I decided, along with the rest of my tramily to “aquablaze” the Shenandoahs. What that means is we travelled about 100 miles via the river instead of hiking the trail. (I know I cheated, but it was less than 1% of the trail and it was worth it!)
We ordered large 4-person rafts on Amazon. We fit two people per raft plus backpacking gear. Most of us put our backpacks inside garbage bags to keep them dry. We were able to find a shuttle that agreed to pick us up and haul our backpacking gear and rafts to Port Republic boat launch where we started our aqua-blaze trip. We inflated the boats on site, and had to carry the boxes for a few days since there was no trash can.
We floated up the river, occasionally catching class 1 rapids. We beached the rafts and stopped for lunch each day. At the end of the day we would stop and camp just like we would on the trail.
On the third day of our trip we got hit with some heavy rain and pulled over to wait it out. One of the guys in our group hung a small tarp for us to stand under. All 9 of us stood under the tarp for an hour or so telling stories and waiting for the rain to stop.
I made the poor choice of leaving my pack in the raft, thinking it would be safe in the garbage bag. When it stopped raining I found my bag sitting in a few inches of water that the boat had collected. My clothes and sleeping bag stayed dry, but unfortunately my phone and other electronics did not make it.
Altogether it took us 8 days to get to Front Royal by raft. (Mile 971.5)
In Front Royal most of us took a zero day before heading back out on the trail. I was able to get a new phone. It was nice to take a little vacation from our vacation and let our bodies heal a little.