I like to get a good camping trip in during the summer if I can so this weekend Joe and I headed to Shenandoah National Park.
Getting there was a nightmare. We left the apartment at 2:30 on Friday afternoon and didn’t get to our camping site in the park until 6. Traffic was a nightmare (66 is the worst road in history) and we had to make a pit stop for groceries along the way. It was definitely worth the drive though. When we got off 66 in Manassas, the temperature was 90. When we got to Big Meadows campground, it was a refreshing 66. In fact, we were kind of chilly.
As we pulled into our camping spot, a woman with a backpack and a walking stick approached me. She told me she was walking the whole Appalachian Trail, which cuts through the park. She said camping on the trail in the park was illegal and asked if she could crash on our site. We had plenty of extra space so I said sure. It seemed like a twist of fate that she found me since I’m currently reading Wild, a book about a woman who hiked the whole Pacific Coast Trail. She told us some of the stories of the things she encountered along the trail while we shared some of our s’mores. I was impressed that she was doing it alone at the age of 63. She had a small backpack and a small tent. She must have thought we were silly with a car full of gear and food. (You can read about her journey here.)
I didn’t sleep that great that night because I was convinced a bear was going to rip into my tent and drag me away, even though we were in the middle of a very large camp site. (I never said my fears were rational.) Anytime I heard a noise, my heart would pound. And then some noisy owl kept me awake from about 4 a.m. until the sun started to come up.
On Saturday, we decided to hike a few different trails. We hiked one never-ending trail that ran alongside a long creek (we decided to turn around after two miles in because the scenery wasn’t changing much), a trail to Dark Hollow Falls and another to Lewis Falls. All had steep returns and my calves were on FIRE.
During our hike to Dark Hollow Falls, we saw a bear and her cub just off the trail. A bunch of people were leaning in to take pictures. I wasn’t taking any chances with a mama bear so I moved further down the trail and watched from a distance.
Later in the day, we hiked to a trail near our campsite. Another hiker warned us of a bear and her cubs on the trail. Again, I wasn’t taking any chances so we took the alternate side of the trail (which is a loop) to Lewis Falls. Never saw a bear and the falls were a little disappointing. Add a really steep climb back and I was over it and starving by the time we got back to our campsite. We had done just under 10 miles for the day so I was dying to get back to our campsite and eat…
…and then Joe locked our keys in the trunk of the car, which had my purse and all our food. A couple of park rangers had to come help us out. One of the rangers told me we had three options: 1) she could try to break into my car using some tools which would cause some minor scratches to my car, 2) she could use a rock and smash a window (uh, does anyone actually choose this option?) and 3) she could call someone to open the car for us. I obviously chose option one and she had the door open in about 15 minutes. At least I found out my car is sealed pretty tight and somewhat difficult to break into. Good news on most occasions, except when a locked door is the only thing that stands between me and food.
Joe and I basically stuffed ourselves that night on hot dogs, steak, chips, beer and s’mores. After tons of food and beer, hardly any sleep and a lot of hiking, I slept like a baby that night.
The next day, we packed up and headed to the trail to reach the highest point in the park. The trail was only 1.7 miles round trip but going up was killer. It was really steep and I had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath. But it was so worth it. The views were amazing.
On our drive out of the park, we stopped at a few of the overlooks, which were really cool because there were some really low clouds on the mountains that morning.
I think I missed the park about .5 seconds after we left. The temperature and humidity rapidly started to rise and I missed the cool air and scenic views. I’m definitely thinking of going back in the fall when the views are even more amazing. But since I nearly froze in the summer, I’m thinking a cabin might be in order for fall.