there personal space, or hang around too long, or appear threatening in anyway, but still the opportunity to see such a large and powerful animal and watch how it behaves in it’s natural habitat… it’s awe inspiring. And needless to say, it blows the zoo out of the water! I am thankful for our time in the Park, our schedule allowed us to take a few miles off of our usual antics and embrace a change of pace and change in surroundings. Now that the Shenandoahs are a memory we are excitedly bracing ourselves for our final push home. We are hoping if everything goes well to be back in Asheville in a little over three weeks. But with that noted we have some tough terrain and long days ahead of us. It is a little scary to think of all the obstacles ahead, but really energized as well. After all, this is what we’re out here for – this, and the bears!