Massanutten-Shenandoah Loop

I think I enjoy the planning part of my trips and adventures as much as the adventure itself. In the months coming up to a trip, I usually review tirelessly my gear list, thinking of all potential scenarios that could unfold during my next trip and mentally making sure I have what I need to face these possibilities. For adventures on a larger scale, I typically go on rehearsal trip carrying all the items on my gear list and taking notes on items I am missing, items I don’t use or modifications in the organizations of my gear I must make to reduce down-time (such as getting a jacket from the bottom of your pack when it starts raining). By the time I leave on the real expedition, I know exactly where every item must sit in my pack.

Things are no different for my next big expedition: Hudson to Ungava solo. In fact, this expedition being more ambitious than precedent ones, I am going through meticulous planning and many rehearsal trips, although it is hard to reproduce the conditions that will be found in Nunavik in the South.

Since I was in Maryland regularly for work in the winter of 2017, I started researching for potential outings combining hiking and packraft in the area. I found the idea the Massanutten-Shenandoah Loop online by searching about packraft trips in the Maryland/Virginia area. The trip, combining 21 kms of hiking with 27 kms of packraft on the Shenandoah river, seemed ideal. I decided to try it out on a cold weekend in March 2017. Temperatures during the night were around -7C (20F), so a good practice for Northern Quebec, which might not be as cold but has the potential to be.

On the Saturday morning I left my car at the Bentonville boat ramp and started hiking on Panhandle road towards the trail. I was practicing with all the gear I will have on my trip and I was also carrying 12 days of food, which made my pack quite heavy. On the first leg of my Hudson to Ungava trip I will have to carry a two weeks supply of food so I must get used to the heavy weight. The day was cold but the sky was clear and the sun was shining. The hike up the ridge was more tiring than usual with all the weight on my back. The trail was pleasant and reminded me of the Appalachian trail in Maryland. It was quite windy up there and that prevented me from getting some drone footage with my newly acquired flying toy.

At the end of the day I encountered a group of four hikers who seemed puzzled by my huge pack and boating equipment. Soon after I reached the point where I was planning to hike down the ridge to the river. Since this hike is on a ridge I crossed no water during the whole day. There was a campsite on the trail heading downhill where I decided to camp the night. Too tired to hike down the mountain and back up to fetch water, I decided that my half liter remaining in my bottle would be sufficient. Since I only had Soylent as food supply (which will be my main food source on my Hudson to Ungava expedition) I did not bother with hanging my food and left it all in my drybag in the entrance of my tent. I feel asleep early and quickly and was not bothered by anything during the night: no animals and no other hikers. The night was cold but I had appropriate gear and slept well.

On the Sunday morning I woke up early but waited for the air to warm up a bit before starting to pack up. Organizing all the boating gear on my overloaded pack takes a while and I'm not as quick as usual when packing camp. I started hiking downhill and encountered a water source at the foot of the mountain. I did not have to hike a very long distance to reach the river where I started unpacking my packrafting gear, inflating my boat and getting my pack ready for "boating" mode.

I had paddled on the Shenandoah in the summer of 2016 in a different section that is downriver from where I was. From a trip report I read online I was expecting this section to be all flat water and I was therefore surprised to encounter many small ledges and class 1-2 rapids. The water was quite shallow by sections and I got out of my boat to pull it over ledges a couple times. I skipped the main class 2 rapid; I had no intention of risking to flip my boat with so much gear on it. With the portaging and the shallow sections paddling the river took me more time than I expected to cover the 27kms. I think it would be possible to camp along the river in some spots in the section I paddled but I am not sure it is legal.

Trip Details

Trip SummaryLoop consisting of 21 km of hiking on the Massanutten trail and of 27 km of paddling on the Shenandoah River.
WhereBentonville, Virginia
WhenMarch 2017
DurationTwo days.
LogisticsPark at the Bentonville boat ramp and start hiking from there.
MapsI use the maps on my iphone, on the app Gaia Maps. Trail was easy to follow.
Tips● River can be shallow in some sections, be careful with your boat.
● Carry enough water for the whole day and night since there is no water source once you start hiking.