Saturday, May 29, 2010

Shenandoah National Park

Well, we took a zero today instead of going back to finish the Central section of Shenandoah National Park.  There were several reasons; perhaps the chief of which was still tired from yesterday.  There was also more rain in the afternoon forecast.  Rain always puts a damper on my enthusiasm.  We had originally planned to take a zero today anyway since our friends, Diane and Zvi, were scheduled to reach Rockfish Gap today.  We were planning to pick them up when they came off the trail.  As it turned out, they got ahead of their schedule and reached the gap yesterday afternoon and were on the highway heading for Nashville before we got home ourselves.  It was yesterday evening when we decided we could hike today, but the motivation had evaporated by this morning.

I feel compelled to write a little about Shenandoah National Park.  We have visited this park several times in the past and always enjoy its beauty.  Our focus this time is hiking the AT along the ridge line which essentially parallels Skyline Drive.  We’re not seeing much of anything else the Park has to offer.

This is a hikers park.  In addition to the hundred miles of Appalachian Trail, there are some 500 more miles of trail on either side of Skyline Drive.  These trails, because they are generally accessed from Skyline Drive, can be easily turned into loop hikes by using the AT to connect with two or more trails.  Scattered along the AT about every 10 or 12 miles are shelters (or “huts” as they’re called within the Park) for overnight use by hikers.    There is also camping permitted in the backcountry with a permit.

If you like waterfalls, the Park has 9.  This spring would be a great time to visit the waterfalls since there has been so much rain this year.

Skyline Drive has 75 pull-outs which offers splendid views of the valleys below.  For the more adventuresome, hikes to the rocky summits of Hawksbill, Old Rag, Mary’s Rock, or the Pinnacles will put you on top of the world.  They say, on a very clear day, you can see the Washington Monument.

There are campgrounds at Loft Mountain, Lewis Mountain, and Big Meadows.  Big Meadows will accommodate larger rigs.  Of course, this is a National Park and there are no hook-ups; however, there are dump stations.  There are also lodges and cabins with soft beds and private showers.  Over the years, we’ve stayed in everything Shenandoah has to offer, especially the ground in the backcountry.

This is also a wildlife lovers park.  There is a huge population of deer here.  They are so habituated to humans they almost seem tame.  We can walk up to them on the trail and they seem not to notice.  They present somewhat of a driving hazard, however, and you have to be constantly alert for one to dart out onto the road.  Bears are everywhere, as well.  In the spring and summer, if you don’t see a bear at Shenandoah, you’re not paying attention.  Yesterday, I saw five.  They also have a habit of walking onto the road right in front of you.

One of the more special places to visit while in the park is Rapidan Camp.  Rapidan was  a summer retreat/fishing camp for President and Mrs Hoover.  You can walk down there and explore on your own or take the Ranger led tour which includes a ride down and back in the park van.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that Shenandoah is a marvelous place to visit, even if your not interested in pounding out the miles on the AT.

That’s it for today.  I’ll get back to my resting, and tomorrow morning we’ll hit the trail again.

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