After our excursion to Hawksbill Summit, Bethany, Sean, and I returned to Big Meadows campground to strike camp. We’d done some preliminary work toward this before the hike, and now we had about an hour to finish up before the noon checkout time. Bethany would be driving home to Pennsylvania that Sunday afternoon, July 31. And Sean and I had a flight to Chicago departing at 6:13pm, so we still had some time in the Park, certainly enough to explore the Visitor Center and have a picnic.
In spite of the rain the previous evening, on Sunday morning, July 31, we woke to sunlight streaming into our tents. It was a perfect summer morning, just slightly cool with a warming sun. Before heading home that evening, we had one more hike in store: a jaunt to Hawksbill Summit, the highest point in Shenandoah National Park.
It was about half past three in the afternoon on Saturday, July 30 when Sean, Bethany, and I, fresh from our hike at Little Devils Stairs, climbed back into the rental car and drove through the rolling foothills of Rappahannock County, Virginia back up into Shenandoah National Park at the Thornton Gap entrance. Continue reading
Saturday, July 30 dawned a touch overcast at Big Meadows Campground, and Sean, Bethany, and I took our time getting up, making our breakfast, and getting ready for our day’s adventures. Bethany remarked that she appreciated our leisurely attitude because on other camping trips, her companions had been more of the up-and-going-at-dawn types. Sean and I certainly have our moments of that approach…or on more recent trips wandering off in our pajamas before coffee…but nothing we were planning for the day required rushing around and packing activity into the long daylight hours of late July.
On Friday, July 29, Sean and I took an 11:49am flight from Chicago, which landed at 2:38pm in Charlottesville, Virginia. Charlottesville, in the Virginia Piedmont east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is both the home of Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia and the gateway city to Shenandoah National Park. We had chosen Charlottesville rather than one of the Washington, D.C. airports because it was closer to the heart of the Park, less busy than D.C., and had comparatively inexpensive flights.
To celebrate the National Park Service centennial year, Sean and I had decided to calibrate our park journey so that by the end of the year, we’d have been to the same parks. Next up on the list was a weekend in Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I had briefly visited the Park in the summer of 2001 on a road trip, but now it was time for a proper visit.
The long, narrow 200,000-acre Park, which had been established in 1935, traces the crest of the Blue Ridge, offering Appalachian peaks as high as 4,000 feet and rolling easterly vistas of the Virginia Piedmont and westerly views of the picturesque Shenandoah Valley.
Almost a decade ago, in July 2001, my then-boyfriend, Nathaniel, and I went on a road trip from Ann Arbor, Michigan to visit a friend in D.C. After a few days in the district, we continued to Manassas National Battlefield Park in Virginia and then on to Kittyhawk, North Carolina.
On the drive back to Michigan, we passed through Virginia. Looking at the Rand McNally, I noticed that Shenandoah National Park was…in the same state that we were! And it wasn’t too far out of our way, so we decided to head to the park.
We reached the south entrance (also the northern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway) in the late afternoon and proceeded along the park’s famous Skyline Drive. The drive zig-zags along a stretch of the Blue Ridge Mountains, at varying times offering views west into Shenandoah Valley and east toward the Virginia piedmont.Continue reading