Luray is getting a reputation as a great Appalachian Trail “Trail Town,” and with miles of hiking trails and plenty of camp sites available in nearby Shenandoah National Park and the George Washington National Forest, it’s an emerging backpacking, hiking, and camping destination. Gary Drum and Howard Thompson, owners of two outfitters stores in Luray, decided to set out for a Fall section hike of the Appalachian Trail this week.
Their stores, Appalachian Outdoor Adventures and Evergreen Outfitters, are planning to merge this Winter, but over the last couple of years the two have built a friendship on their shared enthusiasm for all of the outdoor activities this area has to offer. With the number of adventure-seeking tourists in Luray increasing every year, whether they are AT thru-hikers or families heading for SNP campgrounds, Howard and Gary set a goal to hike the entire length of the AT as it passes through the Park, starting with a 30-mile “shake down” hike of the northern section this month.
Joining Gary and Howard on the trip were Luray friends Garrett Johnson and Alan Jones, and three adventure dogs, Lilly, Martha and Athena. The group has done a couple of similar hikes together in the past, and made the “natural choice” to hike from Front Royal to Thornton Gap on the AT (it’s natural because “it’s there,” according to Howard. The group planned to hike about 10 miles per day over this section’s moderate terrain, from Sunday to Tuesday, spending one night camping back country and a second night in one of the campgrounds.
Besides the camping, the group had planned for other activities on the trail. Their families were tentatively planning to meet them on the trail one day, but the rendezvous was nixed due to scheduling conflicts. They are also planning to “taste test” some of the dehydrated entrees and breakfasts that they carry in the shops so that they can rate them and make recommendations to shoppers.
…tomorrow’s post will look at some of the gear Gary and Howard are using on the section hike.